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Serial numbers
From late 1953 Gibson used a system of serial numbers for all solid-bodys, where the first digit represents the year.
Number 5 6534 for example is a guitar build in 1955. They used this system to early 1961.

Most Les Pauls from 1952 and 1953 do not have a serial number and are therefore hard to distinguished to each other.
The models from 1952 almost all have bigger heads, but they clearly differ from the later Gold Tops by trapezoidal tailpiece.

Unfortunately you can not determine the year of manufacture with the serial numbers of other Gibsons. By looking at the characteristics you can be approach the date of the year and a identify certain series.

More information about Gibson serial numbers and dating.