Some cheap guitars - including Epiphone Les Pauls sold in the US may have some serious design problems - such as the bridge installed in a wrong location so it can't be intonated - according to a guitar tech friend.
I did see a Les Paul custom in a local shop for $250, but it turned out to be a Chinese copy - and on closer inspectiion there were some obvious design flaws. Having been to China recently and seen numerous stores selling counterfeit ipods (I have photos!), I am very leery of buying anything from China. An American friend who lives in China told me not to trust anything to be authentic there - including yamaha guitars, nikon cameras, etc.
On the other hand, almost everything made in Japan is great and better than comparable things made in the US. In fact, not only are the Japanese Fenders better than the US ones in most cases, for a few years in the 80's ALL US fenders were made in Japan.
If you want a good deal on a quality Les Paul, you can get one of those Gibson Les Pauls which is not branded Gibson because of trademark issue in Japan. They are called Orvilles I think and you can get them for $800 or so - about half of their value of a US Gibson.
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