The Les Paul Artisan was one of Gibson's most expensive models when it was introduced as a Limited Edition in 1976, and with elaborate pearl inlays, gold plating, multi-ply binding on all edges and three humbucking pickups, it certainly made a fashion statement. (Fans of Gibson banjos will recognize the inlays as a variation on the classic Hearts & Flowers pattern used on the Granada in the late 1920s and 1930s.) Gibson must have felt there was a market for an even more Custom-looking version of the Les Paul Custom, but the high price limited sales. This example is in remarkably original condition, only the original "Protector" case, which was plastic, is missing.
The gold plating shows a fair amount of tarnish, with wear to the pickup covers, but the original frets don't show much wear at all, the pickguard is nice and flat, and although the back has very light finish wear this Les Paul clearly never hung over a metal belt buckle. Note the rust to the pickup retaining ring screws, but those would be easy to replace. With the low 300000s serial number this example is almost certainly from the first year the Artisan was introduced.