“Relic”, “T-type” and some other helpful tips and tricks to I learned visiting the Chinese guitar market.

redhouse_ca

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So we’ve all seen them, first on EBay, and kinda goofy looking, then on Amazon, and not too shabby, and then on Reverb, some of which looks pretty darn good. So good, in fact, that i bet it’s at least slightly possible that some of that stuff could conceivably get “mixed in” with the supply of all thay American vintage gear out there. I guess that’s possible.

Anyhow, i am referring, of course, to Chinese made replica guitars and accessorie, or what is knows as “relic stringed instruments and parts” on the wholesale websites in China. And me being how I am, all curious and all, I decided to spend a couple of hours checking those out.

Now, to be sure, this was just a quick web tour, and I have seen great stuff being made in China by hugely competent builders and manufactures, and really decent stuff being mass produced and sold at low prices, and that’s totally cool with me. But jeez, i had no idea. And more to come on that, but first a few observation:

If you really want to check things out t
in China guitar land, your not gonna see a lot with your cookie infested Safari browser on your home WiFi. Sure, you’ll end up on AliExpress and see pretty good quality $125 les Paul’s, but you probably won’t make your way to Alibaba, and if you do, good luck searching “high price first” with terms like “Fender” or “Telecaster” or “Vintage”. I had much better results using a VPN with an access point in Hong Kong or Singapore. Also, it seems there is a lingo: like “relic” and “T-Type”, etc. I didn’t get deep enough to become proficient at said lingo, but I did pick a few phrases that were helpful.

Once I got settled in, the first this i saw was the scale, woah! U need 1000 thinline paisley by the ends the month to give away as prizes at the summer pickbic? Sure, totally not a problem:

https://m.made-in-china.com/product...ody-Telecaster-Electric-Guitar-924392715.html

Some other things I learned it seems like Alibaba front ends a lot of manufactures (duh, so does Amazon) but one quirk i noticed is that many were quite someone shy to share company details There is a fixed company profile section at the bottom of the alibaba pages but in many cases, there’s not a lot there company wise. In fact, in a lot of cases you got a name and a city. But if you needed help, there is an option to chat with a friendly looking Alibaba agent lurking in the corner of the screen while you browse. But shy or not, one thing a lot of these companies do offer is “customization” of branding and packaging via the Ali message service. Just fill out the form. That could make for a nice gag gift: “hey bro, I got you this here Flender Trelecaster, I was pretty drunk when I filled out the form”.

And the prices? Holy smokes. All those low cost, no review tuners and slotted guitar nuts on Amazon, I get it now. And like I mentioned, you need a 20,000 bone nuts or 1000 relic timers, no problem: 0-100 starts at a 80 cents each (bone nuts) and tuners from $1, and it just gets better from there.

https://donlis.en.alibaba.com/produ...2a9946fdXPgT8i&filterSimilar=true&filter=null

https://donlis.en.alibaba.com/produ...2a9946fdXPgT8i&filterSimilar=true&filter=null

This is getting to be a long posting so I’ll try and wrap it up, but there’s a lot of stuff out in the globalized guitar market and it was interesting to see. For example, you could get a relic tweed case from China, and then buy an authentic Fender plastic (or metal or whatever) label on Etsy in the US, and wouldn’t that make a really nice “hey check this out” keepsake to bring to your next gig. Or jazz up your partscaster with some real looking Fender stickers.


https://chinaelectricguitar.en.made...e-St-Lp-Prs-Tl-Electric-Guitar-Hard-Case.html

Finally, electronics. Well, you can get whatever you want stamped on whatever you want and you can’t beat the prices. I mean, you could do your regular ‘ole alnico pups for a buck, but I’d prolly mix the magnets up on something custom, why not, it costs the same. Or make yourself a couple of pots with commemorative codes at Christmas.

https://www.alibaba.com/product-det...offerlist.normal_offer.d_image.552a2183kcIkmk

https://www.alibaba.com/product-det...offerlist.normal_offer.d_image.552a2183kcIkmk

And it goes on and on... Need a million neck screws? Sure! 3000 baked maple necks, quarter sawn with a “nature” finish? “Is two weeks ok?”

And finally, i love Japanese guitars (i love all guitars deep in my heart), but for that real “vintage” American look, a penciled, Japanese style neck SN will not do. Instead. you really need stamped SNs with dates and a bunch of other mystery markings in the body cavities. And, you guessed it, no problem!

https://www.alibaba.com/trade/searc...ar+serial+number+stamp&selectedTab=product_en

In closing, ill say that my experience in life has been that where there is demand, there will almost certainly be supply. Plus, who knows how the value chain might evolve in the future (I’m old enough to remember when we steered away from “cheap quality” Japanese or Korean products and now, for a lot of stuff, they are the benchmark of quality and affordability. But one thing got me thinking. Alibaba has this requirement where all their manufactures selling on the site have to list the breakdown of where they ship their stuff. Jeez, a lot is claimed to be shipped to the states. And I get how big Amazon and eBay are, but I also spend a fair share of time of reverb, and as far as i can tell, there’s way more relic gear being shipped into the US than i see on reverb (or the other sites), way, way more. Where does it all go? Heck, I don’t know, but even on a market full of decent, well intentioned sellers with 4.85 stars and hundreds of reviews, and brick and mortar stores located across the county with names like “XYZ’s Vintage Guitar and Amps”, a lot of stuff gets “mixed in”. Almost certainly way more than what shows up in the listings. But heck, if it plays well and the moneys spent, whatever, right? ;-)

Peace!
 

Wrighty

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Always had a problem with fake gear that’s really good quality. It was, I think, in Turkey some years back where, way off the tourist tracks, we came across a classy looking watch shop, displaying Rolex, Omega and other big name brands.

They were cheap, but not that cheap, about 25% off UK store prices at the time.

I’d always wanted a Rolex so Mrs Wrighty and I wandered in.

A very smart gent came across, definitely not your average ‘looky, looky, all very cheap’. gullible tourist trapper.

After showing me a couple of watches, he laid out all of the paper work, box and tags in front of me.

I openly asked ‘so, how do you sell them so cheap?’. ‘We make them here, in Turkey,’ he replied, ‘to the same specs. and using the same care and attention that is used in Switzerland’.

Our conversation revealed that no, they weren’t the real thing, but they were so good that the only way anyone would ever know was if someone sent their watch to Rolex for a repair or service. ‘So’, I said ‘Rolex would instantly spot a fake’. ‘No, not instantly, only if they also had the real Rolex with the same serial number in at the same time and bothered to check’.

I’m no forensic watch scientist but, the watch I was examining, unlike dozens of varying quality fakes I’d seen, looked and felt like a Rolex.

I was tempted but Mrs Wrighty pointed out that it was a lot of money to pay for something I’d always know wasn’t kosher.

I later bought a ‘genuine’ Rolex on a market stall for $2:50. Such brilliant crap! Move the crown and the whole dial moved with it. Plastic crystal and machine marks on the case.

If I’m gonna buy a fake, I want a real fake, worthy of the title!
 

Sax-son

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If you are cash strapped and can only afford a cheap guitar, then go for it. However, for me I have no interest in that stuff. I would rather have a few high-quality gear than dozens of the cheap stuff. In the future there will be so much of that cheap Chinese stuff out there, that it will have absolutely no value whatsoever. I see a lot of cheap Chinese guitars now at thrift stores which means that somebody donated it vs trying to sell if for real money. I say concentrate on value and craftsmanship vs spit out cheap possessions.

The world is phony enough as it is, don't contribute to that any more than it already is.
 
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Sax-son

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(I’m old enough to remember when we steered away from “cheap quality” Japanese or Korean products and now, for a lot of stuff, they are the benchmark of quality and affordability.
In the case of Japan and Korea, they have earned that respect. I have some Japanese hi fi gear that is now over 50 years old and running strong. Japanese classical guitars are now almost as respected as the Spanish luthiers so that took almost 50 years to get to that level of craftsmanship. Korea has followed Japan's path and concentrated on quality control.

In the US, there is a problem with attention span. We take our innovation and try to milk it for as much money as we can before moving on to the next best thing in the public eye. In Asian countries, they are in it for the long term.
 

redhouse_ca

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Yeah I agree. I spent a lot of time there and the commitment to craftsmanship is remarkable.
 

Wrighty

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If you are cash strapped and can only afford a cheap guitar, then go for it. However, for me I have no interest in that stuff. I would rather have a few high-quality gear than dozens of the cheap stuff. In the future there will be so much of that cheap Chinese stuff out there, that it will have absolutely no value whatsoever. I see a lot of cheap Chinese guitars now at thrift stores which means that somebody donated it vs trying to sell if for real money. I say concentrate on value and craftsmanship vs spit out cheap possessions.

The world is phony enough as it is, don't contribute to that any more than it already is.
When I was hard up and could only afford a cheap guitar I waited until the cheap guitar I could afford was a Bullet. Spending my hard saved money on something where I knew exactly what I’d get. When money’s tight, no point in taking a chance on a box from China.
 

Peegoo

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That could make for a nice gag gift: “hey bro, I got you this here Flender Trelecaster

In the 70s and 80s this sort of thing was going on in the ROK. All of the music shops stocked Korean-made instruments with brand names like Splender and Gitson, complete with the 'correct' font in the logo and specs very similar to the US-made instrument they copied.

Only a few of the larger shops in the Big Cities carried US-made guitars.
 

41144

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Whilst agreeing with the sentiment of the OP .... Just to expand on @Wrighty's point above .... I'd doubt anyone (in their right mind) would think they're getting anything but a cheap'knock-off' at those prices, regardless of where the item is from.

Regarding Chinese products, and aside from the prices involved, in general, it's not so much about the manufacturing as the quality control that follows the manufacturing. ie There are definitely well known/reputable British companies (and I cannot imagine there aren't American ones too {Epiphone at least springs to mind here}) that use Chinese factories to produce goods to a very high standard {Epiphone enthusiasts may or may not agree} .... because the quality control at the end ensures that standards are adhered to. Of course, those products go on to sell at premium prices in the west, not "race to the bottom" prices.

Plus, and accepting that there are copyright issues etc here, there are those regions of the world where paying 'top dollar' for the real thing is simply out of the question for all but a very select elite. To those people, they can meanwhile at least have access to products (eg a relic'ed SRV for c. £100) that copy those to which they aspire.

In truth, the fact that we all have easy access to these 'cheap' parts is quite a god-send in one regard. ie, I do believe there is a place for some the cheaper products (tat quite possibly) out there ... eg Surely any sane person making a first attempt at building, let alone making, a guitar would first try doing it with cheaper parts before going to the expense of branded ones?
 

Sax-son

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Whilst agreeing with the sentiment of the OP .... Just to expand on @Wrighty's point above .... I'd doubt anyone (in their right mind) would think they're getting anything but a cheap'knock-off' at those prices, regardless of where the item is from.
I am not so sure they really know what they are getting. Most of the cheap knock off guitars are purchased by beginners or their unsuspecting parents who are buying for a birthday or Christmas present. I for one was "not" familiar with the good or the bad on my first guitar, only that I was anxious to get started on it. When you go into a music store and start looking at the price differences, one guitar says $199.00 and the one next to it says $1400.00 and to the unsuspecting buyer they look the same. Which one are you going to gravitate to?

However, once you start to get familiar with the entry level guitar vs the professional model, you quickly start to realize that you get what you pay for with buying guitars. It's almost the perfect example of that cliché.

I like many have tried to upgrade cheap guitars with better quality parts only to come to the conclusion that you were better off having no hardware at all vs to have to strip it all down and start over. When I build a guitar now, I have my go to hardware list, and it could average from $200 to $275 minimum if I were planning to use a quality trem setup. There are other boutique hardware parts that are more expensive, but that is the minimum I have established for professional quality. Electronics on the other hand are a different ballgame. That can get really expensive really quick depending on your choices.

Cheap guitars might be a good choice to get you going on playing, but once you start to catch on, chances are you are going to move on in short order.
 
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Wheelhouse

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This shows in Amazon. I've been looking at paint sprayers, and you can see the same exact darn thing under different Chinesium brand names from one week to the next. Same product, same details, just different photos and a different name. That's not sketchy at all. :confused:
 

Telekarster

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FWIW A buddy of mine 2 weeks ago received his knock off chibson LP in the mail. He loved it and couldn't say enough about it! 2 days ago he's telling me "Man... you know that LP I just bought? Well.... I'm sending it back" I said "Why? You loved the thing!" He said "Yeah man... that was until I got a massive splinter in my thumb!" :eek:

Turns out that seemingly overnight the neck had developed a lineal crack in the neck and, when he went to play it, didn't notice it and large splinter impaled his thumb! Consequently, it screwed up his gig last weekend too... so... Yeah, I think it's a hard pass for me on the knock offs. I'd rather spend the extra $ and have something I know I can trust for the long haul ;)
 

Sax-son

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FWIW A buddy of mine 2 weeks ago received his knock off chibson LP in the mail. He loved it and couldn't say enough about it! 2 days ago he's telling me "Man... you know that LP I just bought? Well.... I'm sending it back" I said "Why? You loved the thing!" He said "Yeah man... that was until I got a massive splinter in my thumb!" :eek:

Turns out that seemingly overnight the neck had developed a lineal crack in the neck and, when he went to play it, didn't notice it and large splinter impaled his thumb! Consequently, it screwed up his gig last weekend too... so... Yeah, I think it's a hard pass for me on the knock offs. I'd rather spend the extra $ and have something I know I can trust for the long haul ;)
Sorry to hear that! I just forked over a lot of dough last year for a Gibson LP 60's Standard are don't regret it one bit. Although a bit on the heavy side, that thing is a work of art and one of the only guitars that I didn't have to do one thing to other that tune it up a play it. A keeper that I don't have to buy again.

Stuff can happen to any guitar, but you really don't know what goes into building those Chinese guitars. Just the paint they use scares me. I have no clue what they use in that stuff. It's nothing like I have ever seen or dealt with.
 

Telekarster

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Sorry to hear that! I just forked over a lot of dough last year for a Gibson LP 60's Standard are don't regret it one bit. Although a bit on the heavy side, that thing is a work of art and one of the only guitars that I didn't have to do one thing to other that tune it up a play it. A keeper that I don't have to buy again.

Stuff can happen to any guitar, but you really don't know what goes into building those Chinese guitars. Just the paint they use scares me. I have no clue what they use in that stuff. It's nothing like I have ever seen or dealt with.

Yep. I've learned over the years that, with few exceptions, you usually get what you pay for. I'd trade 10 200 buck guitars for 1 fantastically perfect guitar. Plus I don't have the room for 10 cheapo's anyway LOL! ;)
 

fretWalkr

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FWIW A buddy of mine 2 weeks ago received his knock off chibson LP in the mail. He loved it and couldn't say enough about it! 2 days ago he's telling me "Man... you know that LP I just bought? Well.... I'm sending it back" I said "Why? You loved the thing!" He said "Yeah man... that was until I got a massive splinter in my thumb!" :eek:

Turns out that seemingly overnight the neck had developed a lineal crack in the neck and, when he went to play it, didn't notice it and large splinter impaled his thumb! Consequently, it screwed up his gig last weekend too... so... Yeah, I think it's a hard pass for me on the knock offs. I'd rather spend the extra $ and have something I know I can trust for the long haul ;)

Maybe I'm foolishly optimistic but my Fenders & Gibsons have never and never will stab me with a splinter 🤣
 

Fendereedo

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I just wouldn't buy anything in this way, especially knowing that it's a knock off. I woud rather go for a cheaper made guitar (Squier, Epiphone, Silvertone, Danelectro etc), than part with hard earned cash, on what is basically poop.
 




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