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

Ron Likes Teles

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About 5 years ago, I purchased two Chinese guitars out of curiosity about relics - a relic Ingwie Malmsteen strat and a relic Gibson LP. Both have the logos on the headstock, but to me are they are very easily distinguishable from the real thing.

First, the relic job is not very artistic, being an assembly-line paint job with a lot of overspray to simulate wear, the cracking looks like a stamp, the fingerboard wear was created with a dremel, grime on the pickups looked fresh - you get the idea. By comparison, a Nash guitar is a work of art when it comes to relics - each one is different and made with care.

The hardware was fairly low quality and I replaced the pickups on the strat and the tuners on the LP.

They were/are both playable, but the tone quality on the LP was like an ice pick. The LP sounded decent. If you put a few bucks more in, it would be as good as an Epiphone.

My thoughts: if you buy one, I would not get a relic, and to avoid any infringement issues pay a few bucks extra to put YOUR OWN NAME on the headstock. That way you can sleep at night and if you ever wanted to sell it, you can do so without a lot of caveats.
 

timobkg

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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.
I agree, with the caveat that with guitars - like with stereo equipment - you quickly run into diminishing returns. Is a $1000 better than a $500 guitar? Certainly. Is it twice as good? Eh...

And once you go above the $1000 price point, the increased value curve drops off a cliff. I don't think anyone would say that a $2000 guitar is twice as good as a $1000 guitar. $4k+ guitars? No way.

I look at a $2,100 Strandberg Boden and at a $300 knock-off, and I have to wonder, "Where is all the extra money going?" (Hopefully to pay employees, but that may be wishful thinking on my part.) I want a headless 6-string, but find it hard to justify the 7x price difference. Though I have to wonder what kind of "stainless steel" frets are in the $300 guitar.
 

Sax-son

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I look at a $2,100 Strandberg Boden and at a $300 knock-off, and I have to wonder, "Where is all the extra money going?" (Hopefully to pay employees, but that may be wishful thinking on my part.) I want a headless 6-string, but find it hard to justify the 7x price difference. Though I have to wonder what kind of "stainless steel" frets are in the $300 guitar.
Yeah, I see some guitars out there that I might be interested in and then say to myself, "Would I really pay that much for that guitar? Nah, I don't think so". So, I do agree with that.

The other day, I ventured into a local GC to buy some strings. I started to look at what they had on the wall, and most of it was cheap entry level Squires and other various guitars. They all looked like cheap child toys to me, and I didn't even what to pick one up to test the quality. In my opinion, we are in the "doldrums" of a cheap, oversaturated Chinese made product dump that is boring as $%&*.

So, unless you are looking at something that is $3000.00 and above, it's just not interesting enough for me personally to get excited about. In fact, I am now more interested in what other people are building from parts and that is what is interesting to me. Leo Fender put out some great designs, but most of them are approaching 70 years old. What I see other people doing is hot rodding those designs and putting their own spin on that. It's very clever and it's similar to what people were doing with cars 60 plus years ago. One thing for sure, I doubt that many of those are costing in upwards of $3000.00.
 

Controller

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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 ;)

For heavens sake, it's just a large splinter. So realistic it even has a neck crack. Some CA, a clamp, some sanding, good as new! 🤣🤣🤣
 

myfenderissues

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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!
my experience with the low end fake chinese electric guitars on dhgate and alibaba is they are made from the cheapest parts and woods possible. even wire is so thin you'd think, 'hey what did they save using this ultra thin, flimsy, cheap wire over something that will hold in place and not break off or short out? $1.25 per guitar?' to them it's a cultural thing in business about getting the upper hand over your customer. they are great though at doing superb paint jobs that can make the things real impressive wall-hangers. quality control is basically getting all the parts mounted even if they don't fit right or result in an instrument that can't be played. buying upgrade pickups isn't going to help if fret spacing is off, the bridge is in the wrong place, the neck is twisted, or the neck angle on a set neck guitar is too off to get a playable string height. i've seen this stuff happen. anyway, assume a minimum 3 month wait for the guitar to arrive from china and hope u.s. customs doesn't seize it. i've read of it happening and it's unlikely, but there is a possibility. as for the relics or 'vintage', anything coming out of japan or china, really anywhere outside america, i would demand a bonded assurance from a broker so if it turns out fake i can get my money back from them. it's impossible to sue a foreign dealer or manufacturer who sells you a fake. yes there are excellent guitar manufacturers all over china who can get the secret details of vintage guitars right enough to fool even very experienced people.
 
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1 21 gigawatts

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If you contract with a Chinese factory to make 100,000 units of something, they will make 500k units: 100k for your order, 50k with your branding on it that goes out the back door, and 350k units with other brand names on the units.
 

redhouse_ca

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Part of my job is actually to source OEM guitars from Asia. I have attended the Music China in Shanghai 5 times during the last 7 years.

If I compare my first attendance with the 3rd and the 5th time I was there, there was a huge differnce in the quality of products on display. The overall built quality has been improved a lot and especially the design of products is at a much higher level. Compare OEM packaging from 2017 with packaging from 2022 from a power supply for example. That is world's apart in quality and looks.

What I also could observe is, that in the past the manufacturers from China were expecting to be told, what kind of design they should use. Now they are more and more coming up with their own designs. History is repeating here, if you look at Japan in the 60s and 70s compared to the 80s and 90s.

There is also a local scene with extremely high quality stuff, handwired amps from individual builders and top notch custom guitars. But these are made for the local market, not for export, as most retailers won't buy a 2000$ guitar from China, knowing, that customers won't accept that (because they think all MIC stuff is junk, besides Apple).

If you talk to these small manufacturers, they are as nerdy, as anyone else from the boutique scene, but they may have a different approach due to a different cultural background, which makes for some intersting and unique instruments which may look a little weird to you. But western culture is growing there, I have seen a local TV report last time about a underground scene of skateboarders and Graffiti artists, as well as a Rockabilly scene.
I would hope, that they may come up with a Melange of western culture and chinese culture, combined in a new design language. If you ever walk around the traditional instruments hall at Music China, there is just so much cool stuff and a such a rich history of tradition, one can only hope, that they may concentrate a little more on that. And that customers from the west will be open minded enough to finally accept, that "Made in China = bad" is pretty unfair.

Mainly I'd say, it is a lot harder in China, to adapt to electric guitar music and instruments, than it was with acoustic guitars or stringed instruments. I mean, you can get very high quality acoustic guitars from a lot of manufactuers in China. But electric guitars in high quality at a certain price point which meets your target for Europe for example, that is very hard to find, unless you buy thousands of instruments.

It has been said before, when you see bad quality from China, that is not because they cannot produce better quality or even high end, it is because a certain target price has to be met, set by the retailer. And that is usually damn low. So, the demand for junk produces junk.

Besides, the prices on Alibaba are not for real. Even if they state a certain price you will get to know pretty soon, that this is only obtainable under either ridiculous requirements regarding MOQ or quality, or it is plainly said in the first meeting, that this was just a bait.
But there are smaller companies where you can buy even as an individual (archtops from Yunzhi for example are well regarded in the Jazz scene) directly via AliExpress or Alibaba. But it takes a certain degree of experience to distinguish the bait offers with very favorable photos or even stolen ones from the "real" offers. You need to find the original manufacturer of the good stuff, that is quite a task and you need time and a little luck, but they are out there.

As for the copies: yes, that may be annoying. But keep in mind, most guitar companies who came after Gibson/Fender etc. started off with copies. Think about PRS's first guitars. You have to start somewhere. That doesn't excuse illegal action, but keep in mind that in China and also still in Japan, there are very different rules when it comes to copies (think about Gibson open book headstock, which can be used by any company in Japan, legally, for the domestic market, but of course not the logo). So, while it may be completely okay to offer the guitars in China or Japan, it is not legal to sell them abroad. And of course, using trademarked and copyrighted logos is a no-go anywhere in the world, but then we are talking about counterfeits.

Work environment, that is indeed very difficult to check. You need to either trust your business partners, or you need to install a local QC on your cost and make sure, they are independent. It can be done, but it costs a lot of money and so that is limited to very few players in MI. And even if you may manage to keep the working conditions and payment in the production facility on an acceptable level, it is still very hard to really make the supply chain transparent. I mean, even in Europe, a lot of FSC labelled wood is from illegal sources (think about flamed maple from Bosnia for example, or illegal cut wood from national parks in Albania), how can we expect to really know, where wood in China comes from, when masses of it are needed (for example, CITES II listing for dalbergia spp. was driven to a large extend by the enormous use of rosewood in Chinese furniture industry)? What about hardware manufacturers, where does the raw material come from? Plastics? Fabrics?

And who is willing to pay the price for such an ethical uncritical product?
Thanks for this, it's great perspective.
 

redhouse_ca

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About 5 years ago, I purchased two Chinese guitars out of curiosity about relics - a relic Ingwie Malmsteen strat and a relic Gibson LP. Both have the logos on the headstock, but to me are they are very easily distinguishable from the real thing.

First, the relic job is not very artistic, being an assembly-line paint job with a lot of overspray to simulate wear, the cracking looks like a stamp, the fingerboard wear was created with a dremel, grime on the pickups looked fresh - you get the idea. By comparison, a Nash guitar is a work of art when it comes to relics - each one is different and made with care.

The hardware was fairly low quality and I replaced the pickups on the strat and the tuners on the LP.

They were/are both playable, but the tone quality on the LP was like an ice pick. The LP sounded decent. If you put a few bucks more in, it would be as good as an Epiphone.

My thoughts: if you buy one, I would not get a relic, and to avoid any infringement issues pay a few bucks extra to put YOUR OWN NAME on the headstock. That way you can sleep at night and if you ever wanted to sell it, you can do so without a lot of caveats.
I could have done a better job in the post expressing my concerns around high quality, very carefully forged guitars and parts that have I think unquestionably found their way into the authentic international guitar markets (new and vintage). I honestly think there is a lot of it.
 

kodiakblair

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@redhouse_ca

"high quality, very carefully forged guitars" have been around for decades.

Back when Japanese collectors flooded the USA buying every guitar they could find , folk like Ed Roman were only too happy to take advantage by creating fakes; it was a cottage industry.
 

Happy Enchilada

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The term "Chinese guitar market" conjures up an image of open-air stalls where cheap Strat knockoffs are hung out for display next to plucked ducks and bats ...

Oh, my bad - that's the "Chinese wet guitar market." It's in Wuhan. 🦇

But seriously folks ...

The last couple guitars I've bought have been Indonesian.
Hamer Special (2 P90s) and Hamer Junior (1 P90).
Both had exemplary fit and finish on all the wood parts.
Fretwork was great out of the box.
Pickups sounded wonderful.
However, I did swap out pots and jacks and switches and tuners (Sperzel lockers) for US parts.
End of day, I have the best of both worlds:
Well-crafted guitars with better parts in them than come in the US "CS" models.
And for a tiny fraction of the price of their "genuine" US counterparts.
Go figure ...
 
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The Angle

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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.
I've been told that lack of company info is because a lot of these sellers are not what you and I would think of as "guitar companies." They are one person, or a few people, who advertise guitars for sale when they do not, in fact, have any guitars on hand. Once they accumulate, say, 100 orders for a specific model, then they start contacting manufacturers to see who'll give them the best deal on that batch of guitars. You'll notice that lots of these listings never show the headstock; sometimes that's to avoid drawing attention to trademark infringement if they're directly copying Gibson, Fender, PRS, etc. headstocks, but sometimes it's because the seller doesn't know yet what specific headstock shape or logo the guitars will have!

Under this business model, it's anyone's guess whether you'll get specifically what you ordered. For example, if you ordered 3-color sunburst but the factory offered the seller a fantastic price on 2-color sunburst, you may get that instead. If you complain, they'll offer to replace the guitar - if you can wait three months for turnaround - or a discount on your next order, if you're foolish enough to buy from them again.

Not all sellers operate this way, of course, but enough of them do to keep me away from that market. At least, that's what I've been told by friends who earn their daly bread in the trans-Pacific trade.
 

tfarny

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Just yesterday I spent an hour on the higher end of Chinese manufacturing, playing an Eastman take on a Gibson OO acoustic, alongside a couple of really nice actual Gibsons, in a great, old school music store. The Eastman was by far the cheapest of the bunch (but still not cheap at $1300), but by gosh it was the best one of the lot for sound, setup, and general QC. I just could not fault the thing and made myself late to an appointment because I couldn't put it down, and I am still thinking about selling a couple of current guitars and buying it.
 

Wound_Up

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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!

You don't need a VPN to see this stuff. I've been through it all and back again. From right here in Louisiana with my stock chrome browser lol.

You just have to know what to look for.
 

jvin248

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.

I have a couple of Kalamazoo Gibsons. I make that distinction because in the early 1980s, the Gibson brand was bought and operations moved from Kalamazoo to Nashville. The reason was the same as the move to Asian-built copies: low wages, young workers, non-union workers, low land costs, low taxes. Nashville Gibsons should be called Nibsons.

Every year the Gibson Marketing Machine tells buyers that "the guitars this year are made even closer to the famous 1950s models!" -- marketing to buyers they are making better fakes and copies this year than last year. Eventually they will get it right!

Nibsons and Chibsons.

Difference is: most Chibsons have strengthened the weak headstock design!

The smart Asian factories have started making their own brands, marketing via Youtubers, and selling direct to consumers via Amazon even removing the typical music gear retailer markups thus keeping the costs lower still. And they got the message to spend a little money on making perfect or near-perfect fretwork so the guitar actually plays right out of the box. Kids stay with playing guitar and buy upmarket models for more money.

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Beebe

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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!

Really cool post. Thanks for digging in. I'm fascinated by this kind of stuff.

I came across this video on China's underground music scene recently.

They use different social media platforms than us. But with a little effort, and probably a VPN, I'm sure communication would be possible.

 

Beebe

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You don't need a VPN to see this stuff. I've been through it all and back again. From right here in Louisiana with my stock chrome browser lol.

You just have to know what to look for.

Prices will most likely be adjusted based on location though. With a VPN you can set your location to where prices are the lowest. ...as I understand it.
 

jtees4

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When I lived on Long Island, NY....there was a music store that got busted for selling fake Chinese Gibsons, the owner went to jail. This goes back maybe 15 years or more. I was buying and selling tons of stuff on Craigslist at the time, I'd come across fakes from time to time, often the owners had no idea because these were sold at a regular store. So I've always been very keen on checking guitars carefully. I even used to notify Gibson if I saw fakes listed on Craigslist, and back then, they'd get the ads taken down (not sure how, I assume a letter from a lawyer or something)...I tried to help folks who didn't know any better. So yeah, I guess I was a guitar NARC, but I'm proud of it.
 

redhouse_ca

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Yeah, I see some guitars out there that I might be interested in and then say to myself, "Would I really pay that much for that guitar? Nah, I don't think so". So, I do agree with that.

The other day, I ventured into a local GC to buy some strings. I started to look at what they had on the wall, and most of it was cheap entry level Squires and other various guitars. They all looked like cheap child toys to me, and I didn't even what to pick one up to test the quality. In my opinion, we are in the "doldrums" of a cheap, oversaturated Chinese made product dump that is boring as $%&*.

So, unless you are looking at something that is $3000.00 and above, it's just not interesting enough for me personally to get excited about. In fact, I am now more interested in what other people are building from parts and that is what is interesting to me. Leo Fender put out some great designs, but most of them are approaching 70 years old. What I see other people doing is hot rodding those designs and putting their own spin on that. It's very clever and it's similar to what people were doing with cars 60 plus years ago. One thing for sure, I doubt that many of those are costing in upwards of $3000.00.
I've got this quirk, when a guitar builder starts to release lines with model numbers longer than about 4 digits or two words (ie. S23a-74b m2) I stop buying the new models from that builder. I know some of the big guys make amazing instruments but when atheists walk at GC has, say, 200 guitars hanging there, most of which look decent, it just becomes overwhelming for me. I was in one of the GC acoustic rooms the other day (the one focused on one builder) and there were maybe 50 guitar models there, and even on the high end wall there were laminates and foreign builds and I jist couldn't understand how there could be a market for that many variations and build types/countries of origin. It was overwhelming. I think everyone had a pickup and I prefer to mike an acoustic so I felt like the whole generation from that builder has just gone past me. Alas, maybe i'm hits old.
 

Sax-son

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I've got this quirk, when a guitar builder starts to release lines with model numbers longer than about 4 digits or two words (ie. S23a-74b m2) I stop buying the new models from that builder. I know some of the big guys make amazing instruments but when atheists walk at GC has, say, 200 guitars hanging there, most of which look decent, it just becomes overwhelming for me. I was in one of the GC acoustic rooms the other day (the one focused on one builder) and there were maybe 50 guitar models there, and even on the high end wall there were laminates and foreign builds and I jist couldn't understand how there could be a market for that many variations and build types/countries of origin. It was overwhelming. I think everyone had a pickup and I prefer to mike an acoustic so I felt like the whole generation from that builder has just gone past me. Alas, maybe i'm hits old.
These Asian guitar manufacturers are cranking these things out 1 or more a minute, so unless you have that many guitar pickers coming up in the wings, they just start looking like widgets. I am sure some are decent, but I still like the same guitars that I did 60 years ago Martins, Gibson, Fenders and Gretsch's. Some of the boutique builders are just too expensive for me now.
 




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