How well do you think the MIJ guitars stack up against the USA made guitars?

Guitarguy91

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Yesterday I went to used guitar shop near me and they had gotten in a MIJ 62 Reissue Telecaster made in 1988 or 1989 according to the clerk. I got to try it and it sounded really good and felt comfortable in my hands. I’ve also been looking into either tracking down a used American original 60s Telecaster or even seeing if I can get my hands on one of the Heritage series Telecasters that are exclusive to the Japanese domestic market. Have any of you tried the models that were kept exclusive to Japan? I also heard the American original series is being discontinued and that might pose a problem.
 

Refugee

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I had an early 80's strat. The body was solid, the neck, not so much. It had that really thick poly coat. I mean thick as a brick! But the frets were those really thin ones, that I just don't like at all. So, I found a really nice'87 AS all maple neck. A buddy said it had been under his sister's bed for the past 15 years, and it was like new. He wasn't a very good player, he kept saying, "I don't like this neck, it's not fast enough." He was moving from Cali to Boston and needed money. Gave him $100 for it, and slapped it on my MIJ body and it was plenty fast. Quite a nice neck actually. I didn't like the pups that much either, so I swapped those out for some of the much hated Yngwie HS-3's with a 2 in the middle. I'm a huge Yngwie fan and love gain, but hate hum, so they worked out. Then I had a Jerry Garcia f/x loop installed, so there went the two tone knobs to be used as the loop jack and the toggle switch. But I stopped using that when I got a Loopbone pedal, and just ran everything through that. It turned out pretty solid after getting mongrelized.

Main solo starts around 6:47.
 

bgmacaw

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My observation about 80's and 90's vintage MIJ Fenders is that almost all of them have had significant modifications done to them (gutted electronics, different bridge assemblies, mismatched necks and bodies and so forth). Ones that haven't been modded usually have very worn frets or other significant physical wear and tear, either from much loved use or bad relic-ing attempts.

They also have very rabid fans who will attack you vigorously if you question anything these guitars (one reason why I rarely visit Strat Talk now). But, to be objective, your odds of finding one that's anywhere near what it was like 30+ years ago when it left the factory is quite low. I recommend avoiding them in favor of more recently produced guitars unless you happen across a verifiable unicorn being sold at a reasonable price.

Newer production ones, either gray market or the few limited series that Fender allows to be sold in the US, are quite good though. I think they're even with US production ones. Of course, specs vary as well as individual guitars so one may or may not be right for you.
 

IrishBread69

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Personally, while I don't have any MIJ guitars to compare.

My AO telecasters are not favourite and I have everything from MIM up to Ultra at the moment. There's something special about them. You can find them if you're willing to put the effort into finding.

Rumour is they may be discontinued soon but they'll probably just be replaced with something similar with a new name. I wouldn't worry too much. Definitely worth every penny though IMO.
 

Si G X

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The couple that I've actually had in my hands were alright.... nothing to get too excited about though imo. This was back in the USA Standard time and I didn't think they were as solid as those. No idea on the model specifics of them though.

The only Japanese Fender I've actually owned was a '69 Mustang RI. It was well made and the hardware was quality, basswood and very thick finish that chipped though.
 

caliban335

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I have had good luck with MIJ products over the years. I currently have a Tele, Strat, Mustang & Jaguar. All three have had pickups replaced.

I believe they are a good alternative to MIA guitars, although the price delta seems to be shrinking. Some of the finishes are unique; stuff you just won't find on MIA or MIM offerings.
 

Guitarguy91

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My observation about 80's and 90's vintage MIJ Fenders is that almost all of them have had significant modifications done to them (gutted electronics, different bridge assemblies, mismatched necks and bodies and so forth). Ones that haven't been modded usually have very worn frets or other significant physical wear and tear, either from much loved use or bad relic-ing attempts.

They also have very rabid fans who will attack you vigorously if you question anything these guitars (one reason why I rarely visit Strat Talk now). But, to be objective, your odds of finding one that's anywhere near what it was like 30+ years ago when it left the factory is quite low. I recommend avoiding them in favor of more recently produced guitars unless you happen across a verifiable unicorn being sold at a reasonable price.

Newer production ones, either gray market or the few limited series that Fender allows to be sold in the US, are quite good though. I think they're even with US production ones. Of course, specs vary as well as individual guitars so one may or may not be right for you.
The one I played yesterday did have a little bit of wear and tear along with some dings but, in pretty good condition nonetheless. I looked at the Heritage series guitars online. Some of the specs were interesting including a nitrocellulose lacquer finish with a urethane undercoat. The price adjusted for the US dollars comes to under $1300 and I can see why Fender wants to keep that line of guitars exclusive to Japan.
 

CX Hunter

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A rabid fan of MIJ Fenders. Promise not to attack anyone. Sure people mod them, but so what? I hardly know anyone who buys a stock Fender and leaves it that way. My '88 "62 reissue was re-fretted with a compound radius by Roger Sadowski back in '09. Originally, I had Seymour Duncan pickups and a few years ago switched to a set of Cavaliers (OMG - I lOVE 'em), put brass saddles on too. But for me the neck is the soul of the guitar. I have a bunch of other MIJ Fenders and can't say I've ever found an off-the-rack American or MIM Fender that was superior without various mods to make it to the owner's taste. I find them invariably, to be great bargains. I f'in hated Strats till I got a MIJ Texas Special from a guy in Thailand and it's now one of two guitars I want to be buried with.
 
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JJLC

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I have owned several MIJ Teles, Fender and other makes. Nothing wrong with them whatsoever.

Some of my faves have been the Fender Japan MIJ A series serial #s.

This A serial # ORDER MADE '56 style had a nice FAT neck and a very nice light weight swamp ash body.
tele 3.jpg


Tele doc 5.jpg


Tele doc 3.jpg



Here is another A serial # ORDER MADE KR model with a 2 piece/center seam sen body.
Both of these A serial # Teles are very rare and locating either one would be nearly impossible now days.

KR A 6.jpg



Another very rare MIJ Tele; Bacchus Tele Custom 2 piece/center seam mahogany body with ebony fingerboard.

BTL 7.jpg


BTL 9.jpg
 
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Opt_234

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can't speak to tele's

but back in my les paul days, i played MIJ copies exclusively and they were better than Gibsons. really good

i could only assume that same quality would carry over to F-type guitars too
 

Guitarguy91

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I have owned several MIJ Teles, Fender and other makes. Nothing wrong with them whatsoever.

Some of my faves have been the Fender Japan MIJ A series serial #s.

This A serial # ORDER MADE '56 style had a nice FAT neck and a very nice light weight swamp ash body.
View attachment 974439

View attachment 974440

View attachment 974441


Here is another A serial # ORDER MADE KR model with a 2 piece/center seam sen body.
Both of these A serial # Teles are very rare and locating either one would be nearly impossible now days.

View attachment 974444


Another very rare MIJ Tele; Bacchus Tele Custom 2 piece/center seam mahogany body with ebony fingerboard.

View attachment 974446

View attachment 974449
Not gonna lie. I love that mahogany body. Natural looks great. I’d love to see Fender Japan try that for a limited run at some point.
 

bgmacaw

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My '88 "62 reissue was refretted with a compound radius by Roger Sadowski back in '09. Originally, I had Seymour Duncan pickups and a few years ago switched to a set of Cavaliers (OMG - I lOVE 'em), put brass saddles on too.

Nothing wrong with liking a partscaster. Unless you try to sell to someone while claiming it's the original guitar.
 
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loudboy

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I had a '62 Reissue Strat for a while and it played nice, but always sounded kind of dead to me - I think they had basswood bodies?

Anyway, I moved it along. Don't miss it.
 

msalama

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I had an early 80's MIJ BSB maple neck Tele with a P-90 at the neck years ago. It was an OK solid guitar but nothing special really, which is why I sold it later on. Had a thick coat of poly instead of nitro too and that was something I did NOT like about it!
 

Peter Graham

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Both of my electrics are MIJ (and unmodified). I have a late 1980s Strat with the Kahler Spyder locking system that I bought new. Last year I doubled the collection when I bought a 50s Traditional Telecaster.

I don't know about the Strat, but I think the Tele was made primarily (albeit perhaps not exclusively) for the Japanese market. A shipment arrived in Europe last year, but that seems to have been a one off.

I can't get on with the Kahler system at all, but the guitar itself is fantastic. So too the Tele. It cost a good bit less than an American Performer, but (from what those who know more about these things tell me) it ranks closer to the Professional II. Whether or not that is true, I love it. No disrespect to the Strat, but my only regret is not buying a Tele sooner, such as when I first wandered into that music shop in 1988 with my life savings in my hand.....
 

beyer160

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Speaking only of Fender Japan as a company, not the guitar making skills of the entire nation of Japan as a whole-

You have to remember that the legend of Fender Japan was forged in an era where Fender USA was falling apart and making some of the worst instruments in their history, and the Ensenada plant in Mexico didn't exist yet. That scenario hasn't been true for several decades now, but the legend persists.

I find MIJ Fenders to be underwhelming. The necks are usually the best part of the instrument (which is the most important part, IMHO), but things go downhill from there. The parts quality is well below Fender US level, the pickups are generally mediocre at best, the electronics are gawd-awful. Higher tier MIMs are equal or better in every respect, at a lower price point.

I particularly hate MIJ Jazzmasters, as the pickups and bridge are basically unusable as supplied from the factory (and I'm a guy who uses the original model bridge on all his offsets- the MIJ one is just made wrong) and it would have been easy to correct these things as Indonesian and Chinese made Squiers don't have these problems. In fact, Squier Jazzmasters and Jaguars are better instruments than their MIJ counterparts at 1/2 the price. I don't understand why anyone buys those things.

If you find a MIJ that feels good in your hand though, that's the most important thing so I'd say go for it as long as the price is right- just understand that it's basically a Squier Affinity under the hood.

I'm not terribly popular on certain guitar forums, but this has been my experience with about a dozen MIJs of different eras over the last 30 years or so.
 

jvin248

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+1 Back in the 80s the MIJs were superior to MIAs. Since then the modern MIAs (and MIMs) are fantastic. I'd get a MIM Player Series way before an MIJ.

MIJs that are out there may have been improved by guitar techs since they left the factory and thus no longer represent what the factory produced. You can buy a modern Squier and take it to a top guitar tech for fretwork and setup and have a Custom Shop playing experience. There's even a youtube video by Phil McKnight where he had a new Squier PLEK'd and the Squier played great.

Since the MIJs have become 'interesting in a collector way' to many players, you need to be very careful:
-Many many fakes are out there. MIJ neck on a MIC Squier loaded body are the most popular and hard to detect. Sometimes just slide on decals.
-MIJ factory product variations make it really hard to identify real from fake. There are many more MIA followers that can easily identify fakes but the MIJ followers are fewer and much more specialized because the MIJ factory used so many different lower run product variations. Your risk of getting a fake is much higher with MIJ.

I'd say just go get a MIM Player Series and get 'your guy' guitar tech to be backup if you find something you want improved (though you likely won't).

.
 

bgmacaw

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-Many many fakes are out there. MIJ neck on a MIC Squier loaded body are the most popular and hard to detect. Sometimes just slide on decals.

Yep. I view any 80's or 90's MIJ Fender with considerable skepticism as well. Most at this point are either partscasters or fakes being sold to the gullible who buy into the mystical "Made in Japan" mojo.
 




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