Blurred Lines in Guitar Pricing

Adam1578

Member
Messages
709
I have started to notice that import guitars (made overseas) are starting to come up in price around the same as USA made instruments. In some cases even more, like when a small builder imports guitars versus a big builder's 'entry level' USA made stuff. 10 years ago there was a definite line between import and USA made prices.

When I see that, it makes me want to spend on the big names' USA stuff instead, mainly from a QA and overall electronics quality point of view, or get the small builder USA made one. In my mind imports still have a stigma of being lesser-than guitars, but I think the guitar world is changing that.

For myself, I recently ordered from a small builder who offers import models, but sprung for the USA made one they make instead.

How do you feel about builders charging premium prices for imports? I know, go with what sounds good and feels good but there is that lingering stigma still for me.
 
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6,185
I have started to notice that import guitars (made overseas) are starting to come up in price around the same as USA made instruments. In some cases even more, like when a small builder imports guitars versus a big builder's 'entry level' USA made stuff. 10 years ago there was a definite line between import and USA made prices.

When I see that, it makes me want to spend on the big names' USA stuff instead, mainly from a QA and overall electronics quality point of view, or get the small builder USA made one. In my mind imports still have a stigma of being lesser-than guitars, but I think the guitar world is changing that.

For myself, I recently ordered from a small builder who offers import models, but sprung for the USA made one they make instead.

How do you feel about builders charging premium prices for imports? I know, go with what sounds good and feels good but there is that lingering stigma still for me.

There are still companies making super high quality guitars at very low prices, so when I want a good guitar on the cheap I just stick to those. I would never pay $1300-$2000 for an Indonesian Ibanez, Jackson, Schecter, Strandberg, etc. when there are companies like Kiesel that offer USA guitars custom built to your specs starting at right around there, but if I want a great guitar with some high end specs and I don't wanna pay a lot there's stuff like good ole' Harley Benton that's built by the same people in the same factories but minus the brand name / dealer mark-up.

Companies like Benton offer stuff for $400 that a company like Ibanez will charge $1400 for...and there's little difference aside from maybe nicer pickups which of course is an easy and not super expensive mod to make if you wanna.
 

mystixboi

Silver Supporting Member
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1,374
There are still companies making super high quality guitars at very low prices, so when I want a good guitar on the cheap I just stick to those. I would never pay $1300-$2000 for an Indonesian Ibanez, Jackson, Schecter, Strandberg, etc. when there are companies like Kiesel that offer USA guitars custom built to your specs starting at right around there, but if I want a great guitar with some high end specs and I don't wanna pay a lot there's stuff like good ole' Harley Benton that's built by the same people in the same factories but minus the brand name / dealer mark-up.

Companies like Benton offer stuff for $400 that a company like Ibanez will charge $1400 for...and there's little difference aside from maybe nicer pickups which of course is an easy and not super expensive mod to make if you wanna.

Kiesel’s prices are pretty high right now. I would easily get a used suhr over a new Kiesel any day.
 
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6,185
Kiesel’s prices are pretty high right now. I would easily get a used suhr over a new Kiesel any day.

Can’t really compare used to new in terms of value in my opinion, not to mention comparing a guitar you customize to your exact specs with one you’d have to take exactly as is.

New pricing on Kiesels is about half that of a comparable new Suhr, so while their prices have gone up over time (what hasn’t?) they’re still a killer value compared to everything similar out there.

I have a custom Suhr and it’s incredible, but no one else offers USA custom shop instruments starting at $1400…so I still consider Kiesel a tremendous value.

Either way, my point was just that I’m not paying 2K for something like an Indo Strandberg when I can custom spec a USA Kiesel for less than that.
 

lostpick

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,545
Saw this today. Flummoxed. These things went for 300ish just a few years back.

 
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6,185
Saw this today. Flummoxed. These things went for 300ish just a few years back.


Yeah I mean this seller is out of their mind. No one is paying anywhere near that for used SE customs, those regularly sell for $400-$600 max.

Important to remember that what someone’s pricing something at and what it’s market value is are typically two very different things :).
 

lostpick

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,545
Yeah I mean this seller is out of their mind. No one is paying anywhere near that for used SE customs, those regularly sell for $400-$600 max.

Important to remember that what someone’s pricing something at and what it’s market value is are typically two very different things :).
One sold for almost 1k with Fralins.
 

ccc

Member
Messages
424
After contemplating the prices on guitars lately I decided to research building my own and found a builder that offers incredible quality guitar bodies with your choice of wood etc.. at affordable prices .

Every review I have read raved about the guitars they built with one guy in particular saying the guitar he bought from this builder (I believe he offers one or two models ) but mostly offers the materials for building your own is every bit as good as his top of the line American made ESP's for a fraction of the price.

Guitars are not complicated , they really are very very basic and building your own and having a choice of any fingerboard material you desire , body wood you desire , neck wood you desire including the exotics , any type of design you can dream of is available .

Despite this some will prefer to buy an already made guitar from a specific company and nothing wrong with that it's their money but for me to buy an off the rack guitar with the materials that I prefer my guitars to be constructed of would cost me at least 3K .

So far this current build and I'm only speaking of the body and neck is under $500.00. Just need to decide if I want a Tune O Matic bridge type or tremolo unit , electronics for guitars are dirt cheap so two pots total for a single humbucker build and I need to purchase tuners . That's what a guitar consists of folks , nothing complicated or requiring big bucks at all .

I don't mind paying big bucks for things that are really worth big bucks like high end optical items like telescopes and high tech super zoom lenses on camera's . You cannot make one of those yourself they are exceedingly complicated, guitars are not . Very very very simple.
 
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Messages
6,185
One sold for almost 1k with Fralins.

Listen, there's crazy/uninformed people everywhere...I'm sure there exists some buyer out there who paid $1000 for a Squier too, but 95% of listings for these guitars sell within the range I mentioned so one single outlier is not an indicator of anything. The guitar you linked to is stock and has no upgrades, so his asking price is indeed 100% bonkers.

Also the one you're talking about with the Fralins had 2 offers on it when it sold, so as we talked about in a different thread the other day you can bet it went for well under that asking price.
 

lostpick

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,545
Listen, there's crazy/uninformed people everywhere...I'm sure there exists some buyer out there who paid $1000 for a Squier too, but 95% of listings for these guitars sell within the range I mentioned so one single outlier is not an indicator of anything. The guitar you linked to is stock and has no upgrades, so his asking price is indeed 100% bonkers.

Also the one you're talking about with the Fralins had 2 offers on it when it sold, so as we talked about in a different thread the other day you can bet it went for well under that asking price.
Oh yeah, for sure. I'm only showing how nuts the market is right now. But we know neither are selling for the few hundred they did a few years ago either.
 

IAE

Member
Messages
2,595
I dunno, I mean, Japanese guitars have been at or above parity with the best American production guitars for 40 years—-
Yes, absolutely true. Those of us who live in Europe, or Oceania, etc have always been aware of the extremely high quality guitars from Japan as many of our stores stock them right next to Fender Customs and Gibson Custom. Our (Australian) stores often have JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) only products, be they guitars, watches, knives, or whatever else.

The older, and most common, Fender MIJ/CIJ guitars could lack in electronics on their base models, which are incidentally what most Americans have had contact with, but when you buy premium models of the same guitar there is nothing lacking whatsoever. They often make numerous iterations of the same base guitar model with various different levels of appointments, woods, upgrades, and so forth.

While not necessarily in the context of guitars only but in general, I’ve always preferred Japanese craftsmanship over American for the simple reason that the Japanese, traditionally, have had an ingrained work ethic - life ethic would be more accurate - that is along the lines of “whatever I do I must do it to the best of my ability” and whether he be a street cleaner or a luthier is irrelevant.
This translates into a lack of shoddy work and cutting corners not simply because it couldn’t be done without reprimand but also taking on shame for oneself; which means high quality work all round because it can be done, it feels good, and will please others.
 

IAE

Member
Messages
2,595
I cannot believe what the Fender Heritage series asking - and selling - prices are in the US.
At US$ 2,415.

Thats around AU$1,500 more than I got mine for brand new here in Australia. You can get one here for US$1,350. All electronics and plastics are US made.

(These are shaped 100% the same as the AV65/AO60s as they use US CNC data. They’re basically AVRI62s and in fact I would argue built even better as the AV65/AO60s are built better and more accurately shaped than the AVRI62s)

 
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Jayyj

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
11,773
I think you have to break it down.

We tend to think that import guitars are cheaper because the cost of labour/manufacture is less and the quality is inferior - often these two elements are given as going hand in hand and that’s not necessarily the case. In reality, any manufacturer can produce a relatively affordable instrument by cutting costs on materials, components and production time and that’s as true of a US company as it is a Chinese one, it just won’t be as cheap because of cost of labour/manufacture relative to China.

What therefore tends to happen is brands look at that cost differential in country of origin and think ok, US is going to be on the expensive side whatever we do so let’s make that the upmarket option, the Chinese guys are going to be cheap anyway so let’s go for a much lower spec and hit a really low price point with it. It’s not that the US operation is necessarily better than the Chinese one, it’s that the market tends to default to asking the Chinese to make cheap and cheerful because that’s what consumers expect.

What’s happening now is we’re seeing manufacturers looking again at China and thinking ‘these guys are pretty good at what they do, what happens if we spec a really high end guitar from them’ and the results are goers that are pretty much on par with the US versions, still for me money than the same guitar from the US.

That occasionally turns the market on its head as for example you can buy an entry level Gibson Les Paul made in the US for less than an Eastman SB59 made in China, but if you look at the spec for the guitar the Eastman is way up on the entry level Gibson and still a bargain for what you’re getting.

These days more than ever it really does come down to the country of original matters less than the individual guitar itself - it it looks good, sounds good and plays good it is good, whether it was make in the US, China, Timbuktu or Mars.

Although Mars would be an unnecessarily expensive place to make a guitar, to be fair.
 

tktk

Member
Messages
968
I cannot believe what the Fender Heritage series asking - and selling - prices are in the US.
At US$ 2,415.

Thats around AU$1,500 more than I got mine for brand new here in Australia. You can get one here for US$1,350. All electronics and plastics are US made.

(These are shaped 100% the same as the AV65/AO60s as they use US CNC data. They’re basically AVRI62s and in fact I would argue built even better as the AV65/AO60s are built better and more accurately shaped than the AVRI62s)

You can get at a half of the price in Japan, and we think it's still too expensive for MIJ Fender. lol
 
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webcat

Member
Messages
923
After contemplating the prices on guitars lately I decided to research building my own and found a builder that offers incredible quality guitar bodies with your choice of wood etc.. at affordable prices .

Every review I have read raved about the guitars they built with one guy in particular saying the guitar he bought from this builder (I believe he offers one or two models ) but mostly offers the materials for building your own is every bit as good as his top of the line American made ESP's for a fraction of the price.

Guitars are not complicated , they really are very very basic and building your own and having a choice of any fingerboard material you desire , body wood you desire , neck wood you desire including the exotics , any type of design you can dream of is available .

Despite this some will prefer to buy an already made guitar from a specific company and nothing wrong with that it's their money but for me to buy an off the rack guitar with the materials that I prefer my guitars to be constructed of would cost me at least 3K .

So far this current build and I'm only speaking of the body and neck is under $500.00. Just need to decide if I want a Tune O Matic bridge type or tremolo unit , electronics for guitars are dirt cheap so two pots total for a single humbucker build and I need to purchase tuners . That's what a guitar consists of folks , nothing complicated or requiring big bucks at all .

I don't mind paying big bucks for things that are really worth big bucks like high end optical items like telescopes and high tech super zoom lenses on camera's . You cannot make one of those yourself they are exceedingly complicated, guitars are not . Very very very simple.
When you buy a guitar, you are paying for more than just the guitar, and it's important to remember that.

If you go and buy a Fender, you're paying for:

- The end product (guitar)
- The wages that went into it
- The mortgage/rent for the buildings
- The import of the materials to make the guitar
- The overheads like lighting, electricity, equipment to make the guitars (FAR larger machinery operations than a local builder)
- R&D, marketing and advertising, the "free" guitars Fender gives to young artists
- Any other buildings (stores, pop-ups etc)
- Money put into other projects like Fender Play, which need funding before they make a profit
- Dealer's markup so they can also make money

And whatever else goes on their expense reports.

So it's not really a fair comparison to say Fender/PRS/Gretsch charge this, but my local luthier charges a quarter of that. There are also builders who cost way more, there's one in particular I used to see talked about and I can't remember the name unfortunately, but I think his guitars were close to 10k and had a huge waiting list. And you can see why - if you're only producing a handful a year, each unit has to cost enough to cover a salary when combined.

I also assume (but haven't verified) that large-scale importers like Fender and Gibson are going to have their pick of the best woods. Maybe that's not important to you so it may not factor in, but I'd be incredibly surprised if Tim the local builder is getting mahogany and ebony on par with Gibson, and if he is, his guitars won't be £500 because the import cost alone of that wood would be massive.

Fender may be a bad example for the wood aspect because alder and ash are probably easier to source, but I dunno, what would a local builder charge to build a Les Paul replica - solid mahogany body, maple cap (not a veneer like Epiphone), and ebony fretboard (which the Modern line uses)? I'd be a little surprised if you had much change left over from Gibson's retail prices, which also have the dealer's markup don't forget.

None of this is to say that the big name brand is better than a small builder, but I think it's important to remember that Fender, Gibson etc aren't just charging higher prices because of the name. They're a business, with huge costs, and their products need to reflect that in order to make a profit.
 

webcat

Member
Messages
923
Interesting topic, and it touches on a comment I made on another thread yesterday. The market has got very used to cheap guitars, which are primarily based on manufacturing in countries that have cheaper cost of living, as well as lesser QC standards overall. But standard business practice is "capture the market, then raise the prices." Those Asian-import guitars won't stay cheap forever, and what happens when they decide to charge £2k for them? Alright, the manufacturers could move to a different country but that 100% means disruption, it means a slip in quality that they've spent years improving in the last location, and over time it also means the same price increase. At some point, you run out of countries and the higher prices are here to stay.

While I'm not against those guitars at all, and own a few Epis and a Korean BC Rich, I am conscious of the reality of it, and when my budget allows for it I prefer to pay the higher price for something like a Gibson. The obsession with the race to the bottom on price is crippling our own economies, and then we complain that companies are moving manufacturing overseas and we aren't getting paid fair wages.

Well, don't be a part of that problem, as much as possible. If someone supports their economy and helps to support on-shore manufacturing by buying products made in their country, they can voice their frustration about things. If they're refusing to pay "extortionate" and "inflated" prices in order to pay the higher wages of, say, Americans, then they're literally facilitating the problem.
 




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