Interesting notes on guitar imports/exports 30 years ago and now

Discussion in 'The Sound Hound Lounge' started by eichaan, Jun 21, 2019.

  1. eichaan

    eichaan Member

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    Every month I re-read the Guitar Player magazine from exactly 30 years ago for my blog. Looking at the June, 1989 issue I was struck by the editorial which seemed to bemoan the trade imbalance on guitars.

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    The opening editorial from publisher Jim Crockett was titled “The Balance of Payments”, and it discussed the 1988 statistics on imports and exports of acoustic and electric guitars. According to Crockett:

    “…in 1988, about 611,400 acoustic guitars worth less than $100 each were imported into the U.S….And where did most of these come from? Not Japan, as some of you might assume, but from Korea, Taiwan and (ready?) China. In the area of over-$100 acoustics, the United States brought in a little over 41,000 instruments last year, most of those from just Korea and Taiwan.

    How about electrics? In ’88, about 485,200 units were shipped into the U.S. Again, mostly Asian in origin. Altogether, America imported about 1,137,700 acoustic and electric guitars–up 167,500 from 1987.

    In 1988, while Americans were importing 652,000 acoustic guitars, we were exporting just 29,600. Talk about your ‘imbalance’. And at the same time we were welcoming 485,200 foreign electric guitars, we sent out only 33,500.

    Overall, America brought in 1,137,700 or so guitars, but exported merely 63,100. “

    Well, there is a lot to unpack here, even beyond the fact that this simplistic analysis sounds like the kind of thing that around this same time led a somewhat well-known real estate mogul in New York to decide that “America was losing”. First of all, it sounds about right to me that guitar sales were increasing at this time, which was the peak of rock on MTV, with guitar solos on every pop song and grunge just a disquieting rumble in the distance. Second, I wish that Crockett had been able to give us dollar values of the imports and exports. Finally, I wonder what the numbers are like now, when so many people are proclaiming the end of the guitar (despite a seemingly endless supply of cheap guitars on Amazon and eBay).

    Fortunately, I didn’t have too far to look. The 2015 NAMM Global Report is available online, and it is full of fascinating details, including these charts:

    [​IMG]

    In other words, in 2014 (26 years after Crockett’s data), the United States imported 2 million guitars and exported just over 125,000. Both of these numbers are increases over the 1988 totals, but, interestingly are down quite a bit from 2005 before the Great Recession (and before the spread of smartphones). Now of course the U.S. population in 1990 was just under 249 million and by 2010 was over 310 million, so one could assume that the population increase alone should result in more guitarists, but I can’t do that kind of math. The report does say that:

    “Acoustic guitars were the top performers in 2014. A 10% increase to 1,498,700 units translated into a 12.5% gain in retail value as customers opted for higher priced instruments. It’s difficult to pinpoint a single catalyst for the improvement. Retailers and manufacturers interviewed cited a better economic climate; the rise of singer-songwriters like Taylor Swift, who have attracted more female buyers, and consumers looking for an antidote to an increasingly digitized world.

    In the realm of electric guitars, unit volume edged up 2% to 1,132,250, while estimated retail value increased 8.3% to $505.9 million. The shift to higher-priced products was generally welcomed by manufacturers and retailers….[h]owever, some still expressed concerns. ‘We’re seeing fewer first-time buyers and a lot more older guys adding instruments to their collection.'”

    Interesting stuff, at least to me. And I can’t help but wonder where all these guitars are going. I mean, they aren’t disposable. A glance at Reverb as I write this on June 20th shows 131,550 used guitars available on the site, including 6,128 from the 1980’s–some of which might be the ones Crockett was talking about. So in some ways, this is probably a great time to be a guitar player due to the saturated market; I mean, you don’t have to look far or pay much for a guitar these days which makes it great for beginners and “collectors” alike. What do you think about this?
     
  2. Echo Are

    Echo Are Member

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    I remember in the summer of 1988 I bought a Kramer Aerostar ZX30H, white with black pickguard, my 2nd electric, on sale at Guitar Center for $300.00. Made in Korea. Pretty cheesy overall quality. The Guitar Player article made me think of it. The quality of today's typical $300 import solid body electric is amazing compared to 30 years ago.
     
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  3. sws1

    sws1 Member

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    Most of those cheap imports are disposable. Mostly sold at Christmas time, played once, then lost forever.
     
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  4. sahhas

    sahhas Supporting Member

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    I had that issue, so wanted the digitech rack unit on the cover!!!!
     
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  5. Tone_Terrific

    Tone_Terrific Supporting Member

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    Many of us fell for that 'magical do it all, perfect, fresh sounds, hi-tech, memory'...and flashing lights!!
     
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  6. NorCal_Val

    NorCal_Val Member

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    1988 is the year I bought this;
    [​IMG]
     
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  7. sahhas

    sahhas Supporting Member

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    That is an awesome guitar!!!

     
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  8. NorCal_Val

    NorCal_Val Member

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    Thanks, @sahhas !!
    I bought it with $500 of Pell Grant money.:anon
    My Parts-o-caster was worn out, and I needed a replacement.
    It saw a lot of action.
    It's pretty much retired at this point.
     
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  9. monwobobbo

    monwobobbo Member

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    keep in mind though that $300 in 1988 was worth a fair bit more than $300 now. i do agree though that lower end guitars are definitely better now than they were back in the day.

    quick check shows that $300 then is about $630 now
     
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  10. AlanH

    AlanH Member

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    I recently bought a white RG550 Genesis to rotate with my RG1570. Superb guitars.

    Now in '87 I spent £270 of my first term's (UK) grant money on this....

    [​IMG]

    It's made in Taiwan and I tried every guitar in the shop before leaving with this one. It has an amazing neck and feel, great pickups, is extremely resonant and is built like a tank. I guess it is also approaching retirement age but, then again, I haven't even had the frets levelled yet.
     
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  11. Bankston

    Bankston Supporting Member

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    My '86 Charvel Model 2, made in Japan, is still going strong, 33 years later.
     
  12. sahhas

    sahhas Supporting Member

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    Omg- there is my old guitar!!! It just needs stickers on it, and it would look like my old SE 350!! It did have a great neck!!!

     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2019
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  13. AlanH

    AlanH Member

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    Yep it's an SE350. Great neck, as you say.
     
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  14. sahhas

    sahhas Supporting Member

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    would love to reread the "digital magic in one box" article....any chance you could post scans of the article????
    at the time ('89) all i had was my Rat and a Yamaha Delay....the idea of hearing Reverb was just too far out....and to hear a pitch shifter/harmonizer like Steve Vai and others were using? that seemed like stuff from another planet to me at the time!!!!!
     
  15. AlanH

    AlanH Member

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    Your Yamaha delay wasn't, by chance, a DDS-20M was it?
     
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  16. Jon Silberman

    Jon Silberman 10Q Jerry & Dickey Gold Supporting Member

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    "You're not only cuddly toy that was ever enjoyed by any boy.
    You're not the only choo-choo train that was left out in the rain the day after Santa came.
    You're not the only cherry delight that was left out in the night and gave up without a fight.
    You're not the only cuddly toy that was ever enjoyed by any boy."​

     
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  17. Papanate

    Papanate Gold Supporting Member

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    I think that statistical analysis of the Guitar Market is pointless - guitar sales can be summed up very simply. Whomever is selling the lowest priced gear owns the market - and is not named Peavey.
     
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  18. leftygeetar

    leftygeetar Member

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  19. sahhas

    sahhas Supporting Member

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    yes, i had to look it up, it was a DDS-20M, it looked like this:
    [​IMG]
    man I had fun playing that thing for 12 years....
     
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  20. sahhas

    sahhas Supporting Member

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    man, i barely even hear of Peavey anymore...although I haven't gotten any guitar mags for over 7 years, they just seemed to drop off the face of the earth...although I still see some of their amps in pawn shops....
     

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