MIJ Guitars 1976-1986

Basement_Builder

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
879
I disagree about the LS60's but there you go. I say this as a guy who owns a LOT of Late 70's (and early 80's) Gibsons as well as Tokais, to include the Tokai LS60. Imo LS60 EASILY compares to mid to late 70's Gibson. The primary difference (for example my 1980 LS60) is that the LS60 is "classic construction" and late 70's Gibson are Norlin construction. I have several MIJ that are Norlin construction as well of courze.

I could say that I prefer the SL500 to most gibsons I've owned (yamaha) and that would be true, but it's generally made of lower cost stuff and is a step down.

I guess it depends on what you really want. A laminated maple neck generally fares well over time, but single piece mahogany necks really don't.

It's not an absolute, but as a matter of overall averages. People would generally consider a built-heel laminated neck as cheap, and I don't know what the body of the SL 500 is, but it's something light (agathis?) the guitar sounds soft and a bit muttled unplugged, but plugged in, I don't see much difference.

If someone doesn't like a pancake guitar with a maple neck, though, I get it that they may not like a norlin gibson. The 76 that I had had a diminutive neck, but it felt like it was made by a human. A lot of the more recent LPs can't satisfy that statement.
 

Whittlez

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,326
I could say that I prefer the SL500 to most gibsons I've owned (yamaha) and that would be true, but it's generally made of lower cost stuff and is a step down.

I guess it depends on what you really want. A laminated maple neck generally fares well over time, but single piece mahogany necks really don't.

It's not an absolute, but as a matter of overall averages. People would generally consider a built-heel laminated neck as cheap, and I don't know what the body of the SL 500 is, but it's something light (agathis?) the guitar sounds soft and a bit muttled unplugged, but plugged in, I don't see much difference.

If someone doesn't like a pancake guitar with a maple neck, though, I get it that they may not like a norlin gibson. The 76 that I had had a diminutive neck, but it felt like it was made by a human. A lot of the more recent LPs can't satisfy that statement.
I appreciate the insight on the Yamaha . I was specifically referencing the Tokais.

I consider myself an expert when it comes to many MIJ’s of that era but I admittedly have NO opinion on the Yamaha’s. I’ve never even held one

And I am saying a 1980 LS60 *is* made of quality materials just like classic construction Gibson

And the quality of craftsmanship is superior (and certainly more consistent ) than Norlin OR present era Gibson.

And again - I own a lot of Gibsons and love them

Here is me gushing about one of my LS60’s (a 1980 ) shortly after purchase

Btw it cost me $725 TOTAL including shipping . In 2016

That’s insane

I’m a big fan of early 90’s plaintop Gibson LP classics and the LS60 reminds me of them except it has a MUCH thicker neck
 
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59Jazzmaster

Member
Messages
719
With some encouragement by @sonic blue and a whole lot of inspiration in this thread, I finally gave in and bought an early 80s Tokai Strat - an ST-50 model "Springy Sound" which I believe was their mid-level model. Pretty sure the year of manufacture is 1981 (is that right, @JDZ ?)

It's basically a replica of a '56-57 Strat, with a 2T sunburst over an alder body. There was a higher couple of models that offered a nitrocellulose finish and a V-shaped neck (this has a thin coat of poly and a medium C-shape neck, which I actually prefer).

Seriously impressed with the quality, it has to be the best value possible in an electric guitar. These cost less than a MIM Fender nowadays!






Cool! How does it sound?
 

JDZ

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
224
With some encouragement by @sonic blue and a whole lot of inspiration in this thread, I finally gave in and bought an early 80s Tokai Strat - an ST-50 model "Springy Sound" which I believe was their mid-level model. Pretty sure the year of manufacture is 1981 (is that right, @JDZ ?)

It's basically a replica of a '56-57 Strat, with a 2T sunburst over an alder body. There was a higher couple of models that offered a nitrocellulose finish and a V-shaped neck (this has a thin coat of poly and a medium C-shape neck, which I actually prefer).

Seriously impressed with the quality, it has to be the best value possible in an electric guitar. These cost less than a MIM Fender nowadays!






Congrats on the Springy Sound!
Yes, that's an '81
 

JDZ

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
224
I appreciate the insight on the Yamaha . I was specifically referencing the Tokais.

I consider myself an expert when it comes to many MIJ’s of that era but I admittedly have NO opinion on the Yamaha’s. I’ve never even held one

And I am saying a 1980 LS60 *is* made of quality materials just like classic construction Gibson

And the quality of craftsmanship is superior (and certainly more consistent ) than Norlin OR present era Gibson.

And again - I own a lot of Gibsons and love them

Here is me gushing about one of my LS60’s (a 1980 ) shortly after purchase

Btw it cost me $725 TOTAL including shipping . In 2016

That’s insane

I’m a big fan of early 90’s plaintop Gibson LP classics and the LS60 reminds me of them except it has a MUCH thicker neck

Yes, you are correct, an LS-60 is very well made and follows classic construction. An SL 500 isn't anywhere near as desirable or sought after, simply not comparable.
 

Sampler

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
921
With some encouragement by @sonic blue and a whole lot of inspiration in this thread, I finally gave in and bought an early 80s Tokai Strat - an ST-50 model "Springy Sound" which I believe was their mid-level model. Pretty sure the year of manufacture is 1981 (is that right, @JDZ ?)

It's basically a replica of a '56-57 Strat, with a 2T sunburst over an alder body. There was a higher couple of models that offered a nitrocellulose finish and a V-shaped neck (this has a thin coat of poly and a medium C-shape neck, which I actually prefer).

Seriously impressed with the quality, it has to be the best value possible in an electric guitar. These cost less than a MIM Fender nowadays!





Congrats Collin that’s a really great looking guitar. @JDZ has been kind enough to let me play a bunch and I always leave super impressed with every one he shares with me. Truthfully I’ve never seen a dud. I’m hoping to jump in the pool soon…very cool and somewhat nostalgic for me having grown up in the late 70s and 80s. Enjoy.
 

Cow_Punk

Member
Messages
129
Just for fun here's a pic of my 85 ATE-67 when I put it for sale. It didn't sell and I got it back phew.

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Whittlez

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,326
Btw - as a massive Tokai / Greco fan who owns a bunch … the OTHER similarly spec’d (and to some extent unsung ) hero that does classic Strat right - ESP 400 series

These gems are from the same era and are excellent

A couple of years ago I was picking them up for $400-600
 

Boddah

Member
Messages
69
Yes that's the same guitar!

Here's another you played, which is probably my favorite Strat.

1978 Vesta Graham, made shortly after Hidesato Shiino left ESP, he was one of the founders there. It's an ST-1 with tamarind body, big soft-V flame maple neck and Brazilian rosewood fretboard. Boutique brand circa 1978.

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That's stunning!, First I've ever heard of them, duly noted.
my first "real" electric was '80 Tokai Springy Sound ST-45, I got it in '02 and it had aged beautifully, it had one of the best 50's style maple neck I've ever played!.
Unfortunately it's gone but I do have a Seymour Duncan DS-250 that's quite reminiscent.
 

Highnumbers

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,324
Congrats Collin that’s a really great looking guitar. @JDZ has been kind enough to let me play a bunch and I always leave super impressed with every one he shares with me. Truthfully I’ve never seen a dud. I’m hoping to jump in the pool soon…very cool and somewhat nostalgic for me having grown up in the late 70s and 80s. Enjoy.

Thank you!

Yep respect seems to be growing for these guitars lately, as people realize just how good they are (regardless of price). Definitely worth picking one up, they’re so inexpensive.
 

creative360

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
526
Pictured in my avatar, (left) a 1980 SE-800 Greco Super Real Brazen Picker Professional and (right) a 1980 SA-1200 Greco Super Real. (They're surrounding an amazing 50s style, super-lightly aged nitro parts tele made by a kid in Knoxville and purchased very cheap, like $450, from a Tennessee expat architect leaving in Brooklyn, via Craigslist).

The Grecos are amazing, and when I first had each of them, we compared them in person to two notable "real" counterparts, and .. it was mind-blowing. However as the '54 Strat, specifically, was sold as "nitro" finish, the fact that after many thousands of hours played and zero lacquer wear, it's disappointing, especially for someone coming from actual vintage Fenders. I've never done the acetate test and don't need to. It's obvious. It could be a mix, as described earlier in this thread, but then those with expectations based on actual nitro experience, be forewarned; that mix is way closer to a polyester vibe than the wearing-away of a real nitro neck finish. When I mentioned this to a friend, one of the owners of TR Crandall in NYC, his response was that he'd never held a lawsuit-era Japanese guitar that was finished with nitrocellulose lacquer.

Anyway I went searching for the top of the line dot neck before it was as big of a thing as it is now, and found it by Google-translating Japanese blogs, eventually finding it at Nico Nico in Japan, and hoping it didn't sell before the one employee who spoke a bit of English returned from his vacation. It took some convincing to even get them to ship it, but they did—I wired money sight-unseen like a lunatic—and it arrived in NYC, a decades old mint and beautifully set-up guitar. An amazing instrument, Dry Z pickups etc, despite questions about its finish (since the fingerboard isn't covered in poly it still feels like a real Gibson). From what I can tell it's now worth three times what I paid.

The strat I found a few years later, after life led me to sell a vintage strat I'd owned since I was 20 (and the guitar was 17) and a vintage strat could still be had for under a grand. I didn't want to get the Greco from an "established" Japanese guitar broker, but there simply weren't any SE-800s on the internet for about seven months, and I gave in. That purchase was a bit edgier, and not as much of a bargain, but it quickly became my main guitar. It looks and sounds great, but again, after all those hours played, and how the neck responds to sweat, that finish is still disappointing.

These builders most definitely kicked the US originators in the butt, and even still, it took decades for something anywhere close to my SA-1200 to come out of a Gibson factory, and when it did, that $7k guitar was why I began researching these replicas in the first place.

Several years later, to the present, I'd say that sure, if you can find a deal, there is something about a forty+ year old instrument that's cool. But a second generation, 50s style road worn strat is cool too, real nitro and less precious. And if you're really interested in spending 7 or 8k on a guitar like my dot neck .. call me! kidding .. But really, you may want to hold a Julian Lage signature Collings electric in your hands .. it's a featherweight, beautiful thing. Above my pay grade, but wow. I dismissed Collings years ago because everything looked great but felt overbuilt and super heavy, but they're in a bit of a renaissance at the moment, making attainable acoustics that feel and sound great, and then yeah, super duper things like the 470 JL. On the other hand, if you're up for a $700 poly 335, I heard Larry Carlton sounding great on his Sire signature model. So cool that he went with something that regular people can actually afford.

Anyway yes I do still have mad respect for the handful of interwoven factories and companies that were producing all those great Japanese replicas, when the US builders apparently could not, and old is cool, but part of the appeal was that the top of the line Japanese versions were so, so much more affordable.

Sorry for the long and winding novel ...

imho, ymmv

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riscado

Member
Messages
697
Just bought 6 old strats from japan, courtesy of yahoo auctions... A Greco 1980 SE-600 slab rosewood neck, a Greco 1981 SE-500J slab rosewood neck, a 1980 Greco SE-500 maple neck, another 1981 Greco SE-500 maple, a Squier Japan 1987 sst-30 and finally a mid 80s Tokai Goldstar TST-60 with a round lam board.

Can't wait to try them all.

I've already dug deep into japanese les pauls and also ES-335s. Really cool old instruments (an extensive array of obscure brands), with lots of history. Japan is also producing some amazing new brands.

So far my favourite even when compared to some SE800 and SE600 has been 1980 Greco SE500 which I paid around 250 dollars for. Has a flatter neck, and just sounds and feels better than most other strats.
 
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riscado

Member
Messages
697
On a much related note to my previous post, if anyone knows of an 80s Argus super excellent strat for sale. I would most certainly buy it.
 
Messages
197
I’ve always loved vintage MIJ since having 3-4 early ‘80s JV Squires back in the day, then several EGF850, EGF1200, SA1200’s and a couple LS80 Tokai’s, but only recently acquired a KILLER 1980 slab board Greco SE500, which is the best Strat I’ve had in decades! Super fat, chewy tones and dead stock save a plastics up grade:



For $650 how could I possibly complain?!
 

Zeppe

Member
Messages
367
A few weeks ago, I received this Navigator '56 Custom. It is an ESP-made custom order from 1980. In the early days, Navigator did not have the capacity to build their whole lineup in-house. Their standard line of guitars was outsourced to Kasuga (also nice...) and then ESP luthiers would build a few of the most expensive models in their own shop. Essentially a custom shop. Beginning in 1980, ESP offered to take on custom orders where the buyer could have their choice of woods, finishing etc. Some of these guitars were built as very accurate replicas.

This guitar was not really cheap but I am really glad I did not pass. It has superb build quality, feels light and resonant and sounds very good unplugged. It came with Maxon 'S'-stamped P-90 pickups, which are not too shabby either.

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