So what IS the deal with G&L popularity and pricing?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by AJ Love, Aug 15, 2006.

  1. AJ Love

    AJ Love Senior Member

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    I recently bought a G&L S-500 built in 1992 and it is easily one of the greatest guitars I've ever played, in over 20 years of playing hundreds of different guitars. After putting Lollar Blackface pickups in it, it is absolutely better or at least equal in playability and tone (and I haven't even had my tech fine tune the set-up yet) to every Fender Custom Shop and Boutique guitar I've owned or played.

    So, and I know I'm preaching to the choir to some here to a degree and not to others (but I'm hopeful the enthusiasts here will have some insight), what IS the deal? I bought this guitar for $525!!! Why is it that G&L guitars aren't widely regarded as equals to the greatest guitars ever made? Why are the used prices so low? We're seeing 70's Fenders go for thousands of dollars and late 80's early 90's G&L's going for hundreds, and the G&L's smoke every 70's Fenders I've ever played left right and every day...

    Now, I've only played 3 or 4 G&L's in my life, and this is the best of those 3 or 4, but the others were excellent guitars too. Did I just "luck upon" a stellar one? What's the story?
     
  2. lamenlovinit

    lamenlovinit Member

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    Coreybox is dead on. Brand allegiance is a funny thing. They did a mapping of brain response and found a funny thing with people drinking Coke and Pepsi. Knowingly drinking Pepsi made the "pleasure" or "yummy" centers light up more than Coke. So everyone buys Pepsi right? Nope! Knowingly drinking Coke made the "self-esteem" and "I've made a good decision" centers light up. What are you going to believe, your taste buds, or the life long brainwashing from advertisement?

    Kids grow up seeing their heroes playing Gibsons and Fenders. If you've always wanted a Gibson or Fender all your life, you're going to buy one the first chance you get (save up enough money, "now I'm finally good enough to justify the money", etc.)

    They are "cool". The problem is that there are better guitars out there for less money. If all you look at is quality, performance, and cost, everyone who wanted a Gibson would buy a Hamer, and Everyone who wanted a Fender would buy a G&L. Some of us have discovered that.

    If emotion played no part of it would you rather buy a Les Paul Special, an instrument designed from the ground up as a student instrument, or a Hamer Special, an instrument that takes the look of the Les Paul, but that is designed from the ground up to solve some of the inherent problems of the Les Paul special and is a full blown Professional quality handmade instrument? Would you rather buy a Fender Strat or Tele, that is spit out of a factory at an astonishing rate, or once again a G&L which is a essentially handmade instrument with additional ideas and developments from the guys who designed the strat and tele?

    But hey, what do I know? I also buy "Kirkland select" Jeans for $12.95 from Costco. I guess we should be grateful. It keeps the prices on the instruments we like down:dude
     
  3. AJ Love

    AJ Love Senior Member

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    OK... so.. I understand the "brand allegiance" thang with Fender and Gibson, but then why are many Boutique instruments prized here and elsewhere *more than G&L's*, when G&L's are (in my experience at least) just as great or better?

    You can get a late 80's G&L that was built under the supervision of Leo Fender himself (!), for much less than what alot of Boutique instruments cost used...
     
  4. Mullet Kingdom

    Mullet Kingdom Senior Member

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    Hell, they're even built in the same factory -- on the same machines -- in Fullerton, California!

    I had a '96 gold-metalic Legacy Standard that I bought new for $550 -- and we're talking about a guitar with a light swamp ash body, two-piece maple/rosewood neck and a killer nitro finish! Sadly, I ended up selling it when strapped for cash. :(


    I'm truly baffled with regard to why these instruments aren't more popular. I've been hearing that they're going up in value these days, but I haven't seen any evidence of it otherwise.

    In the meantime, let's be glad you can still score a bitchin' used guitar -- for about $500 bucks -- that's as good or better than instruments costing three times as much.

    They're player's guitars not collector's guitars. ;)
     
  5. Gi-gi-giggity

    Gi-gi-giggity Member

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    I had an older Legacy that I really liked, but it got stolen. I couldn't find another one equal to it as a replacement so I went after something else. I think the quality of the older ones is better and for the money they're a great buy. I've yet to play a new one that I like though. :confused:
     
  6. dharmafool

    dharmafool Member

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    I still can't get over the prices commanded by early- and mid-'70s Fender guitars. Jeesh, back in the day they got no more respect than the Gibsons of that time. Just about all new guitars were crap, IMO. Acoustics too.

    G.E. Smith was dead on when he said you get SO MUCH MORE quality for the buck today from Fender's production line than you did in the '70s.

    Which is not to diminish G & L, Hamer or Heritage. They are building production line instruments superior to Fender and Gibson. They would have crashed and burned by now if they weren't.
     
  7. tonedaddy

    tonedaddy Member

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    It's not just about "brand allegiance".

    For brands like G&L and Hamer, it's about "brand awareness" and "brand distribution".

    As much as we talk about different guitar brands/models here, the average guitar player is unaware, or certainly unexperienced with brands like G&L and/or Hamer.

    Who knows what the actual numbers are, but on a relative scale, Fender is probably building as many guitars in a week as G&L and Hamer (USA) build in a year. Fender has a FAR more extensive dealer network than either brand. If you asked 100 people in a row who walk into a local Guitar Center or Sam Ash what they know about G&L or Hamer, I'd be surprised if 25 of them had heard of them, and 5 probably have ever played them. Of the folks that have heard of them half will be folks that remember that Rick Neilsen played those "crazy looking" Hamers. Besides Neilsen, no one will remember having ever seen a pro playing a G&L or Hamer. Probably none will even know Leo Fender had anything to do with G&L. And probably 5 will know where they could buy a new one of either brand (even if G&Ls and Hamers are in the store they're walking into).


    Think about it, the demand for used guitars is lower than the demand for new guitars. Used pricing is completely dependent on demand. You can't build a high demand for a brand (especially used examples) if very few people know about them.

    From what I've seen (and I've owned 3 Hamers and 1 G&L, all bought used, and sold all except one and it's selling soon), the demand for the "vintage" or older models is slowly building as the build quality is recognized more and more. But prices for newer used examples is in the pits. On the Hamer I'll be selling I'll likely take a 25% hit on resale over the 5 years I've owned it (and remember, I bought it used at what I thought was a low price).

    So that raises the "brand experience" factor, too. If most every buyer of new G&Ls and Hamers takes a huge hit on resale (and a fair number of those new buyers this will be their first purchase of that brand), it doesn't exactly endear owners to the brand, does it?


    One more issue on used pricing is that since there are few used examples around, there is very little available in the way of selection, especially for unique needs like certain neck profiles. I've moved to very large/fat necks, which is why all of these are gone. I rarely (it's actually more like never) find used G&Ls or Hamers with a neck large enough to meet my needs, and I keep my eyes open for them. OTOH, I have NO problem finding used Fenders/Gibsons with fat necks. In fact, I can find them every day of the week.


    So what you're left with is ownership of new AND used examples of the brands concentrated in extremely loyal customers. And that's largely ALL of the demand.
     
  8. drweller

    drweller Member

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    They're amazing guitars for the $...especially in the aftermarket. WHere else can you buy a top-notch quality handbuilt USA guitar for $500-550?

    Crazy!
     
  9. TS808

    TS808 Member

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    One issue that might come into play also is availability. I can't think of one guitar store in my area that carries G & L. If you go into a Guitar Center, you see Fender, Gibson, Ibanez, PRS, etc. The smaller stores pretty much carry the same product lines. If I wanted a G & L, I'd have to make a purchase on-line without even trying the guitar.

    I think it's a question of exposure to the instrument (or lack thereof). It's hard to even find a dealer in my area that carries the lower end G & L Tribute line.

    I do agree though with one of the previous posts. There is something about brand loyalty with people. Whether it's guitars or cars, people tend to stick with what is familiar to them.
     
  10. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    And they still are faithful to Leo's standards and his vision. Some clown on the G&L forum began his own mythology about the "Leo era" G&Ls vs. the "BBL era," which is ridiculous. There were some models discontinued and others created, some small design changes for better or worse, but overall when Leo was around the guitars were made no better (and don't sound or play any better) than those made today. It's still the same small shop, same quality lumber (exceptional, really), same hand-wound pickups.

    Leo used to change his designs all the time. BBL does too, but a lot less often.

    A few models that didn't exist when Leo was alive: Legacy (hard to believe), ASAT Classic (I think, could be wrong), ASAT Blues Boy (a killer!!), several basses.

    Lotta parentheses, huh?
     
  11. OldSchool

    OldSchool Senior Member

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    Spam alert.........I have an awesome woodstock legacy forsale in the emporium. [​IMG]

    GREAT guitars...........[​IMG]
     
  12. The Golden Boy

    The Golden Boy Member

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    Because of brand allegiance and brand awareness, if they're priced much higher, they won't sell. It's the "going price."

    There's a few other things- up until recently, G&L was still using a 3 bolt neck. Until the "vintage" craze, most relatively knowlegable people knew that CBS/Fender's implementation of the 3 Bolt design sucked. (now, it's "vintage" and must be cool- and the new RIs have the design implemented better than the old ones) So by G&L sticking with this design that EVERYBODY knows sucks, it raised doubts in people's minds. Never mind that Leo was able to correct whatever horrors CBS/Fender did to that design- the stigma was still there.

    I've got a 3 Bolt G&L L-2000 bass that I had *custom ordered* for me in 1998. IIRC it cost me $840 WITH tax. That's one hell of a bass. It feels great, in both weight and playability, it sounds great live, and does a great aggressive sound, it's versatile, it looks cool as hell, it's completely solid and virtually indestructible. I have a 65 Jazz and a 79 T-Bird, but my #1 bass, on performance alone, is my G&L.
     
  13. ArcNSpark

    ArcNSpark Member

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    I will always own a Legacy. Have had 4 all good guitars, still own one.

    I think it comes down to most people are going to go with the status quo.
    That fine, more opportunities for people in the know.
     
  14. The Golden Boy

    The Golden Boy Member

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    Sorry, it's a cool design. I don't much like the old G&L headstock though...

    [​IMG]
     
  15. Mullet Kingdom

    Mullet Kingdom Senior Member

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    Actually, if I'm not mistaken, the Legacy-500 with Leo Fender's signature was around as far back as 1989 or 1990 when Leo was still alive. I might even have a copy of the ad somewhere.
     
  16. NuSkoolTone

    NuSkoolTone Member

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    As a former S-500 owner, I can say while the G&L's are very well built guitars, they do NOT sound like a Fender! (Yes even with a pickup change) For what I'm after when I buy Strats and Teles, it's the FENDER sound. The G&L does have a good tone, good playability and workmanship, but it's not the same vibe. Once you start straying from that, anything goes IMO. When anything goes, there are LOTS of options and G&L has stiff competition there.

    That said, there is a part of me that still wishes I had my old S-500. However I would not pay the new prices they are asking for one. Used you have to twist my arm to play their solid but UGLY(!) bridges. So about $500 bucks sounds right. Since I don't have a hard-on for them, it'd have to knock me out in person or be even cheaper really for me to consider at this point.
     
  17. Grap

    Grap Member

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    There was a Leo era S-500, but it had a different body style and larger pickups. The blatently Stratty Legacy/S-500/Fullerton range didn't appear until after BBE bought G&L following Mr Fender's demise.

    I only have one pre-BBE G&L, an Interceptor with the thrird body style. A model Mr Fender allegedly hated :)
     
  18. Rich

    Rich Member

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    "The blatently Stratty Legacy/S-500/Fullerton range didn't appear until after BBE bought G&L following Mr Fender's demise."


    I believe a fact check is in order here.
     
  19. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    :confused:

    I find that with Fender-style pickups, Legacies or ASATs sound virtually identical to the best Fenders. I once spent about 2 hours A/B-ing a stock alder Legacy with a Fender Custom Shop '57 Strat RI and they could have been the same guitar. There was no tone from the Strat that couldn't be replicated on the Legacy. But the G&L's tone controls gave it an even wider range of sound beyond where the Fender ended.

    I bought the Legacy.

    I've heard ASATs with modded pickups that, to my ears, were indistinguishable from a great vintage Tele.

    Not knowing what "vibe" sounds like, I'm not qualified to judge it as a sonic component.
     
  20. ~el gringo loco

    ~el gringo loco Member

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    I think what the guitar over-endowed Mr. Garp meant to say was that the first Leo era S-500 was a strat shaped guitar that went out of it's way not to be "stratty" -- Leo was adamant that he didn't want to repeat the past. It was a great instrument -- play one through a Twin and you'll know what I mean. Pops Staples used to use one, and man, what a sound . . . unfortunately Pops Staples isn't much of a trend setter amongst guitar players, so the sound never caught on. I used to tell friends that the sound of a mohagany bodied first generation S-500 into a Fender Twin was the sound of God laughing really, really loud . . . it was that good.

    The move towards "stratty" G&L happened about the same time the ASAT hit the market; G&L wasn't moving a lot of S-500's or F-100's or even "strattier" guitars like the Skyhawk, but once G&L sales (read: Dale Hyatt) proved the public wanted more "Fendery" G&L's they all started moving in that direction cause Leo was old and everyone there agreed that making money would be good, for a change. The ASAT lead to the ASAT Classic, and the Skyhawk and S-500 began morphing into strat territory -- although they went through a slight "Super Strat" phase along the way with lots of sharp countours and pointy headstocks and such.

    Once BBE took over they seemed to have settled on a recipe of building even more "Fendery" guitars with G&L hardware and a trademark evading headstock, and to me, that's where the early BBE era Legacy and S-500's are coming from -- Leo was, IMO, the greatest hardware and pickup designer in the breif history of electric guitars and basses, and he left 'em with such a rich, er, legacy, to work with.

    Having said all that, G&L has made some great guitars over the years, and to me, they're all about that certain "Fender" sound, as in Leo, not the company he started in Fullerton. I'm not personally sure that all the G&L hardware "improvements" are really that, but I've played thousands of hours either with G&L instruments in my hands or in the hands of others on the bandstand, and man, they flat get up and go, just like you'd expect a Leo Fender instrument to do.

    And having said all that, I gotta confess that my favorite Fender guitar is a blackguard tele -- the more I think about it, the more I subscribe to the notion that when it comes to guitars Leo found the magic first time out, and he spent the next 40 years chasing his own shadow . . . man, what a tough gig that must have been. :crazy

    Here's to Leo, the greatest of 'em all!

    ~j
     

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