Consider that while Fender and Gibson may have been using cheap, off the shelf materials in the '50s and '60s, those cheap components of yesteryear were of much higher quality than even premium components of today. I mean, that's what started the boutique market, because the off the shelf stuff wasn't up to snuff. Hold a Gibson tailpiece from the '50s in one hand and compare it to a stock Gibson tailpiece from 2020, it's going to feel completely different in terms of weight, density, finish, etc. People tend to think these metal parts don't matter as much as the wood (let's not even get started on old growth mahogany) but I actually think they matter more, and a pickup is made mostly of metal. The magnets have been mentioned already but even the wire, it was of much higher quality back then. And it all adds up, sum of the parts being greater than the whole and all that.Maybe there is the same topic somewhere, but I couldn't find it.
In the old times pickups on Gibson or Fender factories were manufactured by cheap workers, who could go smoke outside in the middle of the winding process and those pickups were all over the place in terms of specs. Manufacturers chose components trying to make it as cheap as possible. And yet we hunt for those old pickups. Or there are companies like Throbak who sell their recreations of vintage pickups not for cheap at all.
So why then today only boutique winders can recreate those pickups like PAFs, P90s and others, when factories today have access to more consistent components like magnets, wire and all this stuff and also have quality control?
Probably I'm wrong, but this is the impression I have on this question.
My point is; what was a cheap part in 1959 was of much higher quality materials than even some of the premium parts being made today. They don't make 'em like they used to....