CLICK HERE FOR PART 2/3
Probably if you are looking in this price range you are searching for used guitars. Used guitars are extremly tricky by some point of view. We must consider two types of used guitar: the vintage and the more recent ones, because either way we are going to lose something.
Vintage doesn’t necessarily mean good. Old Gibsons are famous for their warm sound and incredible manufacture but they cost three times what you want to spend.
If you are searching for a vintage guitar for 500$ or less you must look at some strange and rare brand that really few know. Especially in Japan from mid 70s to mid 80s a lot of brand were born. The economic boom of the Japanese industry hit also the instrument market, so you can easly find labels as Cimar, Tokay, Greco, Aria and Vantage on the online shops, selled by other people. What makes this guitars so special? Some of these brands were produced in the same factories used by Gibson and Fender to produce their models in that era in Japan so the same hands that have built a Les Paul Custom probably have built also an Aria Guitar or a Greco one. If you are lucky enough to find and know exactly that the guitar was produced in one of these factories you can be pretty sure that the manufacturing and production are great, and most of the times it equals to the most prestigous ones.
Wood can easly be extremely better than any wood you can find now on guitars of the same price, for the reasons I wrote above in the article. What you have to sacrifice? Sometimes details and PU, but there are models with good stuff even at this price range. There are just two big counterindications: the first one is the resale value and the second one the overall condition of the guitar.
For the first one you can’t do much, it’s really hard to sell a guitar with an anonymous brand for most of the guitarists, you can explain with the best words how good it is but that damn logo will be your curse. If you are going to sell one of these you’ll probably spend years to find a buyer interested and probably you will have to lower the price a couple of times.
For the second point you must pay attation to details as fret condition, scratches, repairs etc, because it’s easy to buy a fourth hand instrument with a lot of damages caused by the years, and sometimes it can be just an aesthetic problem, in others it can make your new instrument almost unplayable.
Last but not least! You must know where it was built, in what year, the overall condition and all the features. Sometimes catalogs are available, sometimes not, it’s a big risk to buy an instrument without knowing if it’s the exact model the seller is saying is it. You must know by what wood were made and how, what PU it holds etc. This makes finding a good vintage guitar for this amount of money a real journey through websites from all over the world to compare prices, search for catalogs and opinions of owners, but if you are not in a rush eventually you will find the right guitar.
More recent used guitar:
Here we have to distinguish 90s, first 00s and post 2006 guitars. For the first kind we can apply the same rules of the vintage ones, but you must be more careful about the unknown brands because after the 80s most of them started declining and producing cheaper guitars with all the counterindications we know.
On the other hand you can find really awesome pieces by the most known brands as Ibanez, Yamaha, Epiphone etc which still have a good manufacture and production. Maybe it’s better to buy a 90’s Epiphone than a newer one, also until 2006 they didn’t use tone chambers to make the guitar lighter.
“Post 2006 used guitars” is the category I generally don’t advice to you, just only in few cases. If you have read all the article you know what you have to sacrifice here, since we’re talking about almost the same kind of problematics of the new ones. A 450$ used guitar maybe as new was sold for around 600 or 700$, and that assures you a decent quality of wood and features, probably with a pick up upgrade the guitar could become really solid. Even for 700$ you can’t be sure the manifacture is good and the production can be located in Indonesia, Vietnam or Korea and crafted in chain with all the problems you know. The drama is that the only two things you can’t change on a guitar is the way it was assembled and what types of wood they used. For the first thing you are literally jumping in the dark, for the wood you can be lucky to find a nice piece, anyway a recent used guitar can become a nightmare if you pay a nice amount of money and you receive a guitar with a knot in the wood, so it will sound “dead”.
Used guitars made in recent years probably are in a better condition than the old ones and it’s one of few “upsides” of this category.
In my opinion there are just two case where to buy a recent used guitar for 500$ or less it’s a real deal: when you find a fool or when you find a desperate one.
“The Fool” is someone who doesn’t know what is selling and maybe it’s dropping the price drastically as someone who is selling a Gibson SG for 400$ just because he wants to buy a different model fast.
The other case is easy to recognize because sometimes you can read that the announcement is online for more than a year, which means that they are dropping the price to sell more easily.
In any case pay attetion to the fakes! Nowdays it’s easy to find a fake copy made in Indonesia of Gibson SG or LP and the only way to check the production is the serial number on the back of the head. If you find a Gibson LP custom for 500$ probably it’s made in Indonesia.
The guide is yours, now you have the tools to choose correctly your new axe!
CLICK HERE FOR PART 1/3