Recently, when visiting guitar stores across the UK, I’m often taken aback by the price of the current range of USA Standard Fender & Gibson guitars.
…if we’re going to spend £1600 on a new Les Paul, why not spend the cash on an instrument that has been crafted by the hands of an independent luthier?…
Five years ago, I saved for a very long time to purchase a USA Fender Stratocaster. I was so chuffed as I finally became an owner of a “real” Strat and even though some Mexican and even Squier models can sound almost as good (with various modifications and upgrades), nothing could beat the feeling of actually owning a USA Standard Stratocaster.
The guitar was purchased new from Guitar Village (great shop) for a price of approximately £600. Five years later, to purchase the same guitar from the same shop, I need to find the best part of £1000. I can appreciate that the cost of goods rise with inflation, but an extra £80 year seems ludicrous by any standard.
Gibson seemed to have adopted the same practice, if not worse. Rumour has it, a couple of years ago Gibson added literally £100’s to the price of their guitars, meaning (at the time of writing) we have to find approximately £1600 to own a new Les Paul Standard.
The aspect I find the most challenging with the rise of Fender & Gibson guitar prices is that we’re just coming out of a global recession. Sure, Fender & Gibson may need to raise their prices somewhat to cover manufacturing and export costs, but the RRP of USA Standard models, in my opinion, are just too high in the current financial climate. For many people, the dream of one day owning a Standard Stratocaster or Les Paul will still remain a dream for quite some time to come.
I’m not having a rant about the independent guitar manufacturers or luthiers. I do appreciate the price of their guitars will always be on the expensive side. In my mind that’s justified, mainly due to the amount of time, effort, blood, sweat & tears these guys spend in crafting their instruments. Maybe, as guitarists, if we’re going to spend £1600 on a new Les Paul, why not spend the cash on an instrument that has been crafted by the hands of an individual / independent luthier?
The second hand market currently seems to be a good place to purchase guitars. After spending the last hour searching eBay, I noticed numerous USA Fenders priced between £500-£750 which seems to be a much fairer price. There’s the old problem of buying a guitar online though; ideally you’d like to “try before you buy”, ensuring the guitar suits your requirements, resonates well and is in working order.
I’ve also been scouring the local Cash Converter stores during recent weeks and I’ve been blown away by some of the second hand guitar products on offer. Last weekend I stumbled across used Fender, Gibson, Jackson and Ibanez guitars all priced amazingly, even for the second hand market. In addition, I discovered a used Marshall JVM head (priced very competitively) and a Tech 21 combo in fantastic condition.
Personally, I think so. I do understand how Fender & Gibson need to cover costs and ultimately retain profitability, but do their current pricing models reflect them as companies who are passionate about their work and the standard of their products, or does it make the consumer feel that these companies simply want to make as much money as possible, regardless of the thoughts and opinions of their customer base?
If I was on the lookout for a new guitar, I’d be more inclined to scour the second hand market or even invest my hard earned cash by purchasing a guitar from an independent luthier.
Having said that, there’s that underlying problem that’s been a running theme to this post; to some of us, and I’m definitely included, there’s nothing like owning a “real” Fender or Gibson. Maybe that’s exactly why these two guitar giants can keep their prices so high?