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  1. #1

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    Often on this forum, I hear guys trash talk Gibson guitars and just as often I read comments claiming Gibsons cost too much.

    At the risk of offending some (many?) here is my take:

    American labor costs more than Chinese slave labor. The same guitar that can be built for $100 in China will cost about $1200 to build in America. Many of my Bernie Sanders supporting musician friends tell me (a proud Republican) how they support the American worker. Meanwhile they all drive Toyotas, Hondas and Subarus (except for the few who drive Volvos ). I drive a Chevy Truck (when I am not riding one of my Harley-Davidson Motorcycles). I walk the talk. I support my own (and it is hard to be humble when you are the best. I think the American made stuff is the best). There are no better motorcycles than a Harley and there are no better Guitars than a Gibson. If you cannot afford them, work harder (or smarter). The best things in life do not come easily.

    I have yet to play a production guitar that sounds better or plays better than a Gibson. For Jazz, Gibson, the inventor of the archtop guitar wrote the book. Excluding Django, all of the great jazz guitar icons played Gibsons. Those who trash talk Gibsons are without exception, NOT jazz guitar icons.

    Long live Gibson guitars and kudos to the many craftsmen who have made them and are currently making them.

    There is an old saying about opinions (the saying includes a reference to an orifice used in defecation). You have heard mine. Feel free to add yours (respectfully please, this is a moderated forum after all.

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  3. #2

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    Actually, several jazz guitar icons trash Gibsons, even some who played them. And you will be hard-pressed to find any of the younger "jazz icons" playing Gibsons, except for the older models.

    And Chinese guitars are, by and large, made by artisans who are excellent violin-makers (winning many world-wide competitions and medals), not slaves or prisoners. Granted, they make less than their American counterparts, but the fact is, the cost of living is quite a bit lower there. Of all the Gibsons I have owned, exactly one was worth the money, and its Japanese "lawsuit" counterpart was a better instrument.

    But thanks for the viewpoint from the distant past. By the way, virtually any motorcycle made is better than a Harley, unless you really do enjoy riding a loud, stinking, oil-depositing dinosaur.

    The .01% really do love you. A proud Republican? Proud of what?
    Last edited by ronjazz; 05-08-2016 at 06:01 PM.

  4. #3

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    I'm guessing the jazz icons from decades ago all played Gibsons because that was the only game in town. These days, there are almost too many builders -- big and small -- making high quality instruments, so there are many choices. Even Jim Hall was playing a Made in Asia Sadowsky during his last years ..

  5. #4

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    Two factors that are probably affecting Gibson are 1) the recession, and 2) the post-recession economy. Prior to the recession guitar sales were very, very hot - Gibson was selling a much higher quantity of guitars than they are likely selling now (much like Harley-Davidson was selling a lot more motorcycles than they probably sell now).

    With the lower volume come higher prices to attain the same return at the end of the day. For us out here on the fringe in archtop land volume is really, really low and the product requires higher skilled labor than tossing a piece of mahogany on a CNC machine for an SG.

    Some of it comes down to plain ol' marketing & economics: Henry J views our market as more price elastic: we're willing to pay more for an ES-175 than someone is willing to pay for a Midtown. If you look at production costs: is the cost of building a $5,000 ES-175 really 5-times more than the cost of building a $1,000 Midtown? That's a tough pill to swallow.
    Last edited by MaxTwang; 05-08-2016 at 06:25 PM.

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stringswinger
    Many of my Bernie Sanders supporting musician friends tell me (a proud Republican) how they support the American worker. Meanwhile they all drive Toyotas, Hondas and Subarus (except for the few who drive Volvos ). I drive a Chevy Truck (when I am not riding one of my Harley-Davidson Motorcycles). I walk the talk.
    You sure about that? According to US News and World Report, the truck made with the highest percentage of American parts and labor isn't a Chevy. It's a Toyota Tundra- built in the US with 80% of its parts and labor sourced here. The Honda Civic is 70% US parts and labor compared to the Chevy Aveo at 2% (no, that's not a typo unless it's USN's). Toyota Avalon- 80%; Chevy Impala- 77% (and Buick Lacrosse- 57%). Where the brand name hails from has got little to do with it in a global economy. Toyota, Nissan, Hyundi, Kia, BMW, Mercedes, Mazda, Suburu all have manufacturing facilities in the US. Heck, Chevy and Toyota even share one plant...

    A lot of a Harley's parts come from China and other countries- estimates I could find range fom 20-60%. Just assembled in Wisconsin. Harley doesn't exactly advertise their outsourcing for obvious reasons- their marketing and image are founded on Americanism.

  7. #6

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    Mostly valid points, no argument from me (Harley Davidsons excluded but that's not the point here). Maybe you can also explain the enormous price increase for Gibson archtops in the last few years. I may be missing something here. It can't be just labor costs as other US companies have more moderate prices. I'm not saying that Heritage guitars are as good as Gibsons (again, this is not the point) but the labor costs are about the same.

    But of course Gibson can ask whatever price they want for their guitars. We live in a capitalist world and Gibson does not have to justify their prices. I am also not so arrogant to say that it is anybodys fault but mine if I can't afford the guitar (or anything else) that I want. But yeah, I'm pining for the prices 5 years ago and I am trying to understand what happened. Still jonesing for the Crimson L5.

    But I wonder if Gibsons pricing strategy will backfire in the long run as it may lead to fewer and fewer pro artists, at least the younger generation, playing Gibsons. We'll see about that. What I do know is that those who show up with a Gibson L5 at a jam session are getting strange looks from those who know the prices. I hate that. Jealousy is a bitch.

  8. #7

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    I don't have a major problem with the fact that Gibson prices are inordinately high. I have a problem with the fact that their Quality Control is piss poor to nonexistent.


    I love my Heritage H575 Custom and would buy another Heritage in a heartbeat. Similarly, I lust after a Collings archtop. However, I would not even consider buying an overpriced yet poorly crafted Gibson.

  9. #8

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    I will admit that my opinions on Gibson Q/A is not based on recent experience. I do, however, believe that they are outrageously overpriced and that the Price/Performance Ratio ("bang for the buck") is very poor.

    Sorry, but I would prefer a $2500 H575 to a $5000 ES175.

  10. #9

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    A long, long time ago (before the desktop computer) I was Production Manager in a factory.

    I organized all of the work, purchased about half of the raw materials and accounted all of
    the direct costs for about 75 workers. Not huge, but not insignificant.
    It is Very Difficult to Make A Buck in manufacturing.

    Like Gibson, we faced steep Asian competition, ours primarily from Japan.

    If you have this kind of perspective you see things differently.

    Times change. When Fender pays off its debt sufficiently to float stock or
    when Gibson is no longer privately held we'll likely look at our current period
    as the "good old days" because there's a good chance they'll run aground when
    the finance & marketing guys get complete or just too much control.

    All of that overpriced kindling everyone is complaining about will appreciate nicely, too.

    I will be watching from Hell and still trying to tune up.

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by rabbit
    Times change. When Fender pays off its debt sufficiently to float stock or
    when Gibson is no longer privately held we'll likely look at our current period
    as the "good old days" because there's a good chance they'll run aground when
    the finance & marketing guys get complete or just too much control.
    Both Gibson & Fender have already been there - CBS owned Fender and Baldwin owned Gibson, the experience drove each company to the brink of extinction and made it possible for Ibanez, PRS and others to get a foothold.

  12. #11

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    I bought a new no-frills Gibson ES-335 in 2007 for $1,799 with the GC 10% off anything in the store coupon. This serious instrument inspired me to learn the jazz harmonic language. It is a fine guitar and I will pass it on to my son some day. Was it worth the money? Absolutely! I also have a custom Heritage Eagle I bought used for $2,500 which had THE tone I was searching for... spectacular! Would I buy an L5 CES for 5-6-7-8 thousand? Probably not. I do respect their reputation.

  13. #12

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    I was a Gibson girl for a very long time (1983-1999). They were my main guitars during that time period. Very seldom was I able to afford a new one (the one new Gibson I bought was basically a closeout model, that was collecting dust on the wall of the guitar shop I hung out at occasionally, that I bought for myself as a present, when I graduated from the University of Wisconsin back in 1987). IMO, new Gibsons have always been kind of overpriced. Throw in the fact that I often had to play several of them, before I found one that really wowed me, they could often be a love/hate kind of thing. When I found a good one I hung onto it. Still back then, and it seems moreso today, a fair amount of its price came from brand name. I still like Gibsons, and if I found the right one, and had the cash, I'd buy it, but a new Gibson archtop for what they're going for? Not happening. It would have to be used, and for the right price.

    Just a little OT - I also ride motorcycles (I come from a riding family, and first started riding when I was 16). Please don't imply that as an American, I'm not patriotic, if I don't ride a Harley. I live in Harleyland (the Wauwatosa/Milwaukee plant is only about 6 miles away from where I live, and the corporate offices are about 10 miles away). Harleys are like weeds around here. Like many American riders, I wouldn't mind a Harley if it was a bit sportier (not all "real American motorcyclists" want to do the motoring down the superslab on a cruiser or a full dresser), and didn't cost a million bucks (figuratively speaking). We're not necessarily asking for fully faired race reps, but it would be nice if they made at least a sporty standard. The 48? No thanks, it has a peanut gas tank, dinky seat, semi-splayed out seating, wimpy performance, and a ridculous pricetag to boot. The XR1200, and Buells are kind of cool (and before I could afford to get another bike, I considered getting a Buell Cyclone), but are no longer made, and for many riders, were only a step in the right direction. Sorry, I'll stick to my Triumph Thruxton.
    Last edited by EllenGtrGrl; 05-08-2016 at 08:54 PM. Reason: Spelling Correction

  14. #13

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    EllenGtrGrl,
    Congratulations on the Thruxton, nice choice!

    I've got a '06 T-00 in storage waiting for reanimation.
    But, I guess the motorcycle talk is for another thread...

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stringswinger
    Often on this forum, I hear guys trash talk Gibson guitars and just as often I read comments claiming Gibsons cost too much.

    At the risk of offending some (many?) here is my take:

    American labor costs more than Chinese slave labor. The same guitar that can be built for $100 in China will cost about $1200 to build in America. Many of my Bernie Sanders supporting musician friends tell me (a proud Republican) how they support the American worker. Meanwhile they all drive Toyotas, Hondas and Subarus (except for the few who drive Volvos ). I drive a Chevy Truck (when I am not riding one of my Harley-Davidson Motorcycles). I walk the talk. I support my own (and it is hard to be humble when you are the best. I think the American made stuff is the best). There are no better motorcycles than a Harley and there are no better Guitars than a Gibson. If you cannot afford them, work harder (or smarter). The best things in life do not come easily.

    I have yet to play a production guitar that sounds better or plays better than a Gibson. For Jazz, Gibson, the inventor of the archtop guitar wrote the book. Excluding Django, all of the great jazz guitar icons played Gibsons. Those who trash talk Gibsons are without exception, NOT jazz guitar icons.

    Long live Gibson guitars and kudos to the many craftsmen who have made them and are currently making them.



    There is an old saying about opinions (the saying includes a reference to an orifice used in defecation). You have heard mine. Feel free to add yours (respectfully please, this is a moderated forum after all.
    The problem with Gibson and many American companies is that it all comes down to profit margins and the bottom line. In many instances we are really paying for all other added costs, such as buildings, advertising, utilities and many, many other items not even known by the consumer. The intrinsic value is really not there. I'm too a patriot, but am not willing to take it in the ass for an American company. Gibson too has made instruments overseas in the name of reducing costs and increasing the bottom line. They also have many employees that are basically assembly line workers and could care less about rock, jazz or blues. They probably listen to Snoop Dog or Katy Perry all day at work. So it's not like they are hiring the Benedettos of the world to build their guitars, hence the QC issues. Many of the Chinese archtop companies have a handful of luthiers building these archtops by hand. All politics aside, these are great instruments at a great price! I only hope Gibson, would be a guitar company once again and not this out of control corporate conglomerate.

  16. #15

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    The two Gibsons I own are worth every dime. Both of those guitars have a level of artisanship that I don't see in several other guitars I play daily, that I also love and enjoy. One is "used" and the other "new" but both reward close examination. Each is a seminar in careful attention. Each is a wonderful instrument.

    I won't put down other brands, or other nations. I know there are labor and market issues that swirl around, but in the end, the market decides what guitars are "worth."

    Part of those market forces are people who play a guitar and say "WOW"... and it's the 10,000th time they've picked up that guitar.

  17. #16

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    not mutually exclusive..thruxton 'n gibby...hah

    The Cost of a Gibson-thruxton-front-jpg

    cheers

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by MaxTwang
    Both Gibson & Fender have already been there - CBS owned Fender and Baldwin owned Gibson, the experience drove each company to the brink of extinction and made it possible for Ibanez, PRS and others to get a foothold.
    Oops! Wish I'd caught this before I posted. Just a correction - Norlin owned Gibson (I had a few Norlin era Gibbies). Baldwin owned Gretsch.

  19. #18

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    The day el cheapos will not only look, but feel and sound like a Gibson they will be in trouble...so far so good.
    Wanna hear what a cheap import will never sound like, listen to the latest DB clips on youtube, his 60s Barney Kessel is simply sublime
    Last edited by vinlander; 05-08-2016 at 10:27 PM. Reason: addons

  20. #19

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    I spent over 10 years playing everything BUT Gibson until I finally took the plunge. It was fun to play/own all those guitars (mostly vintage Japanese), and some were great, but I'm really happy I finally own exactly what I was after all that time (ES175/335). I was trying to save money, but spent way more in the process. No regrets. Still have a soft spot for vintage Ibanez, tho...
    Last edited by andrew42; 05-08-2016 at 10:39 PM.

  21. #20

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    Gibson can, does and will charge what the market will bear, being the land of liberty, this is still OK in the USA.

    The reason the prices offend is because they are, in fact, outrageous. Normally, the market takes care of this, not allowing the price to relative value get so skewed. For example, let's all agree, for the sake of argument, the Le Grande is better that the Loar 350. But in no objective way is it 20x better. Yet, the guitar is 20 times the price (I choose the most extreme example I could think of).

    This would normally be an impossible situation. Any company with prices so heavily out of sync with the rest of the market should go out of business rather quickly. So why doesn't this happen with guitars?

    The collector. All the aging baby boomers want to relive their youth and get a Les Paul like Jimmy. Or in our case, a 175 like Joe.

    According to the inflation calculator, $175 in 1949 dollars is worth $1717.50 today. Which is right in line with a comparable production guitar. The Asian guitars are even cheaper.

    So, I too won't pay such prices for a new Gibson. Yes, I'm even upset at the state of affairs. But don't blame the company; blame us. If we as a group didn't pay it, the prices would drop like rock.

  22. #21

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    Gibson's are certainly expensive ... as to whether they are overpriced that's a subjective judgement and a function of your own point of view and maybe your budget ...

    The quality of their custom shop has been excellent since the early 90s in my experience ... they do expect the new owner and the retailer to take care of many of the set up issues which causes many complaints

    They build a lot of guitars so the chances of finding enough QC problems to make an impact on the internet is very high even if their QC was 99.99% perfect

    Their archtops have always been priced just out of reach, or just above reasonable for my budget, in the 35 years or so that I have been dreaming of owning them ... but I've managed to snag a few, including a couple of L5s and a Le Grand ... but they are priced at a competitive point in the market above Heritage and other small custom makers, but still below luthiers like Benedetto, Buscarino, Collings and well below luthiers like Manzer and Monteleone

    also I'm not convinced anyone is really paying the prices on their website for their archtops

    VinnyV1K may have got a killer deal on his Super 400 at really great price, but the number of new archtops listed as "used" for pricing reasons on the web and the price quotes I have received locally make me think the high priced Gibson archtops are usually going for 45% or better off of list so Vinny's story may not be that rare. I could have had a new Tal Farlow for less than $4000 US just this last Friday, but it sold soon after I played it.

    A few years ago I was told that Gibson and a couple of the other big name makers all reworked their dealer cost formulas ... up till then dealer cost was usually 50% of list minus a variable discount ... but everyone knew that and was using it to squeeze the dealers

    With that in mind ... when a guitar lists for $15,000 dealers can give "huge" discounts and still make more money than they would by selling an LP standard or an American standard Fender at full retail

    There are certainly cheaper guitars that rival Gibson for quality and tone .... but I'm with vinlander because to me they still don't sound and perhaps more importantly feel as good as Gibson to me

    It may all be in my head ... but it's my head and my money ... and a big part of me wants the Gibson name ...

    and if you don't like Gibsons for whatever reason I'm cool with that

    Then again ... what I really want is the money to have the Gibson and the Benedetto and the Heritage and the Ibanez and the Monteleone ....


  23. #22

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    I see The Chicago Music Exchange has been selling a whole lot of new 1959 VOS 175's for less than $3K.
    TMZ has been trying to sell their LeGrand to me for $9K. I drew a line in the sand and told them to list it as used like they did on the new S400 I got and I will pay the exact same price for it, $7649.00. We will see what happens. I see the new formed tops selling everywhere now for $4K.

    Marc thanks for starting this post. I love Gibson bickering. The company I hate to love or is it love to hate ? :-).
    All I can say is guitar is my game and Gibson is the name.

  24. #23

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    As much as it pains me to interject in a post where people are getting religious about politicians they did not know 5yrs ago would be on a ticket 5yrs hence...

    Why does appreciating or not appreciating Gibson for its qualities as a guitar at a certain price have to be patriotic? What if someone outside America liked Gibsons? Would that make them a traitor to their own country if there were a manufacturer in their country (like Japan)? Or would it mean they recognize a great guitar? If Americans want non-Americans to respect their workers and products for the quality of American creativity, craftsmanship, work ethic, etc, they should consider offering the same respect to high quality products and services from other countries. America represents just over 4% of the global population. Surely some portion of the other 96% of the world's population creates or does something which is worthy of our respect.

    As to trade and American jobs, American companies have "exported" jobs partly because they are economically incented to do so. Remove the incentives to do so and they won't. However, Americans need to understand that the incentives being bandied about by some of the candidates are mostly penalties against business, forcing companies to make uneconomic decisions. Rhetoric is fine and dandy but the problems and costs involved in doing business in a global economy are global problems and costs. Thinking of them solely as American problems and costs won't get you the result you want. Make America an attractive place to make things for Americans and people will make them here. Like Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and others do. But the reasons why it might not be attractive to do business in America have more to do with the non-wage costs than with the wage costs. And fixing that is an American problem, not a border/illegals/trade problem.

    Apologies for the rant.

    Signed,
    An American who has spent decades working in foreign countries, trying to earn the respect of both Americans and non-Americans for the work that I do, and respecting and supporting those, American or not,
    who do good work.

  25. #24

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    Why is a laminated ES-175 so much more expensive than a solid wood Heritage H575 made in the same Gibson factory in Kalamazoo by many of the same craftsmen?

    Marketing.

    Just take a step back to see how well it works.
    Last edited by Flat; 05-09-2016 at 01:27 AM.

  26. #25

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    Where I live, a 335 Studio is $500 > a Yamaha SA2200, for instance. Suppose I want a properly finished guitar and not one that looks so ugly it's almost insulting, as if it was dipped in a pool of goo, Gibson's equivalent offering will set me back $1,200, about 60% more than the Yamaha, for strictly equivalent specs. Maybe Japanese workers are getting slave wage - maybe you know something I don't, so please bring the evidence. Prove to me that Gibson is still the A+ company it once was, including in its respect for its customers, potential and existing (see the letters posted here a while ago from a Gibson manager to a customer around the 60ies; I suspect those days are long gone). Until then buying a Gibson is simply not a rational choice at this time.