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So what's the deal with "refurbished" guitars?

Posted by in General on May 20, 2015 . 0 Comments.

Guitar manufacturers guard their image very carefully, which is a good thing.  But in the real world, things happen.  A clear finish coat may have a couple of specks of dust or the wood grain may not look the same all over the guitar (these are often called “B-Stock”), or a fret may not have been completely seated into its slot. None of these things affect how a guitar sounds or plays.  But they can affect a company's image. And remember, they protect their image very carefully.

When shipping thousands of guitars it is inevitable that casualties will occur.  Sadly, some guitars suffer greatly. Headstocks snap. Tops collapse. Bridges fly off.  We don't sell any of these. 

However, it is far more common for less serious injuries to occur: a tuning peg gets bent, shifting in the carton during shipping may cause a small spot of “box burn”, or a guitar gets a nick on the assembly line and it isn't noticed until at arrives at the retailer.  Oops...

Or sometimes manufacturers just plain screw up.  They decide that Candy Apple Red is going to be the “Next Big Thing” in archtop jazz guitars.  So they go ahead and make thousands, and they aren't as popular as they thought.  Oops...

Sometimes companies don't just screw up, they close.  With corporate takeovers it is not unheard of for the new owner to decide that their new acquisition doesn't really fit into their portfolio as neatly as anticipated (hello Tacoma Guitars).  Oops...

Often manufacturers have endorsement contract with well known artists. Often, for a million different reasons, these deals often fall apart. They don't want their catalogs and websites to be praising an artist that refuses to play their “Signature” guitar, but they just finished a manufacturing run of 1,200 of them.  Oops...

Electric guitars are full of, well, electronics.  Switches make popping noises, pots crackle, pickups go dead. These are easy fixes for guitar techs, but deal-breakers for the “Big Box” retailers.

So what should the multinational manufacturer do?  You don't throw a new guitar away because of a dust speck. You're not going to send a guitar back to a factory in Southeast Asia to replace a switch. 

Many companies have a second line of distribution. These guitars are sent to MIRC, here in the U.S. It is there that they go through five stages of inspection and quality control. They have a staff of Gold Level Fender Certified Techs that make any needed adjustments and/ or repairs. Often, as in the case with Artist Signature models and “dust-speck-specials”, they don't need to do anything. If needed, they replace the switch, seat the fret or polish the nick. Yes, they also re-glue broken headstocks, but I don't buy those. 

The word “used” is lightly stamped on the back of the headstock, and the serial number is changed.
This protects the manufacturer against fraudulent warranty claims, and it protects the consumer from a dishonest seller trying to pass an instrument off as “new”.

I personally inspect every single guitar I sell. If I see something, I always tell you in the listing. These instruments really are an excellent value for the working musician, student, and hobbyist

Last update: May 20, 2015

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