Counterfeits are a global problem, just last week over a million dollars worth of fake guitars were seized in Jersey City. Clearly, the world is awash with fake guitars, so what can be done to combat the problem?
The manufacture is out of our sphere of influence, generally taking place in China. What we can do is spread the word and make sure people know how to spot a fake, and more importantly - avoid buying them in the first place.
Here are some common features of counterfeit guitars and the places that sell them:
- Foreign websites selling branded guitars for less than the standard retail price should be treated with suspicion.
- Many counterfeits are sold on sites like eBay. If you find a bargain it is recommended that you ask for detailed photos of the guitar to ascertain its legitimacy.
- Look for stamps such as 'Made In The USA' on the guitar headstock which may be printed off centre, look off colour or of inferior quality.
- Look closely at the logo and compare it with photos of photos from the manufacturers website. The real thing is manufactured to very specific standards. If the logo or any other markings are even slightly out of place or misaligned it could indicate a fake. Likewise, if the logo appears stretched, distorted or has a fatter (or thinner font) that is also a good sign that it could be fake.
- If you are able to see the guitar in person, play it. Take note of the weight and the sound. If it sounds tinny chances are it's fake. If it feels too light, it is probably fake. This is due to the lower quality wood that is used to cut costs.
- Many guitars come with a hard case or bag as standard. Check to see if the one you are looking comes with one. If not, yet it does from other retailers then it may be a fake
- Look for 'Authorized Dealer' logos on the website of the retailer. Most authorised dealers will proudly feature the logos of the manufacturers they stock.
- Fender guitars generally feature a serial number on the headstock. You can check the number on the Fender website which will give you the date of manufacture.
- Gibson serial numbers are embossed and can be found on the wood at the back of headstock. As with Fender, serial numbers can be checked on Gibson's website.
As the age old saying goes: If it looks too good to be true then it probably is. Do your research before buying from a website that you aren't familiar with. If they are selling fakes then someone else will have probably mentioned it somewhere already. If you can't find any feedback good or bad about a retailer then it may be wise to err on the side of caution.
If you buy from a well known retailer with a proven track record such as Strings Direct then you really can't go wrong. Plus, in the unlikely event that the guitar is faulty or you are not happy with it you will be fully covered by guarantees, returns and refund policy and all that other good stuff you expect as a consumer.