Best practices for spotting a counterfeit guitar

When buying a Gibson, Fender, or Ibanez guitar, that is exactly what you should get, not some poor quality copy that doesn’t have the sound or playability you paid for.  Unfortunately, the web is fully of bogus web sites and dishonest individuals who may try to rip you off by selling a counterfeit guitar under a famous brand name. What you need during this process is legitimate advice from experts, such as those at Sam Ash who give you confidence in the guitar you want to purchase.

Counterfeit electronic and acoustic guitars are becoming an increasing problem in the world’s guitar market, stemming mostly from overseas web sites and independent seller hubs such as eBay and Craigslist. Counterfeiters continue to take advantage of people looking for affordable deals on high quality guitars by learning how to mask and promote cheap knock-offs as authentic Gibson, Ibanez, Fender Guitars.

Buying a counterfeit guitar can have some very serious consequences:

  • A counterfeit guitar has no enforceable warranty.  Legitimate guitars come with long or lifetime limited warranties that are honored all over.
  • Counterfeit guitars have no trade-in value and are illegal to resell in the US. 
  • Legitimate brand name guitars have established trade-in value and often even increase in value.
  • Counterfeit guitars lack the sound quality and playability of the real thing.

The key to avoiding buying a counterfeit guitar is learning how to spot a legitimate, authorized dealer (such as Sam Ash), and how to recognize a fake guitar when you see one on a sketchy web or auction site. Additionally, there are some specific traits that differentiate counterfeit and authentic Fender, Ibanez, and Gibson guitars.

Common counterfeit guitar features

  • Overseas web sites advertising “American” guitars for less than an authorized dealer's price are immediately suspect. Any legitimate guitar made in the U.S.A., such as a Gibson Les Paul or America Series Fender, will cost more, not less, if bought from another country.
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  • If you’re going deal hunting on a web site like eBay or Craigslist, request detailed photos of your desired guitar before considering a purchase, including one of the guitar’s serial number so you can check its authenticity on the brand’s official web site.
  • Typically, shipping a guitar costs around $20 (although guitars ship free from Sam Ash Direct). If you find that the freight costs are anywhere around $80-$120, something is wrong and you need to beware.

  • Many counterfeit guitars that claim to be “American” made will have “Made in USA” stamped off-center on the back of the guitar’s headstock.
  • Check the logo on the guitar’s headstock and compare it to pictures on the maker’s official website.  If the brand name on the headstock does not match perfectly or is not lined up in the exact same place, the guitar is probably a counterfeit.
  • If a Gibson, Fender, or Ibanez-brand guitar sounds thin and tinny when played, or feels too light, it’s probably a counterfeit. Most knock-off guitars will consist of low-grade soft wood and veneers that restrict body resonance, decrease weight, and limit a guitar’s sustain.
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  • Most American-made guitars feature a gig bag or hardshell case as an added accessory, whereas most counterfeit guitars will have the case priced separately.
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Any authorized dealer will display the “Authorized Dealer” logo of the guitar brand in question somewhere on their web site. Sam Ash Direct is the perfect example of this, we are proud to be authorized dealers of Gibson, Fender, Ibanez and more popular brands of electric guitars and we have over 87 years of experience to help you.

Sam Ash guarantees authentic guitars and customer service

It’s extremely important that your quest for the perfect guitar takes you to a trustworthy seller.  Sam Ash is committed to ensuring that the guitar you buy is authentic and will last throughout your life as a guitarist. Sam Ash 100% guarantees that any guitar or accessory you buy from their massive inventory is real and well worth the investment, so start your smart guitar shopping today with Sam Ash.

Counterfeit Les Paul