When it comes to professional guitars, prices can go a bit high. Gibson is no different. Each of us wanted to own a Les Paul or any other model of their guitars, only to be hit by an incredibly high price.
You probably wondered why is this a thing, and why most Gibson guitars are so expensive. Even though they use basic materials like other manufacturers, there is a huge difference in prices. You probably thought that guitars are the same and that there cannot be so much difference in price, and that the only factor is the name on the headstock.
The main reason why Gibson guitars are expensive is that they are made in the USA. All their three factories are located in cities where the workers have relativity high wages. As the result, the guitars must be sold at a higher price.
However, there are more determining factors that all add a bit to the total price of the Gibson guitars.
The company was founded in 1894 in Michigan, and it has been around for 125 years. As you can imagine that carries a bit of weight. Gibson guitars are popular and they are something that’s been confirmed to be good.
Furthermore, all of the parts and everything in the guitar is from the U.S. and the company won’t have the luxury of hiring someone on a different continent willing to do it for less.
There are three factories in the U.S. and they are in Memphis, Nashville, and Bozeman. The first company in Memphis, Tennessee creates semi-hollow guitars like their famous ES series. The second company in Nashville, Tennessee creates solid body guitars like Les Paul and SG. And finally, the third company in Bozeman, Montana creates acoustic guitars.
So, as we already mentioned all parts of the guitar are made in the States, and therefore it will have a major impact on the overall price of their models. This is one of the main reasons why many companies have chosen to relocate to other parts of the world to reduce costs.
For example, Fender has a company in Mexico, and the guitars are assembled there. Other companies usually choose countries like Indonesia, India, China, and Korea.
Brand And Legacy
Gibson was there when rock ‘n’ roll was created. There is so much history that comes with it, and almost every guitar player you can imagine played Gibson at one point.
Furthermore, many incredible players played mostly Gibsons through their careers like Angus Young from AC/DC, B.B. King, Freddy King, Duane Allman, Chuck Berry, and many more. This adds a lot of weight and there is so much history behind the brand. Of course, the brand itself is what adds a bit to the price as well. It would be silly not to think that their guitars are a bit more expensive because of that “Gibson” logo.
The name and the recognition play an important role in the final price of the instrument. We won’t say that it is the only reason why their guitars are expensive, but it should undoubtedly be on the list. Gibson Les Paul was created in 1952, and to this day remains one of the most popular guitars ever created. With a recognizable tone, this solid-body guitar was something that many players around the world dream of.
Of course, when it comes to history, seeing players like Eric Clapton and Knopfler playing Gibson models can mean a lot. Not to mention Lucille that B.B. King used to play. This is just another factor that means prestige.
Ultimately, people dream of owning a Gibson guitar and that means a lot. Furthermore, that will make the price a bit higher. Since the best guitar players in the world played Gibson guitars, that must mean that they are good.
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Type Of Wood
The second determining factor is wood. If you plan on using expensive wood for the guitar, the price will go higher. Furthermore, the regulations and laws in the U.S. are strict and the use of certain wood will require the companies to pay more, which will, in turn, cause the price of the instrument to go higher.
Not to mention that their guitars usually use wood like mahogany, rosewood, ebony, and maple which are either rare or expensive.
Finding and acquiring certain types of wood can be expensive, and while there is an alternative, customers won’t be happy if Les Paul changes from using one type of wood to another.
If we compare Gibson to other companies, there are a lot of stricter regulations when it comes to importing wood since the company is located in the United States and creates a guitar only on this location.
There is no way to avoid the law, and there is no way to go around something like the restriction of using rosewood. While other companies that relocated across the globe have to follow the laws of the countries where their factories are.
Since Gibson guitars are something that’s been around for almost a century, people got used to certain wood, and they expect Gibson to deliver it. If we take a look only twenty years ago, most fretboards on the guitars were made of rosewood.
However, today, you won’t be able to find it as easy since the use of rosewood is restricted. If you want to buy a new guitar, you probably won’t be able to find the one with rosewood.
The same thing applies to Gibson as well. The methods and wood they used before, today might be more expensive or even restricted.
However, players would demand it, and the price for rare wood or rare anything will only go sky-high. And the customers will want to have a guitar that is made using the same materials as it was fifty years ago.
Naturally, this will cost a lot more. One of the best models of Les Paul from 1960 can have a price with six figures. As you can imagine, creating a model that is similar to this one won’t be cheap.
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An Expensive Guitar Finish
People usually forget the cost of creating something. Even though Gibson has its factory, they will need to spend money to earn money, and each of their guitars will cost a certain amount.
Furthermore, Gibson uses nitrocellulose for their finish on guitars. The regulation in the United States puts a major limitation on the uses of this type of lacquer. This specifically applies to how much they can use this finish each day. As a result, this will dictate how many guitars they can create each day.
There are so many additional safety and environmental limitations that they have to obey if they want to continue working and this will also add a bit to the price.
This is one of the main reasons why other companies switch to using a different type of finish like urethane or polyurethane, and even moving their manufacturing to a different country where they won’t have this kind of limitation.
However, since Gibson is made exclusively in the United States, switching to a different country is highly unlikely.
The Plek Machine
Gibson uses a Plek machine for testing their guitars, and it is not cheap. If you don’t know what the Plek machine is, it is a CNC machine that is specialized in testing guitars. When they finish creating a guitar, they will put it in the Plek machine.
The machine will scan the guitar, and measure each string under each fret and the results will show if there are any irregularities in the fretwork or neck. Furthermore, the machine will be able to show if a single fret is not leveled properly or even if the neck is twisted.
Also, the machine works all of this while the neck is under string tension or when the guitar is stringed. After that, the machine will proceed to level the frets and nut to create the best possible quality of each guitar.
The machine itself is rather expensive and it can detect irregularities with the accuracy of one-thousandth of a millimeter. While this is just another thing that adds to the overall cost of the guitar, it also makes sure that every guitar that comes out of the factory has the same standard and quality.
This consistency is what makes them put a four-digit price without any issues. Because, let’s be honest, if you are paying a thousand dollars for a guitar, you want to be sure that it’s worth it.
Fender also considered as one of the expensive guitar brands out there, if you wish to know why you can check out my post 9 Reasons Why Fender Guitars Are So Expensive
Many Tasks Are Done By Human Hands
While wood cutting and basic shaping of the guitar are usually done on CNC machines, there are still so many things that are done by hand.
It would be silly to do an entire guitar without the help of modern technology, but you’d be surprised to know how much of the whole process is done manually.
For example, each of the necks is hand finished and sanded, which will make all of the guitars unique. Of course, doing something like this requires a serious level of craftsmanship and that will increase the price of the guitar.
We already mentioned how limited usage of nitrocellulose is, but there is also a fact that it is rather difficult to work with it.
The reason why Gibson sticks to using nitro for the finishes is that it ages beautifully and that there are so many people that prefer it over urethane or polyurethane finish, and nitro costs more.
Furthermore, Gibson doesn’t use screws to connect the neck to the body. They glue it for better sustain and it is much more difficult to do this.
Besides, the whole process of creating one of their guitars is a lot more complex compared to other companies. We already mentioned how many manufacturers switched to bolt-on neck because it is easier.
Finally, if you do something by hand, like sanding the guitar, or polishing, it will take you a lot more time to finish a single guitar compared to the ones that through the same process but using machines only.
When it comes to Gibson guitars, the thing that everyone will remember is that unique sound. Since we are talking mostly about solid-body guitars, the sound will almost entirely depend on the electronics.
Like each of the parts of the guitar, electronics in Gibson is made in the United States. While they sell different options for pickups and electronics in general, players usually require a certain tone from Gibson guitar and there is little space to change anything.
Furthermore, most of their models are hand-wired, which will, in turn, result in even higher prices. Of course, they could use machines to speed up the process, but it’s not something that fans would greet with welcome.
Besides pickups, there are also switches, potentiometers, capacitors, and other things that are essentially cheap, but if you hand-wired them and create everything with such dedication will significantly boost the guitar’s price.
Finally, similar to wood, the price for materials is higher compared to other cheap guitars. Gibson’s company will use more expensive materials, carefully test everything, and engineer everything, and as a result, it will add a bit more to the price. Cheaper guitars are rarely tested, and you won’t be able to find the same quality in a knock-off guitar.
Players Living Outside Of The United States
The other issue you might encounter if you are living outside of the United States is how to import a guitar. While this is not exactly something that adds to the price of the guitar directly, it is something that we should take into consideration as well.
For example, if you live in Europe, even if you go to a local store and buy a Gibson guitar, you will probably pay more compared to someone who bought the same guitar across the pond.
The reason for this is that the store that sold you the guitar had to pay the shipping in the first place.
There is no way for the guitar to end up on another continent without traveling thousands of miles, and this costs a lot. If you decide to order the guitar online, the price of shipping can go well over $400, depending on the country you live in and all the additional taxes you need to pay.
Naturally, for stores that are doing these shipments all the time, the price will be much lower, but there is no doubt that they will have to pay something for the guitar to arrive in another country.
When it comes to expensive guitars, there is a reason for that four-digit price. The guitars either have a piece of history or they were created with care and incredible skill. Of course, if you are just looking for that shape, you can always get one of the Epiphones.
Epiphone is a company owned by Gibson (even though Epiphone is twenty years older), and they specialize in creating cheaper and more affordable versions of Gibson guitars. Not only that you’ll get a great guitar for a lower price, but there are so many signature models and so many players that play Epiphone guitars.
However, you should be aware that Epiphone won’t have wood and hardware that is as expensive, nor any other part of the guitar, and they will probably opt for one of the more affordable techniques for manufacturing their guitars. However, if you are looking for something that’s authentic and something that’s “real deal” you will have to prepare yourself to pay more. Gibson guitars were never cheap, and it is unlikely that they will change soon.
Of course, if you are willing to pay a lot of money for a real Gibson that’s authentic and that is a good representative of their craftsmanship, you will undoubtedly get one of the best guitars in the world. There is a reason why Gibson is around for so long and why people always go back to this brand.
One of the main reasons why some guitars are expensive is the “feel.” If you use the same pickups on a cheap and expensive guitar, they will sound rather similar, and the only difference between them will be the feeling you have when you play the guitar.
Since we use our hands for playing the guitar, all those smooth edges are quite important and mean a lot. You will be able to play expensive guitar easier since everything will be easier and it will feel better.
If you ever tried one of the expensive models, you know how good it felt to play simple chords on a well-crafted instrument.
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