ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How Not To Buy a Fake Fender Stratocaster

Updated on November 10, 2010

So you’ve saved hard for that Fender Stratocaster you’ve always wanted. But what if it turns out to be a fake, a cheap counterfeit?

Here’s a cautionary tale, with some pointers to watch for. I hope it might save you some bother.

Bargain-hunting

July 2008. It’s a sunny, optimistic Thursday morning, and off we go down the leafy English lanes to look over the antiques and collectables at our local auction house. We go bargain-hunting nearly every month to find interesting items that might turn a resale profit.

It’s viewing day. The place is stuffed with old brown furniture, old clocks, boxes of dusty books, bygones, piles of old crockery, weird memorabilia and ornately framed paintings. But look! Over there! Whoah.

Through the cheerful, jostling crowd, I can see it. Vivid cherry-red, contrasted against all the dull old tat, stands a gleaming, beautiful Stratocaster. I can’t believe my eyes. It absolutely shines. My insides lurch. What on earth is something like that doing here?

A gleaming cherry-red Stratocaster ... or is it? (Sorry about the poor photo quality.)
A gleaming cherry-red Stratocaster ... or is it? (Sorry about the poor photo quality.) | Source
Would you say this looks genuine?
Would you say this looks genuine? | Source

Fender Custom Shop

I pick it up. A Fender, no less. Actually a Fender Custom Shop, says the logo. Hmmm.

Back in 2008 I knew almost nothing about Fender’s various product ranges. Custom Shop is a range for collectors and, superficially at least, this instrument certainly looks the part. The sale estimate is £140 (about $227). How come such a low estimate? Fenders are not cheap.

In the sale catalogue it is listed as a Fender; surely this firm of auctioneers knows not to specifically name something without corroboration. Even though I trust their expertise in the traditional collectables, perhaps electric guitars are a new area for them. But right now, that’s their problem. I am seduced by its glamour and my greed. I want it. Now.

I examine it more closely. The decals on the headstock certainly look OK. I like the period tuners. Ah, but what’s this? There seems to be a little gap, a millimetre or two, where the heel of the neck fits into the body against the pick guard. I notice that the lacquer seems to have been rubbed off there, just where serial numbers are often stamped. It alters the rounded profile of the heel. A warning bell rings in my head: surely Fender would never let something like that pass quality control. But I ignore it. I ignore all my stabs of doubt. I go home, look up the Fender website, and some other sites that deal them. This little beauty might be worth quite a lot. In my imagination I rub my hands with glee.

... and this? I liked the period-style tuners, though.
... and this? I liked the period-style tuners, though. | Source

You pays your money and you takes your chance ...

So next day I bid, and win it for £180 (about $292). Pleased as Punch, I am! I get it home, look over it. Plug it in and play a bit. Seems perfectly playable, and it’s quite well set up too – but then I’m more a player of acoustic guitars, not electric, so I’m not sure. But it looks fantastic. I try a few Hendrix-style dives with the whammy bar. It breaks off in my hand, leaving the threads in the block. Oops.

I’m not happy. I need to know more, so I decide to dismantle it. I’m especially doubtful about that gap between the heel end and the pick guard, not to mention that, umm, little accident.

Inside, it’s a mess. There’s all kinds of funny marks, including a date stamp on the underside of the heel. There is lacquer oversprayed all over the place. The tremolo assembly, clearly, is substandard: Fender would never use metals cheap enough to break. I don’t know enough about the wiring and electrics to make any judgement there.

I get deeper into my online research. I learn more about Custom Shop. I try to track the serial number 457. The information I gather seems to conflict. Other questions then arise: where is the certificate of authenticity, and where is its case? These seem obvious in retrospect. I haul it into the garden and take some photos. Just in case.

The flattened heel-end profile is clearly visible. 'Mind the gap.'
The flattened heel-end profile is clearly visible. 'Mind the gap.' | Source
Not even a Fender colour ...
Not even a Fender colour ... | Source

Get an expert’s judgement

After a weekend agonising, it’s Monday morning. So with hope and dread doing battle in my guts, off I go to the best guitar shop in Exeter. Probably one of the best in the country. It’s a glittering guitar palace. There, they know everything there is to know about guitars.

I lay it on the counter, heart pounding a bit. I want them to tell me it’s worth about £1200 (about $1950). The boy raises an eyebrow. Another assistant comes over. They look at each other, then back at me. ‘Fake’, they pronounce in unison.

Aw, man, I feel such a sucker. I knew it, I just knew it.

‘But ... but ... how can you tell?’

He grins, strokes his chin.

‘Where do I begin?’ he says. ‘First of all, it’s not even a Fender colour. Compare it with a real one.’

The difference is suddenly obvious. The varnish-like lacquer on the neck looks wrong too; it is thickly applied and overall too glossy.

He then proceeds to catalogue the many other faults. In short, the whole thing seems to have been cobbled together from a variety of components from who-knows-where:

• the body is from a cheap Strat-style copy

• who knows where the neck came from, but it could never have been an authentic Custom Shop – everything about it is wrong: the timber, the grain, the finish ...

• if the neck is wrong, then the logos must be deliberate fakes too, meaning that someone, somewhere, is skilled at applying decals and then lacquering over; I can’t imagine Fender ever releasing genuine decals, so the number 457 is clearly meaningless

• the hardware is all poor quality (see the comments on the tremolo arm)

• the tuners are poor quality too (though he did say they weren’t as bad)

• there is no certificate, and no case.

Almost worthless

‘How much is it worth, then?’ I ask.

He says I might get £30 (about $50) for it if I’m lucky, as a reasonable beginner’s instrument.

Well, at least I know for sure now. I take it straight back to the auction house – minus the whammy bar, but they don’t notice that. Being a reputable firm, under the legal terms of sale they willingly give me an immediate full refund. But the customer confidentiality rules prevent them telling me who originally placed it. So they learn something to add to their store of expertise too.

Postscript

Next month’s auction, and guess what? Relisted and up for sale again. Unbelievable. But this time just described as ‘an electric guitar’ (unnamed).

I never knew who bought it or for how much. It seems that unscrupulous people sometimes target obscure rural auction houses as ideal locations to shift dodgy goods. I was lucky: I got my money back. I also got a bit wiser, and so did the auctioneers. And I hope you are too.

So who made it, and where? Comments, anyone?

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Lyndon 

      2 years ago

      Truss rod access.

    • profile image

      krimmson 

      5 years ago

      1) You'd also expect it to have a 70's style 'Fender' logo on the headstock, the one it has is far too early for that period.

      2) The 'Stratocaster' logo is also incorrect for a strat of this period, in the 70's it followed the contour of the headstock and was in a heavier typeface.

      3) There is WAY too much varnish on the neck and headstock, clearly put on to cover the thickness of the transfers.

      4) The body doesn't look to be the correct thickness (tho that mite just be the photos), and ...

      5) A 70's strat in that condition? I think not!!! Mine looks like its been thrown down the stairs at a few gigs. Actually, now I think on........

    • profile image

      trav 

      5 years ago

      The rear neck cover is 1970's style and yet the headstock is not a large 70's style or vice versa ...first thing which would have rang a bell...

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)