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In China, counterfeit goods are an accepted part of the culture

Counterfeit goods are omnipresent. We’ve all come across fake ‘Rolex’ watches, ‘Gucci’ handbags and dodgy DVDs being peddled out of some duplicitous character’s van, on street corners and on the internet. The guitar world is no different. One brief Google search for counterfeit guitars and it quickly becomes clear that the problem is a sizeable one, particularly in China and the Far East.

However, the whole subject of counterfeit six-strings isn’t quite as cut and dried. What really constitutes a fake? These Chinese knock-offs are undeniably crooked right down to the phony decals and clumsy build quality, but the argument by no means stops there.

Where do we draw the line? What about small custom builders who manufacture replicas that closely resemble other more famous brands? Sure, the logo and name is different, but the instruments can be, and websites,, paylessguitars. com, and The following year she was sentenced to three years in prison. Her site advertised guitars from Gibson, Fender, PRS, Gretsch, Epiphone

Chinese websites like, dhgate. com, and are literally full of knock-off instruments – tens of thousands of them. A brief search uncovered Gibson, Fender, Martin, Schecter, PRS, Rickenbacker, BC Rich, Gretsch and Ibanez fakes, many with suspect names like ‘Gibsong’ or ‘Ebiphone’. All were priced at around $300-400 and while the photos mostly look like the real thing, they’re clearly not. Delve deeper and you’ll discover that the guitar blogs are alive with horror stories. Unsuspecting victims of these sites (and those who just wanted cheap guitars) vent their complaints about the poor quality of their purchases on a regular basis. The photographs on these sites are often taken from bona fide sources, but what turns up on your doorstep usually bears no resemblance whatsoever to what you ordered. If it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is.

‘I went to an “authorised Martin dealer” in Shanghai with a collection of guitars. The manager offered me a D-45 for $600’

and Ibanez, and from the 1,200 fakes seized during the sting, 861 were branded with Gibson and Epiphone logos. It was a landmark case, described by Gibson as ‘a monumental victory often are, pretty much identical, especially in terms of looks. Then there are what have become known as ‘ghostbuilders’; pros that make exact replicas, often for famous names. Are they any better? And what about ‘parts guitars’ built from genuine parts but put together by someone else? Join us as we attempt to get to the heart of the matter…

China in your hands In 2008, Li Dan, a Chinese woman from Beijing, was arrested for manufacturing and selling counterfeit guitars through her various against the proliferation of counterfeit guitars’ – but believe it or not, despite the volume of fake guitars coming out of China and Korea, Dan’s arrest is a rarity. In fact, it was almost certainly the first (and possibly only) bust of its kind. Had it not been for a prolonged campaign undertaken by Gibson, the Electric Guitar Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition (involving Fender, Gretsch, Ibanez and PRS) and the Chinese legal authorities – it took over a year convincing the Chinese government to act – she’d still be trading in crooked instruments today. Before the case, when Gibson’s lawyers managed to close

20 Guitar & Bass FEBRUARY 2012

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