The manufacturer of Gibson guitars use wood to make their guitars as other guitar makers do. They also use pickups and other accessories to make electric guitars just like other guitar brands. Then why are Gibson guitars so expensive? Are Gibson guitars worth the money?
The primary reason why Gibson guitars are so expensive is that they are manufactured in the United States. Gibson also uses a premium, vintage wood. Other guitar brands use alternative woods that are not acceptable to Gibson customers.
There are other reasons why Gibson guitars are more expensive. Some of them are related to the materials used while some are connected to the way the guitars are made.
Read on and learn more about the reasons why Gibson guitars are more expensive.
Why Are Gibson Guitars so Expensive?
The price of a Gibson guitar is high due to several factors. It is not just the name stamped on the headstock of the guitar. Here are some of the more crucial factors that make Gibson guitars more expensive than the others.
1. Made in the United States
If a product is made in the United States, you can expect it to be more expensive than comparable products made in Mexico, in China, or in other countries in Asia. Gibson guitars are made wholly from the United States.
Gibson was established in 1894 and is still turning out guitars after all these years. That very long manufacturing experience in the U.S. carries weight. Unlike other guitar manufacturers that opted to relocate their factories in other countries, Gibson chose to stay in the United States to continue its guitar making. That alone can really jack up the prices. If you want to maintain high quality, they decided this was the best choice.
To date, Gibson still maintains three factories in the United States. One is in Bozeman, another is in Nashville, and a third one is in Memphis. The first one manufactures acoustic guitars, the second one produces solid body electrics such as the SGs and the LPs, and the third one turns out semi-hollow guitars like the ES series.
2. The Best Woods
Gibson guitars made during the initial manufacturing years are considered today as a special breed. This rare quality is due to the wood used to make the guitars. This wood is hard to get so it makes the vintage models of Gibson guitar very expensive indeed.
About twenty years ago, all guitar manufacturers used rosewood to make their fretboards. These days, they can no longer use rosewood because its use is restricted by the government. Protecting the natural resources could be the reason.
So, guitar manufacturers have to settle for other types of wood materials to make their fretboards and other guitar parts that are made of wood. For those who still insist on good quality wood, they have to be willing to pay the price.
Gibson guitars are mostly made of rosewood, maple, ebony, and mahogany. These are high-quality woods, but they are also getting rare these days. Being rare means they are also expensive. In addition, the small quantity of these types of wood that are available might not meet the high-quality standards of Gibson.
Only the best kinds of woods are used by Gibson. This is a main reason why nearly every Gibson guitar is more expensive than its nearest counterpart brand. Gibson uses only high-quality wood because these are the ones that could produce the best quality sound that the brand is known for. The sound is richer and thicker.
3. High-Quality Electronics
Gibson guitars are all solid body guitars. There is no hollow portion in the guitar body. That means the sound that you hear when you strum or pick the strings comes entirely from the guitar’s electronics.
Still, the sound is unique, full and robust and not thin, or weak. The guitar sustains the sound much longer. That’s because the electronics used by Gibson is made of top quality materials and construction. All the electronic parts that go into a Gibson guitar are all made in the United States.
Furthermore, the pickups in most of the Gibson guitar models are hand-wired. This is to maintain the sound quality Gibson is known for. This is the quality of tone that famous guitarists prefer. Gibson could use machines to do this, but that will affect the sound quality of the guitars.
Other electronic parts in a Gibson guitar are also hand-wired. These include the capacitors, potentiometers, switches and other electronic parts. All of these parts contribute to a higher price tag in the end.
The Gibson SG Standard Electric Guitar is one of Gibson’s best selling guitars and is a great example of the high-quality design and features. The SG features a Gibson 490R neck and 498T bridge humbuckers with three-way toggle, and independent tone/volume. It also includes the Gibson Tune-o-Matic bridge with stopbar tailpiece, and Grover Kluson-style green-key tuning machines.
The Gibson SG Standard Electric Guitar also comes in Heritage Cherry color. It has the pure rock tone that is made famous by Gibson. I owned an SG a couple years ago but then sold it to a friend. The design is simply flawless and truly a masterpiece. Once you play a Gibson, like the SG, it is hard to go back to playing other guitars.
4. Laws that Protect Natural Resources
There are certain laws that the United States enforces that cause the price of Gibson guitars to be higher. These laws refer to the manufacturing and international shipping of guitar components made of certain classes of woods.
For instance, the FBI raided certain guitar manufacturers and confiscated materials like rosewood imported from India. The reason is that the wood was not fabricated to be used in the country where it originated.
That particular law in India seeks to preserve or protect Indian manufacturers. In the United States, rosewood is already becoming scarce. So, Gibson imports from other countries where rosewood is still available. India is one of those countries.
5. Exquisite Guitar Finishes
Every Gibson guitar is made of nitrocellulose finish. This finishing component gives a very elegant finish to a guitar. However, the use of this chemical is heavily regulated in the United States. The government has put a limit to Gibson as to how much of it they can use every day.
This restriction furthermore limits how many guitars Gibson can make each day. Other guitar makers were forced to use other kinds of finishing materials because of this regulation. They are now using polyurethane or urethane instead.
6. Manufacturing Process
One of the major reasons why Gibson guitars are more expensive is the manufacturing costs. Every Gibson guitar that comes out of the Gibson factory is made by employees whose salaries are higher than the salaries paid to foreign workers in guitar factories abroad.
Gibson’s guitar makers are skilled workers. That’s why they are paid higher. The manufacturing procedure of Gibson is a labor-intensive process. It requires quality craftsmanship. For example, these workers hand finish and hand sand every neck of every guitar. That makes every Gibson guitar unique.
Some of the manufacturing processes at Gibson take years to master. They will only be reasonable to people who are concerned about quality and not quantity. Gibson guitar makers take pride in the fact that their guitars are considered the best in the world.
7. The Plek Machine
Before a guitar is released from the Gibson factory, it has to undergo a test in a Plek machine. This is a CNC machine that is specially designed to test the quality of guitars. A Plek machine is very expensive.
The Plek machine is able to measure the strings and the frets in the guitar. It is able to detect the irregularities in the neck and the fretwork. The machine can see if the level of each fret is correct or not. It can also determine if the neck is twisted or not. This machine can detect irregularities in the guitar. Its accuracy in doing this is within one-thousandth of a millimeter.
But that’s not all. If the Plek machine finds any irregularity in the nut, neck, and frets, it will do its work and level the nut and the frets. The machine is designed not just to detect imperfections but also to correct any irregularity that the guitar has acquired during the manufacturing process.
While the cost of this machine adds to the final cost of the guitar, it ensures that the guitar that you buy is free of imperfections.
8. The Legacy and Brand of Gibson Guitars
When rock ‘n’ roll was born, Gibson was already there. All the famous names in rock ‘n’ roll have, at one time in their lives, played Gibson guitars. Chuck Berry, B.B. King, Duane Allman, Jimmy Page, AC/DC, Eric Clapton, and others, have played Gibson guitars throughout their careers.
This history and legacy play a major role as to why Gibson guitars are more expensive than other guitar brands. Given this reputation, it would only be natural that a guitar with the Gibson logo on its headstock will command a higher price.
The first Gibson guitar made its debut in 1952. After almost 70 years, the brand has sustained its prestige and popularity. Its distinctive tone, solid body, and high-quality manufacturing standards are features that make it a preferred musical instrument for many guitarists.
Is a Gibson Guitar Worth the Money or Not?
Are Gibson guitars worth the money or not? If you will consider all the points given above, they all seem to indicate that a Gibson guitar is really worth the money.
There are business schools in the United States that used the pricing strategies of Gibson as examples to illustrate business concepts in their classes. These strategies were also the subject of several business articles in the Wall Street Journal and other publications.
New owners acquired Gibson in the early 90s. To bring the prices down, they implemented cost-cutting measures. From $1,200 they brought down the price of the Les Paul to just about $700 to $800. The quality of the guitar was still the same. They just managed to bring down the price by making the company more efficient in making guitars.
The reviews for the newly produced guitars were still the same, good and some even better. They did not cut corners on playability, appearance, and sound. They did this only to give their product a better fighting chance with the newbies coming from Yamaha, Ibanez, and others.
They did not expect what will happen. The more they cut their prices, the more their sales went down. It appeared that Gibson buyers stayed away. There’s no problem with the loyal crowd. But the younger kids were still going for Yamaha and Ibanez.
There was fear that the company was going bankrupt. So the new owners made a new marketing tack. They re-invented the guitars and promoted them as a boutique item and raised their prices again.
Thankfully, their sales went up again. That encouraged them to raise their prices again and again. They found out that they can sell the exact same guitars by raising their prices. They didn’t do anything to improve them. They just raise their prices.
Conclusion – Why Are Gibson Guitars so Expensive? Are They Worth the Money?
Why are Gibson guitars so expensive? The reasons why Gibson guitars are so expensive are as follows:
- Made in the United States
- Rare Wood
- High-Quality Electronics
- Laws that Protect Natural Resources
- Exquisite Guitar Finishes
- Manufacturing Process
- The Plek Machine
- The Legacy and Brand of Gibson Guitars
Now you have enough information as to why Gibson guitars are more expensive than other guitar brands. You cannot compromise with quality. To get a quality guitar, like the Gibson, it will cost a fair amount, just like buying a fine wine or fancy guitar.
Are Gibson guitars worth the money? With the factors listed in this article, Gibson guitars are worth the money. They are one of a kind instruments and are made to last a lifetime or more.
Owning a Gibson guitar is something to be proud of. These guitars are made with the finest quality materials and craftsmanship. If you decide to buy one, you won’t be disappointed and can brag to your friends that you are one of the few Gibson guitar owners.