The Never Ending Pipeline: Part 2
by Mike Robinson
In Part 1, we discussed the source of the pipeline: www.myrareguitars.com and the customers / fans at Eastwood Guitars. In Part 2 we will look more closely at what it takes to get into the Eastwood Pipeline.
First and foremost, if the initial hurdles are navigated (patents, trademarks, custom tooling, etc) the #1 question to ask is “how much is the original selling for in the vintage market?” To me this is a deal breaker, for if the original can be had for less than a replica, why would anyone buy a replica? The only reason would be for superior quality, tone and playability. But even so, the value of the vintage model will continue to rise and always be worth more than the replica. So, we generally will not consider making a replica unless it can retail at least 50% below the current market value of the original.
Next, we then make a decision to fit the potential model into one of two different categories – replica or tribute. Several issues need to be considered at this point. Questions need to be asked about the trade-off of authenticity vs. expense.
Here are some examples:
Tribute: The Messenger
From a distance, this Messenger model is the spitting image of the 1968 original in almost every detail. Except a very big one, the original had an aluminum neck. We decided that the market for this model would not be huge, and therefore ruled out the possibility of going to the extra expense of making a custom aluminum neck. It was possible, but then the guitar would be priced in the $3500 range instead of the $879 price. So the value outweighs the authenticity factor, and we ended up with a winning “tribute” model at an affordable price.
Replica: The Hi-Flyer Phase 4 Sunburst
Here is one where the originals are selling for less than 50% more than our replica. It became important for us to get this guitar correct on every detail so that our replica becomes far superior to the original in quality, playability and tone. This guitar has the exact body width, depth, neck profile and design of the original. We replicated the pickups looks, but then improved the quality of the pickups, bridge and tremolo system. So at $599 you get a far better guitar than the $1000 originals.
With today’s modern construction techniques and components, more guitars fit into the tribute category than replica. This is for two reasons: a) most guitars that we consider making are worth $1500-$4000 in the vintage market, and b) many of these guitars had unusual switches, custom tremolos and bridges, vinyl body coverings, etc. Therefore, our remake needs to be priced from $500-$1500, and that often prevents us from taking on the expenses of custom tooling, etc.
Here is an EKO 500 4V model from the early 1960’s. Note the accordion switches and unusual tremolo. Is it worth replicating those switches and that tremolo? That is the question…
Yet on this beautiful Wandre tribute, it was simple and affordable enough to recreate the custom tailpiece and the highly unusual F-hole covers. Without those pieces, the guitar would loose most of its appeal.
The Wandre Tri-Lam
Also, watch for my next BLOG – The Never Ending Pipeline: Part 3 - where I will delve further still into what it takes to make it into the Eastwood reissue pipeline.
So keep those suggestions coming!