Bound for the Boneyard … Does Economically-Priced Gear Hold Up Over Time?

A few weeks ago, I ventured into one of the more unique music stores in my area. Atomic Music in Beltsville, MD has been kicking around since the 1990s and is renowned for its super-friendly vibe and wide selection of comfortably priced gear, mostly of the used variety. It feels a bit more “antique mall” than Guitar Center, but in all the best possible ways. If you’re ever in the D.C. area, put it on your list along with Chuck Levin’s.

One notable thing about Atomic Music is that while you can find plenty of Fenders, Gibsons, PRS, Ovations, Epiphones, Ibanezes, Carvins, and other “names you know,” there is quite a bit of square footage devoted to lesser-known makes and outright misfits. Genuine Fender Strat bodies with no-name necks (and vice versa), First Acts, Squiers, and less expensive Epiphone guitars and basses covered in stickers, old Memphis Strat copies line the rows along with  several other funky, oddball models representing every decade from the ’50s onward. More than a few had evidence of being modded at some point and most would benefit from some minor refurbishment. While this writer is no expert in pricing these sorts of instruments, all the ones I saw seemed to be priced quite fairly for what they were. There were a few I was tempted to walk out with!

That experience had this writer thinking about many of the lower-priced, relatively lesser known import brands we’re all seeing blowing up on the Internet lately. I’m no fortune teller, but I get the vibe that it won’t be long before some of those brands end up in the very same racks (figuratively speaking) as those off-beat brands. Not because they’re bad instruments; plenty of reviews have shown that to be very much the opposite!

It’s that they’re cheap, and cheap guitars get treated differently. We invest ourselves differently in their ownership. Even though many of these less expensive instruments acquit themselves quite well against their much pricey counterparts, for many they seem to be treated as little more than modding platforms or vehicles for developing luthiery skills. Others view them as a bridge to something bigger and better down the road. We forgive the little inconsistencies or oversights in production because they are so easy to come by, money-wise.

If you’re thinking of buying a Gibson Les Paul, middle/upper tier Fender, PRS, Kiesel, or any of the aforementioned “names you know,” you’re probably not intending to be a modding platform or something you’re going to practice fretwork on. Even if you plan to mod one of these later with your favorite pickups or hardware, it’s not to improve it beyond its price-point or make it more “usable.” We know that when we’re about to peel off a big pile of sawbucks for a guitar, it’s gotta be right. And if it’s not right or not meant to be, we’ve gotta be able to get most of that money back on the used market. We’re thinking long-term, even if we don’t know it right then and there. We want a return on that investment, both emotionally and financially.

Do these far more affordable imports, some priced cheaper than a lot of pedals out there, spark the same motivation and provide the same long-term musical satisfaction? Without a doubt! But it’ll be interesting to roam the racks down at Atomic Music, the local pawn shop, or any of the online sales platforms in a few years and see how many of these have ended up on the street.

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About the Author: Hello. Welcome to TheToneKing.com! My name is Louis, but in name of good fun & entertainment - I call myself The Tone King. This website was born back in 2008, to compliment the videos I started uploading to YouTube on guitar & related gear (guitar, amps, pedals, etc.). It has since grown, thanks to the thousands that tune in, making it what it is. If you subscribe to TheToneKing.com, you can expect lots of Guitar, Amp, Pedal Reviews & Shoot-Out videos. I also have monthly Live Webcasts, perform Artist Interviews, and try to get all the juicy coverage Backstage and at trade-shows like NAMM. The cherry on top is that there are no shortage of How-To Videos & TTK Killer Deal Alerts getting you the most knowledge & gear into your hands & mind! Thanks for stopping by to check out my website! Rock ON!

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