Repro ABR-1s


You would think that the nice folks at Gibson wouldn’t do anything to diminish the value of their vintage guitar market but at the same time, their clientele is clamoring for more and more accurate reproductions. The aftermarket parts makers-especially in Japan-have gotten really good at making parts that are nearly indistinguishable from the original vintage parts. Clever aging make it even harder to tell just what the heck is on that 62 you just bought. To make matters worse, Gibson is also doing a pretty good job reproducing their own vintage parts. Recently I bought a 62 ES-335 that, to my eye, looked exactly right. It’s always tough to buy a guitar over the internet or even over the phone depending solely on photos and descriptions. I’ve had original owners swear they never changed a part other than the strings only to find out that it’s got the wrong bridge or the wrong pickups.

Here are four bridges-two repros and two originals. The gold one is easy-no makers mark. But look at the letters. The font is a little too narrow and the letters aren't as flat as they should be in the gold one and the top one which is the other repro. Look also at the crossbar of the "A"

The 60’s were a time of “forgetfulness” it seems and those of us who were there and were old enough to partake remember it well. Or, uh, don’t remember it well. Or maybe remember that there was some illicit stuff going on and maybe you did something to your guitar that seemed pretty cool at the time but that you’ve now conveniently forgotten. OK, you get it. typically, when a “new” guitar arrives at my house or ay my studio in New York, I try to go through it immediately so that if something isn’t what it’s supposed to be, I can get it packed back up and on its way back to the seller. The seller is usually pretty indignant or pretty embarrassed. It’s pretty hard to tell which over the phone. The louder they protest, the more likely it is that they got caught doing something unseemly. Or not. Like I said-it’s tough to tell. The problem was the bridge. This guitar was in great, great shape, so I really couldn’t use wear patterns to distinguish what parts were original and what parts were correct or what parts were repros without some pretty close scrutiny. The bridge looked perfect. The old Historic Gibson ABR-1 didn’t have the mark on the back from the company who did the manufacturing, nor did it have the serif (the little line) on the bottom of the number “1”. Then they added it but the  edges of the rectangular indentation the words “Gibson ABR-1” sat in were kind of sloped and that gave the repros away. Then, it appears that they fixed that too and I had a bridge that looked awfully good. To make matters worse I have terrible eyesight. I wear contact lenses AND glasses most of the time. I can’t see close up worth a damn unless I take the lenses out and take off the glasses and put on magnifiers. So, I’ve got a bridge that I think is a repro but it looks perfect. Too new looking, but perfect. Then I got real up close and personal and started finding all sorts of little things. First was the font-it was just a little too narrow and the relief of the letters was wrong. On the real ones they are kind of flat. On the repros they are sharper.  You can also note that the “A” in ABR-1 has a lower crossbar in the repro and appears a good bit narrower. When I removed the saddles, I saw something else. In the pockets where the saddles sit, there are no markings in the original. They’re usually full of crud from years of playing but I have a pretty clean one here. The repro has three circular tooling marks in the high E, the G and the low E slots. Then I looked at the notches where the saddle adjustment screws go. On the original the sides are sloped -still “u” shaped but with sides that head slightly outward. the repro had u shaped notches too but the sides were dead straight up and down. So now you know. Look closely and always, always be suspicious of parts that look too new-even on a mint guitar because even if the guitar sits in its case for 45 years unplayed, the nickel will still tarnish and should have a patina. You won’t always have a couple of real ones to use as a comparison, so these photos should help.

Buenos notches. The good ones are on the bottom. The uppers are the repro and are very different from the original

See the little circles on the top one? There not supposed to be there. And yet, they are. It's one thing to forget what you did in the 60's but when a repro bridge made in 2011 shows up on your supposedly all original guitar, something ain't right.

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