Pawn shops and cheap electric guitars go together like, well, things that really go together. Cheap electric guitars hanging in pawn shop windows are a ubiquitous sight. There might even be a law in several states mandating that no pawn shop can open before it finds its first guitar to sell.
Finding good cheap guitars
But just because pawn shop guitars are cliche doesn’t mean you can’t find a good value on a quality guitar for cheap, or for a reasonably good cheap guitar.
That may sound like double speak, but it really isn’t.
Pawn shops are famous for not knowing what they have. I have a friend who picked up a Les Paul Signature guitar (read: amazing guitar) for under $200. It was in great shape, needed nothing but a new set of strings, and he walked away with an amazing deal. That’s an example of a “quality guitar for cheap.”
The other side of the spectrum is the proverbial “cheap guitar” – meaning, a guitar that wasn’t sold new for more than a couple hundred bucks. Guitars in this category aren’t manufactured to exceedingly tight tolerances, which means that some guitars are complete lemons, while other individual guitars of the same make, model, and year, are very reasonable quality instruments. The only way to know the difference is to play them in person.
Pawn shop guitar deals abound. But that doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily find one, as many pawn shops are chock full of crappy, cheap guitars. Steer clear – you’ll pay for a poor quality guitar in aggravation than you saved on the price.
Two important pointers for pawn shop guitar shopping:
- Be patient, and expect to visit a dozen pawn shops or more before you find a keeper.
- Play every guitar you’re even remotely interested in. This will give you greater exposure to what you like and don’t like, and you’ll make a much more informed buying decision when you finally do pull the trigger.