Electric Guitar Prices: What are we paying for?
At some point over the last 15 years, people decided they wanted to spend large amounts of money on new solid-body electric guitars and the guitar companies were happy to oblige. In order for this to work, the guitar companies had to make guitars that were worth the large amounts of money people were willing to spend. (Fender could not just sell a MIM Strat for $5000.) The biggest difference in quality comes mostly from the time spent building the guitar. However, after a certain point, more time stops making a difference. At some point, a better electric guitar cannot be made if we consider the electric guitar to be a musical instrument. The problem is people still had more money to spend and this is where I think guitar companies should have explained to buyers what they were actually paying for.
The PRS Dragon Series were more like pieces of visual art and the guitar was the backdrop and the people that bought them knew what they were buying. Guitars like that are different and nobody thinks otherwise. I do not know where quality tops out but I it is well before the $10,000 mark and I'm being extremely generous with that number. I would argue there is no such thing as a $10,000 solid-body electric guitar, just $10,000+ art projects. $10,000 guitars are not very common, but there are enough of them available that you can find them if you want. Personally, some of the EBMM JP models are getting awfully close to $4000 and there may be good as to why, but as a JP owner, I would like to hear those reasons. If one of the reasons is "art project," I would be fine with that. (His "Nomac" guitar was an art project in the most literal sense of the term.)
Ideally, playing these guitars is the best way to understand them and I have been fortunate enough to play new guitars passed the $10,000 mark and I cannot explain why they were not half the price. There might be a good reason, but it isn't because they were built better. In comparison, there are $500 guitar pedals made by Strymon, Eventide, and EHX. There is nothing less expensive that can do what these pedals can do equally well. You are paying for higher quality which makes sense. Mesa/Boogie and Bogner have made some really great amps in the recent past and, while expensive, they do not design new amps often enough for any price increase to seem out of the ordinary.
This is not a critique of the buyer. If a guitar is 1% better and costs twice as much, I would not question it. I am questioning what manufacturers are doing to certain guitars to justify the purchase price in a way that remotely makes sense. I have other questions such as "why ship a guitar without a hardshell case" and "why use a floating bridge that does not stay in tune?" These are things I have observed and thought about and I'm just putting them out there now. Wiser members than I may have good explanations.