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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Guitar Grading & Inspection
Many used (and new) guitar buyers are faced with the same dilema. The task is to determine the exact condition of the guitar you're looking to buy. Overgrading from private sellers and dealers only confuses the matter. For those looking to eliminate surprises or to get guitars in pristine condition, the following tips will help you evaluate the condition of a guitar. Many of these can be ascertained over the phone assuming an honest seller.
Subtle Signs of a "mint" or "like-new" guitar being well played

  • Pickguard scratches - sure fire sign of significant play. Often you'll see light scratches on the pickguard from the picking hand of the previous player.
  • Tremolo bridge pitting or wear - can be on the tremolo base or on the actual string saddles. The more wear the more the guitar has been played.
  • Tremolo arm discoloration/fade
  • Input jack area scratches or worse yet paint chips from sloppy use
  • Original reciept missing - likely guitar bought used. The original owner usually has the store receipt, warranty cards, hangtags etc.
  • Fretboard wear - seen easily on maple boards the clearcoat is rubbed off from playing and the maple board starts to dirty. Trickier to see on rosewood fretboards.
  • Fret wear - a sure sign of significant play. When buying by phone ask about fret-2 on the G-string. This is one of the first frets to wear and is often missed on quick inspection of the fretboard.
  • Volume & Tone knobs freely and loosely rotate. These are broken in with the original "stiffness" lost due to regular use.
  • Heel plate pitting/wear on the headstock side which tells you the guitar has been played more than advertised
  • Rear of neck - discoloration of wood or faded finish
  • Rear guitar body superficial scuffs
  • Parts replaced/missing - a very obvious one but often the knobs are removed, replaced, etc. Why would you replace parts on a guitar you "never played"

These signs should be evaulated and used to determine the condition of a guitar in exceptional condition. Some or all may be present, each in a varying degree. Use common sense where applicable as this is just a guide. Note that "significant play" does not designate significant wear/damage, as the guitar can be well played but well cared for. It is very possible an older guitar was played regularly for only a short period, with great care being taken to preserve it's original condition.
Standard Grading TerminologyCommonly used in the classifieds
New: Factory new, unsold from authorized dealer w/ warranty, tags, etc.
Dead-Mint: As new, dealer showroom quality, no scratches
Mint: All original parts, minimal wear and tear, possible non original case
Excellent: Well cared for but played. Fine condition with no major blemishes, just minor wear, finish cracks or changed parts
Very Good: Very subjective gradings from here down to good, fair, etc.

Additional Inspection Points for a New Ibanez Guitar:

  • As above - look over each item to see how the guitar has been handled by the dealer, showroom and workers. Just because a guitar is new, doesn't mean it can be without problems, defects or subject to mishandling.
  • Tremolo Knife Edge & Post Allignment - ensure each tremolo knife edge is centered (or near dead center) to each tremolo post when looking from above each post. If the stud is off-centered to the knife edge it will create tremolo troubles long term.
  • Nut Centered to Fretboard - this could be an easy, one minute fix, or a sign that major probems exist if the nut was drilled improperly. Make sure the nut is centered to the fretboard, use the E-strings as a guide.
  • String Allignment along Fretboard to Bridge - Once you verify the nut is centered at the headstoc, now visually inspect that the low and high E-string are spaced the same distance from the edge of the fretboard. Verify the distance is the same at the nut all the way to fret 24. Ensure the spacing does not slant one string closer to the fretboard edge.
  • Overall Review - check the operation of all movable parts, such as pickups, 5-way, vol/tone pots, tremolo, tuners, fine tuners, etc.
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