“No-one is handing out medals for owning a guitar by a prestige maker”: Guitar prices and the conundrum of high-priced budget electric vs entry-level big-name model – which to choose and why the decision is getting tougher

Epiphone Kirk Hammett Greeny
Epiphone's Kirk Hammett Greeny Les Paul (Image credit: Neil Godwin/Future)

Once upon a time, it was obvious where a company’s budget brand ended and its prestige brand began. Squier was to Fender what Epiphone was to Gibson – a respectable alternative for those who couldn’t afford, or chose not to buy, the full-fat version. If you didn’t mind going off-brand entirely, you could buy decent copies by the likes of Tokai.

Today, however, things aren’t quite so simple. Take the Chinese-built Epiphone Kirk Hammett ‘Greeny’ 1959 Les Paul Standard, for example. Not only does it possess the classic ‘open book’ Gibson headstock shape (a thing hitherto denied to Epiphone buyers), but, at $/£1,499 it's priced similarly to the current entry-level Gibson USA Les Paul – the rather skinny and spartan Les Paul Modern Lite, which can be had for $/£1,449.

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Jamie Dickson

Jamie Dickson is Editor-in-Chief of Guitarist magazine, Britain's best-selling and longest-running monthly for guitar players. He started his career at the Daily Telegraph in London, where his first assignment was interviewing blue-eyed soul legend Robert Palmer, going on to become a full-time author on music, writing for benchmark references such as 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and Dorling Kindersley's How To Play Guitar Step By Step. He joined Guitarist in 2011 and since then it has been his privilege to interview everyone from B.B. King to St. Vincent for Guitarist's readers, while sharing insights into scores of historic guitars, from Rory Gallagher's '61 Strat to the first Martin D-28 ever made.