How did 10 high-end PRS guitars wind up in Anchorage, Alaska classrooms?

PRS Guitars
(Image credit: Future)

10 high-end PRS electric guitars have found their way into the hands of school kids in Anchorage, Alaska thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

According to an article in the Anchorage Daily News, the guitars, shipped from the East Coast and bound for Hong Kong, were intercepted by Fish and Wildlife in July 2018. 

The guitars were declared as clothing, but when inspectors opened the cases they found the instruments, which feature Brazilian rosewood, without CITES-required permits.

According to the ADN, Fish and Wildlife started a civil forfeiture proceeding and the instruments – shipped by a dealer, not PRS – were eventually given up.

After looking into whether another federal agency could use the guitars, Fish and Wildlife began seeking to donate or loan them to a nonprofit.

Which is how Bruce Wood, fine arts director for the Anchorage School District, wound up receiving a set of cardboard boxes from Fish and Wildlife.

“I think I knew they were guitars, but I didn’t know if they were little beginner acoustics or nicer acoustics or middle-school instruments,” he said.

He opened the first case to reveal a PRS with pearlescent bird inlay and Brazilian rosewood detail, and, he continued, “[f]or the next 45 minutes our jaws were on the floor opening all 10 of these.”

The guitars are reported to range in value from $4,360 to $8,400. On the back they read: “Custom built for U.S.A. only.”

According to Chris Andrews, supervisory inspector with Fish and Wildlife, the guitars are available for the school district to use, but are still agency property and cannot be sold.

I think I knew they were guitars, but I didn’t know if they were little beginner acoustics or nicer acoustics or middle-school instruments.

Bruce Wood

The PRS models will be used by the district’s high school jazz bands, the guitar and ukulele teacher and in other capacities.

“Paul Reed Smith makes guitars for Santana and, I mean, he makes the best in the world," Wood reportedly said at an Anchorage school board meeting, "and we now have 10 of them in our district.”

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.