This is the amazing tale of how a J-200 copy got back in the hands of it’s original owner from the 70s...here’s how it happened.
One day I walked into King’s Pawn in Escondido, CA. I’ve been in this pawn shop many times and they always have a decent selection of instruments. In fact, they’ve got a nice Rivera Hundred Duo Twelve amp in there right now that I’d love to have. This shop has the name of the store painted on the window rather largely and, right under that, “The friendliest place in town!” or something to that effect. Interestingly, I’d been in that store I’d say at least 15-20 times previously and not once had anyone in the store so much as spoken to me or given me a friendly nod. I shudder to think how un-friendly the rest of the stores in town are. Anyway, on this particular visit, one guitar jumped out at me. I’ve always been a big fan of Gibson J-200’s and at first glance I thought I spied one hanging on the rack. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a very decent quality Japanese “lawsuit” model made by Taka, a company I’d never heard of before. It played really well, but I knew I didn’t have enough to buy it that day. The whopping price tag? $150.
All week that guitar was stuck in my head. I went back the following weekend and sure enough it was still there. I asked the manager of the friendliest place in town if he could possibly hold the guitar for me until Wednesday when I got paid. NOPE. How about if I put $20 just to hold it? NOPE. Wow, how friendly! So, I waited until Wednesday and, on my lunch hour, I sped to Escondido (about 20 minutes away) and was lucky enough to find the guitar still hanging on the wall. I took it to the counter and pulled out my one-fifty to pay. I asked if they had a case for it and the friendly manager said, “yes, it has a case, but that will cost you extra.”
“Really? It has a case, that you took in with the guitar, but you’re going to charge me MORE for it?” I asked in disbelief. “How much?”
“Seven dollars,” he replied.
Holy shit. They’re going to charge me seven f#@%ing dollars for a cheap chipboard guitar case that came with the guitar! Now THAT’S friendly! I pulled out a five and a couple of ones and he wrote me up a separate receipt. THANKS! That will come in handy at tax time.
I got the guitar home and it became my backup for gigs. For an inexpensive knockoff, it sounded really decent. It’s the guitar I should have hung onto for campfires and campouts. Not too much invested, not a great collector value, no one would even know if it went missing. Then one day, as it always happens, I needed something else badly. So badly that I had to sell things I shouldn’t sell...like this Taka J-200. I took photos, listed it on eBay and it sold for somewhere around $350 I think. Nice...a little profit makes losing the guitar a little sweeter.
Then I got an email that made it all worthwhile.
The guy who bought the guitar on eBay sent me a nice note. He told me the story of how he had bought this guitar back in the 1979 as a graduation present to himself. It was brand new at the time and he really loved the guitar. He played it constantly and took it with him on trips and to the beach and on and on. He had lived in Huntington Beach, which is just around an hour north of where I live. One day he came back from a weekend trip and discovered that his druggy roommate had taken the guitar and pawned it for some drug money. He was devastated and drove as fast as he could to the pawnshop to get the guitar back. It was already too late...it was gone and the pawnshop owner had no idea who he’d sold it to.
UPDATE: Not too terribly long after I wrote and posted this story I got another interesting email. This time from the owner of King's Pawn, the friendliest store in town. She had come across my story and was horrified that my experience in her store was less than fantastic. She apologized and, to make it up to me, let me know that, if I was still interested in that Rivera Hundred Duo Twelve amp (and if she still had it), she would give me a ridiculous deal on it. Today, months later, I walked into King's Pawn and, even though it was super pre-Christmas busy, got a nice "hello" and another employee offered her help if needed. I asked for the owner and introduced myself as the jerk who complained about her store online. The Rivera was still there and, true to her word, the owner hooked me up with the most smokin' deal in history. I just got finished plugging it in and jamming on it and it's an amazing amp. So, thanks to Heidi and everyone at King's Pawn...I truly do appreciate that she took the time to correct a situation in this world where customer service is dwindling and stores put customers last instead of first. You can bet I'll be poking around King's Pawn again regularly.