Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Taka J-200 Copy

This is the amazing tale of how a J-200 copy got back in the hands of it’s original owner from the’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 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 was gone and the pawnshop owner had no idea who he’d sold it to.

Fast forward 25 years and halfway across the country to Kansas. This same guy decided that, whenever he thought about it, he would look on eBay and other places to see if this guitar ever came up for sale. What are the chances? For three years he checked eBay day in and day out and finally got tired of looking. Just about that time, I listed this guitar for sale. Amazingly, his father saw it for sale and called him immediately. He won the guitar and now it was on it’s way back to the guy who owned it originally 25 years previously. Sold to a pawnshop, found in a pawnshop, and back home Kansas. I told the guy that he should have contacted me before the auction ended and I would have just stopped the auction and sold it to him. He said the thought hadn’t crossed his mind and he was really sweating whether he’d win it or not...he had bid as high as he could afford. So, although I wish I had that one back, I’m as happy as I can be that someone in Kansas actually does have that one back!

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.


Stefanie Eskander said...

You'll probably never read this comment since your posting is a couple of years old, but I was doing a search about Taka guitars and came across this little blog entry. Back in 1979, my husband happened across a Taka guitar, also a J-200 copy. Of course, he didn't know this, but knew I wanted a new guitar. To make a long story short, we bought the guitar for $65 from some hard-on-his luck guy, and I've been playing it all these years. It's not a starburst finish, but is blonde. It's dinged & weathered, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Jaimie Muehlhausen said...

That's really cool. I'd love to have a photo of it to post. Send to


Anonymous said...

Yes! I have one that is nearly identical made by Ventura. That specific bridge style which is different from the standard J-200 "moustache" bridges means it's a very accurate copy of a Gibson J-200 "Artist" By the way, some of the 1960s Gibson J-200s had Mother of Pearl that filled the open areas of the moustache bridges.... just like the Japenese copies, and also has adjustable metal bridge inserts... just like the copies. Great guitars!

Anonymous said...

I purchased a Taka guitar, model TA 501 from a pawn shop back in the 90's and I just recently pulled out the guitar from the case, pulled the strings, cleaned the guitar and had the guitar restrung and tuned. I was looking for info on this brand of guitar , which lead me to your sight, which I have to say was an amazing and ironic story. Wow!

Bass Man said...

Reminds me of (short version) finding my 68 Gibson Melodymaker bass on Craigslist 30 years after I sold it to a guitar shop. I had regretted the sale and had been looking for it ever since. There is a bond you get with some instruments. Some things are meant to be. :)

Guillermo Gutierrez said...

I want to say that I own a Taka Guitar model W800-S, steel Dreadnought. I think thats what the S stands for. I bought this guitar fron a british guy in Bogota Colombia in 1975 and I think he had purchased it in England. The interesting thing is that a very famous luthier that did some work on it told me that the wood on the sides and the back is called PaloSanto from Madagascar. Its a very hard wood, This guitar has had the use and abused over the years and has been all over the world wherever I've been. Its still in excellent shape because I try to take good care. Keeps in tune all the time. The sound is deep and brilliant, and i can say that I have owned and played many guitars over the years and is by far one of my favorites. The only consideration I have because of its age is that I keep it one tone lower tio release the tension on the bridge and use a capo. There is not much information on this guitars only that they were made in Japan and they dont make then anymore. I dont know if thwy are related to the takamines because I've sen a model exactly like mine. This one is a little treasure.

BEBE BABB said...

I bought my taka at a music store in the late 70's in San Luis Obispo Ca. It was a arch top rosewood neck with abalone/mother of pearl inlaid down the frets. It was the finest guitar I had and still have ever played. I had it stolen from me by someone I thought was a friend. It's been 32 years and I'm still looking for it. I believe what the other person wrote that some instruments and people bond and are meant to be together. I hang on to that every single day when I log on and search again. I pray one day we will find each other. I've never completely gotten over loosing it especially from someone I really cared about.