Vietnam Serviceman Copies
12/14/2007 Copyright © 2008 James William Shine, Jr.
Here is a gallery of Fender (and maybe eventually Gibson) guitars that I hope to expand of "Serviceman" forgeries sold to troops during and after the Vietnam war.
I will start with the guitar that introduced me to this whole deal. (By the way, all pics are thumb nailed for faster page loading. Click on the thumbnail to enlarge).
The above CAR "jaguar" is the very guitar that kicked off me learning about these guitars. It was 1993 and I was a young guy living in Maine and a flipper named Jared that frequented the vintage guitar shop I worked at called me up with a Jaguar for sale. He explained it was just parts, but had the original finish. I went over and saw this guitar. Of course I immediately knew it was fake. His price was I believe $100. Far below market value for parts even at the time and this guy subscribed to Vintage Guitar Magazine, so I knew he was trying to pull one over on me. I told him I would think about it and left. So I went out looking for answers. First I contacted my boss at the time Chris Grassi, and he remembered seeing other examples of these guitars. I made a few more phone calls and within a day I had learned about these Vietnam Serviceman Forgeries, most made in the Philippines. In 2000 I had a guy contact me after a VG printed a letter of mine in their mag. He was a traveler whom frequented the Philippines, and actually had a Philippine wife. She had family that worked in a shop that made these guitars. He offered go and do some investigating for me and Michael Wright. He discovered that most of these were distributed by a company named Teo Dor, a sporting goods company. They also sold fake Gretsch drum sets. The owner had just died and the shop was in the business was in the middle of liquidation. My friend sent me the last Stratocaster they had (long have since lost pictures of it). It was like the lefty one in the gallery with a Mustang tremolo. They also offered a regular Strat type bridge and at the end these were sold with a "Charvel" logo. Known styles of fakes are Jaguar, Jazzmaster, Jazz Bass, Stratocaster, Mustang, Coronado, Fender acoustic, Gibson SG, Gibson Acoustic, and Charvel.
So what happened with Jared? I explained the origins of the guitar, and he seemed to take it well. However a year later he told me he sold it to a guy in Connecticut that learned it was a real Fender Prototype! "Put that in your book of memories" was the last thing Jared said to me. Will do buddy, will do!
Here are other examples of these guitars. If you have any to contribute, please send them to me.
Note level of detail. Includes serial number!
Its hard to set some real guidelines on how to ID these as many have had some sort of work to make them better over the years. However, there are very simple specs that can't can't be 'tweaked' away. The necks are not made with real truss rods. They will sometimes have a fake truss rod adjuster nut in place that screws to a bolt secured under the fretboard. The body will be plywood or cheap nato mahogany looking wood. The necks are heavy grained ash looking wood. The one Jazz Bass I had was candy apple red and the metal control plate was actually glued on top of the pickguard material. These are not player grade by any means, so avoid looking for one in hopes of finding some great sounding unknown vintage treasure. As I told Michael Wright years ago, they sound like an electric banjo. They are interesting wall hangers though, so if you can pick one up cheap, go for it.
"Hello, my name is mark. I stumbled across your page while trying to research my guitar. I bought it several years ago at a pawn shop, actually, my dad bought it for me. It was my first guitar. I think it was pretty inexpensive, however, I'm perplexed by the fact that I can not seem to find any kind of identification on it whatsoever. It "looks" just like a Fender Mustang, later model, until you get inside it. The main difference I have found is the hollowed out area for the pickups is larger than any genuine examples I have so far been able to find. I cant even find any kind of serial number, the only numbers on it at all are small numbers on the pick up selector switches, and the tone and volume knobs (underside) I am assuming that this is not a genuine Fender, but I would still like to know what I can about it. I think it may fall into your Vietnam era knock off category, or perhaps some other series of knock offs. Anyway, I will enclose some pics for your evaluation. I will tell you a couple of points of interest that I find, I mentioned the larger pick up area, but also the body has 4 screw holes at the neck attachment, also the chrome cover plate, but the neck itself has 5. there is an extra right in the center of the 4 that doesn't correspond with anything, however, the paint at the end of the neck seems to perfectly match the paint of the body, so they seem to be originally matched, rather than re matched as I might have otherwise suspected. I hope you don't mind, I may have to send the pics in a series of e mails, so as not to bog the system down. Also, if you feel that this falls into your 'fakes' category, I want you to feel free to use the pics on your sight, should you choose to. Thanks, and I will look forward to hearing from you. mark"
Hi Mark. Thanks for the great photos! I will add them for sure! You are right about it being a fake. It isn't by the Philippine company I outlined on the site. I would say this is Japanese. The neck construction looks very familiar, like an old Teisco Del Ray or Ibanez. The bridge itself is common too on some older imported guitars. It probably was an Asian made instrument for the Asian market (they loved Mustangs way before the American grunge movement made them cool here). The big reason I would say this is an important guitar to note is because even if the factory didn't put a Fender decal on it, you can be assured they were added after manufacture by some people. Thanks again. Very neat guitar!
UPDATE- I have since discovered this is an early ESP made guitar.
Here are some pictures of the last Fender and Gibson knockoffs sold by Teo Dor in the Philippine showroom.
Here is a weird one sent to me by Ian: