Sometimes, I just like to search for oddball guitar makers. I do this by going to eBay’s home page and selecting: Musical Instruments > Guitar > Electric > Other Electric. This bypasses most of the big-name brands and lands you in off-brand city. I also like to bookmark the search page and check it daily for “Listings Started within 24 hrs.” This way, I don’t waste time looking at previously viewed items, and I can be Johnny-on-the-spot for a Buy It Now bargain.
A few years back, I stumbled upon this Korean-made (by Samick) Vantage 655 model, and was smitten by its cool, iced-tea sunburst finish—as well as the fact that a previous owner had lovingly replaced the original bridge, pickups, and some hardware with genuine gold-plated Gibson parts. Surprisingly, there were no bids on it right up until the end, when I sniped and won it for it’s opening price of $350, plus $30 shipping.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when it arrived, but I was pleasantly surprised to find the color was even better than in the pictures. Also, it came with new strings and a premium hardshell case. The pickups sounded really nice and jazzy, radiating the warmth of an L-5. The neck was fast and clean, the frets were well dressed, and the intonation was spot on.
Now, you can say what you want about overseas-made budget guitars, but I find quite a few to be of excellent quality. I was so impressed with this Vantage, in fact, that I eventually bought a second one (sans the Gibson hardware). Both are fun to play, will likely appreciate in value over time, and my wife thinks they’re kinda purty.