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Korean Epiphones - A Theory


clarkuss
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Do you think the new trend of Chinese made Epiphones, inspired by their originals, will make the previously championed Korean models from Samick, Peerless and Unsung factories become less desirable?

 

I wouldn't be as keen to go out and buy a Korean Casino, Sheraton, Riviera or Sorrento now knowing for a bit extra I can get a much more faithful replica of the 60s model that originally had its name.

 

Not saying that I would rule it out completely as I like the Korean stuff, especially the peerless hollowbodies, but I'd be reluctant to pay the prices they were going for 5 years ago, now. It wasn't uncommon for one of those to go for £450+ when Epiphone moved exclusively to China but now you can find 61 and IBJL Casinos as well as the new reissues selling for less than £600.

 

If Epiphone flood the market with their "new and improved" 60s styled hollowbodies, will it make the korean versions seem like inaccurate novelties of a bygone era? I think so...

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I think some may always prefer the Korean Epi Sheraton's. Can't speak about the other models, as I have NO experience, there. But, I know a lot of folks like the 5-piece laminated necks, on the Korean versions, as well as their overall quality. The Chinese versions had a bit of a "time of it," at first, but seem to be very nicely made, now. I've "heard" (but, not seen...yet, anyway) that the Chinese have started incorporating that 5-piece neck, in their standard Sheraton. Don't know if that's a fact, or "wishful thinking?" Maybe someone on here can comfirm or deny that? However, I DO (much) prefer the body sillouette, on the Chinese versions. It's more the traditional "Gibson" style...in horn shape, waist location, and lower bout size, and style. So, IF they're now putting on the "Korean style" 5-piece necks, they'd be just about "perfect!," as long as the pickups and hardware are "decent." One can always change those, on either version, to one's own preferences.

 

Anyway...just my 2-cent's worth.

 

CB

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I've owned dozens of Epi's over the years and think the Chinese are better. Epiphone's factory, new machinery and tooling, they control the whole process. Now they're turning out the guitars they've always wanted to. The workmanship is very good, and they're much more consistent overall. 1990's Koreans varied a lot, the quality of some just wasn't as good. The grover tuners that Epi's been using lately are excellent, tough and reliable, never had a problem with them. In comparison the 1990's Koreans usually had cheap generic tuners. There's no comparison between the upgraded humbuckers Epi's had the last couple years, to the cheap ones in Koreans. The electronics are better now too (many Koreans had mini-pots).

 

What concerns me about 1990's Koreans, besides the inconsistency and spotty quality, is that 1) a lot of them have serious fret wear; the fret metal isn't made to last decades, and refret jobs are expensive, 2) many have scratches, dents, dings, gouges, chips of finish missing, etc, and 3) the claims of Koreans being better are pretty much the realm of sellers as an excuse to jack up their prices. I've seen some flagrant examples of this on eBay, for guitars that aren't half as good as the current production Chinese models. As more players find out about the high quality and reasonable prices of the new models, they'll wise up and Korean prices will fall. I think just prior to the switch to Chinese production in 2003, the Koreans improved, for whatever reason, but they're still not any better than the Chinese ones. Another plus for 2000+ production (Chinese and Korean) is that there's been so many great limited editions, far beyond the 1990's.

 

I see Epiphone as continually improving their products, and that hasn't stopped.

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I've "heard" (but, not seen...yet, anyway) that the Chinese have started incorporating that 5-piece neck, in their standard Sheraton. Don't know if that's a fact, or "wishful thinking?" Maybe someone on here can comfirm or deny that?

CB

Yes, I can confirm it.

I've recently seen a natural-finish Chinese made Sheraton with a 5-piece neck.

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Do you think the new trend of Chinese made Epiphones, inspired by their originals, will make the previously championed Korean models from Samick, Peerless and Unsung factories become less desirable?

Interesting thought, and it very well might happen at some point.

 

But in my own experience, I rank the overall build quality of my one Chinese guitar, a 50th Anniversary '61 Casino,

behind both of my Korean Epis (2004 Peerless Casino & 2010 Unsung Valensi Riviera).

 

That said, the electronics on the '61 are very good.

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I do love the Peerless Casinos. My first Casino was a 1997 Peerless Casino and I'm thinking about buying another one now. One of the reasons this thread came about because the seller was giving it the usual "better than the Chinese Casinos" but as myself and the seller are both Beatles fans, we both know that you can pick up a second hand IBJL Casino for £500 or less. There was one selling in my city a couple of weeks ago for £450 and the Peerless Casino is also selling for £450 which got me thinking.

 

I only want that Peerless Casino for sentimental reasons but I know for the same money I can get one of equally good build and better electronics which is more accurate to a 60s style Casino than the Peerless one and would have better resale value.

 

That being said, I have owned Peerless, Saein, Samick and Unsung Epiphones. Dots, Dot Deluxe, Casinos, Sheratons, Rivieras and I have never been unhappy with the quality. But compared to the newer trend of Chinese 60s tribute models, I think they are aesthetically less pleasing.

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I've owned dozens of Epi's over the years and think the Chinese are better. Epiphone's factory, new machinery and tooling, they control the whole process. Now they're turning out the guitars they've always wanted to. The workmanship is very good, and they're much more consistent overall. 1990's Koreans varied a lot, the quality of some just wasn't as good. The grover tuners that Epi's been using lately are excellent, tough and reliable, never had a problem with them. In comparison the 1990's Koreans usually had cheap generic tuners. There's no comparison between the upgraded humbuckers Epi's had the last couple years, to the cheap ones in Koreans. The electronics are better now too (many Koreans had mini-pots).

 

What concerns me about 1990's Koreans, besides the inconsistency and spotty quality, is that 1) a lot of them have serious fret wear; the fret metal isn't made to last decades, and refret jobs are expensive, 2) many have scratches, dents, dings, gouges, chips of finish missing, etc, and 3) the claims of Koreans being better are pretty much the realm of sellers as an excuse to jack up their prices. I've seen some flagrant examples of this on eBay, for guitars that aren't half as good as the current production Chinese models. As more players find out about the high quality and reasonable prices of the new models, they'll wise up and Korean prices will fall. I think just prior to the switch to Chinese production in 2003, the Koreans improved, for whatever reason, but they're still not any better than the Chinese ones. Another plus for 2000+ production (Chinese and Korean) is that there's been so many great limited editions, far beyond the 1990's.

 

I see Epiphone as continually improving their products, and that hasn't stopped.

 

 

EXCELLENT post!!!

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Good topic Clark.

As a buyer of both Korean and Chinese (currently more Korean) I am inclined to say that the new quality of the recent Chinese models would not stop me from buying a clean 90s Korean model.

I have 3 chinese Epi's. While the 62 Sheriton reissue and LP TV yellow were great from the start, I had to go through 3 ES-355s before finding one that was acceptable.

I have upgraded the electronics (wiring, not pickups) on most of my Korean models, but I also got most of them for under original cost.Granted the early 2000 Chinese had their issues, but so did some Koreans.

In my opinion, Korean or current Chinese are both good alternatives to their more expensive Gibson cousins.

As for whether the new quality would put me off of buying a clean Korean, I don't think so.The 90s Korean models will not be reproduced (I doubt Epiphone will ever produce a "96 Period Correct Peerless Casino Reissue")Epiphone produced some great reissues and originals (Del Rey, for one) that I keep looking for and will buy.I also keep looking at the new models which I like and will probably purchase depending on model.

So I guess I might be one of those you could categorize as a true lover of Epiphone Guitars. Old and new.

 

 

 

 

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The various Korean factories employed by Epiphone have all displayed a level of tightly QCed construction - some a bit more so than others at various points in time, but universally Samick, Peerless, Saein, and Unsung have built very fine guitars as they competed for Epi contracts. The common weakness (to varying degrees) was electronics & hardware - an aspect of construction which the Korean factories had no control over.

 

Now it seems as if the equation has flipped to some extent. The strengthening of pickups, switches, tuners, etc, has become apparent, but there have been many posts regarding spotty build quality from Gibson's Chinese factories. And interestingly, this aspect of construction is completely in the hands of Gibson - exactly the stated rationale for pulling out of Korea (of course along with cheaper labor!).

 

We'll just have to wait & see what the future brings, but one thing is for sure:

The level of focus on QC will be up to Gibson.

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I may be wrong, but I've a hunch that if it has an "Epiphone" brand (for real), the deciding factor likely will be the playability, degree of wear, and asking price versus desire of the buyer more than the particular factory.

 

Take my '70s Guild S100c for example. I don't think I'd take $10,000 for it. Would somebody offer $20,000? I doubt it, but... sheesh, that one would be awfully hard to turn down.

 

Used anythings are an interesting market.

 

m

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I like the Korean & China Epis I own...

the '98 LP has sucky p'ups, but plays like a dream....i'm considering dropping a spare Gibby neck p'up into it, but the bridge unit isn't really that bad.

I have an '04 G400-Deluxe flametop...same thing, plays GREAT, neck p'up just too thick & muted.

'08 Sheraton II plays great AND both p'ups sound pretty good...never felt any need to change anything on it except adding 18/1 tuners.

early '10 '56 GoldTop LP was my 1st China Epi, and was a disaster when it arrived.....neck needed 2 adjustments right away just to be playable, one p'up wasn't even screwed into the body, literally hanging under the strings....bad 3-way & bad input socket.

late '10 G4oo LP Custom was just the opposite, perfect out of the box, good p'ups, everything working just right.

 

I currently have a 12/12 50th Ann. '62 Sheri on its way....hope it's like the LPC!!

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I have a 2002 MIK Dot, not sure of the maker. It's a beautiful guitar, all black wonderful player - it had a fret job when I bought it used several years ago.

It's more mellow than my other Dot, which is a 2010 Chinese made Natural. It has a repaired neck break, but it also has Gibson 490's installed, and I have replaced the bridge and TP with older versions, which I prefer. It is also a great player, but much more of a rock & roll guitar. I think the quality of the Chinese made Epiphones is extremely good..I feel the 2 Dots are different, but I can't say one is really better - just different. I really love them both.

 

I just got a MIJ Epi Casino Elitist, which cost about 4 times what I paid for the other 2 Dots combined, and I have to say it's a totally different animal. I'm still getting familiar with it, but the quality s certainly there.

 

Epiphone's many years of making hollow body electrics has shone through - they still do it very well, and I do agree they are improving steadily.

 

I also have a MIK Samick Artist Series jazz guitar from the 1990's that is just amazing in terms of quality.

 

mark

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And, in all fairness, to the Chinese Epi's...a lot of those construction

issues, beyond the occasional "finish" related sloppiness in some cases...could,

and probably was more to do with "shipping" problems, dropped, or even mistreated,

prior to arrival at either the "big box" store, where they don't check them, as often,

or, at the buyer's location. I can only go by what I've seen, and/or experienced,

directly...but, all of the Chinese, and Indonesian Epi's, have had stellar quality

in both build and finish. But then, my dealer checks all the gutiars, regardless

of brand, or price point, and sends back any/all, that don't not only meet the

manufacturer's advertised quality, but their own dealer quality expectations, as well.

That, of course, is harder to control, when buying "on line," and "sight unseen!"

 

So...???

 

CB

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I just put a bid in for a friend's 1997 Peerless Epiphone Casino which maybe proves that the korean second hand market will still thrive as Chinese guitars become the norm.

 

But if I was a 17 year old again, first time buyer. I would be buying an Inspired By John Lennon Casino or a 62 Sheraton...

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I think the bottom line is that Epiphone's are "production guitars"... IE. for all intents and purposes they're never going to be "collectible" so to speak, regardless of the factory or country or wherever else they were made - that's all just second hand marketing BS! There are just way too many of them out there. If it's a good guitar, it's a good guitar period. The shortcomings of many Epiphones (as well as any low/mid priced production guitar)are well documented (electronics, QC, etc.) and will continue regardless of origin. It's just the reality of producing large #'s of instruments. Caveat Emptor - do your homework and you should be able to find a good one that should give you many years of reliable service. Don't expect to sell it for any more than you originally paid for it - more likely you'll get less than you paid regardless of what mod's you've made to it. Good luck and go play!

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The shortcomings of many Epiphones (as well as any low/mid priced production guitar)are well documented (electronics, QC, etc.) and will continue regardless of origin.

 

Well, maybe not. I was around for the crappy Asian guitars of the 1960's and 1970's. Most of them were horrible. I never would have believed that imports could be of the quality that Epi's been doing for more than a decade now. An increasing number of imports are coming stock with much better PU's, including American-made ones, and some have high quality electronics. There's millions of guitar players all over the world today, and they're demanding more and more value. With the internet, musicians are better-informed and more saavy than ever. It's an incredibly competitive market. I expect imports to keep improving in quality until they eventually catch up with American-mades. The Japanese have already done it. It's only a matter of time for China and Korea. Many American-made guitars are priced well above their cost, and that's forcing many of them to offer budget product lines if they want to sell in decent quanities, and those aren't much better than today's imports. The distinctions are getting blurred and will continue to.

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dporto - the question here is more to do with the impact of better chinese models on the price and desirability of korean models. Second hand BS or not, used korean epiphones do sell up in the regions of brand new chinese versions when talking about a standard models. But with the new line of 60s styled models, I think these new chinese guitars will start to trump the korean models and see the price of korean standard guitars fall, something that is worth discussing among people who purchase epiphone guitars...

 

Your generalisations, while partly true, are instinctively known to everyone who buys an epiphone, but hasn't really added to the converation, as they are not always true when put into practice. I have never bought a brand new epiphone. I have bought 10-20 second hand and I have never sold one for less than I bought it for. More often than not I have made a decent profit on all my epiphone sales and people continue to sell them profitably on ebay every day which flies in the face of the low expectations of your bottom line conclusion.

 

Yeah they're not Gibsons, but this is an Epiphone forum so relatively speaking it is worth discussing the differences in quality and desirable within the Epiphone market, even just for our own amusement and knowledge.

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While the overall quality control of Chinese Epiphones has improved in recent years and become much more consistent, aside from a few particular models (like the '61 reissues), the specs have clearly been changed for the worse. I recently saw a newer Joe Pass model in a store, and it was not even close to my 2001 Samick. The top had barely any arch at all, and the shape was more squared off from the graceful curves of my Samick. F-holes on many models have been widened, probably to make installation of the wiring harness easier, but they look oddly distorted to my eyes. Woods and finishes are clearly of lower quality as well, though the build quality seems pretty decent.

 

The bottom line is --- it's all about the bottom line. The Qingdao factory was set up so that Epiphone guitars could be made less expensively --- not so they could be made better. Many of the designs have been compromised to that end, so I seriously doubt that the standard Chinese models will eclipse the Korean ones when they are apples-to-apples comparisons. The specialty models that were never made in Korea are a different story --- some of those may become more desirable to collectors as they become less available.

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While the overall quality control of Chinese Epiphones has improved in recent years and become much more consistent, aside from a few particular models (like the '61 reissues), the specs have clearly been changed for the worse. I recently saw a newer Joe Pass model in a store, and it was not even close to my 2001 Samick. The top had barely any arch at all, and the shape was more squared off from the graceful curves of my Samick. F-holes on many models have been widened, probably to make installation of the wiring harness easier, but they look oddly distorted to my eyes. Woods and finishes are clearly of lower quality as well, though the build quality seems pretty decent.

 

The bottom line is --- it's all about the bottom line. The Qingdao factory was set up so that Epiphone guitars could be made less expensively --- not so they could be made better. Many of the designs have been compromised to that end, so I seriously doubt that the standard Chinese models will eclipse the Korean ones when they are apples-to-apples comparisons. The specialty models that were never made in Korea are a different story --- some of those may become more desirable to collectors as they become less available.

I agree. You can only compare like for like. It is not fair to compare a standard Korean casino for instance with a limited edition Chinese one or an inspired by version as these have a higher and more traditional spec. They also cost more new than a Korean made version. The used value of the Korean must be compared to the standard Chinese version. Why anyone would buy a new reissue or inspired by casino when they could buy a used elitist for similar money is something that puzzles me also.

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If we're talking about straight comparisons, then yes, like for like is a fair method. But my question isn't about the quality between same models, but rather desirability. In future, if people are after a standard model, I fully expect them to seek the cheapest or best quality, which in my opinion is korean, or for those who want to buy new: chinese.

 

However, as an epiphone fan, if I was in the market for an entry level epiphone hollow body now I would prefer the more specialised chinese models over the questionable lineage of the korean models.

 

In My Opinions

 

The '61 and JL casinos are more like THE CASINO than the korean casinos and well worth the small amount of extra money

 

Same with the 62 Sheraton and Sorrento over the Samick and Peerless models

 

Same with the chinese Rivieras with mini humbuckers over the full sized korean rivieras.

 

This is the point I'm trying to get across. Even the 335, 345 and 355 are, in theory, closer to the intention than the dot. Quality is an issue that doesn't always affect first time buyers or buyers of new guitars... at this price point, they can all be improved upon.

 

The bottom line for me now is that Epiphone are offering more attractive options to buyers than the standard range offered by korean production which will eventually put the korean models in a bit of a shadow. Essentially the korean models are reimagined versions of classic hollowbodies. I think over time they will be considered as novel variations whereas the chinese reissues will form part of a cannon epiphone are trying to reclaim, reaching back to the 60s.

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My concern doesn't necessarily relate to country of manufacture, although Quingdao will undoubtedly have improved areas such as fit, finish and quality control as it established itself. Instead I'm more interested in the quality of woods used in manufacture. It seems that with every commodity/goods item you buy that the quality has cheapened over the years in order to keep costs low while prices rise. I'm sure that guitars are not exempt from such practice so I worry about this whatever the brand. I think that, as consumers, we only have ourselves to blame sometimes because we often insist that we must have rosewood and mahogany, and will settle for nothing else. I have to say, I'd rather have a superb piece of alternative wood that does the same job than I would a cheap cut of rosewood. Gibson were forced down this route because of the federal seizures of rosewood blanks and players certainly seem satisfied with the alternatives on offer. I think that Epi should similarly investigate alternative woods as a way of maintaining quality and also assuring ecological sustainability. That, coupled with the QC in Quingdao, could make for a winning formula.

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dporto - the question here is more to do with the impact of better chinese models on the price and desirability of korean models. Second hand BS or not, used korean epiphones do sell up in the regions of brand new chinese versions when talking about a standard models. But with the new line of 60s styled models, I think these new chinese guitars will start to trump the korean models and see the price of korean standard guitars fall, something that is worth discussing among people who purchase epiphone guitars...

 

Your generalisations, while partly true, are instinctively known to everyone who buys an epiphone, but hasn't really added to the converation, as they are not always true when put into practice. I have never bought a brand new epiphone. I have bought 10-20 second hand and I have never sold one for less than I bought it for. More often than not I have made a decent profit on all my epiphone sales and people continue to sell them profitably on ebay every day which flies in the face of the low expectations of your bottom line conclusion.

 

Yeah they're not Gibsons, but this is an Epiphone forum so relatively speaking it is worth discussing the differences in quality and desirable within the Epiphone market, even just for our own amusement and knowledge.

 

Phwew! That's quite a post! Where do I start...?

1st paragraph I suppose - Lots of people "ask" for prices upwards of new models, but I don't see a lot of evidence to show they get what they're asking. FWIW I just bought a new 339 (Chinese) and it's a great guitar...I only paid $299.00 for it so I don't doubt I could get way more than I paid but that doesn't really count does it? I've owned a DOT Deluxe for around 10 years now - excellent guitar that I paid around $379.00 for with a nice gig bag (I believe it came from the Sean factory? - "I" precedes the serial#) - point being I rarely see this model go for any more than around $399.00 or so, many with hardshell cases. For my money a $20.00 return on a 10 yr. investment is not a good investment...Good guitar yes...Good investment no.

 

Second paragraph:

Really? Instinctively? I don't believe there is anything "instinctive" about facts as they relate to a Musical instrument manufacturer. As for my "generalizations" being "not always true when put into practice"...Uh, that's why they're called "generalizations"... You're clearly one of the people fomenting the very marketing BS I spoke of in my first post - hence your somewhat feeble defense contained herein. What do you consider a decent profit? Like I said in the previous paragraph, I've been watching prices on epiphones in general for at least the past 10 yrs.(when I bought my DOT in '02) and I haven't seen prices appreciate by any real margin. You state that "people continue to sell them profitably on ebay" Do you have any data to support that claim? How do you know how much profit anybody is making on ebay? I would venture to say that MANY people sell (all types of mechandise) for less than what they paid for it (this isn't rocket science btw.).

 

Third paragraph:

Uh, yhea I get that...incase you didn't notice, that's exactly what I was doing - discussing the differences in quality and desirability within the Epiphone market for my own amusement... Color me amused [biggrin]

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  • 11 months later...

I think people should accept that quality guitars can be made in any country or area...as I stated earlier, I have several Epiphones made in China, one from Indonesia, one from Japan and another coming now made in Korea. I believe the Chinese made Epis especially those made since say 2010 or so are as good in quality as any others. Remember, EVERYONE now has guitars made in the East, even D'Angelico...

 

 

Cost or "collectibility"...who knows what this will be like a few years from now. Back when I started playing in bands in the mid 1960's, there were few or no collectable guitars. The guitarist in one of my bands bought a '50's Gibson Les Paul Gold Top for $250...at the time, it was just a used guitar...and sine he wanted one with humbuckers, he stripped it and made it into a tobacco sunburst with humbuckers and a stop TP TOM bridge...I bought my first Gibson, a '68 Les Paul Custom Black Beauty for $400, with the case, which would probably sell for near that by itself now.

 

I see prices for 90's MIK Epiphones - like Dots, etc, going up, and that might be OK - there are no more being made now...but as players, I think there is probably as much difference from one guitar to the next as there is from one country of manufacture to the other...

although I have to say I am really looking forward to my late '90's MIK Sorrento that should be here next week...

 

 

 

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RE: woods in manufacture...

 

For what it's worth, I think we'll see a continuous loss of the quality of "traditional" woods that began some years ago with questions of sustainability, etc., etc., etc.

 

Frankly I think what we're getting is as good or better than anything available of lesser than the Gibson/Martin/Fender level of wood qualities in the late '50s and through the '60s as sold by almost anybody else except perhaps high-end special makers, Guild and Gretsch before they functionally died as family firms.

 

I think I'll not quite live to see it, but my hunch is that more walnut such as Gibson is beginning with, and lots of laminates and chipboards of various qualities will make up most guitars.

 

But for now... in comparison to those early years of my pickin', I'm honestly in awe of the quality I've seen in such as Epis and the lower end of F and M instruments. I think there are occasional pickles; occasional unseen faults in necks. But in general, we may be in a price/quality paradise today.

 

m

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