Buying a guitar - do you get the one hanging on the rack or a new one in a box?

Apologies for such dumb questions but I thought about this the other day.

I was looking at the Ibanez website, thinking I’d maybe order from their website, and quickly learned that I can’t do that- I have to buy an Ibanez from a retailer. So then I thought about Guitar Center and now I wonder about a couple of things.

If I play a guitar in GC and decide to buy it, do I get that exact one? Makes sense, because it’s the one I played and decided I liked the sound of. But I’m sure it’s possible it’s been handled a bunch, played alot, possible banged around carelessly, couldve gotten scratches, etc. Or do you get a brand new one from a box?

Is it the same for other guitar shops? You just have to get the one everyone has played?

The shop that I get my guitars from in the UK it’s whats on display. Even on their website the guitars over £300 are individually photographed and you select which one. With them the guitar is then quality checked and set-up. If it fails the quality check they let you know and will offer a discount or you select another one. Anything below £300 if bought online from them it would just be whatever one they picked up providing it passed the quality check.

At guitar center you get the one that you play. I purchased my Epi Les Paul Studio and it was the exact display model. Some prefer that because even guitar that are the same make and model might play different.

When you buy a guitar online from a retailer it’s usually in a box unless stated otherwise. With how good QA is this day and age chances are you won’t have many issues out of the box if you are buying a decent brand. My squier for example came in the box no issues. It also comes with the little manual and the wrench to adjust the truss rod usually if you buy it in a box.

In my experience, what you try/play is what you get, unless you like the guitar but have some reservations (e.g. aesthetic reasons like scratches or technical ones like noisy tone/volume knobs); in that case, you may get one of the same model out-of-the-box if it’s in stock.

When I bought my Epiphone Les Paul, shortly before Christmas 2019, the one that hung on the wall of the shop had noisy knobs (probably due to dust). But I was lucky as due to the shipments, they had another one in storage, and it was perfect.

It might depend on the retailer as much as anything else. If it’s a big music store with a warehouse attached, you’ll probably get the option of a boxed guitar should you not want the one used for display. But if it’s a small privately owned shop they are more likely to stock just one of each guitar, put them on display, and order replacements as the sell.

In my experience it depends on the price of the guitar. The more experience a guitar is the less likely the store will have more than one in stock. But if you are a serious buyer the sales person will bring out a brand new in the box guitar for you to try if they have another in stock.
It’s also a good idea to try and get to know the staff. When my wife bought her new Ibanez acoustic a year ago they through in a hard shell case for free because the staff know me.

Thank you for asking this question! I’ve often wondered how this differs by store, location of store, that sort of thing. I live in a not-very-densly populated state in the U.S., and most of our retailers are small and typically sell the demo. (Unless of course you want a different color, AND it’s available.) I struggle with trying an instrument in a store, then buying on-line. I want to support brick-and-mortar stores - especially small ones - but don’t want to purchase something I don’t love in order to do so!

When I started playing and bought my electric it was in a box, because the model I wanted wasn’t on the rack. I was lucky but wouldn’t do that again now. Fine for a starter one though.

Now I would only buy the exact guitar I played. Especially acoustics. I’ve played a few guitars of the same model that felt quite different.

Us lefties tend to have little choice unfortunately, especially when it comes down to colour/finish.


A big store may have several in stock of the exact same model.
And each one could potentially play and feel and sound different.
Anyone seriously intent on buying that exact model would be well advised to try more than one of them and pick the best (a subjective choice).
Normally, the one you try is the one you buy.

Lots of input, thank you everyone. Sounds like the one you play is the one you take, and I can see the advantage there. It leads me to even more questions- mainly because I tend to make things very difficult when they don’t have to be, but also because I analyze things quite a bit and I like making informed decisions so that I don’t feel remorse later for the choices I make.

So is there a typically ever a problem with a guitar just never selling because it doesn’t sound good? Say there is a stunning Ibanez on the rack, but it’s been there for 5 months and everyone who plays it thinks ‘Ew,’ but doesn’t say anything and just puts it back and moves on to a different guitar. I think that is kind of unfair to that model of Ibanez, but I am sure it would put me off that model completely.

Are you making a mistake purchasing from Sweetwater, or somewhere off a manufacturer website (haven’t checked too many manufacturer sites so I don’t know if it’s possible to buy ANY guitar that way) because you can’t play them first? I just sort of don’t like the idea of purchasing a demo that has been handled a lot (and I’d be wary that a Sweetwater purchase could’ve been a demo guitar that has been played tons and tons and tons) but I suppose I should put that out of my head, as it seems buying a “demo” is the norm and advantageous in many ways.

Every manufacture at every price range has it’s duds. So yes some guitars don’t sell because they don’t sound like people expect them to.

No, they have a very good return policy but that also means the new in the box guitar you buy may have been returned by someone else. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad guitar some people return guitars because they just don’t bond with it.

The only manufactures you can buy direct from are small custom shops. All major manufacture sell through dealers.

There are advantages to guitars that are played a lot the more a guitar gets played the more it opens up. Some brand new guitars can sound stiff when new but after a few month of playing they loosen up. Some people say they need to forget they are trees and start being guitars.

The best thing to do is go to your local guitar store and play as many guitars that they have in your price range and pick the one that you feel is the best fit for you and your style of playing.
It might surprise you that the guitar you think you want isn’t the one you buy.

Yep I read that this is the way to go. My concern is that at this early stage, I wouldn’t recognize bad electronics/faulty knobs/bad frets, etc, don’t know what to listen for, and wouldn’t know a bad sound if it smacked me in the face. Plus it’s probably a good assumption that I will not own the same model of amp that it’s plugged into, so that seems to make it even more complicated…basically I am overwhelmed at the idea of buying an electric guitar, though I want one pretty bad.

Get to know the staff. Introduce yourself. They are usually very friendly. To quote the words of the person that helps me out “We are all guitar players here, so try to look after each other!”. They have all been in the exact same position as you at some point. Just explain to them you’re a beginner, ask them any questions that are on your mind, try out the guitars on the same amp you plan to use. Ask if their tech will check the guitar out for you before purchasing.

I break out in a sweat thinking about it. But I know you’re right.

Similar to most I think here, my first electric was bought online sight unseen. My two purchases since then I’ve gone to the store and tried out, and then purchased the specific ones I’d tried. TBH I’d want to know that the specific one I’m buying is the one I liked the feel and sound of so wouldn’t want box fresh same model unless I’d had the chance to play it too.

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How very true. This is the nut of a £899 Charvel, that I tried while visiting my local guitar shop. And it wasn’t advertised as B-Stock.

Personally, I prefer to try the guitar I want to buy, but if that’s not possible buy from a seller with a good returns policy.

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“Perfect for any gauge strings!”

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I’m also an over analyser of this stuff.

Just know your first electric is not going to be the ultimate guitar for all time. I would choose one from a decent manufacturer in the newbie price range (eg Yamaha, Squier, etc) that feels great to YOU in your hands and that you like the look of. One that makes you want to play it.

The other things you mentioned there - faulty stuff - that’s warranty stuff on a new guitar. Bad frets perhaps not.

This may be a slight aside but a couple of days ago I wanted to see how nitsuj got on with the F chord and I happened to notice in a later lesson that he gets a new guitar so I had a look. Module 9 practice 3. It was during the pandemic so he couldn’t go to his favourite store and he had to have it delivered. It is in a nice rectangular box which he proceeds to open during the video and to his complete surprise he finds another box in side containing the guitar. I thought Justin it is a long time since you have bought a guitar off the internet “sight unseen”

I think my point is that sometimes circumstances dictate, I bought my first guitar off the internet during pandemic, no other option shops were shut and my second guitar to get what I wanted had to get it delivered as local shop did not have any available or on order.
Michael :guitar:

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