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Whats Wrong With a Penco?
Penco Vintage Guitars

by Justin M.

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The Penco brand is really no different from the Ibanez (Hoshino). They were made in the same factory as the Ibanez, along with the Elger and Univox brands, manufactured in Japan, and distributed by the Philadelphia Music Exchange.

Penco made Martin and Gibson style acoustics with laminate woods rather than solid, bolt neck copies of Les Pauls, Rickenbacker 4001 basses, Strat/Tele copies, and the odd mandolin and banjo. The Penco brand was made circa 1974 to about 1978, relatively high quality, and part of the "copy guitar/lawsuit guitar" craze of the 70's. The Penco brand may often be mistaken for the real thing, especially by drunks who hang out at bars.

What is fun about the Penco brand is that even though it may be hard to find parts for the guitars, the parts that they were copied after may fit perfectly. As for replacing the spring on the whammy for your electric, a Harley Davidson motorcycle spring works just fine, plus it makes your guitar "cool" and different from everyone else's unless they've read this article, in which case they would be cool, too.

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I see this brand as more power to the little guy. While the rich kids had their parents buy them Les Pauls or the like, punk rockers who drove Hondas bought Japanese-made guitars, and paid less than a quarter of the cost to get a decent sounding instrument. But of course if you play punk the sound doesn't matter.

I find that my cherry red Penco can play deep chunky sounds as well as thin crispy sounds. The pick-ups on my guitar are falling off so I have to tape them down with a sticker or something. What I like about the broken pick-up is that when it touches the strings of the guitar it makes a thick, scratchy sound. It almost sounds like pure noise sometimes but that's ok I don't play guitar, I play punk.

As for quality, Penco is good for electric models. I have never held a Penco acoustic, so cannot say how good or bad they may be. The neck on my Penco has not warped once. To buy a cheap guitar and not have the neck warp is a first for me. I am still amazed at the quality.

So if you are reading and you are not a vintage pro, then I suggest you pick up a Penco if you see one because chances are you wont be spending too much money and you will get a decent instrument that might last another 30 years. Even if you are a vintage collector you should do the same because really, who wants another Fender or Gibson when you can pull out your Penco and show somebody a good quality cheap guitar and tell them the story of scandal behind it? There's nothing wrong with that.
Justin Matlow can be reached at
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