So I pick up the mail and there is the monthly mini-catalog from Musician’s Friend and I toss it aside and go on with my day, fiddle-dee-dee. So a couple of hours later I sit down and open the catalog up and am making the “hmmm” and ‘hrrrummm” noises and on page 7, lower right hand corner I look, and then I look again, and then I turn a light on and look yet again… yeah, it does say Limited Edition George Harrison Tribute Telecaster, and that damn picture is of his Rosewood guitar… and those fuckers cost stupid money and you can’t get them any more and Rosewood is now officially on the UN shitlist for import/export and also this sentence is just getting ridiculously long. But yeah, the description calls it out as a solid Rosewood Tele, limited to 1,000 guitars world wide, for $2,500.
Now I got to explain some shit to some of you folks. Firstly, the original Rosewood Telecaster was hand made for George Harrison by Roger Rossmeisl in 1968. Fender made close duplicates of them available the following year and discontinued them in 1972. Since then, Fender has made a few limited edition runs of them; depending on the exactitude of the copying of the original, the retail price has varied from “slightly above a normal Telecaster” to “many thousands of your dollars”.
As best I can figure, Fender USA made the aforementioned original copies from ’69 to ’72. Fender Japan made them available starting at some point in the 1980s until ’94. Fender USA then made limited edition runs in 2007 and 2016. And now, in what will probably be the last run ever, they are making 1,000 more. Now you are gonna ask me “HandsomeMork, why for and how come do you say this will be the last run?” This will be the last run because of CITES.
CITES is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna. As of Jan 2, 2017, it is easier to move heroin across borders than it is to move Rosewood. The primary driver in getting Rosewood on the shitlist is the Communist Chinese furniture market. Rosewood furniture is hugely popular in China and the Chinese have a long history of ignoring international agreements when it suits them. There were specific types of Rosewood that were already restricted from international trade (specifically the Rosewood used to make their furniture), but they lied and prevaricated and forged documents stating that THIS batch of Rosewood was the non-restricted type of Rosewood and nothing to see here, move along, move along. The Chinese did this on such a large scale that the boom has been lowered. ALL Rosewood is now restricted from crossing borders without permits, paperwork, inspection certifications, etc (all these words are synonyms for “fees”).
Rosewood has pretty much always been THE wood of choice for guitar fretboards. Fretboards are fairly thin strips of wood that are glued to the face of the guitar neck and have the frets and fret markers inlaid in them. So when the new CITES rules went into effect, the guitar industry was immediately faced with several issues, and suddenly the Rosewood that the manufacturers had ON HAND became quite a bit more valuable. As an example, Fender is raising the price of all Rosewood fretboard guitars by $50 across the board.
Rosewood will still be available (especially Indian Rosewood, which has been a well maintained renewable resource for years), but there will be government paper work every step of the way (fees, fees, fees and more fees) so the cost of Rosewood is basically fixing to go way up. How much up? That is the $64 question. No one knows how much at this point, but there is no doubt it is going up.
So now we get back around to this Rosewood Telecaster. With the cost of Rosewood going up and the supply now subject to numerous government agencies across different countries, this looks to be the last run of these beautiful instruments that will carry the Fender name. To be sure, custom builders that have sufficient Rosewood on hand will be able to build you a one off, but the price tag will be positively brutal. Also, it won’t say “Fender” on it.
So to bring this back around to the beginning, I looked that the advertised price, muttered “wait just a minute” and walked to my office. A quick look at Ebay, Reverb and a couple of other sites confirmed what I thought: the last Fender reissue of these things are selling for 5 to 6K. So the “guitar math” on this one is pretty simple; go ahead and order this and when it gets here just put it in the back of the closet and wait a year. Profit.
If you want one, act right now. They will officially be released on August 22 and I suspect by then it will be too late.