Hunting down old Ibanez guitars is a blast, and they play well to boot!  Many Ibanez enthusiasts feel that the early Jem and Universe models are the best guitars Ibanez has put out.  This article will show you what to look out for when purchasing a used Ibanez Jem or Universe.  This article is not going to cover the usual issues you see on used guitars, instead we are going to focus on potential problems you might encounter when hunting specifically for an older used Ibanez, especially the very collectible Jems and Universes.

Neck Pocket Cracks:
These are very common and not generally something to be concerned with.  They are found on a lot of bolt-on guitars in general.  Do they lower the value of the guitar?  Yes, but most people expect to see neck pocket cracks on older Ibanez guitars and they will not fuss over it too much.  However, you should inspect the cracks or try to get high resolution close up shots of the cracks to see how deep they are.  Most of the time, they are just in the paint, and will not affect the guitar.  What can potentially be problematic is when the cracks extend into the wood.  The most common way to address this is by filling the crack with glue, although different luthiers have different approaches to dealing with the issue.

Crack Behind the Nut:
These occur behind the nut and are usually seen on guitars Ibanez built with thinner necks.  The ultra thin necks and lack of an ample volute means that cracks behind the nut may show up over time.  These are easy to fix with wood glue and can be repaired either by you or by any competent tech for not too much money.

Trem Knife Edge:
A shocking amount of older Ibanez have zero issues with their trems.  I have had many older Jems and UVs that are 20+ years old, and the trem units functioned completely fine.  When buying, you should check the knife edge, and make sure it isn’t too worn, although it is unlikely to be a big issue.

We actually wrote an article examining the Edge tremolo, so check that out here to learn more!

Trem Post Lean:
Sometimes, on guitars with softer bodywoods, the trem posts have a tendency to slide forward.  This can be fixed but it is not fun to fix, and I recommend avoiding guitars with trem posts leaning.

Unfortunately, a lot of fake Jems are floating around.  Carefully comparing the guitar you intend on buying to the real deal or posting for verification on a forum like Jemsite is never a bad idea.  Fake Ibanez also usually have a bridge which looks and feels nothing like the real thing.  The position of screws on the pickguard can be a good indicator of a fake as well.

Fretboard Wear:
This is almost guaranteed to be seen on any older guitar with a maple fretboard.  While clean boards command a higher premium, having a fretboard that shows a little wear isn’t a terrible thing, and it does not affect the guitar itself.  There are methods such as the scrape method detailed on jemsite that let you completely clean the dirt of a maple board if it is something that bugs you.

A few models like some of the swirled guitars and the Jem 777SK are prone to fading.  The fading is very easy to spot, but can sometimes be difficult to spot if the seller’s pictures are very poor.  The best way to avoid fading if you own a guitar prone to fading, is to avoid UV exposure, although that does not guarantee it won’t fade.  That being said, if your guitar hasn’t faded at all by now, then it is unlikely to do so in the future.

Lack of OHSC/Special Parts:
If you’re concerned about the resale value of the guitar you intend on buying, you should ideally try to buy a guitar with as many original parts as possible.  This means ensuring the guitar comes with the original hardshell case, which is typically referred to as, “OHSC” on for sale threads or eBay listings.  You should also be aware of any special parts that might have come with guitar, like the palm rest on some jems.

…and that’s about it!  Let us know in the comment section below if you have any other tips.

Here’s a fun little bonus slideshow of an original Ibanez 777LNG:

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