Greco is one of the earliest “lawsuit” guitar makers in Japan. They have been making guitars since the early 1960's at the FijugenGakki plant. Most of the 1960's guitars were original models, but in the early 1970's, they got into making replicas of original Fenders and Gibson’s. At first, they didn't have the hardware to make really good, exact replicas, but by 1974 or so, they had the correct-style hardware to match their excellent craftsmanship, and they put out some killer replicas. Also, Greco made more clone models of original Fenders, Gibson’s, Rickenbacker’s, Gretsch’s, Zemaiti’s, lbanez, and other brands, than all other companies combined. They beat Tokai to the lawsuit race by at least 5 years.
Eventually, as the company found that the demand for their popular replicas grew and that the size of the production was getting too large, they relinquished their Stratocaster division to Fender Japan in late 1981.
By 1982, Greco Stratocasters became Fender JV Stratocasters, then later MIJ and CIJ Stratocasters, made by the same guys who made the Greco "Sparkle Sound," "Spacey Sound," "Sparkle Sound," and "Super Real" Stratocasters from 1977-1981.
Greco still retained the business of selling great Gibson clones and other brand knockoffs of extraordinary high quality up until 1989. After that, the pressure to “cease and desist” production of copyright-infringing designs took its toll on Greco and they decided to change their headstocks and logos to avoid a confrontation with the American manufacturers. No longer will “lawsuit” models of exact Gibson and Fender clones be made by Greco.
They are becoming extremely rare and the demand is getting greater by the month for these older Greco guitars. The most collectible by far are the “Super Real” (made in 1980 only) and “Mint Collection” (made from 1981-1990) models, which were made to amazing likeness to original Fenders and Gibson’s. Greco’s 1977-1979 clones are very nice, too, but many have hardware and specs that don’t match up with the Gibson and Fender classic designs.
Many guitar magazines printed in Japan recently illustrate this demand. “Japan Vintage” is one of the new magazines printed and dedicated for the sole purpose of highlighting these beauties. Collectors around Japan lend their guitars for pictures and experts lend their stories to gather a very good history of the companies and interesting tidbits of knowledge. I am trying to translate this into English little by little and will share more as I learn more.
Greco guitars are fairly easy to date. The letter that (may) begin the serial number corresponds with the month of production, and the next 2 digits tell the year. For example: E804235 would be a May, 1980 “Super Real” model, production number 4,235. Sometimes, Greco didn’t use letters and only numbers, and even separated the first digit from the rest on occasion. When the first digit is separated, it is likely a 1980’s model; the separated digit corresponding to the year of the 1980’s in which it was made. *If there is no serial number stamped into the wood (not on a sticker), it was made in Korea.
You can learn more about Greco guitars here, by visiting the following websites… Enjoy! (Japanese text support may be needed to view these sites):