Musicians understand that the quality of an instrument can change how their music sounds.
It’s why many professional musicians will invest heavily in expensive equipment.
Rickenbacker has been producing guitars since the early 1930s.
They’ve made a name for themselves by producing a quality of bass that few other guitar makers can mimic.
However, if you go shopping for a Rickenbacker, you’ll quickly find that they sell for expensive prices.
The average cost of a Rickenbacker guitar is $1,700 to $2,200.
Newer models sell for even more.
You may wonder what makes the Rickenbacker so special to warrant such a price.
Here are 10 reasons why Rickenbacker guitars are expensive.
Why Are Rickenbackers So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)
1. Made In America
One of the reasons Rickenbacker guitars are expensive is where they’re manufactured.
All their guitars come from America.
This is different from many other guitar companies that mass produce their guitars.
Those companies have factories in other countries like Mexico, China, and even Indonesia.
Because those countries have cheaper production costs, like lower standards of living, the companies are able to save on costs.
This means that they can produce more guitars at a cheaper price.
That said, it also means that those buying mass-produced guitars get a lower-quality model.
That’s because the guitar company focuses on speed of production rather than quality.
This isn’t the path that Rickenbacker has chosen to take.
Similar to Martin guitars, they produce their guitars in the United States.
However, unlike Martin, all of Rickenbacker’s guitars come from America.
This means even every single part that makes up the guitar is made by American hands.
The main factory that produces the small parts is located in Santa Ana, California.
This makes Rickenbacker guitars more expensive because the standard of living is higher in the United States, especially in California.
They have to pay their employees higher wages to ensure they can survive.
It also means that the parts they buy and produce are more expensive to make or source.
The prices on the guitars are higher to make up for these higher production costs.
While some may have their minds boggled at the price tags, anyone who buys Rickenbacker guitars also supports American workers.
Rickenbacker guitars are expensive because they’re made in America.
Another part of the reason that production costs are high is that Rickenbacker guitars are all made by hand.
They use expert craftsmen to design and build their guitars.
Whether it’s small parts or the body, each part is carefully made by experts.
That takes time, effort, and skill.
These are all expensive attributes.
Handcrafting something takes more time because the individual has to carve or put together the object themselves.
They may use tools, but the process isn’t automated.
It also means the process is prone to human error.
If a mistake occurs, then the process has to begin again.
This adds more time to the production, which costs more money.
The longer a laborer has to work on a piece, the more they’re getting paid, which drives up the price of the guitar.
It’s the craftsman’s skill that also increases the price of a Rickenbacker guitar.
Random unskilled workers won’t suffice.
They need to hire skilled workers who understand how to put together guitars.
Since they have a reputation to uphold about crafting quality guitars, it falls to their workers to deliver.
Because of that, the company hires expert craftsmen who understand what it takes to make a great guitar.
These individuals are few and far between.
Rickenbacker wants to hold onto them to ensure they don’t go to a different company and lend them their skills instead.
To keep them around, they pay them a decent wage.
However, this also means that the price of the guitar increases.
The cost of production is high because Rickenbacker handcrafts every part of it.
They don’t rely on machines like some other guitar companies which helps speed up the process and makes the product cheaper.
Factories with machines make production costs cheaper because the company doesn’t have to pay machines.
Rickenbacker guitars are expensive because they handcraft their guitars.
3. Custom-Made CTS Pots
One of the defining features of a guitar is its CTS pot.
A CTS pot helps deliver tone to a guitar.
It combines with a wiring plan to allow the user to manipulate the tone that the guitar produces.
Since every guitar maker wants to produce a guitar that delivers a high-quality tone, the CTS pot and its wiring plan are crucial parts of the build.
Rickenbacker also knows this, which is why it has its CTS pot customized for its guitars alone.
This element is the only part that is made outside of the United States.
Rickenbacker has a factory in Taiwan that makes its custom CTS pots.
Because they’re custom made, they’re a lot more expensive than generic CTS pots.
Other guitar makers that focus on speed and quantity rather than quality tend to purchase generic CTS pots.
It still delivers a decent tone, but it won’t sound much different from any other guitar that also uses that CTS pot.
Rickenbacker doesn’t want their guitars to sound like any other type of guitar.
They want them to sound like Rickenbackers.
Because of that, they make pots exclusive to their own company.
This costs them more money to do so.
They need to invest in the materials themselves and then the production of those materials.
Since the factory only produces those pots for those specific guitars, they’re reliant on them to earn money.
As such, their prices are a bit higher, especially since they’re not mass-producing the product.
Anything custom-made is also going to be more expensive.
That’s because the factory may have to change certain parts of the production process to fit a specific guitar build.
It isn’t as efficient as making the pots the same every time.
Rickenbacker guitars are expensive because they custom-make their own CTC pots.
4. Unique Sound
When you buy a Rickenbacker, you’re buying the unique sound that Rickenbacker bass guitars emit.
The company has found a way to make a unique sound that only their guitars can generate.
With some cheaper guitars, you have a few ways that you can sometimes tweak them to sound like other guitars, or you can tweak other guitars to sound like mid-tier guitar brands.
You can never make another guitar sound like a Rickenbacker.
This makes the guitar expensive because the company knows that people are going to buy their guitars for their sound.
You can equate it to supply and demand.
Rickenbacker guitars are the only ones capable of generating a certain sound.
Because of that, there’s a limited supply of the type of sound available.
Musicians who want that sound to play their music with can only get the limited supply from a single source.
This means that Rickenbacker can set almost any price, within reason, on their guitars.
The demand is there for that type of sound.
They don’t have anyone competing with them because no one else knows how Rickenbacker makes their guitars to generate that sound.
This allows the company to set a high price on their basses.
Since they’re the only ones selling that particular sound, they don’t have to worry about competitors coming in and selling their own version of the guitar at a lower price to take away their customers.
If a musician wants a Rickenbacker bass sound, then they need to buy it from Rickenbacker.
Rickenbacker guitars are expensive because they have a unique sound that no one else can emulate.
5. Stereo Output
Another unique feature of Rickenbacker guitars that adds to their price tag is their stereo output.
Each Rickenbacker guitar has two mono outputs.
They’re located on the neck and bridge pickups of the guitar.
These outputs allow musicians to plug the bass into two different amps.
That then allows them to have complete control over how they tweak their sound.
Not only does this mean they can generate unique sounds with their guitar, but it also means that they have complete creative freedom over their music.
That’s an incredible incentive for musicians who want to stand apart from each other.
Rickenbacker understands this, which is why they place a higher price tag on their guitars.
They know that musicians are willing to pay a bit more to have complete creative control over their sound.
Having two outputs also adds to the cost of production.
Whereas many other guitar companies have a single mono output, Rickenbacker takes on the extra expenses to put in a second one.
This usually means that the guitar has to be designed differently from most other guitars to support the output.
If it isn’t built correctly, it can completely interfere with the quality of the sound.
It also means the two outputs need more materials to make them work.
All these features add to the cost of production, which adds to the price tag.
Rickenbacker guitars are expensive because they give musicians control over their sound and the stereo outputs add to the cost of production.
6. Famous Musicians Use It
Music royalty also ties into the high price of a Rickenbacker.
The guitar company has sold and made guitars for some famous bands and players over the years.
Almost all the members of the Beatles played a Rickenbacker at one point in their careers.
George Harrison, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney all made the guitar famous.
Some other famous musicians that played on Rickenbacker guitars include:
- Tom Petty
- Roy Orbison
- Sam Cooke
- Cat Stevens
- Jimmy Buffet
- Sid Vicious
- Neil Young
That kind of publicity can do a lot for your guitar’s price tag.
When you have big Hall-of-Famers playing your guitars, they can be walking advertisements themselves.
Musicians know that a lot of their popularity comes from the type of sound that their music makes.
They also know that if they want to generate similar sounds or find as much success, then they need to use the same level of equipment.
This leads many of them to buy Rickenbacker guitars as well.
With big-name stars using this brand’s guitars, it only makes sense to aspiring musicians that they use similar equipment to help bolster their sound.
While talent is certainly unique to the individual, having the right equipment can help.
Rickenbacker knows that new artists looking to make their mark in the music industry want reliable equipment that has proven itself over the years.
Their history of working with extremely successful musical artists in the past helps bolster its sales in the present and future.
Rickenbacker guitars are expensive because they have big names associated with them.
7. Scaled Production
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons behind the high price of Rickenbacker guitars is the fact that they scaled back their production.
During the heyday of Rickenbacker’s guitar production, the basses actually sold for cheap prices.
That’s because they were making a ton of them at the time.
As more famous artists started using Rickenbacker guitars, the demand for them increased.
The CEO of Rickenbacker, John C. Hall, decided in the 1990s that the company needed to change.
They decided to scale back the production of their guitars.
This made demand soar while supply remained limited.
As such, the prices for their guitars skyrocketed.
This happens in any market where supply suddenly dwindles amid high demand for it.
The idea is to make the product valuable enough that only those who can afford it can buy the guitar.
It makes the guitar seem even more special compared to cheaper guitars.
Rickenbacker only makes a few guitars every year.
That’s on top of their other musical instruments like different guitars and string instruments.
The sheer scarcity means that musicians need to be first in line with their money to grab one.
Scaling their production back has allowed Rickenbacker to sell their guitars at extremely high prices.
8. Luxury Items
The high price of Rickenbacker guitars also makes some believe that their guitars are more of a luxury item.
Like all other products in the world, there is always a luxury version of the product out there somewhere.
Many consider that to be the case with Rickenbacker guitars.
Their high price pushes them past expensive guitars and into the luxury guitar category instead.
Musicians just starting out usually can’t afford to buy luxury items, let alone a luxury Rickenbacker.
When something has the reputation of being a luxury item, then it means it has a high price and offers a type of quality that you can’t get anywhere else.
That’s certainly true when it comes to the unique sound that the Rickenbacker bass provides.
However, being a luxury item also means that only a few can afford it.
Luxury entails a certain idea that few people own the item.
It’s like buying a guarantee that what you’re purchasing is unique to yourself.
Rickenbacker supports this further by including a serial number on each guitar.
It identifies the year and number of the production line that the guitar was on.
This further gives credence to the idea that Rickenbacker guitars are a luxury item rather than just an expensive guitar.
Luxury items, through reputation alone, carry a high price.
Since they’re considered a luxury, few would argue against the high price of the item.
Rickenbacker guitars are expensive because they’re seen as luxury guitars.
There’s no question that Rickenbacker guitars are also collectible.
The company was among the first to make electric guitars popular after World War II.
With big-name musicians using their guitars, collectors quickly started to get their hands on the same models.
Today, several guitar models are highly prized among collectors.
The Rickenbacker 4005 basses are among the rarest types to find.
The Rickenbacker Banjoline made in 1968 is another rarity.
These guitars and several others often sell for several thousand dollars.
Whenever something becomes collectible, they become more expensive.
That’s because there are a lot more people trying to get their hands on them.
Some musicians want the guitar to play.
Historians want to preserve the guitar for musical history.
Then there are collectors who are looking to complete their collections and perhaps sell them all together one day.
Collectors generate value by collecting guitars of a certain production year, model, or by finding guitars played by famous musicians.
They’re able to then resell their collection at higher prices because collected items have a higher value.
Rickenbacker guitars are expensive because they’re collectible, which increases demand for certain models of their guitars that are already rare to begin with.
10. Limited Editions
A final reason Rickenbacker guitars are expensive is that they sometimes release limited editions.
These limited editions are usually tied to famous musicians who have played their guitars in the past.
They might release a few new models of the same type of guitar that John Lennon once made famous, for example.
Maybe they’ll release new models of the same type of guitar that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers used.
These limited editions are expensive because they’re produced in even smaller numbers than their regular guitars.
Only a few people can buy them before they’re all out.
Since they’re limited edition, this means that a lot of collectors are going to be trying to get their hands on them.
Musicians also want them to better their sound and channel musical history.
Sometimes Rickenbacker will also sell guitars that they once made exclusively for a musician.
For example, they once made a guitar for Glenn Frey of the Eagles.
They might also then release the same guitar to the wider public but in a limited capacity.
This drives up the price even more since only a few are available and lots of people want to get their hands on them.
Rickenbacker guitars are expensive because they sometimes sell limited edition guitars.
If you’re interested in a luxury guitar, then you might want to consider a Rickenbacker bass guitar.
The collectability, unique sound, and musical history make Rickenbacker one of the most expensive guitar brands on the market.