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Fender Custom Shop Relic Stratocaster

This Fender Custom Shop Relic Stratocaster looks familiar?  ·  Source: Fender

The UK guitar forum ‘thefretboard’ has an interesting debate currently getting many of its members all wound up over Fender Custom Shop guitars with relic finishes. The reason they’re all getting hot under the collar is images showing, well, take a look for yourself.

In the thread started by poopot, forum users have uploaded images of Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster models described as ‘Masterbuilt’ models that have the same or very similar relic patterns. Check out the images of two such guitars with the relic pattern replicated on two different Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster models:

Poopot' Fender relic Stratocaster comparison

Poopot’s Fender relic Stratocaster comparison


But these aren’t the only images around with this wear pattern. A quick search on the internet pointed us here. It’s a closed Reverb auction for a “Fender Custom Shop ’60 Stratocaster Ultimate Relic, Masterbuilt by Jason Smith, Black with Gold HW”.

Here are some other images from the fretboard thread:


Fender relic Stratocaster 3-Tone sunburst

Fender Relic Stratocaster 3-Tone sunburst

Fender Custom Shop Relic Stratocaster

Fender Custom Shop Relic Stratocaster with a similar wear pattern

In these images, the wear pattern across the top of the pickguard and also by the jack socket looks very similar. But assuming that these images are genuine photographs of Masterbuilt guitars, do they point towards the use of stencils or automated processes in the manufacture of premium guitars? Here’s another question: Even if that was the case, would it put you off buying one of these? Some customers might expect each guitar to be a unique, one-off product produced without the use of stencils, given the price range of thousands of Euros. Are those expectations justified? Let us know your view in the comments section below!

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We reached out to Fender about this issue in advance of publishing this post, but have yet to receive a reply. If they get in touch about this, we’ll post their reply here.

by Jef

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Busted! There’s no doubt in my mind after viewing these photos, that something is being scammed here. Sad day when you can’t trust the Fender Custom Shop to give the buyer what customer thinks is utterly unique , but it’s not.
Not to mention, at a whopping price to begin with!
It’s disappointing, as I trusted this part of their business to be above reproach.


Yeah, the scam is relicking. Not the fact that the relicking looks the same on all the guitars. Just relicking itself is inherently a scam.


Reminds me of the health food stores in the 70’s which; once a product began to grow mold on it, they would mark up the price because ” it’s organic”.
Putting stenciled road-rash designs on new guitars and then charging more $ for them is gouging, no matter how you look at it. And a phony old guitar won’t make your phony playing any better.


Relics are stupid


Just imagine someone offering to relic a perfectly new Ford Mustang for a $10,000 premium. People would be calling the asylum for an emergency.

…. come to think of it, we live in strange times. Maybe this WILL be a thing in 5 years!


Obviously when you’re talking about a price around 9k dollars for a “master build”, every single aspect of the guitar should be custom, there’s simply no question about that. Fender needs to clarify that the master build is just the high end line of guitars and they’re not truly custom even though they’d like you to think that. Its a bummer that they cut corners on a ridiculously expensive instrument while advertising it as totally custom.

Charles Glisson

Anybody who would spend “Good Money” on a “Relic Guitar” is a

Wa hu

Lol what pieces of sh*t, those things cost sooo much money damn straight they should be unique. Especially since the majority of the cost comes from the fact its relic….

S. R.

It may be a shame that expensive “custom” guitars have the same relic jobs, but it isn’t very surprising. Take a look at the Road Worn series, they all shared the same “wear” patterns. It might have been excusable, as those guitars were more affordable production models and not expected to be unique.

David Parker

This is just going to turn into people arguing about the very idea of relicing a guitar. More than one person will say, “Relicing a perfectly good guitar is STUPID. I relic my guitar the old-fashioned way: I buy a new guitar and play the shit out it!” Or something like that.😉


Which makes perfect sense – the idea of buying a guitar that looks like it has been played a lot can only be to make you appear as a seasoned guitarist that has played your guitar for thousands of hour. It is different from buying a pair of mechanically pre worn and ripped jeans – where the idea is to look as cool as the people that found that you didn”t need to buy new clothes All the time. But both exploit the insecurity embedded in us as a social species.


A fool and his money……kjv


It is so silly that people buying copies of vintage guitars so they can themselves imitate their idols or otherwise pretend that the aging has any value are concerned that their phony wear isn’t unique to their guitars.


I didn’t realize that this would be surprising, but I understand people’s disappointment. I formerly worked for PRS for a number of years. I would routinely give factory tours to artists, media, and guitar nerds who made pilgrimages to our little island. They would routine be a bit deflated when they saw guitar necks and bodies being roughly carved and routed in our CNC machines. They’d say “oh. I thought they were ‘hand made.'” I would carefully explain that the machines only do the roughest shaping and routing-work that when done by hand is very time and labor intensive but… Read more »

Restless Spirits

Scratching the paint off the most popular guitar shape of all time so it looks well seasoned or unique is fraudulent. It isn’t an antique, in any other case it would be a factory reject or at best a factory second. But you have to give Fender marketing credit for getting people to pay 4 times the price of a new guitar for the illusion of authenticity. One of the best scams since telling people light beer wasn’t just watered down lager. No one ever lost money underestimsting the taste of the American public.


Even though the finish is Relic, it still needs to be artistically directed with no actual damage to the instrument. I mean, face it. You’re buying a fraudulent instrument to begin with. It’s brand new!! I think this argument eats itself and is a pointless find.

Jim Bob

Given that you’re taking about an almost identical body in the comparison photos, it only stands to reason you’re going to see similar distressed markings, after all the same equipment “distressing” the finish is going to encounter similar material, and close to identical shape, pattern, etc. Unless you see the same pattern on a completely different body, it’s fair to say you’re seeing a similar finish, not an identical one. If you want completely unique, start with a unique body. It’s like seeing images in burnt toast.


These guitars don’t have “similar” wear patterns. They have IDENTICAL wear patterns. Compare the images closely.



Ian sheridan

Fender make relics because people want them.
The wear patterns are based around examples genuine examples of wear on some vintage guitars, so it’s inevitable that they will have similar patterns.
Meanwhile I’ll play my very neat well looked after squier, and leave these for the cork sniffers


I do not know why..but the shape of a Strat does not inspire me to play..I just love the shape of a Les Paul no matter what people say about Gibson…I can play a Les Paul fo hours on end…


Lol, if you care so much about authenticity, get an OLD guitar. That this even is an issue, baffles me.


…for a second, I thought people were done trashing on people who like relic guitars…or people have matured enough to understood that preferences are opinions and there is no right or wrong so there is no point to this gang mentality of “our opinion is correct so therefor your opinion is wrong”…
Maybe someday people will allow other people to have a different preference without needing to bash them for liking something that is different than their own taste…
or maybe this will go on forever.

John Moss

In my opinion, if you’re going to custom build and relic and instrument commanding a premium price for the package that it should be relic’d by hand, and that each guitar should have its own unique character. Anything less is less that what you’ve paid for.


it is irrelevant if you like relic’ed guitars or not. If it is a Custom, for that price you should get something unique, not something done by Wall.E


look up the relic guitars on Sweetwater or anywhere really, they don’t all look the same…this article shows several guitars that have the same relic patterns…but in reality, they are not ALL the same wear patterns.
Just the ones shown in this article for the purpose of demonstrating some look the same.


It’s just a guitar made to look old and worn, just to make more money for them and we cows pay a lot off cash for a new guitar that looks old but is new, a real old fender from the 70’s sets you back th same amount off cash but than for the real thing…..

Al C

I worked for the Fender Custom Shop in Corona, CA for a year. I’m surprised users hadn’t realized this earlier. There’s NOTHING custom about that shop. Daily, finished bodies and necks get sent, from the same mill to both the regular production line and the “custom shop”, where there would be a smaller line, but a line nonetheless, of workers doing the assembly, in a total Ford-style production line, because there’s no actual building happening here at all. Those guitars “comissioned”by specialized stores or collectors that required the relic process went to Jorge, who’s been at that post for 17… Read more »