For the more experienced vintage guitar collector, Dixon guitars are a mythical rarity that is hard to come by. Ask a beginner guitar player and it’s almost certain that the young gun won’t know anything about the mysterious Dixon brand.
Unlike other guitar companies, information about Dixon is not easy to find and sometimes the stories that have floated on the internet were only handed down by word-of-mouth. Because there are no ways to validate these tales, the entire guitar community would have to content themselves with forum-rooted anecdotes.
When scouring the vintage market, the guitars that Dixon produced throughout the company’s existence, are just as elusive. The only way we can get to know Dixon more is by reading about or listening to the sentiments of owners who have had the guitars since they came out back in the day.
Without a doubt, Dixon is a well-loved instrument (just don’t ask Gibson!). Players who have owned Dixon guitars, vouch for the fine craftsmanship of their instruments. Some have even boldly claimed that their Dixons can hold their own when compared to the Martins and the Taylors of the guitar universe.
Dixon Guitars: A brief background
Dixon is one of the guitar companies that belong to the ‘70s “Lawsuit Era.” It is a timeline in guitar history when rising new luthier Hoshino Gakki and his company Ibanez started building cheap knock-offs of popular guitars.
Hence, the lawsuit era was born and by the mid ‘70s, imitation brands such as Ibanez, Greco and Takamine were starting to rival the quality of the original models made by Fender, Gibson and Martin.
Dixon’s historical background is a little bit more unique compared to its lawsuit-era contemporaries, in that the motive of this company’s formation was driven partly by revenge. The established story that most experts believe in, is about a certain guitar designer who was denied his patent and design royalties by Gibson.
In an attempt to get back at his bosses at Gibson, the said guitar designer moved to Japan and began manufacturing copies of his designs. By selling them at a cheaper price and maintaining the designer’s desired quality, Dixon became more and more successful, eventually drawing the ire of Gibson executives.
Consequently, Gibson issued the owner of Dixon a cease and desist letter. After they sued the company and won the case, they proceeded to destroy all the Dixon guitars that they could find in the market. Gibson was very efficient in eliminating their copycat competitor and that is why Dixons are hard to find nowadays. Being the valued vintage guitars that they are today, rare Dixon acoustic and hollow body guitars can fetch up to $5,000 if they are in great condition.
The Dixon Hummingbird
Some sources say that the luthier behind Dixon was the designer of the Gibson Hummingbird. This theory can be attributed to the fact that Gibson filed a lawsuit against Dixon after they saw some Hummingbird knockoffs in the market.
Although Dixon guitars are hard to find, you can spot a couple of Hummingbirds being sold online as of
this writing. Dixon Hummingbirds are fairly inexpensive guitars even if you find one today. Countless owners have attested to its sound quality and durability, sharing fond stories about the Hummingbird copy on blogs and forum sites.
Martin D35 copy (Dixon 762 J)
Aside from Gibsons, Dixon also made a lot of Martin copies and they can be spotted sporadically being sold online, but regularly mentioned by forumers. A Japan-made 1975, Brazilian Rosewood back dreadnought recently caught the attention of vintage guitar lovers. Bearing a $950 starting bid, the owners of the Dixon guitar claim that the Martin D35 clone was handcrafted.
Where are Dixon guitars made?
Dixon Guitars were mostly built in Japan beginning in the ‘60s. They moved production to Korea and China in later years, until they closed down.
In 1985, Dixon’s ownership moved under the Taiwan Reliance International Corporation, a company that produced a range of Dixon guitars. Although the Taiwanese company still owns the Dixon brand, it is essentially not the same as they have focused solely on manufacturing drum equipment.
Are Dixon Guitars good?
Dixon guitars definitely offered some of the best quality instruments for very low prices that alarmed much bigger guitar manufacturers. At some point, Dixon’s products have become so good that they started to be a threat to the brands that they are imitating.
If you can find a vintage Dixon from the mid-’70s, that would be a guitar worth obtaining, even if it would cost you $3000 or more. However, a lot of the earlier guitars that came out of the Dixon workshops also used cheaper materials. They looked and sounded very good, but they are nowhere near a premium level guitar, hence the much lower price.
Dixon guitars have a special place in history even if their venture into guitar-building didn’t end well. Whoever the enigmatic luthier behind Dixon was, he deserves respect from guitar players and aficionados everywhere. If you own a Dixon guitar, it is highly recommended that you hold on to such a valuable instrument and just play it until the day that it gives up.