With a missing pickguard, likely non-original
pickups, replacement knobs, and tarnished
hardware, this Ibanez Custom Agent is worth only
about half of its value in excellent condition.
I’ve had this Ibanez for at least 25
years, but have never been able to
assess its value. The only identification
number I can find is “Y20” stamped
into the fretboard below the 22nd fret.
I’ve seen similar guitars for sale online
that range from $750 to $2,500. It
seems like the value mainly depends
on whether it’s a pre- or post-lawsuit
guitar. How can I tell what I’ve got?
Any help you can provide is
Doug in Tampa, FL
The Custom Agent’s unique mandolin-scroll-style
headstock represents one of the first examples of
an Ibanez original design.
These Ibanez “copy” guitars from the 1970s
are so cool in my opinion. While it’s obvious
they are copies of popular models, Ibanez
designers applied their own artistry and flair
to them—something Gibson and Fender
rarely dared to try. After looking through
the book Ibanez: The Untold Story and older
Ibanez catalogs, your guitar appears to be a
mid-’70s Custom Agent model 2405.
The Custom Agent 2405 was produced
between circa 1974 and 1977, but serial
numbers were not applied to Ibanez guitars
until September 1975. Since your guitar
does not have a serial number (you might
want to check the potentiometers for date
codes), it was most likely produced before
September 1975. Unfortunately, I wasn’t
able to find any reference to the Y20 marking
on the fretboard.
The development of this guitar is interesting,
especially because the design is unique.
But first, let me give some background
on the “lawsuit era” of Ibanez guitars. Up
until the mid-1970s, Ibanez mainly offered
Japanese-manufactured copies of popular
American designs like the Stratocaster and
Les Paul. The large American guitar manufacturers
certainly didn’t appreciate the business
they were losing as a result of Ibanez
blatantly copying their instruments. And on
June 28, 1977, Norlin (Gibson’s parent company)
filed a lawsuit against Elger (Ibanez’s
parent company) for trademark infringement,
claiming Ibanez was copying Gibson’s
headstocks too closely.
What many people don’t realize is that
by 1975, Ibanez was already working on
their “original designs.” By the time the
lawsuit was filed, nearly all Ibanez guitars
had a much different, non-Gibson-style
headstock. That’s not to say the body
shapes weren’t still being copied, but there
wasn’t much Gibson or Fender could do
about this since they didn’t have specific
enough trademarks on their body shapes
or styles. The lawsuit never went to trial,
and Elger signed an agreement to stop
marketing Gibson-copied designs and using
model names suggestive of Gibson. Elger
complied, but the lawsuit represented what
was really more of a formality than a radical
change in the way Ibanez built their guitars.
The model 2405 as it
appeared in mid-’70s Ibanez promo literature.
The Custom Agent was one of the first
Ibanez guitars to feature an original design.
The body is obviously based on a Les Paul,
but it has a mandolin-scroll-style headstock,
banjo-style fretboard inlays, and a decorative
pearl inlay below the stud tailpiece that
gives the appearance of a trapeze tailpiece.
Though it’s missing on your guitar, the
stock pickguard for this model was also
uniquely shaped with scrolls.
According to factory literature, the
Custom Agent featured a mahogany body
with a maple or birch top, a set maple neck,
a 22-fret rosewood fretboard, two covered
Super 70 humbuckers, and four knobs (two
volume, two tone). Today, in excellent original
condition, this guitar is worth between
$1,200 and $1,500. However, since the
pickguard is missing, the pickups may not
be original, the knobs appear to have been
replaced, and the hardware is tarnished,
your guitar is worth between $750 and
$900. Original condition is everything!
If possible, you should try to return this
guitar to its original condition, or at least
as close as you can get. Realistically, you
probably won’t be able to find a replacement
pickguard, but I’m sure there is someone
out there who could build one for you. If
you can find some period-correct knobs and
a set of Super 70 pickups with covers, you
really will have a treasure on your hands!
Zachary R. Fjestad
is author of Blue Book of
, Blue Book
of Electric Guitars
, and Blue
Book of Guitar Amplifiers
For more information, visit
Zach at firstname.lastname@example.org