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TOP: Mockingbirds were available with options for Standard, Deluxe, or Supreme appointment levels. This Mockingbird is in the Supreme camp, as evidenced by the fretboard’s abalone cloud inlay and 6-way varitone switch. BOTTOM: B.C. Rich first introduced the Mockingbird around 1976, and this guitar’s serial number suggests it was built in 1978.
Note from Zach:
While I usually answer a question submitted by a reader, this month I’m going to discuss a guitar I recently encountered at the 2012 Dallas International Guitar Festival. At the festival, Chad Speck from Encore Music in Minneapolis was showing this near-mint Mockingbird Supreme—an excellent example of craftsmanship from the early days of B.C. Rich. Let’s take this opportunity to explore both this guitar treasure and the history of the company.
B.C. Rich guitars are typically associated with artists like Kerry King of Slayer, Zoltan Bathory of Five Finger Death Punch, and Marc Rizzo of Soulfly, but their origins actually go all the way back to the 1960s and acoustic guitars. Bernardo “Bernie” Chavez Rico began his career as a luthier by building classical and flamenco guitars in his father’s Los Angeles guitar shop in the early ’60s. By the latter part of the decade, he began experimenting with electric guitars, crafting instruments based on designs from Fender and Gibson. But Bernie Rico wanted a guitar that represented his tastes and ideals, and in 1971, he built his first original design, the B.C. Rich Seagull.
With a sleek and curvy body shape, fast neck, and hot-rodded circuitry and pickups, the Seagull was certainly an eye-catching model. In 1974, luthier Neal Moser joined Rico at B.C. Rich and they introduced a number of other unique instruments, including the Eagle, the Ironbird, the provocatively named Bich, and the guitar shown here—the Mockingbird.
During the 1970s, B.C. Rich produced guitars with different levels of trim, with the appointments called Standard, Deluxe, or Supreme. Standard models typically featured what you would expect from the name: basic woods and simple appointments. Deluxe models were outfitted with slightly better woods and appointments, while Supreme models boasted quilted woods, binding, abalone inlays, and more circuitry options. This particular Mockingbird guitar is a Supreme model, determined by the abalone cloud inlays and a 6-way varitone rotary switch.
The serial number on the guitar is 804XX, which most people would assume to be a 1980 build from the traditional YYXXX format. However, according to documented B.C. Rich serialization, they were producing more than 1,000 guitars a year by the late 1970s and began using numbers meant for the following year. In 1980, the first two numbers were reading “82” and by 1981, they were off by four years! This Mockingbird was most likely built in 1978.
In the mid 1980s, B.C. Rich began importing kits from Korea that were assembled in the US, and by the late 1980s, the company was importing several lines of guitars from both Japan and Korea. Bernie Rico Sr. passed away in 1999 and Bernie Rico Jr. continued the family’s guitar tradition at B.C. Rich until 2001. In 2005, he started his own guitar company called Bernie Rico Jr. Guitars. B.C. Rich continues to offer a wide variety of electric guitars, and the Mockingbird remains an important part of their product line. While most production occurs overseas today, B.C. Rich still operates a custom shop in the US.
Aside from the original Seagull, the original Mockingbird is probably the most collectible B.C. Rich guitar. This guitar is in “excellent-plus” to “near-mint” condition (very clean), and is currently valued between $3,000 and $3,500. You really don’t see too many of these in the vintage guitar market, and to find one this clean is truly special. Though most collectors don’t have much of an interest in B.C. Rich, this Mockingbird is definitely a treasure when it comes to vintage guitars.
Zachary R. Fjestad is author of Blue Book of Acoustic Guitars, Blue Book of Electric Guitars, and Blue Book of Guitar Amplifiers. For more information, visit bluebookinc.com or email Zach at firstname.lastname@example.org.