Ibanez Custom Agent
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 Acoustic Guitars, Blue Book of Electric Guitars, and Blue Book of Guitar Amplifiers. For more information, visit bluebookinc.com or email Zach at email@example.com.