I recently had severe GAS for a 2003-2005 MiK Epiphone Vintage SG in Faded Brown (or Faded Cherry, I wasn't that fussy).
I didn't have much luck on eBay, the ones I did find were in the US were expensive and the postage outrageous ($499 US + $186 postage for a 2004 in average condition for instance).
There was nothing in Australia except the current SG in Faded Brown and Cherry (for around $500 AUD).
After some research I found a few listed from guitar shops in Japan on Yahoo Japan. The issue is of course, they're all listed in Japanese and Google Translate only does semi-reasonable (albeit sometimes hilarious) translations. I also found that even though some store sites say they welcome overseas customers, they don't actually reply to emails at all.
I found a company called Buyee
offers both a translation service (albeit also Google Translate) plus they act as an on-forwarding agency for Japanese retailers that mostly seem to only accept payment into a Japanese Bank. All good so far...
On paper the guitar I found looked like a pretty good deal - good condition and only 25,800 Yen, at the time around $285 in Aussie dollars PLUS with I won it with the one and only bid.
However if you dig into it further there are quite a few fees and charges which you don't get given until the guitar is already purchased (with your money) and sitting in Buyee's warehouse.
This is a breakdown of what it cost me:
- 25,800 Yen for the guitar
- 2,580 Yen for the 10% Service Fee
- 200 Yen for the Payment Fee
...this gets the guitar from the retailer, the money out of your account and the guitar sitting in Buyee's warehouse. It doesn't include the cost of the courier to Buyee, that comes later...
When it gets to Buyee you're hit with this:
- 2,000 Yen internal courier fee to ship it from the retailer to Buyee
- 50 Yen Shipping insurance
- 500 Yen for extra protective packaging (this is an optional, and it increases weight, hence increasing international shipping). I took it.
- 1,290 Yen Consumption Tax
- 8,200 Yen International Shipping Fee
Some of the fees seem to be about milk the cash cow for all it's worth seeing they have your guitar as 'collateral', but that is another matter and I may
be doing them a disservice.
So all up my $285 guitar has cost me $449. It's still less than the US guitar and it it is better condition, but more than I thought I was really up for.
The experience with dealing with a Japanese retailer is...different to anything or anyone I have dealt with before on-line. They seem to rely 100% on automated emails to tell you what is going on. The actual retailer never responded to any of my emails, even though they said they welcomed queries in English.
Buyee did respond to a query when prompted, so all good and even better it was in English.
Apart from being slugged multiple times the 'system' seems to work well enough and may be worth considering if you're ever after a MiJ Fujigen Epiphone.
It might look a bit better on paper with a more expensive guitar, just remember the 10% 'Service Fee'...although OS Shipping should be much like mine (slightly more for the heavier Les Pauls) and as such be comparatively less compared to the original purchase cost.
FWIW Gibsons look pretty expensive over there and I am thinking not worth your while unless you are really after something you can't find elsewhere. Epiphones look reasonably plentiful and from what I can see, relatively cheap.
Hope this helps anyone considering the same thing...