A while back I was looking for another cheap guitar to leave at my father's place in Florida. I usually travel there a couple of times a year for a week at a time and figured it would be good to have a spare guitar there. In fact, I probably should have done this years ago. I decided to check out the local Guitar Center to see what was on offer at the low-end of the market. I set the upper limit of my budget at $200. After all, I was only going to play this guitar a few weeks every year just to practice. Sot it didn't really make sense to buy a great guitar. And besides, if anything happened to it, I wouldn't worry too much about it.
After trying out a number of disappointing low-end Fenders, I happened on a nice looking Epiphone SG 400 in classic cherry red. This guitar had been highly rated in recent magazine reviews. I've never considered myself a huge SG fan, but, hey, if it's good enough for Frank Zappa, AC/DC, then what the heck. The SG 400 is made in China and has a list price of around $400, though it typically sells for less. This one was marked down to $200. The front looked fine, but upon further inspection, it was clear the guitar had suffered some kind of damage. The back of the neck near the headstock had some deep gouges out of it. The neck had been repaired and resurfaced, but there was about a 4 inch section where the finish didn't match. I spoke to the clerk and he confirmed the guitar had been sent out for repair and was being sold "as-is."
Still hopeful, I plugged it in and tried it. The action and feel where far better than any of the other guitars I tried that day. The rosewood fretboard felt very smooth and the neck comfortable. So what the heck. I splurged on a cheap RoadRunner gig bag ($30) and made my way home. I've used the guitar for a few weeks and overall, I'm happy with it. The pickups are sometimes a bit muddy, but the neck pickup has a great blues tone. Overall it's a very solid guitar with a nice sound, a mahogany body and excellent rock tone. It's got quite a large headstock, which makes it a bit top heavy; something that I'm not used to. The only real complaint is that the tuners are not the most stable I've ever used and the input jack came lose after a couple of weeks. I tightened it a few times, but eventually resorted to glueing it in place. Not pretty, but again, on a $200 guitar, why worry?
If you're hankering for an SG but don't want to splurge on a full-price Gibson model, the Epi comes pretty close. It's a good value at $400 and a steal for anything less.