Counterfeit Musical Instruments Sound a Sour Note

guitar sunset

(DGIwire) — Here’s the scenario. Someone’s been looking for a Martin guitar for about a year, but he can’t find one within his price range. They’re great guitars—he saw Jeff Daniels holding one on the cover of Guitar Aficionado and knew he had to have it—but every one he finds is a little more than he can afford. He’s being patient but is growing more and more frustrated with the delays. He can almost feel the guitar’s neck in his hand, and every time he picks something else up it just doesn’t quite cut it. Then, miracle of miracles, a seller steps forward with an unbeatable price. Finally! A genuine Martin! But he’s still not sure. This is a shockingly good deal, so what does he do to make sure it’s the real thing?

Counterfeiting of goods is a big business, and musical instruments are increasingly falling victim to fakers. According to a 2007 study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), piracy and counterfeiting account for more than $200 billion worldwide. Each time someone buys a counterfeit product, he or she is taking money from the legitimate manufacturer, eating into their profit and ability to employ workers.

To ensure that an instrument is authentic and of the highest quality, the 2011 issue of Sigma Alpha Iota International Music Fraternity magazine published these tips:

  1. Check the finish of the instrument. If the company did not manufacture an instrument with that type of lacquer or plating, it is counterfeit.
  2. Compare the engraving against photos of authentic instruments on the manufacturers’ corporate website. If the engraving is wrong, it is also counterfeit.
  3. Verify that the feltson the new instrument are the correct color. If a new instrument has the wrong color felts, it is counterfeit.
  4. Check the instrument for other distinctive brand marks. If there are supposed to be some but they are missing, then the instrument is counterfeit.

Even after all of those steps have been completed, a prospective buyer still might be left unsure. After all, if such information is easily verifiable, won’t the counterfeiters be able to see it as well? It would seem that the buyer is at an impasse, going by gut feeling and intuition. Those, however, are no replacement for DNA verification.

Thankfully, Martin Guitars—to extend the earlier example—offers such verification through Applied DNA Sciences, a company based in Stony Brook, NY. Applied DNA’s SigNature® DNA botanical markers provide peace of mind to both the consumer and the manufacturer. The consumer can be sure he or she is buying the right goods, and the manufacturer knows that its goods have a firm means of authentication that means they can only be traced to one source.

Dr. James A. Hayward, President and CEO of Applied DNA Sciences, says, “We want to protect both consumers and manufacturers from counterfeiting. Our SigNature DNA technology offers what we believe might be the gold standard in protecting against fake goods.”