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Recognizing Rickenbacker Bass Guitar Copies
Don't Get Fooled !



 
Intro
Buying From a Dealer Or Ad
Summaries of Rickenbacker Bass Features And Identifying Copies
Photos Of Genuine Rickenbacker Basses And Parts With Comments
 

Intro


Call them what you like; Rickenfaker. Fakenbacker, Rickenmocker, etc. I've published this page on this site because I do not like copies of Rickenbacker instruments and I don't like to see anyone get fooled into buying a fake that has a Rickenbacker truss rod cover on it or a missing truss rod cover. The truss rod cover could be genuine or fake. One with a missing truss rod cover might be real/ The bass model that has generally been copied is the 4001.

There are a few copies similar to the 4004 Cheyenne. I've never seen a copy of a 2000 or 3000 series bass, but that doesn't mean they don't exist. There are also some bass guitars that were produced that were not intended to be exact copies 0f the 4000 series basses, but still use the same 4000 series body shape, which can even fool some who have little or no knowledge about Ricks.

Most copies will be manufactured with the maker's brand name on them, but some people take the truss rod covers off real Rickenbacker instruments and install them on the fakes. Some of the faker brand names have their name of the headstock rather that the truss rod cover. Some people will make or buy a fake truss rod cover to try to sell their used fake as a real Rickenbacker. If you are familiar with Rickenbacker truss rod covers, you can usually find something different or odd on close inspection of a fake one.

Manufacturers and brand names you may find on older copies of the 4001 include: Ibanez, Univox, Aria, Bradley, Electra, CMI, Giannini, Greco Guitar, Hondo, Hoya, M Sigma, Mann, Jolana, Penco, Seville and a few others. Some of the copies look much closer to the real 4001 than others. Some are an absolute laugh.

There are manufacturers that have made bass guitar copies and some that still make bass guitars that do not intend to be exact copies but still infringe on the 4000 body style. There are some that still make copies that look somewhat close to a 4001 or 4003. There is one manufacturer that makes a bass guitar that closely resembles the Rickenbacker 600 series guitars. Since I discourage buying and selling of these instruments, I will not publish the names of these makers that continue to make copies. The manufacturers and brands that are named above have already been dealt with by RIC, as far as I know.

Too often I find out about someone who has bought what he or she thinks is a Rickenbacker bass guitar, when it was just a copy of one. These people have usually paid a high price thinking they are getting this great 4001 or 4003. Occasionally a seller has no idea that they might be selling a fake Rickenbacker, but they usually do. Not only would this be against the law to deceive someone into buying a fake Rickenbacker, but it is also against the law because copies of Rickenbacker instruments infringe on the trademark shapes that are legally owned by the Rickenbacker International Corporation (RIC), All of the shapes of the bodies, headstocks, parts which include the tailpieces, pickguards, pickups, truss rod covers and the Rickenbacker logo are trademarks of RIC.

Trademarks are similar to copy writes except that copy writes are proof of ownership of the arrangement of words and or musical notes, pictures and videos whereas trademarks prove ownership of designed shapes, names and logos. As long as RIC owns the trademark shapes, any copy of these shapes is an infringement. I'm sure and I hope that RIC will always own these shapes.

There are copies available of Fender and Gibson instruments. This is because Fender and Gibson did not trademark their designs soon enough. If they had, you wouldn't see so many copies of their instruments. It's probably too late for Fender and Gibson to do anything about it now, since their instruments have already been copied for a long time.

 
 

Buying From An Authorized RIC Dealer

You usually do not have to worry about a new Rickenbacker purchased from an authorized Rickenbacker instrument dealer being a fake. You can find out if a dealer is authorized to sell new Rickenbacker instruments on the RIC website. There are still some places in the world that sell new instruments that look like 4001/4003 basses. These will normally have the name of the actual maker on the headstock. The may be some stores that sell genuine new Rickenbackers as well as new copies. Don't let any sales person try to convince you that they are just as good as a real Rickenbacker.

A warranty on a new Rickenbacker is only valid if the instrument is purchased at an authorized RIC dealer.
 

Buying From Ebay, Craigslist And Other Ads

Be careful of ads with pictures that are questionable and ads that do not have pictures. The pictures should clearly show the headstock, body, tailpiece, fingerboard, output jackplate and heel of the neck. The seller should readily supply the serial number whether it is in the ad or sent privately by email or phone. Then if you are not familiar with how to decode serial numbers you can decode the serial number on the RIC website.

You are usually pretty safe with most sellers on ebay who regularly sell Rickenbacker instruments and have an excellent feedback rating. Fortunately RIC usually gets the auctions of fake Rickenbacker instruments on ebay shut down before they are over, but occasionally one slips through. It is perfectly legal for RIC and within their rights to do this since these fakes violate their trademarks and are against the law. Buying, selling and/or trading any item that infringes on the trademarks, patents or copyrights of another item is illegal.
 
 

Rickenbacker Guitar Bass Features And Identifying Copies

There's much to look for in a copy of a 4001. Some copies are very obvious except to someone who hardly knows anything about Rickenbacker instruments. Some copies need closer inspection to see that it is indeed a fake. Some are not exact copies, just that the body will have the same shape. These are obviously the easiest to figure out. Some left handed Rickenbacker bass copies were also produced. You need to familiarize yourself with the look of a genuine Rick and the appointments (features) that the RIC models have.

Realize that Rickenbacker instruments have been hand made for a very long time, the body and headstock shapes have varied slightly over the years.

Another thing to realize is that many 4001 basses were modified by former owners. Some of the modifications were simple and can be easily reversible if desired. Some modifications were quite radical and pretty much mutilated the bass and it may seem like a fake even though it is genuine. If the bass is so radically modified, it might be better to pass on it even if it is a real 4001. Unless for some reason you just love that modification.


These descriptions of genuine Rickenbacker bass guitars are followed by pictures of
Rickenbacker copies with comments that point out the features that identify them as copies.
 


Overall Construction

All of the 4001, 4003 and 4004 basses have neck-through body construction. The model 4000, many of the 4001S basses and all of the 4005 have set necks. Set necks are necks that are bonded (glued) into a tight neck pocket of the body, like a Gibson Les Paul guitar.
The only 4000 series bass necks that were bolted on, were on the 4080 and 4080/12 double neck guitars.

The only semi hollow body bass guitar model RIC has made, is the 4005. There were copy basses made with the styles of RIC semi hollow guitars such as the model 330.
The route for the neck pickup wire to the control cavity of 4001 and early 4003 basses should look like a series of drill holes, not a smooth route. Newer 4003 basses have a smooth routed channel in the body for the neck pickup wire, The route of the control cavity of 4000 series basses have rounded, not angled corners.


Wood Composition Of Rickenbacker Basses

Bodies and Necks: Rickenbacker 4000, 4001, 4001S, 4002 4003, 4003S, 4004 Laredo and 4005 bass necks and bodies are made of maple. You can see the wood in the fireglo, mapleglo and other transparent color finishes. You should familiarize yourself with the look of maple, it's grain pattern and whether it is plain or has one of the various types of figured patterns such as birds-eye, flame and quilt.

The 4001 basses made from '72 until production ended in the mid '80's have a strip of shedua which is dark and looks like walnut. It runs the down the center of the entire neck through body stock. Many musicians call the dark strip in the center of the Rickenbacker 4001 and other guitars that have a similar feature, the "skunk stripe". The 4002 also has the shedua strip running through the entire neck trough body stock. The set neck 4001S and 4005 basses have the shedua strip going through the neck and headstock only, not the body. The dark strip in the center of many copies is a bit wider than on a 4001 or 4003. The pre'72 4001 basses do not have the shedua strip, nor do the 4001V63, 4001C64, 4001C64S, 4003 and 4004 have it.

The 4004 Cheyenne was made with walnut body wings. The Cheyenne II has sandwiched maple/walnut/maple body wings. The early Cheyenne II basses had walnut bodies with a maple top. Both versions of the Cheyenne have a maple neck through body stock.
Fingerboards: The 4001/4003 fingerboard is rosewood and should have the conversion varnish finish on it as the rest of the body does. Rosewood is a generic term form several similar species of hard, dark wood such as bubinga, which can vary a bit in color and usually has some pattern in the wood. There are hundreds of different species of rosewood throughout the world. Most copies have fingerboards that are too dark. You can normally see a charactered pattern in Rickenbacker fingerboards, especially in ones which have been made within the past few years.

The early production 4004 Cheyenne and Laredo basses were made with a maple fingerboard,and then RIC switched to producing both 4004 bass models with bubinga fingerboards. The 4004 Laredo has the conversion varnish on the fingerboard. Some of the 4004 Cheyenne II basses have the conversion varnish finish on their fingerboards, but most do not.

The 4002 was made with an ebony fingerboard with no conversion varnish finish.
The wood used for the bodys of some Rickenbacker copies is a lower grade maple. Some are not maple and some have been made from poor quality, unattractive wood. The rosewood used for the fingerboards of many Rickenbacker copies is probably an African rosewood, which is very dark.


The Finish

RIC finishes their instruments using a proprietary conversion varnish finish. There is a clearcoat over the painted or stained coat. Copies of Rickenbacker basses are done with a cheaper finish. Since 2008, RIC has changed to a UV cured finish, which is is even more durable than the conversion varnish finish and will not readily amber with age.

Most copies of 4001 basses were done in a red sunburst to copy the fireglo finish or natural finish to copy the mapleglo finish. Few were black to copy Jetglo. You need to be familiar with RIC finishes and how the fireglo finish has varied over the years. Sunburst copies do not really have same look to them as a RIC fireglo finish. Some copies will also have checkered binding on the body. There are some copies that try to mimic the RIC finishes. There are also copies with finishes that RIC has never done.


This sunburst finish is not a RIC Fireglo finish.
This is not maple, the pickups, bridge
and other parts are wrong.
 
This bass has a bolt on neck
and this is not a RIC finish.
Real Grovers have their name on
the backs of the tuners.
 
 


Truss Rods

All Rickenbacker basses have two truss rods. The truss rod adjustments are done at the headstock end of the neck, with exception of the early 4003 basses that adjust at the body end of the neck. The 4003 basses that have truss rods that adjust at the body end of the neck were made from late '79 to late '85 and have a two piece pickguard. Most copies only have one truss rod, but few copies do have two truss rods. The truss rods that are in the copy basses will not look exactly like the RIC truss rods.


Truss Rod Covers (Nameplates)

If you are familiar with the look of a Rickenbacker truss rod cover (TRC), you should be able to detect most fake ones. Obviously ones that have a different name or no name on them are not from RIC. The 4001 TRC has "Model 4001" on it. Early 4003 basses from late '79 to about '86 have "Model 4003" on them. Newer TRC's do not have the model numbers on them, however all Rickenbacker truss rod covers have "Made In U.S.A." on them.

Until late '75 / early '76 the TRC's were made of clear acrylic and has the printing screened on the back of them, then the TRC's changed raised letters on a plastic TRC. Left handed TRC's are an exception, as they continued to be produced as clear acrylic with the printing screened on the back.
The TRC for the 75 Anniversary 4003 DCM is special made acrylic one to match the pickguard. It has the Rickenbacker logo screened in a silver sparkle on the back.


Binding

Before July of '73, 4001 and 4005 basses had checkered binding. Some 4001 copies have checkered binding on them, but it usually does not look exactly like the checkered binding on a 4001. The limited 4002, 4003 Shadow and the 4004LK models have checkered binding The 4005 has binding on the back of the body. The checkered binding was installed in 2 layers. The actual checkered layer is the inner one and the outer layer is solid white, except for the 4002 and the 4003 Shadow, which have a black outer layer.

After July of '73, the 4001 basses had plain binding installed on them instead of the checkered binding, though there are a few exceptions to that. Binding on the body of Rick basses is installed on the body wings only, not on the end of the neck stock. On a Rickenbacker bass, the binding stops at the tailpiece. Some copies have binding that goes all the way around the body, including under the tailpiece, on the end of the neck stock.
From the mid '70's to late '90's RIC had also installed black binding on certain colors of the 4001 and 4003. The color of the binding usually matched the pickguard.

 
A real Rick 4001/3does not have
binding under the tailpiece.
There are two truss rods here, but
they are not RIC truss rods.
 
 

Fingerboard Inlays

Early 4001 basses had full fingerboard width inlays that were made with crushed Mother Of Pearl, which looked sparkly until mid '73. For a short time in mid '73 the full width inlays had a hazy pearlescent look instead of being sparkly. Then from mid '73, triangle shaped makers with a pearlescent pattern were installed in the 4001 basses and are still installed in the 4003 basses. Many copies have triangle fingerboard inlays that are much too shiny, looking a bit like abalone.
Dot markers were installed in the fingerboards of the 4000, 4001FL, 4001S, 4002, 4003S, 4003S/5, 4003S/8, 4005, 4008 and 4004C. Dot markers are still installed in the fingerboards of the 4003FL and 4004L and 4004Cii.

Side dot markers on the neck were black on white binding, white on black binding and white on rosewood for models without binding.
In '74 most Rickenbacker basses had red side dots on white binding. The side dot markers were again black on white binding by late '74.
   
Fingerboard and inlays, pickups, pickguard
and tailpiece are wrong.
Non RIC binding, fingerboard dark, shiny inlays.
 

Pickguard

The Rickenbacker pickguard for is a one ply solid color pickguard. It does not have a beveled (slanted) edge. The top edge of the pickguard is rounded, not to have a sharp edge. The pickguard should be glossy not matte. You will not find an accenting color on the edge a RIC pickguard, such black on white or white on black. RIC pickguards do not have position markers or numbers to show the maximum position for the volume and tone controls like some copies. You will not see metal position pointers coming up from under the control knobs on a real Rickenbacker instrument.

Other than a few exceptions, the only colors RIC used for pickguards used were white and black. The pickguard color of the early model 4000 is gold. The pickguard color of the 75th Anniversary 4003 DCM is also gold and has a laser scribed RIC 75th Anniversary emblem.

Until early '75, the route in the pickguard positioned the neck pickup one half inch from the neck. By mid '75, the route in the pickguard was made to position the neck pickup one inch away from the neck.
 
RIC never made a bass guitar with a 330 style body.
The 4000 should have dot inlays, the pickup is wrong.
 


Hardware

Rickenbacker uses their own hardware on their basses with exception of the machine heads and the bridges that are installed on the 4004 basses. Most copies of Rickenbacker hardware look very similar, but not really exact. The hardware on copies is poorer quality than RIC hardware. The hardware on copies is much more likely to have rust on it and also have pitting, hazy and or worn off chrome.

The hardware on the 4001, 4002 4003, 4004 Laredo and 4005 is chrome.
Black hardware was installed with certain finishes and special models of the 4003 in the'80's and '90's.

The 4004 Cheyenne has gold hardware.


Output Jack Plate

This is where the serial number is located on Rickenbacker basses. The two letters and or numbers at the top and the numbers at the bottom of the jack plate make up the serial number. The 4001 and 4003 have two outputs, which are labeled Standard and Rick-O-Sound. Ibanez and Univox copies have their output jacks labeled Mono and Stereosound. The 4000, 4001S, 4003S and 4004 models have only one output jack. Their serial numbers are also located on the tops and bottoms of output jack plates. There were a couple of exceptions made where these basses had both output jacks. The single output jackplates have no marking other than the serial numbers. If you do not see a serial number or the appropriate markings on the output jack plate, it's not a Rickenbacker.


Tailpieces

Close inspection of the tailpiece shows that the holes that the strings come through the front on the tailpiece are not the same particular oval shape as on the RIC tailpiece. There are two pictures in the next section of this page that show examples of Rickenbacker bass tailpieces from the '60's, late '80's and current design.

Fake tailpieces might have rounder holes or the oval shape is wrong, some have squared holes. Until early '73, the 4001 tailpiece had what looked like a missing section on the middle. These have been called the "gap" or "missing tooth" tailpieces. ABM bridges are factory installed on the 4004 basses.


Deluxe RIC Features

The deluxe features always go together on the 4001 and 4003 and 4005. Those features are: the binding on the body and neck, dual output jacks (Standard and Rick-O-Sound) and the triangle fingerboard markers. The S models and the 4004 basses do not have the deluxe features. The 4002 is an exception as it has binding on the body, neck and headstock, three output jacks, Standard, Rick-O-Sound and a Lo-Z Balanced jack, but the 4002 has dot fingerboard markers.

 
Square holes in the tailpiece,
checkered binding not correct.
No serial number on plate, the
checkered binding is not correct.
 
The fingerboard is dark, inlays are shiny, pickup wire
route is smooth, control cavity shaped wrong and small.
Fingerboard is dark, the chrome sides of the neck pickup
cover are too wide. The body has a lower grade maple.
Photo: Courtesy of parker2
 
 

Pickups


Rickenbacker has always used only their own pickups in their instruments. Toaster neck pickups were replaced by higain pickups by November '73. There were some exceptions to this after November '73 and for a while, toaster pickups were an option on the 4003. Toaster pickups were also installed on the 4001V63 and are now installed on the 4001C64 and 4001C64S.

The 4001 had a horseshoe style bridge pickup until early '69. Those pickups were mounted with a six sided surround that tapered on the side facing the bridge. When the horse pickup was replaced by the higain in the bridge position, the surround was then also changed and had four sides. The horseshoe pickup with the six sided surround was also installed on the 4001V63 and is now installed on the 4001C64 and 4001C64S.

The polepieces of a genuine higain pick resemble round headed head screws with out the slots. Later in '06, RIC began to make the polepieces of higain pickups adjustable. The adjustable polepieces of the newer higains have an opening on the button tops for adjustments using an allen wrench (hex key). Inspect the pickup surrounds and the button top polepieces of higain pickups, as copies can be can be slightly different.
Rickenbacker basses have never had active electronics or pickups that required a battery
.
 
The polepieces of this higain pickup copy do
not have the round headed screw shaped tops.
The treble pickup is too close to the bridge, the fingerboard is too dark and the inlays are too shiny.
 
 
Incorrect wood, electronics, pickups,
pickguard and route.
Dark fingerboard, pale skunk stripe,
binding installed wrong.
 


Machine Heads (Keywinds, Tuners)

Many copy manufacturers from the '70's installed copies of the wavy, closed back Grover machine heads, but these copies do not say Grover on them. Over the years, Rickenbacker has used Grover and Schaller machine heads. Schaller machines heads have been installed on Rickenbacker basses for many years. The 4003 has the open back Schaller Deluxe machines heads which are specially made to have the Rickenbacker name on them.

Machine heads installed on Rickenbacker 4001 in the '70's and early '80's look just like the Schaller deluxe and do not have the Rickenbacker name on them and some of them work in reverse. The Schaller Deluxe machine heads can replace those similar older ones without modification.
The 4004 basses have the smaller closed back Schaller M4 machine heads.

 
Fretless copy of a 4004 Cheyenne with EMG pickups.
This is not a 4004 Cheyenne control
cavity route and cover.
 
 
Though the bass below is not an exact copy, the body shape is enough to be a RIC trademark infringement.
 
 
The following pictures and descriptions are of genuine Rickenbacker bass guitars and parts.
 
Then next two pictures are of genuine RIC bass tailpieces, note the vintage "gap" tailpiece to the left

The tailpiece on the left is a '60's - early '70's one, the middle
is from the late '80's, the one to the right is current.

Both tailpiece photos above: courtesy of Jeffrey Scott

Notice that the early 4001 tailpiece has the gap. Also notice the difference the amount of mounting screw holes that the tailpiece from different times have. The early to mid '80's 4003 tailpieces also had two extra holes for screws in the heel of the tailpiece (not pictured). Most of the 4003S/5 tailpieces had the two extra holes for screws in the heel throughout it's production. All of the 4003S/8 basses also had the two extra holes for screws in the heel of the tailpiece. The 5 and 8 string basses had these 2 extra screws in the tailpieces to counteract the added tension of the extra strings. It seems that RIC discontinued putting the 2 extra screws in the 4003 (4 string) tailpiece by the mid '80's due to customer complaints of how they made the tailpiece look.
 
4003S/5 Bridge and Tailpiece
4003S/8 Bridge and Tailpiece
 
Hong Kong rosewood fingerboard & triangle
inlays from mid 70's though '80's.
Bubinga is the type of rosewood fiingerboard with
triangle inlays in a '90's to '08 4003.
 
 
Higain pickups,& shedua strip in a '79 4001.
Control cavity cover plate on a 4004Cii Cheyenne.
 
Toaster pickup , full width crushed MOP inlay
& checkered binding in a '71 4001.
Latest higain pickup with adjustable polepieces,
which have been available since late '06.
 
Acknowledgements: Thanks to ajish4 for collecting most of the pictures of Rickenbacker copies on this page.
Thanks also to Jeffrey Scott and parker2 for their contribution of photos.
 
 
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