Hondo guitars started in Texas in the late 1960s, teaming up with the Korean company Samick to manufacture guitars to American specifications, at low prices spurred by cheap Korean labor. The quality from Korea was considered subpar, but the prices kept Hondo in business. In the late ‘70s, some Hondo models went into production in Japan. They were generally regarded as being a little better. While most early Hondos were knockoffs of other popular guitar models from Fender and Gibson, the ‘80s saw Hondo introducing their own models. Regardless of the model, however, there are several easy ways to identify a Hondo guitar.
Look at the headstock. Hondo guitars will say Hondo or Hondo II on the headstock, usually in gold lettering.
Look at the truss rod cover located on the headstock. It may also say Hondo on it. Some models put the name on the truss rod cover instead of the headstock end.
Look at the back of the headstock to see where the guitar was made. The vast majority of Hondos were made in Korea. Some were made in Japan. A very few were made in America. If it says that it is made in Mexico, Indonesia or some other country, it is not a Hondo.
Look at the back of the electric guitar at the neck joint. Hondos with bolt-on necks had joint plates decorated with a big H on them. In time, that part may be replaced, so you may not see an H, but it was on the originals.
Look in the sound hole of a Hondo acoustic guitar. You will see a sticker that says Hondo and also lists the model of the guitar, such as H 155 or H 18-12.
After Hondos were phased out, some of the original Hondo designs were still created, but under the J.B. Player moniker.
Today, Samick still makes guitars and acts as an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for other well-known music brands.
Geoff Hineman has been a professional writer since 2001. His work has appeared in Dodge Magazine, The Ann Arbor Paper and online. Hineman holds a Master of Arts in writing from Northern Michigan University.