Say hi to Barbie! 1982 Greco DSE-380PM

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Well-known member
May 29, 2012
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Shocking, right?

Yep, a bubblegum pink Greco Strat, a weird-and wonderful statement piece from early 1982, i e that mythic "pre-JV" period which keeps coughing up oddballs. Some are probably the usual store originals or custom orders, others are likely to be new models from a 1982 Fender copy range that was never officially launched... and then there are a few that makes you wonder if Fujigen were just goofing off with the last batches of Greco parts...

I would say that this one is likely to be an un-launched 1982 model. probably aimed at young players (cool/cute colours, low price). There are actually quite a few of them around. I've had a metallic red one with a rosewood board (seems to be the most common finish) and there are reportedly blue ones as well. The finishes are all metallics, which is very rare indeed for Greco Fender copies. The unicorn-rare 1981 JG- and JM700 offset copies had metallic finishes, but catalog Strat models basically came in two sunbursts, black, white and natural, full stop (yeah I know, there's the limited 1979 Peter Frampton SE-500PR in Fiesta Red and the 1978 violin bursts, but let it pass...). That seems to have been set to change in 1982, there are lots of weird colour variations in Nov '81 - April '82 guitars.

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Cute, right? Note the "inverted shadows" below the knobs, switch and pickup covers. The pickguard was originally white, but this generation of Greco single-ply guards fades to a deep pinkish beige in sunlight. This one's obviously been in the exact same position for a good while, probably hanging on a wall, being hit by the sun at the exakt same angle every day. During this time, the pup switch was immobile in the neck position judging from the "shadow", and the switch tip is white on one side and beige on the other. Haven't seen that before. :cool: Anyway, someone eventually took pity on the wallflower, it was in good, fully playable condition when I received it.

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Super Power on the matching stock puts it in the 38k JPY price slot. No "Made in Japan" below the serial, seems to be the rule with late Fender copies. Not sure when it disappeared, though.

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The neck heel has a feature we see in most very late Greco SE's: a model number stamp with an an added D. I don't think anyone knows what it stands for, if it's some kind of internal production info or a new model number scheme for the undocumented 1982 Fender copy range, but they're usually referred to as DSE models these days.. Also, note the PM stamp, almost certainly for "Pink Metallic", added to tell the paintshop that this neck needed a painted headstock, and what colour to use. Paint codes in Greco Fender copies are very rare (at least obvious ones). You do see some crayon markings inside bodies at about this time, but I've never seen a stamp before.

The body is in four pieces of what Google rather unhelpfully translates as "china veneer" in the catalog. It's a very light wood and fairly soft, so I'm guessing basswood or something similar.

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The body cavities are interesting. Earlier standard SE-380's are specifically routed for the ceramic pickups designated PU-S3 at this point, i e with parallell sides to the bottom flatwork and the cable coming out of one end. These late SE380 variations has the squared-off triangular pickup routs used in all SE's up to 1980, but with the cable channel to one side. Late 70's SE models with these pickups had the same arrangement, only with a centre cable channel as well (aka "waffle rout).
The good thing about this arrangement is that you can actually fit standard-format Strat pickups in these with no extra work. With a normal SE-380 you need to enlarge the pickup cavities to make a Strat pup with a normal form factor drop in properly.

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The PU-S3s are ceramic single coils, with the bar magnet attached on top of the bottom flatwork insted of underneath, like on later and current ceramic Strat pickups, resulting in a quite tall coil. These are pretty hot pickups, in the 8.1 - 8.2 kOhm range. Predictably, they are a bit darker sounding than your average 6k-ish Strat pup and push the amp a bit harder, but they still have a recognizably Stratty sound. They may be low-end, but to my ears, it's perfectly possible to like them just on their own merits.

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Sadly, I had to replace the tone pots and cap, but the harness was nice and pristine when I got the guitar. Tone pots are June 1981, volume December of the same year.
The switch is a bit of a throwback, a three-way with the narrower 32 mm screw pitch used in the 1970s. Finding a five-way replacement with the correct screw pitch is difficult. You have to hunt for rare vintage parts or mod a current replacement five-way (41 mm screw pitch) with new screw holes to avoid having to mess with the pickguard. Always a bit of a pain in the neck. The original switch does hang fairly willingly in the 2 and 4 positions, though.

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The pickguard has the expected date stamp... but with a difference.
The standard stamp format is XYMMDD. The initial digit is some kind of unclear internal factory info (production line identifier? Inspector? No one knows afaik) and what you usually see over the years are 1, 2, 3 and 8. Then there are late stamps beginning with 5 that only makes sense if you read them in reverse, i e XDDMMY. Aaand to make it even more interesting, the two-digit day and month values are read left-to-right within themselves, if that makes sense. So in this case: the 2 at the end is 1982, to the left of that is 02 for February and then to the left of that, 03 for the 3rd day of the month. Which is consistent with Feb 1982-serial guitar.

Yeah I know, it's absolutely mental. But the theory holds up so far, lining up nicely and consistently with guitars with year and month-dated serials. Why this is I can't even begin guess, but given that Japanese is traditionally written and read top to bottom or right-to-left one might think that the modern left-to-right convention is less strong in Japan? So far it's only been seen in stamps beginning with 5.
Go figure. Or don't bother. :cool:

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The bridge is a good-quality unit with separate block and pressed-steel sadlles, but it's different from the bridges used in other Greco SE's from the same era. The saddles are blank, not stamped GRECO twice, and the alloy block is diffrent, slightly smaller and with rounded ends. It's apparently made by the same subcontractor who made the earlier one-piece cast S.T.C. bridges. As far as I know, that manufacturer has never been identified.

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The tuners are a step up from the standard SE-380 spec: instead of the lumpy low-end lozenge tuners, this one has late-pattern Kluson copies, with "Greco Deluxe" in a single line, starting on the forward edge of the housing, and press-in collars as oppsed to the earlier, screw-in version.

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All-in-all: a fine little strat, testament to the quality Greco offered at this point, even in entry level guitars. Cheaper wood and some simpler hardware, of course, but the workmanship is second to none, and it really does play and sound excellent.
But then again, it's pretty much all about the colour, isn't it? Either way, my three-year-old granddaughter loves it, so I gotta love it too. :)
Nice "Barbie' and congrats

I previously owned one that was in under the bed/crazy clean condition, serial B824151, all original with the original tremolo arm. Really fat neck on this one too, for a Strat neck .......
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there is currently another on Reverb serial B824124

With a serial number range of B824124 (current Reverb example) to B824171 (OP example) I wonder how many Barbies are out there?
With a serial number range of B824124 (current Reverb example) to B824171 (OP example) I wonder how many Barbies are out there?

Good question! They really are very close, aren't they?

I used to have a CAR one with rosewood fretboard, seemingly from the same series, but with a K81 serial. It was different in detail too, the neck was quite thin and it also had a seemingly original 31276 Excel-style alnico pickup installed in the bridge position (an awkward combo with the much hotter PU-S3s in the other two positions). Maybe the PM finish guitars were a small special run?

I've played this guitar a lot during the past week, and it really is an excellent guitar.