Once upon a time... Hoshino Corporation - (Ibanez's parent company) started exporting copies ofAmerican electric and acoustic guitars in the sixties. Their copy guitars were so exacting in detail that Gibson sued Ibanez (unsuccessfully) in the late '70's. As a result of the lawsuit, Ibanez slightly altered their solid body designs so that Gibson and Fender would not be so nervous. Why would the guitar monopolies be concerned? Because by the mid seventies Ibanez had reached a level of quality that equaled them. And lower labor rates plus efficient manufacturing meant that Ibanez guitars could be sold for almost half (or less) of the cost of a Les Paul or Strat.
In 1974 or 1975 Ibanez co-operatively designed a new shape in solid body electric guitars. Here's the short scoop from Jim Donahue - a 16 year Ibanez employee and now head of Guitar Design, Quality Control, Parts.
"In the mid 70's a Guy in Japan at Ibanez wanted to make a Japanese guitar that was a mark of Japan, something to be proud of. His idea was to build a guitar widely loved and respected, like a Les Paul or Strat. So he called a meeting with the main guitar companies in Japan. Ibanez (Hoshino) Greco (Kanda Shokai) Diawa and Fuji. They had a close door meeting and the Iceman was designed. Each company had distribution rights to it in different global markets. Ibanez for the USA."
This resulted in one of the best looking and original designs to emerge from the Pacific Rim. With the triple coil pickup and mahogany body the first series of Iceman were light weight tone giants ahead of their time. Initial sales were not overwhelming as the very conservative American guitar culture was slow to realize the quality and value of Ibanez.
The Iceman was produced from 1975 to 1983, in various bolt-on and glued-neck models. About eight different models were available
at the peak of Iceman popularity in 1978-1979 (including the IC210 that Steve Miller played on the album "Fly Like an Eagle")and they retailed from $295 to $495. If you find a used early model these days, they run from $400 to $800. Early models will sometimes go for $1100 to $1700, and the 1978 PS-10 is worth approximately $2000 to $2500.
1978 - 1982 Production Numbers and Serial Number Chart are on this page.
Sales dwindled in the early eighties as the super-strats captured buyers dollars (why oh why?) and by 1983 only 2 models were offered. By the late eighties the Iceman had somewhat of a cult following and was rising in price as collectors bought them up. I used to rarely see an Iceman in a guitar store or pawn shop. When I did find one it was usually an IC50 and priced at $450. That was in 1991. Since re-introduction to the US in 1994, there are plenty of Icemen to go around. Most of the new models are made in Korea, not Japan - although exceptions can be found (like the PS10-LTD and PS10-Classic). Korean made guitars have replaced Japanese ones on the guitar-snobs shit list these days. Isn't it ironic? Don't ya think?
This is a new addition to the Iceman Site, a feature article on the 1975 model Iceman, which at that time was called an "Artist" model. Read much more about it on this page
The Re-Issue Models
In late 1994, the Iceman was dusted off and re-released for sale to the USA. The first new re-issue model was the '94 IC-500,
and very few of these were imported (a bass was available too, for the first time in the states). In fact, it wasn't even mentioned in the 1994 Ibanez catalog. For 1995, 3 guitar models including a "standard" model - IC300, one with tremolo - IC350 (the tremolo model was removed for 1996), and a bass model - ICB500 were offered. The PS-10 was available once again and by 1997 there were three variations, the PS-10 II and the PS-10 LTD and the PS10 Classic. The suggested price for the PS-10 II was $1100, the PS-10 LTD $2200 and the PS10 Classic $1900. Paul Stanley was once again playing the Iceman as were the members of the heavy metal band White Zombie. In 1996 a bold new Iceman model joined the ranks and the "J Model" was born, retailing for about two grand.
I've discovered that at least three companies sold Iceman copies in the
late seventies and early eighties. Here is a photo of a copy built by Hondo-II
. They're accurate copies with large block-type fret markers and white binding around the body, neck and head stock. Both have bolt-on necks and an unsightly, rectangular jack plate on the front
of the body. I ran across another Hondo-II Iceman copy in a Tucson store,
take a look
This Iceman copy was made by Antares and is not as exact as the Hondo. Close-up of the Antares Iceman headstock and body. If you have any info or have
ever seen an Iceman copy, please let me know the details. If you can get me a HONDO-II catalog with this Iceman copy in it, I'll buy it.
Discovered in 2001... A company called "Odessa" also sold Iceman copies! Yes, for the first time you can see this very obscure guitar. Here is the Odessa Iceman full view and the headstock close-up. Many thanks to Jeff Maggard for sending photos of this rare specimen. Jeff bought this nice looking cherry sunburst brand new in the early eighties and shortly thereafter installed some hotter Dimarzio pickups in it. It was his first guitar and he still plays and loves it! It looks very much like the Hondo and Antares copies and was probably made in the same asian factory. All Odessa needed to do was put their own truss rod cover on and Viola! - they had their own model.
Related Web Sites
Online/Auction Buying Observations
Since the introduction of Online Auctions I've noticed that you can get a good deal on vintage Icemen (and other Ibanez guitars) if you watch
the auction sites closely. I personally have purchased several Icemen from eBay and Yahoo auctions. The only trouble I've had myself is a Rocket Roll model that arrived with rusted/corroded parts - that I was not warned about. I should have asked about rust beforehand and the dealer did offer to take it back (as long as I paid shipping both ways). The online photo was not clear enough for me to see the rusty parts too. So learn from my mistake, always ask questions before you buy, even if they seem obvious to you.