Robin guitars have been around since the early 80’s and were manufactured until 2010. I remember seeing ads for Robin guitars in both Guitar Player and Guitar World in the 80’s, but hadn’t remembered them until recently when I saw one for sale on Craigslist. I decided to do a little more research into this hidden gem of a collectible guitar.

Robin guitars seemed to be the first guitar manufacturer that did the reverse (upside down tuner) headstock. Most of us that grew up in the hair metal era would think this to have been somebody like Jackson, Charvel, ESP, or Hamer. I could be wrong, but from what I’ve read Robin seems one of if not “the” first one in 1982. From 1982 until 1986 Robin guitars were made in Japan, by Tokai and later ESP. Japanese stock was also sold into early 1987 until it was depleted. USA guitar production began in 1988 when Dave Wintz begain setting up a guitar manufacturing facility here in the states in the Houston, Texas area. It should be no surprise that in the 80’s Eric Johnson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Jimmie Vaughan all played a Robin guitar. I have read in other places that even Billy Gibbons has played one.

SRV and his brother Jimmie used to perform the song “Pipeline” on stage with this Robin double neck:

Robin SRV double neck Pipeline guitar

Here’s a video of the Vaughan brothers playing it live on stage:

During the Japanese era there were some very unusual and cutting edge body shapes sold, the most memorable might be the Robin Wedge guitar. Imagine getting a case for this one! Reports vary on how many of Wedge’s were sold, some say under 100 were made, other reports say up to 150, the Robin history page says up to 200. You would think this guitar would be a problem to play, but the older reviews that I have read all say that it is really well balanced playing upright with a strap, and it’s even very comfortable to play sitting down. Personally, I wonder what this thing weighs!

Robin Wedge guitar

If you read the History of Robin Guitars, you’ll see in the Japanese days they had the Wedge, the Robin Ranger, the Robin Soloist (an SG copy), Rival, Raider, and the RV, RG, and RG strat copies. Most were made with Floyd Rose tremolo systems, but many had the optional Kahler bridge instead.

You can buy a new Robin guitar at Ed Roman in Las Vegas still today, it would appear that Ed bought out the remaining stock a few years back (something he excels at).

Now that you know a little bit about the fabled Robin Guitar history, let’s focus on the incredibly collective Robin Medley and Robin Medley Custom that were made in the USA from 1988 to 2012. The Robin Medley guitar is basically a super strat. Many companies made super strats during the 80’s, and it started a trend that continues today. Take a look at this beautiful rear belly carve from a late 80’s Medley:

Robin Medley Guitar Rear

During the extravagance of the hair metal 80’s many guitar brands built flashy electric guitars with custom paint jobs. There were many, many Robin Medley Custom guitars like the one at the top of this page with the “Pauline” airbrush graphic, or this one with the literal money shot:

Robin Medley Money graphic

Here’s another unusual one with a “Sea” custom paint job:

Robin Medley custom paint job

If you look around various online marketplaces you’ll find rather quickly that the Robin Medley guitars are a little scarce. This leads sellers to label absolutely everything “rare” and inflate the prices. Keep in mind, just because something is harder to find doesn’t make it worth more money. The only thing that truly inflates price is demand, and I have seen many listings on Reverb last 6 to 12 months or more. What you want to pay attention to are the time period (Japanese or American), and what the options are (Floyd, Kahler, pickups, custom paint job, set neck or bolt on, etc.).

Here is a picture of a Robin Medley with the split headstock and the optional Kahler tremelo bridge:

Robin Medley guitar with Kahler

Also (not that it matters price wise or not), you can often find Robin Medley guitars with one of two headstocks. The first is the reverse headstock that they’re known for, the second is the very different V type headstock that looks like this:

Robin Medley Guitar V headstock

I think what makes that unusual is that it’s a 4/2 tuner split (like an Ernie Ball Music Man), but you would’ve thought that it was 3/3.

Let’s talk about the specs of the Robin Medley guitar in case you’re in the market for one. They are 24 fret guitars. The Robin Medley Standard normally had the reverse headstock but I have seen versions that had the V as pictured above (in later years that was optional). They had ash bodies with the rosewood fingerboard that had dots on it and Floyd Rose recessed into the body was usually the norm. They had ash bodies with various pickup configurations. The Medley guitars had letters to indicate model like I, II, III, IV, A, V, VI, and deluxe. Configurations varied from one humbucker to two, or HSS or even SSS or HS pickups.

The most sought after ones were the Robin Medley Custom Guitars. Instead of ash, the bodies were flamed maple over mahogany – so there’s definitely a big upgrade there. The neck typically had the split headstock, and you still got the rosewood fingerboard (usually) – but I have seen some maple ones. I have also seen inlays that are very similar to Jackson shark tooth inlays. Supposedly customs only lasted until 1990, and sometimes had the optional Kahler trem.

Robin guitars are truly collectible today, and if you find one and end up buying it – just make sure that the configuration is something you are comfortable with. Maybe the mahogany/maple cap version is too heavy for you, or maybe you wouldn’t like the sound of the ash versions. Maybe you only want one with the split headstock or a Kahler bridge on it. Or maybe you just want one with a cool custom paint job. You might also have fun checking out the Robin Lovers Forum if you’re truly interested in what’s out there (and who’s playing them).

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