Pre Factory PRS and the 21 Rules of Tone

If you run across an add for a 'pre-factory' PRS guitar there's a greater than 99% chance the person using the phrase 'pre factory' is ignorant or just full of shit and trying to pull one over on you. I did a Google search for 'pre factory PRS' and, wow, there is a lot of nonsense out there -- here's some from just the first couple of pages. Skip to the end to find out what constitutes a 'pre-factory' PRS.

Check out the PRS Rules of Tone!

Whoever bought this 1987 Custom 24 did not get a pre-factory guitar:

And "Vincent's Gear Locker", knowingly or otherwise, duped their buyer when they claimed to be selling a 1994 pre-factory Custom 24. Is this fraud? No, it's not fraud and you couldn't take Vincent's Gear Locker to court over the misuse of the term "pre factory" since it literally means nothing legally concrete. It's what is called ad "puffery" along the lines of, say, "sinker mahogany" or "vintage correct." It could mean any number of things, and, as such, carries almost no weight.

Mr Doodoo wants to sell or trade for a 1989 pre factory PRS. Yeah, sure they do.

How about D...D with the 1993? Not a pre-factory guitar.

 And here's a 1994 "pre factory" .... but it's not:

And more dealer bullshit:

Here's a guy full of pre-factory shit

Nothing you see here is a pre-factory PRS. The pre-factory designation, if it means anything, means the guitars built by Paul Smith and / or his various assistants prior to their move to the Virginia Avenue factory in April 1985. The first guitar to emerge from that factory did so August 1985.

When all these people misuse the term "pre factory" what they mean is "pre Stevensville" but Stevensville was just their second factory.

If your PRS has a serial number it is not a pre-factory guitar.

Check out the PRS 21 Rules of Tone!

If your PRS has a model name, it is almost 100% certainly not a pre-factory guitar. The "Custom" model prototype was displayed at NAMM in Feb. 1985 so there are a handful of pre-production Custom prototypes out there (in Nov. 1984 there were two used to demo the proposed line and drum up orders) but the first batch of production guitars, about 20 of them, were built in the new factory. Again, if your 1985 Custom has a serial number, it is a factory guitar.

How many pre-factory guitars even exist? Some say less than 100. Some say around 80 at the most.

Smith's first guitar was built in 1975. After a couple of years Smith had built 17. Production was pretty slow from '75 to '85 with no more than an average of 8-10 guitars in any given year. Some individual guitars took a full month or more to build. In an online interview, Smith says that early on it was one or two guitars per month.

Did Smith build all these guitars himself? No. At least a few were built for the most part by assistants. A 1980 double-neck, for example, was an apprentice piece.

Are the few pre-factory guitars better than the factory guitars? Smith himself calls his early guitars "toys" by comparison to those being built today by the PRS company.

Why would you want to buy a used toy?

Smith's famous "21 Rules of Tone" were only recently formulated and the first guitar to embody all 21 "rules" was the 408 model.