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For instance, Fender Bullets, made in early 1980's, are student model guitars, but are American made and use parts found in Telecasters of same period (pickups, etc). These are great-sounding, easy-playing, and nice looking instruments. You can still find Bullets for less than $300 ... although they're beginning to gather attention. Note, we're not talking Squire Bullet Stratocaster-type model, but American-made Fender model (looks like a Telecaster).
Fender also put out a Lead series -- Lead I, Lead II, and Lead III. Again, these were an American made student series -- but are great playing, solidly made, and sound wonderful. You can still pick up Lead's for less than $300.
Gibson Melody Makers have already been discovered by collectors -- but there's not a lot of action with Gibson's Kalamazoo line ... yet. These student models are similar in quality to Melody Makers and Fender Mustangs. I've found Kalamazoo models for less than $100!
I haven't mentioned other brands -- Epiphone, Gretsch, Guild, etc -- because either their student models have already exploded in price or they really don't have student models. Stick with Fender and Gibson, stick with American made, and keep your eyes on lesser-known student models ... and you'll find deals that will likely join other lines in appreciating over coming years.
Joey Robichaux operates the Free Sheet Music website at http://www.freesheetmusic.net and is an avid guitar collector.