Update: the got the one from The City. He got an electric tuner. I may delete this post in a bit.
Gary is taking guitar at school and the agency has approved us spending $225 for a guitar. The music stores in the area say that they do sell "student-quality" guitars for that amount.
Yesterday we went to a pawn shop. It isn't like I imagine them to be. It is big and really well organized. We've bought iPods there that were fine. They do have a one-month return policy. There is a separate alcove for jewelry that looks like a jewelry shop and a separate music room that is just full of instruments. The man who worked the music room sounded like he actually knew something about instruments, although we didn't ask him a lot of questions about which ones were good. There were about 30 acoustic guitars. One or two were over $500. There were two Yamaha's for about $300, and most were in the $200 range. There were a few that looked junky even to me that were under $100. One that was under $200 was a brand that had been recommended and it had an battery operated tuner built in. When it is on, little lights tell you if it is in tunes. Gary thought it sounded really good, but that may be because it was the one he got tuned just right.
Gary has some ability to judge a guitar after two weeks of class -- some. His instructor gave him some hints, and told him that it was really important that it feel right physically. She warned him that the "student" guitars might be too small for a 6 foot guy.
This morning Roland is taking Gary into The City to go to a store that just sells guitars, one of the ones that has $200 student guitars. He's going to see what they are like, but last night thought that he was probably going back to the pawn shop.
So...does anyone have any advice? Gary should be taking guitar all year and doesn't really expect it to be a life-long thing.