Many people in the anti-relic camp will compare those guitars to the pre-ripped jeans fad, saying that if you want a guitar to look old and beaten up you have to do it yourself by playing it for years and years.
Meanwhile people in the pro-relic camp will argue that since guitar companies switched from using nitrocellulose lacquer to thick coats of polyurethane lacquer to finish their instruments, it’s impossible to wear out an instrument like you could in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Also, with price tags of actual vintage Fenders wandering into the tens of thousands of dollars (or much mire!) they’re pretty much unobtainable for the average musician.
So is it cheating to purchase a relic-ed guitar? I don’t believe so. No more so than buying a blue guitar. Or a guitar with a maple fretboard. Or a tele with a humbucker. When it comes down to buying a musical instrument, the most important part is how it feels to you the player. Since finding the perfect guitar is such a personal journey, I don’t think anyone has the right to tell you what you should and should not dig!