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If I buy a "54...


duluthdan

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About to endure a 400 mile round trip through mountain passes to check out a 1954 J45. Wish me luck, one way or the other... you will be able to tell if I acquire it, as surely the prices on the used guitar market will suddenly dip the day after. Bringing my 2009 J45 TV to compare - if it doesn't compete with that, it may not come home.

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Sorry I missed you in NYC. I made it in Tuesday for an evening conference, and watching my second son sing at Trinity Church.

I actually stopped by Umanov... Played a few 40s LG2s that sounded amazing... But pricey. I didn't bite. I caused the dot com bubble burst when I bought Yahoo, QCOM, and MSTR back in 2000. So I got that burden... You are good to go. :)

I still haven t seen that Martin exhibit at the Met.

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Well, if hell were to ever freeze over, this would be the cause of it! Thanks and congrats for entertaining the notion, Dan. I am sure I raised an eyebrow or two when I took my 2009 J-45 TV to do that very same thing in the listening/testing parlor of one of the East Coast's more respected vintage guitar shops. That was a great help having the TV for reference. A "selection" of 1940's and 1950's J-45's were taken off of their wall hangers and placed on old leather sofas, then the proprietor said "I'll be back to check on you in a little while". For a moment, I just stared- "Am I in heaven?" I will never forget that late winter morning... Will vintage prices drop? Hell, I would've paid for that experience alone. Figure that into the many intangibles. As far as going the extra coin from TV prices to the prices of the old stuff; well, that comes into the category of life's too short (ymmv). Hopefully Tom (tpbiii) will check in with some nice graphs and charts to show those values staying fairly solid now, and perhaps even slowly appreciating. Certainly not the depreciation of a guitar that's a year or two old. Maybe less of a liquid asset than before, but more of an asset than a trip to the islands.

 

Under this roof, there is old stuff, there is new stuff, vive la difference. Safe travels, you'll have plenty of time to think.

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You are probably there and back by now, perhaps with a 50s Gibson to your name!

 

It was you that was saying you didn't want to tangle with vintage guitars, wasn't it?

 

Ho oh, what's the Beatles song...'Hello Goodbye'... I love the tone of any fifties guitar I have ever played/owned, but playability is another story.

 

 

All the best.

 

 

BluesKing777.

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Sorry I missed you in NYC. I made it in Tuesday for an evening conference, and watching my second son sing at Trinity Church.

I actually stopped by Umanov... Played a few 40s LG2s that sounded amazing... But pricey. I didn't bite. I caused the dot com bubble burst when I bought Yahoo, QCOM, and MSTR back in 2000. So I got that burden... You are good to go. :)

I still haven t seen that Martin exhibit at the Met.

Did you play the 63 J45 with the adjustable saddle and cherry burst? I avoided the LG2s. Don't know why, just did. Went to a Broadway show Tuesday night. I refused to play in the dot com craze because I didn't get it at all. The 54 I am about to travel to is not outrageously expensive, I have the time, and the curiosity. I am still skeptical, and a bit leery. I'll bring my inspection mirror, and mediocre playing skills, along with the TV, and the JB too. The competition for entry into the stable will be stiff. It doesn't have to be stellar, but it does have to have a bit more energetic sound than most of the "old wood" I have played. Too many of them just plain sound "worn out".

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There's a common thought that vintage guitars should sound better than new guitars and that's why they're valuable. The problem is that it depends on what you think is better. I think the more correct term is that vintage guitars sound different, but not necessarily better. Some people prefer the sound of a new J-45 TV to the sound of an early 1950s J-45. I happen to like both but tend to prefer the older ones. If you're looking to buy a vintage guitar based solely on the fact that you want a better sounding guitar then I think you should stick to the TV. Maybe that's just the sound you're looking for?

I think that vintage guitars are priced accordingly because of their unique tonal qualities, relative rarity, and investment potential. They're just like any other investment in that you can't time the market. But, investment potential shouldn't spoil the unique experience of acquiring a great, rare vintage Gibson guitar. After all, you're buying it because you love it and it makes you happy right?

I suggest finding a dealer you can trust and asking for a 24 hour approval period. Then, enjoy the hunt. Try not to be preoccupied with investment potential or whether or not it's louder than your J45TV. It may or may not be louder, but it will definitely be different. So which do you prefer?

If that guitar makes you want to play more then that's the one. It's the one you just can't get off of your mind. Just looking at pictures of it makes you want to go play. You'll know it when you see it and hear it. Does the sole fact that it's vintage make it more desirable? Is that a bad thing? (I think not!)

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Sometimes old guitars are just ….well……old. When they came off the assembly line, they may have been duds. Some of the Gibson duds that are brand new that I play locally, will probably be duds when they are considered "vintage" in future years. Really, no matter if old or new, you just have to play the guitar and see if you like it. Dan keep us posted….I would bring a 24" steel straight edge to check relief at the 7th fret and how far below the top of the bridge the straight edge hits the front of the bridge, a mirror and small flash light to check for problems with the bridge plate,or broken or loose braces, I would bring a Gibson truss rod wrench to see if the truss rod is not broken. I would measure the height of the bridge to see if it has been shaved, I would loosen then tighten the tuners to make sure they don't have to be replaced. I would sight down the neck to see if it was twisted. I would check for buzzing, check the frets for depressions to see if they need replacing, especially in the cowboy chords. I would check to see if there were "divots" in the fret board from players who keep their nails long on the left hand…..I would check for cracks in the sides and back, and ESPECIALLY the top. I would check for cracks at the headstock. You know….just the basic stuff. Every so called "vintage" guitar I check and buy, even with careful inspection, I expect to spend $500-1200 on repairs to make it playable. So a cheap price up front, may not be a cheap price in the end. Best to find a guitar that doesn't need work, or has had the work done already!!! Good luck in the hunt, Dan!!

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If I bought the rarest guitar in the universe I swear the next day somebody would discover an entire warehouse full of NOS models.

 

Guitars I hunt down though always seem to turn out to be something other than I was told they were. But then again, what was supposed to be a re-finished 1943 J-45 turned out to be a 1942 J-50 and what was thought to be a 1930s Regal Big Boy was, in fact, an Oscar Schmidt-made jumbo. I figure I must have been riding with the angels.

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Sometimes old guitars are just ….well……old. When they came off the assembly line, they may have been duds.

 

Unfortunately since I am willing to bet not one of us bought a 1939 J-35 or 1942 J-45 right out of the factory we will never know what the heck they sounded like. The sound coming out of the ones we play is a combination of not only design and wood but of the effects of time on that wood, glue and finish which we can safely assume varied quite a bit from instrument to instrument.

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I've gotten away from the old guitar thing. Too many risks (60 yeas of use and counting), too much money down. And for what? Tone and feel? Yeh, there's something about that dried wood, but it's possible to find a new git classic tone and vintage neck profiles. Looks? There's someting about those worn patinas. You can't fake that. But you can't play a finish. Invetment value? Good for now, but that could change If the upper brackets ever get tired of their playthings or if the economy does a makeover. Plus, it's not like J45s are particualry rare birds. Hope that helps.

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Passed on this one, after sucking up the store's oxygen for 4 hours off and on. Was ready to cut the deal and had actually handed over the cash, but unwound it when we could not find the serial #. This 1954 J45 sounded very good. Very good. Held its own against the TV, with, yes, a bit more clarity. Intonation was spot-on, held it's tuning very well, neck and action were comfy, not banner baseball bat size. None of the issues were big, just a combination of things that when added together once again prove that I don't have much comfort swimming in the deep end of the pool. Much credit to OWF for reminding me to look for a shaved bridge.

 

This 19 fret guitar had a neck reset already, you could tell by the shim under the fretboard. And the straight edge test passed. But the bridge looked a wee bit short at just under 6/64ths. No real clear indication of a different footprint, but it seemed kind of thin to me. Removing the pins for a look at the seam between the bridge, the top, and the plate, and everything lined up, no gaps, no glue spots and no sign that new holes had been reamed. The thru saddle was a bit too narrow for the slot, and leaned forward, it would have to be replaced.

The hi E and B string tuners wiggled when the strings were loosened, and not just a bit, they did an honest wiggle. The 3 on a plate Kluson "no-line" tuners were correct for this year, but the shop had photos of the back of the headstock with the tuners off, and the Klussons were covering up the footprint of previously installed Grover's. Huh? Yep.

Could not find the serial # . Not on the back of the headstock, not on the neck block - not even a trace of a stamp there. Was a FON written in pencil on the guitars bottom in characters about 3/4ths inch high, beginning with an "x", which one would associate to 1954. Possible that the block was replaced at time of the neck-set? No real sign of the back being of- seemed to be no excess glue squeeze or marks inside.

Sure was nice to play, but had enough little heads catchers that I know I would later come to regret, possibly, and the price left me little exit room.

 

Oh well, the nearest thing I have to vintage will have to remain Ren's 2002 J-200 for a while.

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I used to own a 54 J45 and there was no visible serial number on the neck block, just the very faintest sign of one long gone.

The bridge was quite thin as well which isn't uncommon for Gibson guitars of this era.

Please PM me back channel and give me the name of the shop that has this, maybe I'll look into it for myself.

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I have mentioned this before but back in the 1960s I would see this old guy I knew take every acoustic he got in his hands - new or used - and give it a whack on the side with his thumb. I asked him about it and he told me while it was not going to tell him what a guitar sounded like, how well it was balanced or anything it did tell him something about how responsive the guitar was. While for all I know it might just be some major voodoo bull stuff, I have been doing it ever since.

 

In the past 50+ years I have subjected a whole lot of Gibsons to the whack test. What I found is flattops made from the late 1930s to around 1949 were pretty similar. You heard the strings come to life and could feel the vibration travel through you. With guitars built from around 1950/51 to 1961 most responded well but fewer gave you the same amount sound and vibration you got with say the Banners. Interestingly, there did not seem to be much difference between the 1950s scallop and non-scallop braced guitars.

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I have to give you a big Attaboy. I cannot tell you how many folks I know get bitten by the "vintage bug" and start feverishly looking for a guitar. I have seen them jump on the first guitar they stumble on only to find later they overpaid for something which turned out to be less than 100% original, have to pony up a chunk of change to make the guitar right, or just run across another one down the line they like better.

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I have to give you a big Attaboy. I cannot tell you how many folks I know get bitten by the "vintage bug" and start feverishly looking for a guitar. I have seen them jump on the first guitar they stumble on only to find later they overpaid for something which turned out to be less than 100% original, have to pony up a chunk of change to make the guitar right, or just run across another one down the line they like better.

I guess my tendency is to be leery of vintage guitars, I am just not that guy I suppose,not at those $ levels. The shop had lots of interesting things - a J-200 with those individual saddles, some neat banners, a raft of old Martins, but I purposely resisted playing anything whose price exceeded the cash I had in my pocket. Just don't want to be "smitten" by the GAS sirens...

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I could tell from the pictures of this 54 that the bridge surely had been shaved down.

So the buyer would have to figure in a neck re set as well as a new bridge.

At the price they are asking for this guitar in my opinion it is way high for a 54.

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Not being well-heeled is what got me into "used" guitars. Condition issues made them even cheaper and easier to reach so I guess I just got used to them. At one point in the 1970s I went and worked with a luthier for a year. Although I did end up building a guitar (an 00 size with spruce top, oak body and soft V neck) my goal was really to learn how they were built so I could fix them properly. The problem was there is a world of difference between being in a shop with every tool you need at your disposal (as well as advice) and trying to do it on your own at home without the proper setup.

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