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Vintage guitars for the player or collector?


RudyH

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I went to a guitar shop that had a lot of "vintage" guitars in stock. When I looked at the costs, I was quite amazed at what these older guitars fetched. For example, a 1960s Gibson ES330 was about the same as a new Gibson ES335 Dot with a plain top (i.e., about $2500). Well, the ES335 is probably a much better guitar for a musician than a one-humbucker 1960's economy ES. An older ES345 in not such great shape cost more than a brand new ES345. So what's making these older guitars desirable? Is there a nostalgia market with some players wanting an older instrument? Is there the perception that the older instruments are better in some way? Or are the high prices because of a collector market? There's not criticism here, I'm just trying to understand the situation.

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I went to a guitar shop that had a lot of "vintage" guitars in stock. When I looked at the costs' date=' I was quite amazed at what these older guitars fetched. For example, a 1960s Gibson ES330 was about the same as a new Gibson ES335 Dot with a plain top (i.e., about $2500). Well, the ES335 is probably a much better guitar for a musician than a one-humbucker 1960's economy ES. An older ES345 in not such great shape cost more than a brand new ES345. So what's making these older guitars desirable? Is there a nostalgia market with some players wanting an older instrument? Is there the perception that the older instruments are better in some way? Or are the high prices because of a collector market? There's not criticism here, I'm just trying to understand the situation. [/quote']

 

A little bit of both--collectors drive up the cost. I also think there is a perception that the wood is better and they sound better with age. I can't really say if that is true--since I am a hack.

 

A lot of people will pay top dollar for a 1960s mustang. Is that car better than the current mustangs. No way. The technology in current models surpasses the older models by leaps and bounds. But there is nothing better than getting behind the wheel of a vintage car and driving a piece of history.

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Mostly collectors, rock stars and, formerly, stock brokers.

 

I think vintage guitars are really cool but they are totally beyond my means so I don't think about them a lot, at least, not seriously. But, I also think that anyone can buy a very fine new guitar that equals or betters any vintage guitar as far as playability and sound goes; the only thing missing will be the "mojo" but you can always make your own.

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Older guitars are already " seasoned "...The wood molecules yadda, yadda, yadda are now where they should be, and the guitar will be sounding its best. Or, so they say.

 

My Yairi acoustic comes pre-seasoned. After the guitar is made, its hung up in a room where music is blasted 24/7 to make the wood vibrate and settle. I dont know if this does much, but I must say its a sweet sounding guitar.

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Have you compared that Yairi to many other acoustics, deepblue? What do you like about the sound of it specifically? I've been thinking about an acoustic for quite a long time and the Yairis always seemed like great guitars. The one specific acoustic I was considering is the Martin D-28 GE (Golden Era) but it's expensive as hell.

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The vintage market was fine in the early 90's, when things were still at least within reach for most musicians. But by the late 90's "values" had increased exponentially (thanks especially to NONplaying collectors and foreign "investors") and I'm sorry, I'm not paying more for an old guitar than I am for a new car. Ain't happenin'. Unfortunately Gibson, Fender and the other oldies haven't followed through on making classic designs correctly AND offering them to players/collectors for a price that would make them attainable by most without having to take out a second mortgage. I think the fact that they offer "classic-ish" versions of some of the longstanding favorites is great (better than the Norlin-era offerings for sure, but that's not saying much), however I think the upcharge on the Historic stuff is ridiculous considering what little actual manpower goes into the guitars as opposed to back in the good ol' days. There's really no reason (aside from pure greed, as admitted by a certain CEO already on a couple occasions) that the guitars can't cost half or even a more conservative 2/3 of their price now, and I think if they would narrow down their reissuing to some significant, PROPERLY MADE models made to order (LP Std/Custom/Jr., SG Std/Custom/Special Jr., '58 & '67 V, Explorer, the 'Birds, a handful of the ES guitars, etc) and cut the prices, the sheer volume of sales could make up for the price cut, still giving the Beast its precious money while at the same time taking a little power back from the "vintage" (USED) market and putting Gibsons in the hands of guys who might not have the means to get them otherwise. Of course with Historic/Custom prices (and the USA stuff) growing like they are, Gibson may soon go from being the Cadillac of guitars to the Bentley of guitars, and the lowly common man won't be "driving" them any more. Blame collectors, and blame the ever-growing corporation for their lack of clarity on the matter.

 

I have a lot of respect though for Billy Gibbons, Rick Neilson, Angus and a few others who have a buttload of "vintage" guitars, yet rotate them out for use regularly. Those cats got it right. +:-@

 

H-Bomb

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Anything that has a little mojo, rock star association, cool as sh*t and a finite number to it is going to be a collectible. So a guitar that was made in 1960 has all of the above. The classic example; there were only so many 1959 Les Pauls made in 1959. There will never be another guitar made in 1959 that wasn't made in 1959... Follow me? So a couple Rock stars use them, say they are great and everybody wants them, whether they play guitar or not. You can buy a 1959 reissue and own a great guitar, maybe even better than a real 1959 but its not a real 1959.... So now we have a guitar worth 300,000 to half a million bucks and that's without it ever being touched by a "Rock Star" SO imagine a 1959 Les Paul that was once owned by jimmy Page or played by him at a show or he looked at once while passing buy in a high speed train.... That makes it even more valuable... Is it better than a New Les Paul 59 reisuue, probably not. There are those who may argue it is much better than a new one, but really, 500,000 times better?????????

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Good point guys, especially on what H-bomb and Dave said. There's the whole argument that vintage electric guitars sound better because the magnets in the pups have mellowed out, "sweetening" the tone to perfection- but I don't know how much difference that really makes. I've never played a vintage instrument (I have a friend who has a 63 LP jr. but won't let me touch it) but I do know that I played an R8 and it kicked ***. I have trouble believing that a 40+ year old instrument would sound, feel, play, and look as good as that.

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Have you compared that Yairi to many other acoustics, deepblue? What do you like about the sound of it specifically? I've been thinking about an acoustic for quite a long time and the Yairis always seemed like great guitars. The one specific acoustic I was considering is the Martin D-28 GE (Golden Era) but it's expensive as hell.

 

Rich...I compared it to guitars all in the same price range ( $2000-$2500 )

The models I checked out were Taylors, Martins and even a few Gibsons. Privately I checked out a Guild J50.

None of them sounded bad..not at all. In fact one of the reasons I didnt want the Gibson model was for no other reason then it had electronics....I want a pure acoustic...no plug ins.

 

They all sounded sweet, but I just thought the tone of the Yairi was a little more musical to my ear. Very even sounding with just a slight edge to the lower register. The neck felt comfortable right away in my hands, and the craftsmanship was outstanding. I know what you mean about Martins. But the one I really liked was close to $4000 and theres no way id spend that kind of money on an acoustic guitar.

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I think vintage guitars are really cool but they are totally beyond my means so I don't think about them a lot' date=' at least, not seriously. But, I also think that anyone can buy a very fine new guitar that equals or betters any vintage guitar as far as playability and sound goes; the only thing missing will be the "mojo" but you can always make your own.

[/quote']

 

Rich said it again.

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Unfortunately Gibson' date=' Fender and the other oldies haven't followed through on making classic designs correctly AND offering them to players/collectors for a price that would make them attainable by most without having to take out a second mortgage. I think the fact that they offer "classic-ish" versions of some of the longstanding favorites is great (better than the Norlin-era offerings for sure, but that's not saying much), however I think the upcharge on the Historic stuff is ridiculous considering what little actual manpower goes into the guitars as opposed to back in the good ol' days. [/quote']

 

I partially agree with what you're saying, mainly when it comes to Gibson. But, I think Fender has done a great job of offering affordable guitars built closely to original specs. While I've never played a vintage Strat or Tele, my 57 RI Strat and 52 RI Tele are both outstanding guitars.

 

I recall reading an article with some guy from Fender who was at their NAMM booth when they first put out the reissues. Some dude came along and told them they blew it with the 52 RI Tele as it was nothing like an original. The Fender rep pulled out the original 52 Tele they used as their template and they dude had nothing more to say. Now, that's a story related from a guy who works for Fender so I have to take it with a grain of salt, but it does show that they're at least picking a starting point from original examples to model their reissues from.

 

Gibson is just plain overpriced. I'd check out an R9 just to see what all the fuss is about, but I'm not paying that much for a guitar just because it's a reissue. It would also have to be a great player which is what made me buy the one LP that I do own.

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Older guitars are already " seasoned "...The wood molecules yadda' date=' yadda, yadda are now where they should be, and the guitar will be sounding its best. Or, so they say.

 

My Yairi acoustic comes pre-seasoned. After the guitar is made, its hung up in a room where music is blasted 24/7 to make the wood vibrate and settle. I dont know if this does much, but I must say its a sweet sounding guitar.[/quote']

 

Seasoning is one thing, age of the wood is an entirely different matter. I think you can talk to just about any expert in wood (and I've heard quite a few), that the wood we get now isn't the same grade or quality. There IS a difference. Is that difference worth 100x the price of what you can buy an R9 for now? I guess only the person buying it can be the judge of that. Think about why the guitar is selling for that price now. How many 1959's were made? How many survived to today?

The best analogy I can think of is baseball cards. Why are the old Micky Mantle, Roger Maris, Willie Mays, etc. going for the prices they do?...because they made a buttload of them initially and now only a limited number survive. I wish I had all my old ones back...I had multiples...and I mean MULTIPLES of Mantle, Maris and all those from 1965-1970...we moved across the country when I was 13 and my Mom and Dad threw out my whole collection! Needless to say I kidded them a lot over the years about how I could have paid for their retirement with that collection...but I digress. This is why an original '59 is going in the region of $200-350K with any that have a "history" going into the million dollar range.

I would love to play an original just to see what the differences are. I'm not sure my pocketbook could afford the insurance for one though. I'll just keep playing my R9 for now and if the opportunity comes along to play one, great...I'll do so, enjoy the experience and think about it in my old age about how many hands that guitar passed through and that I was lucky enough to have had my hands (however insignificant) added to that history.

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OK open forum question' date=' whats so different about our wood today vs a older guitar. Not being a smartazz but I would like to know. [/quote']

 

Legit question. The way I keep hearing it explained...now mind you this is from people in the business of wood...mainly building and/or restoring homes and furniture, but I think it still applies...is that the wood from even 50 to 100 years ago (or older) is better due to what it was harvested from. Mainly old growth and trees that had been growing a long, long time. From what I've heard they say the wood from long ago had less warpage problems, better grain and actually seasoned better. I remember growing up seeing our house built back in 1961 that the wood was dry, no sap, straight as an arrow. Now days when I go and buy wood I see sap sticking to the wood, it actually feels damp in some cases and I have a heck of a time trying to find straight pieces when I want to do some framing or other work.

I don't know how accurate my information is, but that's what I've heard from people in the know (even heard some of that on Antiques Roadshow concerning the old furniture).

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