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January, 2009:

Interesting article about guitar collecting

I found this old, but still relevent article on bnet.com

Anyone who’s ever heard a Jimi Hendrix solo knows that guitars can produce fantastic sounds, and anyone who’s ever ogled the curves of a Fender Stratocaster will tell you they’re mighty stylish as well. But the instrument’s appeal goes well beyond its visual or sonic charm, its practicality or even its ties to musical history–it can also be a highly prized collectible. Certain vintage models are often regarded as investments, much like antique chairs or Impressionist paintings. Perhaps this is why so many people who start out with a youthful passion for playing end up happy victims of what Walter Becker of the rock band Steely Dan once drolly referred to as “GAS: Guitar Acquisition Syndrome.”

Look among the ranks of those who’ve caught this particular bug, and you’ll find a surprising number of chief executives, most of whom aren’t professional musicians but all of whom grew up with rock music and are now helping to drive the vintage market upwards. Take Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, for example; his collection includes the white 1968 Stratocaster that Jimi Hendrix played at Woodstock in August 1969. Bought from an Italian disk jockey for $1.3 million, that guitar is now the centerpiece of the Allen-funded Experience Music Project, a Seattle rock ‘n’ roll museum and historical foundation that opened in 2000.

Allen may be America’s best-known executive guitar collector, but there are lots more. Frank De Fina, president of Panasonic Systems Solutions Company of America, conservatively estimates that his collection is “in the dozens.” Its highlights include a 1939 Martin D-18 acoustic and three electric models lusted after by collectors worldwide: a 1953 Fender Esquire, a 1956 Fender Stratocaster and a 1959 Gibson Les Paul. With such a large number of treasures on hand, storage became an issue. So a few years back, De Fina bought a bank vault to house his collection. “Bank vaults are more readily available than many kinds of vintage guitars,” he quips, “and they’re a lot cheaper, too.”

Tom Simons, president and creative director of Partners & Simons, a Boston marketing firm, doesn’t have as extensive a collection as De Fina, and regards himself as “a guitar accumulator” rather than a collector. Still, the dozen instruments that he’s accumulated would probably strike most people as extravagant. One of them, a Danelectro Bellzouki electric 12-string from the mid-’60s, is described by its owner as “not playable but fun to look at.” Comments like this, by the way, are a sure sign that GAS has taken hold.

Henry Juszkiewicz’s early interest in playing and collecting guitars was so strong that he ended up buying a guitar company; since 1986, he’s been the CEO of Gibson, makers of the legendary Les Paul, among many others. His collection now numbers “around 40,” mainly Gibson prototypes, including two models designed by country great Chet Atkins. Juszkiewicz confesses that he owns guitars besides Gibsons–“I can’t be a one-brand guy,” he admits–but in deference to his position, he won’t reveal what they are.

Diamonds in the Rough

Why has guitar collecting become such a popular pursuit for these and so many other chief executives? Most just love the instrument, for the way it looks, sounds and feels. Many also love it for what it represents: their youth. “There’s a little bit of the outlaw in the electric guitar,” marketer Simons says. “What’s more, CEOs are the business world’s version of rock stars, and a climate-controlled closet humidor full of vintage instruments is a link back to a time when they were able to practice the occasional bad behaviors without repercussions. Those guitars are reminders of when the good times really rolled.”

Of course, there are other, perhaps more shrewd, reasons. “Look at a guitar that sells for $12,000,” says Gibson’s Juszkiewicz, “then look at a diamond that sells for the same amount of money. It’s this little stone. There’s no craftsmanship, there’s no history, and it does nothing. There are a lot of diamonds being sold out there, and yet I would posit that the guitar is of more legitimate value. The reality is that in our marketplace, the investment quality of instruments is pretty phenomenal.”

He’s not joking. In the last few years, the prices of vintage guitars have skyrocketed. The most extreme case is that of the Gibson Cherry Sunburst Les Paul. Approximately 1,700 of these guitars were made between 1958 and 1960 before the line was discontinued due to lack of popularity. Their original list price was under $300; as recently as five years ago, you could find one for $45,000. Today, they’re selling for $250,000. And Stan Jay, president of leading vintage guitar dealer Mandolin Brothers in Staten Island, N.Y., wagers that a mint-condition “Burst” could fetch $300,000 before this year is over.

Other high-ticket items are Martin acoustic guitars made before World War II and so-called “pre-CBS” Fender electric guitars, made before CBS bought the company in 1965. “The rate of appreciation for those models in the last year has been the fastest I’ve ever seen.” says George Gruhn, owner of Gruhn Guitars in Nashville, author of Gruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars, and generally acknowledged as one of the world’s foremost guitar authorities. “Some of them have jumped as much as 75 percent.” And though Gruhn is as shocked as anyone by these price hikes, he doubts that the bubble will burst in any lasting way: “I haven’t seen any guitars drop in value and never get back, and I’ve been doing this for 42 years.”

read the rest of the artice here

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Electra Phoenix for sale

Electra Phoenix GuitarI found this guitar for sale today while I was cruising around some guitar sites.

I’ve never heard of Electra before, but reading the sales info it seems to have come from the Westone/Matsumoku stable of brands and was sold in the US through St Louis Music in the early 1980s.

It’s very “80’s” with the brass bridge, knobs and nut and looks very similar to Westones of that era. (well it would, wouldn’t it?)

It’s pretty cheap at £295 and I can’t believe there are many more of this brand floating around out there.

Here’s the link if you want to check it out for yourself..

Electra Phoenix

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Collectable Guitars pt 13 – 1970s BC Rich Mockingbird


The Mockingbird was introduced in the mid 1970s as part of BC Rich’s then – new radically shaped range.

Alongside the Warlock model, the Mockingbird has become an iconic BC Rich model, and probably the most famously used, with players including Slash, Craig Chaquico of Starship, Kerry King of Slayer and a host of rock players from the 1980’s.
BC Rich MockingbirdThe original Mockingbirds had neck-through body design, as all BC Riches then had and many do in the current range.

They were noticed for their outlandish Explorer-meets-BC Rich Seagull style, ironically now one of BC Rich’s more subdued shapes. They had active DiMarzio pickups controlled by a variety of coil-split switches and knobs strewn over the bottom right corner of the body.

Mockingbirds are still very much available, from prices as low as £250 for a version with a bolted-on neck. Neck-through versions are from about £400 new.

The 1970s versions are of very high quality as they were made when BC Rich were still an oddball boutique manufacturer, and as such the prices of originals are high, starting from around the £1500 level in most cases.

However, if you got hold of one you would have a great quality, collectable rock machine which far surpasses several new guitars of its type in terms of quality.

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Collectable Guitars pt 12 – The Gibson Trini Lopez

Gibson Trini Lopez

Trini Lopez is a popular American-Mexican singer and guitarist who designed two signature guitars for Gibson in 1964. The first was the Trini Lopez Standard and the second the Custom, or Deluxe.

Gibson Trini LopezThe Standard is based on the classic ES335 shape, but with a trapeze tailpiece (as seen on early Gibson Les Pauls) and diamond-shaped soundholes. The guitar also differed to an ES335 in that it had a Gibson Firebird neck set into the body.

The Trini Lopez Custom is a much rarer instrument. It is based on an old jazz guitar designed in 1961 by Barney Kessel. The Custom has a double-cutaway body like that of an ES335, but with the cutaways much sharper and a larger body, giving a slightly unbalanced look.

Gibson Trini Lopez CustomThe Lopez models were discontinued in 1971 and are collectible and highly prized today, although not particularly expensive at this point in time.

The Standard has been given a new lease of life in 2008 by Dave Grohl, singer and guitarist with the Foo Fighters.

His Gibson signature DG335 model is a modified Trini Lopez Standard finished in Gibson’s classic shade Pelham Blue. The Trini Lopez models are rare and pretty expensive, but Grohl’s signature model is more affordable (and readily available).

 

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Collectable Guitars pt 11 – The Gibson Moderne


icontexto-webdev-social-bookmark-09facebook481Gibson Moderne

Gibson ModerneThe Gibson Moderne is one of Gibson’s most infamous instruments, and due to its limited production and the story surrounding it, it has acquired semi-mythical status.

It was first announced in 1958. The Moderne was slated to be part of a very modernistic three-guitar series including the Flying V and Explorer, now two of the most successful guitars ever made. So what happened to the Moderne?

In 1958 the three guitars were just too ahead of their time. They were dropped unceremoniously within a year.

The Flying V and Explorer were reissued in 1967 and 1976 respectively, and continue to have huge followings. In 1958-9, only 96 Vs and 22 Explorers were made, but there was simply no demand for the particularly bizarre Moderne- not a single one was made, or so most people think. Some collectors have been slavishly trying to track down a 1958 Moderne for decades, to no avail.

As far as anyone knows, no Moderne was made until the “reissued models” of 1982. The only information collectors have to go on is the original patent drawing and a 1958 shipping record.

The Moderne was “re”- introduced in 1982. The 1980s models were not very successful either, with only 183 being made in the initial run. Other than the Korean-made Epiphone copies, Gibson has refused to manufacture the Moderne again and there have been none made since the original “2nd series” was phased out in around 1983.  These can occasionally be found for sale, and are commanding high prices as they are still a rarity.

Also not very common is the little-known Ibanez Futura, a copy of the Moderne made in the 1970s and 80s.
Ronald Lynn Wood, a guitarist originally from Flint, MI became fascinated by the Moderne as a young man and set out to unravel the mystery of this elusive guitar. His new book, Moderne: The Holy Grail of Vintage Guitars, has just been released by Centerstream Publishing, and it is the most exhaustive and comprehensive accounting to date of the search, the history, and the rumors and facts surrounding the Moderne.

You can buy it here;

Moderne Guitar: Holy Grail of Vintage Guitars

Price: £22.95

3.0 out of 5 stars (2 customer reviews)

13 used & new available from £6.88

Collectable Guitars pt 10 – The Gibson Corvus


icontexto-webdev-social-bookmark-09facebook481Gibson already had two very successful unorthodox looking guitars in 1982 – the much – emulated Flying V and Explorer, which are considered the benchmark for odd shaped guitars to this day.  Which is why the unusual Corvus, launched in 1982 to little fanfare, so prompted the question “What were Gibson thinking?”

No-one really seems to know the answer to this question, and even at the time one imagines several Gibson workers were probably mystified.

No guitar had ever attempted a shape like this before, and with hindsight it seems fairly safe to assume why. No-one was prepared for the sheer madness, or possibly ugliness of the design, which drew numerous comparisons to a tin opener, although this is presumably not the effect Gibson was aiming for!

The guitar, quite apart from the unusual shape, was a perfectly normal guitar with single-coil or humbucking pickups and tune-o-matic bridge, although a bolt-on neck, unusual for Gibson, who usually utilised set necks. Finishes included classic TV yellow, white, natural wood and a particularly vibrant orange. There were three models, the Corvus I, II and III (depending on the number of pickups).

corvusThe Corvus (Latin-speakers may know this is a Latin word meaning crow, which is maybe what Gibson were trying to emulate with this shockingly unconventional design) was a complete failure for the company and was withdrawn, having sold barely any units, in 1984.

However, the Corvus has gained a small cult following after its demise, so they aren’t as reviled now as they were.

If you do find one, you’d certainly be the only person on your street with one!

Guitar Books Roundup pt 1

guitarguideThe Official Vintage Guitar Magazine Price Guide 2009 (Official Vintage Guitar Magazine Price Guide)

This year’s price guide; The bible of the vintage guitar collecting industry.

 

 

 

gruhnsGruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars: An Identification Guide for American Fretted Instruments

For collectors, dealers and players, this updated guide provides specifications, serial numbers, and more for determining the originality of vintage American acoustic and electric fretted instruments. Detailing thousands of models of major manufacturers, the book now includes expanded coverage of Martin, Guild, Mosrite, Dobro, Gibson banjos, Fender amps and Gibson amps, plus updates on the latest models from Fender, Gibson, Rickenbacker and others since 1990.

 

warmansWarmans Vintage Guitar Field Guide (Warman’s Field Guides)

Another guitar identification and price guide. A nice companion book to the Vintage Guitar Magazine price guide.

 

 

 

 

bluebookBlue Book of Electric Guitars

The guitar industry’s most comprehensive publication on electric guitar information and pricing has been dramatically improved! The new 11th Edition Blue Book of Electric Guitars is now over 1,150 pages, identifies over 1,200 guitar manufacturers, trademarks, and luthiers, and features hundreds of new images. Written by Zachary R. Fjestad and edited by S.P. Fjestad, the fully revised 11th Edition Blue Book of Electric Guitars keeps the reader up-to-date on new and vintage pricing, technical information on electric instruments, and serialization on most major trademarks. This edition lists the current and discontinued electric companies, contains a thoroughly revised Trademark Index with contact information, and features hundreds of black and white photos depicting popular makes and models.

gibsonclassicGibson Electrics: The Classic Years

Since the inception of the first “electrical” guitars in the 1920s, no other manufacturer has produced a greater variety of professional quality models than Gibson. This book presents a documented account of the instruments released during a highly creative period from the 1930s up to the mid-60s, which saw the coming of age of the electric guitar. It describes all the models that have made history and contributed to establishing the reputation of Gibson. This edition features over 500 illustrations, including 100 in color, and previously unpublished material.

tedTed McCarty’s Golden Era 1948-1966

Gibson Guitars: Ted McCarty’s Golden Era is a long overdue book that covers the world’s greatest period of guitar manufacturing. As CEO of Gibson Guitars from 1948 to 1966, Ted McCarty presided over the production of nearly one million instruments and amplifiers. 1950s Gibson Les Paul Standards, Flying Vs, Explorers, and ES-335s are considered to be some of the most valuable fretted instruments in the world. This book is Ted McCarty’s first and only complete biography, and a book that gives us a glimpse into a golden era of his factory and his loyal employees who made some of the world’s most desirable guitars. It features over 100 photographs, some from Ted’s personal archives and never before published. “Ted McCarty was the architect of a Golden period in Gibson’s history. During his 18-year tenure, he helped to reestablish the company’s historic leadership in the industry through a number of musical innovations that still resonate today.” Gibson Chairman and CEO Henry E. Juszkiewicz

Collectable Guitars pt 9 – The Fender Performer

Fender’s Katana was a flop, selling barely any units in its 1986 one-year, lifespan, even when a cheaper and more basic Squier brand version was launched. Another model was also launched to be made exclusively in Fender’s new Japanese factory, which also departed from Fender’s traditions- the Performer. This guitar resembled a Fender Stratocaster mixed with a BC Rich guitar, with a small, angular body and pointed horns.

performerThe unusual body and headstock shapes have been rumored to have originated in the shape of the scrap wood leftover from making Japanese Stratocasters. The body is small with a deep double cutaway. The tuning machines are found on the upper edge of the triangular headstock. The fretboard is two octaves and features a locking nut and jumbo frets. The bridge is a floating System I tremolo. Both bass and guitar are built to the highest level of quality and detailing. For example, the controls have inset rubber grips, the tuning heads have fully enclosed gears and the jack sockets are an enclosed, not ‘skeleton’, type, in contrast to many other Fender products with more ‘economy’ hardware.

The Performer boasted two angled custom humbucking pickups with a coil-split function and a Floyd Rose-style locking tremolo. The guitar features a volume knob, a tone knob, a pickup selector switch (neck/both/bridge) and, most importantly, a coil tap switch which disables one coil of each humbucker, resulting in a guitar with two single-coil pickups. This is perhaps the guitar’s most famous and useful feature, as it can produce heavy, fat humbucker sounds as well as crisp, sharp, Strat-like tones.

Both were discontinued in 1986 and haven’t been made since. These two guitars are a little-mentioned and underrated point in Fender’s history.

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Collectable Guitars pt 8 – Bond Electraglide


bond electraglide neckThe Bond Electraglide was a very unusual, little-known guitar made in Scotland by Andrew Bond in 1984-5.

The guitar was highly odd, featuring a carbon-fibre body, very complex digital readouts instead of controls, and a neck which featured no frets, instead a “stepped” fingerboard, where the frets were replaced with saw-tooth shaped steps. 

The player selected pickups via five pushbuttons; volume, treble and bass were incremented numerically via digital rocker switches, confirmed by a three-colour LED readout.

bond electraglideThe guitar was launched at the 1984 NAMM show in America. Apart from the various gimmicks featured on the guitar, including the required use of an external power supply, it played normally and sounded normal, with three single-coil pickups and a normal body shape.

The Electraglide was a big shock to the traditional guitar buying public, and was very unsuccessful, (even though I have personally nearly bought one a couple of times).

It sold no more than 1000 units, and was all but forgotten by 1986. There were some notable users however;

British guitarist Mick Jones is known to have used a Bond Electraglide with his band Big Audio Dynamite in the mid 1980s. The Edge used his extensively on The Joshua Tree, including the solo on “One Tree Hill”, as well as on “Exit,” and “Mothers of the Disappeared”.

Will Sargeant from Echo and The Bunnymen was also an Electraglide user.

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Collectable Guitars pt 7 – Fender Katana


In 1985 Fender was under threat from rival brand Gibson, who offered a variety of very successful rock guitars (Flying V, Explorer etc.), and companies specialising in pointy-shaped metal guitars, such as Jackson and Dean with the successful Randy Rhoads model and the ML, respectively.

Fender were, at this time, one of the only major guitar brands without such a model in its range. Their attempt to muscle in on this profitable sector of the market led to two designs, the Performer and Katana you see here.

katanaThe Katana and Performer were exclusively built in Fender’s then – new Japanese plant, built in response to much cheaper and nearly as good Japanese copies of Fender’s models.

The Katana is vaguely Jackson Rhoads – shaped and was available as a Fender or a much cheaper and more basic Squier version. The Fender version had a set neck, two humbuckers and a locking tremolo, whereas the Squier has a bolted neck with only 21 frets, one humbucker and a standard trem. Squier versions are slightly less hard to find, but neither are common.

The Fender Katana was a commercial flop, and was only made from 1985 to 1986. All versions are very rare, and Fender versions are likely to be over £500 on the rare occurrence of one being put up for sale.

Squier versions are much less expensive, due to the less elaborate construction and less expensive hardware, but don’t expect a search for either to be over quickly.

Fender have since stuck to making their standard iconic models, the Stratocaster and Telecaster among others.

The Fender Japan factory is still in use for making cheaper Fenders than the American and Mexican ranges.

Collectable Guitars pt 6 – ESP KH-20 Kirk Hammett 20th Anniversary



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kh-20smlYou can read more about the superstrat in our history of Ibanez, who pioneered the genre with the RG, S and JEM models, but for now let’s focus on a particular superstrat made by high-end manufacturer ESP for Metallica lead guitarist Kirk Hammett.

There are several Hammett models in the ESP range, but this ultra-limited edition sits proudly at the top of the tree. ESP have only made 20 of these guitars, and all are sold.

The 20th Anniversary was made to mark 20 years of Hammett endorsing ESP guitars, and comes complete with several embellishments not found anywhere near his other guitars.

It has an alder body with a gorgeous flamed maple top, two EMG 81 humbuckers, an original Floyd Rose tremolo, a maple thru-neck and Kirk’s signature fretboard inlays (quite literally in the case of the 12th fret: Kirk’s signature has been replicated painstakingly in mother of pearl).

The KH-20 is, as previously mentioned, top of ESP’s KH range, and because of the special features and 20-piece production run.

They can still be found, but the price is currently around $10,000.  

Cheaper Hammett models exist, however, so if you are a Metallica fan who wants a slice of their metal pie, you’re spoilt for choice.

Collectable Guitars pt 5 – Gretsch 6134 White Penguin



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Gretsch have made a huge selection of quality electric guitars since the mid-1950s (interestingly, Gretsch have been around since 1883 making other instruments, but started vying for domination in the electric market around 1954-5), of which the 6134 model, better-known as the White Penguin is among the rarest.

penguinThe 6136 (also known as the White Falcon or “the Cadillac of guitars”) is a well-known Gretsch guitar, a big-bodied semi-acoustic finished in gleaming white, with all manner of elaborate trimmings like an armrest on the bass side of the body, gold binding and a huge tone that saw it used by Brian Setzer, Billy Duffy of The Cult and Stephen Stills.

In 1955 Gretsch made a solid-bodied guitar with all the usual Falcon features. It was based on the body of Gretsch’s well-known solid-body Les Paul alternative, the Duo Jet. They named it the 6134 White Penguin.

Looking like a shrunk-in-the-wash White Falcon, a successful guitar, the Penguin should have sold well, but only around 100 were ever made before its demise in 1963, and tracking one down is like trying to find an exquisitely-made white-finished needle in a haystack.

Gretsch make a reissue model of the White Penguin, but trying to get enough money to buy one is possibly harder than finding an original. The Penguin is one of the rarest and most desirable solid-bodied guitars ever made, and with good reason.