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February, 2009:

Collectable Guitars pt 21 – The Hamer Phantom


The Hamer Phantom is a very rare and collectable guitar, built in limited numbers in the 1980s. It started out as a prototype, called simply the Hamer Prototype. It was special in that it had a very unusual three-coil pickup at the bridge. Some also had one single-coil at the neck.

Hamer Phantom Guitar
It was based on a good-looking Superstrat shape, with the bass side horn being elongated and the treble-side shortened. It resembled a coupling of a Fender Jaguar and a Jackson Soloist.

The guitars usually had a scratchplate and Kahler tremolo. Some rare models had an ordinary humbucker at the bridge.

All the reviews I have read of this guitar praise it highly, and it is known as a very nice guitar.

One notable Phantom user was/is Andy Summers from The Police.

Phantoms are rare, but surprisingly inexpensive used considering the looks and quality of the build.

I saw two in Denmark Street recently for around £800-900, and I am sure they would sell on eBay for much less, in the rare event of one coming up.

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Collectable Guitars pt 20 – The Gibson MIII


icontexto-webdev-social-bookmark-09facebook481The Gibson M-III was one of the company’s rare attempts to muscle in on the popular Superstrat movement of the late 1980s, led by Jackson and Ibanez. It was not as successful as other Gibsons and was withdrawn after only a few years in production.

Gibson MIII GuitarThe guitar featured an updated Stratocaster shape with a reverse headstock, and had a set-neck when the trend in Superstrat design was to have a thru-neck, or a bolt-on for the cheaper models.

All guitars had Floyd Rose style tremolos and two humbuckers plus a central single-coil pickup. Also, where most superstrats had rosewood or ebony fingerboards, the M-III’s frets were set into a slab of maple.

The guitars looked and felt too different from Gibson’s classic models, and are no longer made, although there is an M-III shaped model called the EM-2 in Epiphone’s metal-oriented Prophecy range.

The Gibsons are rare and collectable, but are another example of a 10-20 year-old guitar which offers a lot for not very much money used.

They are worth between £500-800.

Paul Brett – Paul Brett – Collecting Vintage Acoustic Guitars

I found this video sampler of Paul Brett’s “Paul Brett – Collecting Vintage Acoustic Guitars” DVD…

You can buy the full length DVD from Pauls website, at Fretdancer.com

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Collectable Guitars pt 19 – The Ovation Breadwinner / Deacon


The Ovation company is best known for its acoustic guitars, although they had a very good crack at the solid electric market in the early 1970s (1972 to be precise) with the UKII, the Preacher, the Viper, and the subjects of this article, the Deacon and Breadwinner.

Ovation Breadwinner guitarWhile the former three were fairly normal in design, albeit with traditional Ovation touches in the shapes, the Deacon and Breadwinner seemed almost mutated in comparison, with their bodies shaped somewhat like axes. They also had active mini-humbuckers, rare in the 1970s.

The difference between the Deacon and Breadwinner was not immediately obvious to the casual viewer.

The Breadwinner was the more basic of the two, with dot inlays, no binding on the fingerboard and a larger scratchplate. The Deacon had diamond inlays, binding, a smaller scratchplate, and was only available in natural finishes.

The Breadwinner and Deacon were often seen in the hands of  Jeff Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra, Steve Marriott and occasionally Ace Frehley of KISS.

On a recent trip to Denmark Street I found a white Breadwinner for sale for around £800.

They are rare and quite collectable even though sales never took off originally.

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Gibson Les Paul Axcess at the Wembley Guitar Centre


icontexto-webdev-social-bookmark-09facebook481We made a road trip this morning to visit the Wembley Guitar Centre in North London, sitting almost in the shadow of the new Wembley Stadium.

Gibson Les Paul Axcess guitarMark (the manager) and Matt couldn’t have been more friendly and helpful, allowing us to grab whatever guitars we fancied and wailing away with Boogie and Engl amps in their nice  (soundproof!) testing rooms.

Wembley Guitar Centre have recently become Gibson dealers and one model that caught our eye was the new custom shop Les Paul Axcess.

This new model has a re-sculpted “heel-less” neck joint, making the upper fret access much more comfortable compared to a regular Les Paul. The other main change is a Floyd Rose tremolo. Considered to be sacrilege in the Les Paul playing community adding a Floyd Rose does widen the appeal and options for new, more metal based players I guess but more traditional Les Paul fans will be knashing their teeth!

The body has also had a “belly cut” added on the rear, and is chambered inside, making it considerably lighter than the other Les Pauls on display.

It sounded great, with two “burstbucker” pickups and the playability was excellent, although I personally I find the painted neck not to my tastes.

These guitars are only (apparently) going to be custom shop models, so will be pretty rare and I am predicting, collectible in the future. I think the ideas for this model have come from the very exclusive Neil Schon custom shop model, which has many of the same features, albeit for an even higher price.

The Axcess isn’t cheap, at £2400 but it may well hold it’s value in the future as an unusual take on a Les Paul.

UPDATE: Now is appears that the Axcess is available without the Floyd Rose, which I assume, will have a lower price point than the tremelo version.

The Wembley Guitar Centre website has the full spec for the guitar here

Vintage Guitar Forum

I found this great forum whilst researching a future post about Dwight guitars. I haven’t had the time to delve too deeply into all the sub forums, but I strongly recommend that anyone with an interest in vintage guitars should spend some time snooping around here…

http://www.vintaxe.com/boards/index.php

The Steve Howe Guitar Collection

Great video clip from 1988 of Steve Howe, best known for his playing with Yes and Asia, talking about part of his extensive guitar collection.

Steve is a well known and respected guitar collector, having had a book published about his collection in 1993.The book is pretty rare now, but is available here;

Collectable Guitars pt 18 – The Gibson Barney Kessel


Barney Kessel was a very respected jazz guitarist in the 1950s and 60s, and gained his own Gibson signature model in 1961.

Gibson Barney Kessel guitarThe guitar was unusual in shape, with a 25 1/2″ scale length similar to an ES-335, but with much sharper double florentine cutaways, resembling an SG.

However, the body was much wider than an SG, and looked unbalanced. 

The guitar was very normal apart from this, with four main controls, a wide body as opposed to the thinline design of the ES models, two humbuckers and a Bigsby vibrato.

The model described thus far is the original Barney Kessel Regular. There was another model, the Barney Kessel maple-necked Custom, which didn’t sell as well, with a tune-o-matic bridge instead of the Bigsby. Both were available from 1961 until 1973

The Custom was a deluxe instrument; ornate inlays and gold plating throughout – it launched at a significantly higher price than the Regular, $560 and $395 respetively (1/9/61 Gibson price list)

Barney Kessels were discontinued around 1974 and have not been made since. They are rare now, and would probably command a price upwards of £5000.

 

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The State of the Vintage Guitar Market

Interviews with guitar dealers at the 2008 Arlington guitar show…

Collectable Guitars pt 17 – The Ibanez Destroyer


icontexto-webdev-social-bookmark-09facebook481The Ibanez Destroyer was born, like its’ sister guitar, the fairly similar Ibanez Iceman, out of Ibanez’s infamous 1970s battle with Gibson over Ibanez’s blatant copies of the Les Paul and SG Junior.

Ibanez Destroyer guitarIbanez received a cease- and-desist order and decided to make more original models. This culminated in the Iceman and Destroyer of the late 1970s. The Destroyer started in 1975 as a very impressive Gibson Explorer copy also called Model 2459, but was phased out around a year later.

The new models had a revised body shape, which was an Explorer shape with no scratchplate and some Iceman-style notches on the lower body and the top horn.

There were several models including the rare star-shaped DT250, DG350 and DT350, the DT555 model designed by Phil Collen of Def Leppard, the DT100 played by Adrian Smith of Iron Maiden, the short scale DTX120 of 2000 and the DT420, a reissue of the original DT400 of 1981-2.

The Destroyer has not been made since the DT200 was phased out in 2005, but recently they have been reissued and are now back in the shops.

Destroyers are surprisingly not that expensive.

I found an old DT450 on eBay for less than £500, and a DT200 for around £300. The new model, with DiMarzio D-Activator pickup, will probably be around the same as a similarly specified new Iceman, around £500 or so.

Vintage Guitar Collecting Trivia

I found this interesting video, I’ll let the author explain in his own words;

See how years of exposure to light has faded the finish of a Les Paul Junior. The same thing has happened to older Les Paul Standards – where the red fades away and “cherry” sunburst becomes “ice tea” sunburst.

Guitar collector info by Steve Evans of Jacksonville Guitar Center in Jacksonville, Arkansas. 


Collectable Guitars pt 16 – The BC Rich Bich

BC Rich Bich 10 string guitarThe Bich was launched in 1977 alongside the Seagull and Mockingbird in the BC Rich range of the 1970s. It featured the most daring of BC Rich’s “vintage” designs, with a body originally penned by renowned luthier Neal Moser.

It featured two very unusual cutaways on the bottom of the body, a neck-through design, and originally was only available as a ten-string model (see photo), which had 4 tuning pegs at the bridge end for the 4 extra top strings.

However, this limited the appeal of the guitar somewhat, and so a normal six string was launched soon after. It featured all the usual other trimmings on 1970s BC Riches, including elaborate coil-splitting functions and a dizzying array of switches and knobs..

Master Volume, Rhythm Pickup Volume, Pre-amp #1 Volume, Pre-amp #1 On/Off, Pre-amp #2 Volume, Pre-amp #2 On/Off, Phase Switch, Pickup Selector, Six Position Varitone, Dual Sound Rhythm Pickup, Dual Sound Lead Pickup and Master Tone.

When all switches are off the guitar is in passive mode. At this time both pickups are controlled by the master volume. Both pick-ups are activated by pick up selector switch. The tonalities of both pickups in passive mode are controlled by the Master Tone.

Click on the preamp On/Off switch and get an instant 10 db boost from the gate. At this point the pick-ups are now controlled by the pick-up volume control while the master tone still controls the tonality of both pick-ups. With both pick-ups on, phase switch in the up position will produce an out of phase sound, (a tone resembling a half cocked wah sound).

To coil tap the lead pickup flick upward dual sound switch. This converts the pick-up into a single coil sound by separating the pick-up into one coil. Dual sound switch #6 performs the same task for the rhythm pick-up.
As you rotate the six-position varitone clockwise, each position produces a distinct sound based on whichever capacitor is in operation. You will also notice a slight decrease in gain but the pre amp volume can compensate the drop and then some. It is only as limited as your imagination.

All these switches can be use to your liking & when you find a particular sound you like, make note of the setting for future reference. The B.C. Rich Active Electronics produces a spectrum of 154 distinct sounds. If you really want to get really funky with all switches on as described rotate master tone counter clockwise. If you are a traditional blues player you will find sounds you never knew existed. Note that all pickups function while in passive as well as active mode. The battery can easily be changed by carefully removing the screws for the control cavity plate.

The main difference between the active and full active electronics system is that the full electronics system has two independent preamps as well as two volume switches which can work in unison or individually and can naturally distort the volume even at low settings.

The B.C. Rich Active and Full Active systems offer more sounds than any other onboard electronics.

The Bich is still available and is a very popular model in BC Rich’s line. It is available as a ten string, six string, bolt-on and through-neck versions, with prices starting from around £250. However, like other older BC Riches, the 1970s versions command upwards of £1000 when on sale.

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Collectable Guitars pt 15 – The Charvel Surfcaster


Charvel SurfcasterThe Charvel company, which spawned the famous and reputable brand Jackson Guitars, is also well known for their very high-quality superstrat models and for a while was the chief supplier of Eddie Van Halen’s guitars. In 1992 Charvel launched their biggest break from their usual superstrat tradition (the company also dabbles in Telecaster-shaped models and four-pointed star-shaped models).

This new model was called the Surfcaster.

It was unusual in that it was shaped more like a Fender Jaguar, and had Danelectro-style lipstick pickups and was available in bright and colourful finishes- aqua, sunburst and orange.

It was also of semi-hollow construction, like a Gibson ES-335. It also spawned very rare and collectible bass and 12-string versions. Surfcasters are of very high quality and have a typical Telecaster/ Rickenbacker-style jangling sound.

The Surfcaster was just too different to the guitars played by Charvel’s usual customers and was met with little success.

It was discontinued in 2005, despite efforts to bring in a wider audience with a three pickup solidbody version. Surfcasters are rare now, and are worth between £800 and £2000 when they come up for sale.

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Collectable Guitars pt 14 – The Epiphone Coronet

Epiphone Coronet GuitarThe Epiphone Coronet was launched in 1958 as an alternative to the popular Gibson Les Paul Junior. It was part of a range of models made from the late 50s to 1970. The range included the Crestwood, Coronet  and Olympic models.

The models were designed to compete with the Gibson Les Paul Junior, and so they all had slim mahogany bodies and necks, and were made in a slightly offset double cutaway format.

The guitars resembled a cross between a Fender Telecaster and a twin-cutaway Gibson Les Paul Junior. The Coronet had a single “dog-eared” P-90 pickup at the bridge. The Olympic had one-single-coil pickup, like a Gibson Melody Maker, while the Crestwood, available as a Custom or Deluxe model, had two or three mini-humbuckers depending on model. The guitars had an optional Epiphone Trem-O-Tone vibrato, similar to the Bigsby unit widely used by Gibson.

The Coronet is the best-known of the range and is known as a very simple, playable instrument which is well built and has a classic single P-90 tone like a Gibson Les Paul Junior, which was the original target for the guitar.

Coronets are quite rare, as they never achieved the success they set out to have. An original will cost anything from £750 to £1500.

Epiphone no longer make any of these models, and the closest to a new one is the limited run of “USA Coronets” made in the 1990s. However, these are nothing like the originals, and only share the shape of the 1960s models.

The USA models had optional Floyd Rose tremolos, Bill Lawrence pickups and an array of vibrant finishes. These will be anywhere from £400 – £750.

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More info on the Electra brand and the mysterious Phoenix

You may have seen the curious Electra Phoenix detailed in Jan 30th’s post. I did some research and found, through the Westone Info link at the bottom of this page, a whole website dedicated to Electra here;

Electra Guitars History

As it turns out, the brand was exclusively made up of well-built Japanese guitars, mostly copies but with some original shapes, most notably the Phoenix series. These were sold through St. Louis Music of Missouri during the 1970s up to the mid 1980s. In 1983 or so the Electra brand was dropped by SLM in favour of another brand made in the same Matsomoku factory, the better-known Westone, one of which, as you may know, has eventually ended up in our possession.

Electra Phoenix X135 GuitarThe Phoenix was the best known of Electra’s original models, a vaguely Strat-shaped guitar available as a series of 10-15 different models. The one featured on the site , I believe to be a Phoenix X135 model. This model featured an ash or maple body (the one for sale looks maple to me), and two coil-tapped humbucking pickups. This one is in a natural finish and is possibly an earlier model due to the inclusion of a scratchplate.

Interestingly, in a recent interview with James Hetfield of Metallica, he claims his iconic battered Gibson Flying V copy he has used from the start of his career was made by a company called “Elektra”. Electra made a bolt-neck Gibson V copy from 1974 to the early 80s, and Hetfield’s allusion that the guitar was made in the late seventies or early eighties, and has a bolt-on neck, means it could well be made by Electra.

Whether Hetfield’s guitar was made by a company called Elektra, or whether this was a spelling mistake on the typist’s part is not known.

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