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Collectable Guitars

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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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)

10 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!

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.

Collectable Guitars pt 4 – The Dean Lost 100



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This post concentrates on an ultra-limited edition series of models with a total production run limited to 100 units.

Dean Lost 100 Series

deanlostOn behalf of several artists and owners, myself included, I will say that Deans are very good guitars.

If you check our histories section, you’ll see that the company was started in 1977 by one Dean Zelinsky, who wanted to make great guitars for rock musicians (something he achieved, if the legions of celebrated Dean fans including ZZ Top, Dimebag Darrell of Pantera and shredder Michael Angelo Batio are anything to go by).

However, due to an error regarding serial number application, the guitars were labelled from 77 00101 onwards.

That’s why the historic reissues you’re reading about were created – to show what the guitars built by Dean were like in 1977.

The 99 guitars are based on the V, Z and ML body shapes (the only models made by Dean in 1977) with serial numbers from 1 to 100.  All are signed by Zelinsky himself.

They are all exact reproductions of what the Dean of 1977 was really like, right down to the oft-altered shape and size of the headstock.

However, they were built from 2006-8 and nearly all (if not all) have been sold, and at £3660, they are pretty pricey.

But assuming they haven’t all been sold and you have the cash, you could get an exact replica of a classic rock instrument, with all the features retained on modern Deans- the high-quality set-neck construction, long-lasting sustain from the mahogany body, and Dean’s renowned pickups.

Even if you can’t afford a Lost 100, there are whole ranges of less expensive Deans, like the 79 and Time Capsule Series.

Collectable Guitars pt 3 – 1950’s Danelectro Range



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This time I thought I’d go for a whole range of guitars, which were meant as budget instruments when they were first made in the mid-1950s.

1950s Danelectro Range

Originally meant as budget guitars and sold through the Sears catalogue under a variety of names, Nathan Daniel’s company, Danelectro, soon started marketing the guitars as Danelectros, not Silvertones and Airlines as they had before.

The guitars were a huge hit with beginners  as they were very cheap and the various shapes available looked good, unusual for budget guitars of the time.

There were several different models, all very simple, fun to play and utilising the innovative Danelectro own-brand pickups, single-coils mounted inside lipstick tubes, so novice guitarists, or even experienced musicians on a tight budget, could choose a good-looking and playable guitar. However, the guitars were killed off in 1969, only to be reissued recently to rave reviews.

1950s-60s Danos are surprisingly rare now, and fetch upwards of £600 when found by collectors. They are highly prized because of their rarity, and are well-known for their unique tone, which is bright and resonant because of the chambered bodies and cheap materials (a mix of chipboard and plywood).

If you can find an original and have the money, they’re prized and playable vintage collector’s items. If not, the reissues are great, and all the models are only about £200.

Models include the 59 (as used by Jimmy Page), the 56 (a single-cutaway budget Les Paul-type guitar), the 63 (originally the Silvertone 1448 amp-in-case guitar sold by Sears in the USA) and the Dano Pro (an unusual, almost completely rectangular guitar).

Collect them all!

You can read a full biography of Nathan Daniels, written by his son, Howard by following this link

Collectable Guitars pt 2 – Burns Marvin



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This guitar was used by Hank Marvin of the Shadows during the 60’s, along with his iconic Red Fender Stratocaster

Burns Marvin (1964-65)

Hank Marvin Burns Guitar

The Burns is a whole lot rarer (and cheaper) than a sixties Les Paul – it isn’t worth the tens of thousands one of those commands, but they only made 350 or so, so if you want one it’s possible to find the official Burns-made reissue model, and alos a 40th anniversary special edition.

The Marvin featured a whole host of innovative features, including a sculpted “scroll” headstock, a knife-edge vibrato and tuning pipes in the body.

These are seriously rare guitars, and chances are you’ll never find a “real” one. However, if an old one does come your way and you have the cash, then why not…

Collectable Guitars pt 1 – Gibson Les Paul



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What guitars would make the basis of a dream guitar collection? 

In these posts we’ll look at the rarest, most valuable, most collectable or just drop-dead gorgeous guitars – starting with one of the most valuable types of guitar available.

Late 50’s to early 60’s Gibson Les Paul

These are seriously valuable guitars, especially all original models. New Les Pauls cost anywhere from £1500-£2500 depending on model, specifications etc. Any decently presented original model from the fifties will probably fetch up to ten times more, possibly higher depending on condition.

Although the guitar was a slow burner when it was released, in the late 1960s interest picked up – quite a lot – so much so that some Les Pauls, particularly from around 1958-60, are worth properly huge amounts of money, and they’re hardly ugly, are they?

The original classic solid-body guitar, all thanks to the genius of Les Paul (the man).