Vintage guitars can be found in a wide range of prices
and styles. Most vintage guitars generally hold or increase
in their value. In fact, in past years many vintage guitars
have appreciated significantly, often out performing many
stocks. The value of the run-of-the-mill used guitar usually
depreciates: The newer guitars do not have the exotic range
of woods that can be found in the pre-war models.
You should be looking for vintage guitars that are all
original, if this is an investment. Instruments with changed
pickups, pick guards or tuners are generally less valuable
than originals. Now look at the condition of the instrument.
Watch for scratches, cracks and marring as they tend to
lessen the value. Screw holes or repairs can also decrease
The big thing to look out for is refinishing. Stringed
instruments take about 15 years of seasoning before they
come into their own tone-wise. Often, refinishing will be
nothing like the original, the tone quality will suffer, and
that will be reflected in the monetary value of the
If this is a utilitarian instrument, or what we call a
working vintage instrument then a repair, done properly, and
a change of pick guard should mean nothing to you, as long
as the tonality is there and the price is right.
Buy the best case you can get your hands on, as
cases from the 1920s and 30s do not hold up well. Keep the
original case but protect the working instrument while on
tour or transit.
Demand is a consideration, so if you are buying this
instrument, whether it is a guitar, banjo, mandolin, violin
or ukulele, as an investment rather than a working
instrument, find out if it is a popular choice and is
coveted by your peers. Rarity does not always insure value,
unless you are collecting stamps. If you are collecting or
investing you must also consider the utilitarian appeal as
this is what often times determines the resale value.
Tone in a vintage acoustic or solid body is almost
always superior to what you will find in a new instrument.
Vintage instruments were all handmade where today the bodies
and their segments are being cut out by automated milling
and routing equipment that lacks the Luthierís eye.
Vintage Guitar Magazine is a good resource. Go online
and check the many websites that offer vintage instruments
and' when you know what you want, you can go to Craig's list
and look for it city by city, states and province, until you
find a good deal. I did this once and found an instrument
that I paid $10,000 less for than the best deal I could find
on the vintage websites. It can be worth the task of
looking, even if it takes you days.
Professor Douglas Fraser
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