Modern Collector (July 2005)

So what's next?

People are simply astounded at the soaring values of the vintage market and many wonder who will be able to afford these guitars in the future. Indeed some of the values of these guitars have doubled in the past eighteen months and there does not seem to be any end in sight. People are now snapping up Melody Makers, Les Paul Juniors, Specials, Mustangs and others all with the anticipation of a large increase over the next few years. What we are also seeing is a relaxation of the tendency to avoid guitars that had problems like changed parts, refinish jobs and structural repairs.

These guitars are also being grabbed up, albeit at a lesser price point, but purchased none the less. Many feel that if they wait these guitars will pass them by and will no longer be available. Others are solely interested in the tone of the old woods and willing to compromise to get that.

I get calls all the time from people who are asking, "what guitars are the next collectors items?" Not having a crystal ball I usually don't have a real solid answer for that question. Many of these calls are from folks who are considering a certain purchase and are simply seeking validation. Still others are looking for an appraisal on selling or buying. I frequently turn the question around and ask what their favorites are and why.

In the last several years we have seen a dramatic increase in guitars from the smaller builders, and some of these are worth consideration.

A lot of today's boutique builders worked for larger companies and after establishing themselves as masters moved on to build their own guitars. Some of the more noteworthy are John Suhr, Tom Anderson, John Carruthers, Vince Cunetto, and Gene Baker. Many of these builders guitars have been in the market place for a long time now and have begun to become collectable in their own right. The early Fender relic Stratocasters and Telecasters aged by Vince Cunetto are Perfect examples of this trend. Early Tom Anderson guitars have a dedicated following due to the fine build quality and player friendly features. Tom Anderson guitars exhibit some of the finest fretwork in the business. Gene Baker's guitars have soared And the increased uncertainty of further models has forced prices higher and higher.

Builders like David Thomas McNaught have already demonstrated the excellence of his handmade guitars, and early DTM's have steadily inched up in value. The Dave's (Dave McNaught and Dave Manzel) are an amazing team who truly build each guitar entirely by hand. They even make their own truss rods and inlays. Few guitar builders are as hands on as these two are. They operate out of a small shop which was a former dance hall and restaurant outside Charlotte North Carolina.

Ron Thorn is also building some really lovely guitars and is known for his intricate and precise inlay work. Ron's guitars are made in very limited production and his back order is measured in years not months.

Linda Manzer is a Toronto based luthier whose instruments are played by Pat Matheny and Bruce Cockburn. Her acoustics are considered some of the finest in the world and though Linda has a very small production each year, her guitars are prized and sought after by players and collectors.

Every year several new guitars come on the seen that are hailed as the next big thing. Some are based in traditional design while others like Klein, Mercurio, and James Trussart are unique and push the art of guitar design to new places. Some like James Tyler combined the essence of traditional design with bold new modern styling. Some other noteworthy builders are Artinger, 17th Street guitars, Jet, Don Grosh, Rick Turner, and Zemaitis .

This list of new builders gives yet a hint of the offerings available to collectors and speculators who wish to venture beyond the mainstream of the established guitar makers.

There are some important rules to consider in collecting guitars.

  1. Always buy what YOU like, if you do that chances are there is someone else who will also.
  2. If you have a choice, buy the best example of any given model even if it means paying more for it.
  3. Guitars do appreciate in value, but can be risky investments. Choose carefully and diversify.
  4. Look for models that are rare, but not so rare that they fall out of mainstream appreciation.
  5. Models made famous by Artists are worth consideration, while signed guitars are seldom worth more than unsigned ones. There are some exceptions such as One of the Beatles, Elvis etc...
  6. When in doubt seek the opinion of one in the business, guitar dealers generally have a strong read on the market and most will be helpful in you simply ask.

That's all for this month, take care and God Bless.

Rick Hogue

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