Why Are Vintage Guitars So Valuable And Collectible?

Why Are Vintage Guitars So Valuable And Collectible?

We are often asked why older instruments are so sought after and what makes them collectible. As with many collectibles, originality is of the utmost importance followed by the condition.

A Brief History

Collecting musical instruments as a hobby is not a new pursuit as instruments have been treasured by musicians and collected for centuries. Collecting guitars is more of a 20th-century phenomenon as players and collectors began to amass pieces with particular beauty and sound qualities.

Vintage guitar collection saw a big spike and began in earnest, in the 1970s when players began to realize that the instruments being made then were inferior to ones made in the golden age (pre-war up to the 1960s). In the 1950s and 1960s, the major US manufacturers' sales grew right along with the folk & rock & roll movements of the day. As their sales grew they attracted the attention of large companies who wanted to cash in.

 Companies such as Fender and Gibson were sold to CBS and Norlin respectively and accountants and cost controllers began to make decisions on guitar building that had previously been left to the luthiers. Ease of manufacture, warranty concerns, and best use of resources became the priority over the tone and feel of the guitar. Neck widths became smaller as companies sought to maximize the number of necks they could get from aboard. Then polyurethane replaced lacquer on necks to reduce warranty claims. 

Players began to notice that these changes hurt the feel and tone of the instruments so the search for the “old ones” began. As more and more players started searching, the supply shrank, prices rose, and collections grew.

Originality & Condition

Any modifications replaced parts, or repairs, no matter how practical, will decrease the value of a vintage guitar. Even replacing the original case or re-fretting the guitar (the equivalent of replacing a car's tires) may decrease its value. 

Using this logic, a "beat-up" original finish guitar will always be worth much more than a perfectly refinished one. Even if the new finish is done professionally and looks perfect, it will be worth approximately half the price of an original finish guitar.

Current Market Demand

Demand also plays an important part in value as rarity rarely determines value. Just because an instrument is rare doesn't mean it is valuable. Martin 5-18s are rare but pale in value compared to a Martin D-18 of the same year. 

In recent years guitar manufacturers have begun to produce limited edition, collector instruments that carry a higher price than the equivalent model from the same builder. These instruments may increase in value but typically they don’t perform as well as older instruments whose value grew “organically”.

In summary, vintage instruments' value is determined by their originality, condition, and current market demand.

We can evaluate your guitar's value for you and tell you what it's worth, and in some cases, we will make you an offer on the spot. If the instrument is one we are highly motivated to buy we can even come to you and pay immediately in cash.



Call/Text: 410-571-9660 

Email: rick@gpguitars.com

If your guitar is available for sale, please give us a call or an email. We are open 7-days a week and you can expect a friendly and pleasant experience.


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