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Advice on Buying a New Guitar vs a Vintage or Used Guitar

fender-vintage-guitar-s.jpgUsed Guitars vs. Vintage Guitars and Antique Guitars

Many people ask us to explain the difference between a used guitar, vintage guitar and an antique guitar. Here’s a brief discussion of our perspective on the difference between Used Guitars, Vintage Guitars and Antique Guitars and why when you're looking for a used guitar, you should seriously consider a collectable vintage guitar. First let’s define “used guitar”, “vintage guitar” and "antique guitar".

A used guitar can be simply defined as any guitar that’s not new. This definition covers a wide range of guitars and including virtually all guitars that are not currently on the shelves of retailers and a few new old stock guitars in storage. In recent years we have seen an increase in the number of models and price ranges available increasing the number of used guitars available for sale.

Vintage guitars are certainly a used guitar however Vintage guitars are a select group of used guitars differentiated from other used guitars by generally being built between the end of WWII and prior to the 1980’s. Vintage guitars include both hollow body and solid body guitars and often contain rare woods such as Brazilian Rosewood (rare by today’s guitar standards) and slab board (single piece) bodies. They were constructed mostly by hand rather than automated milling and routing equipment used today. Vintage guitars represent a small portion of the total number of used guitars and therefore are relatively rare when compared to the total number of used guitars.

Many of today's popular musicians play and collect vintage electric and acoustic guitars. Popular vintage brands include Fender, Gibson, Martin, Epiphone and Rickenbacker. Antique guitars as we define them are still used guitars but this group of guitars is generally older than vintage guitars and were built prior to WWII. Because of their age, materials used and hollow body construction techniques many are considerably more fragile than Vintage guitars. These include everything from one of a kind 15th to 18th century guitars built by master craftsmen to a handful of pre WWI electric guitars. Most antique guitars are rarely played. Antique guitars include many lesser brands as well as well known brands such as Gibson and Martin guitars.

For the remainder of this discussion we will focus on Used Guitars and Vintage Guitars. So why should you care about buying a vintage guitar vs. a used guitar ? When considering a used guitar here’s a few reasons to consider a used vintage guitar. 1) Better Tone - Because vintage guitars have different construction techniques and materials they tend to have a different tone than newer guitars. We can’t imagine listing to a Beatles, Cream or Jimi Hendrix tune on a “modern guitar”. Every player has their own preferences however we believe vintage guitars have superior tone to most of today's modern guitars. 2) They Hold Their Value – Vintage guitars can be found in a wide range of prices however all vintage guitars generally hold their value. In fact, in recent years many vintage guitars have appreciated significantly often out performing many stocks. The value of the run of the mill used guitar usually depreciates rather than appreciates.

What factors influence vintage guitar value? There are a variety of factors however the main factors are originality, condition and desirability. The more original the guitar is, the higher the guitar value. Issues such as changed pickups, tuners and pick guards all have a negative impact on the value. Condition is also important. Cracks, repairs, routing, screw holes and particularly refinishing all decrease the guitar’s value. Desirability is also a factor. The more people that want a particular model the higher the value. It’s also important to note that just because a guitar is rare doesn't mean it’s valuable. In order for a guitar to be valuable it must be desired by collectors and players otherwise it will not have the value you might expect for a rare vintage guitar.

At this point you hopefully you have decided to buy a used "vintage" guitar. If so, you might also be asking yourself what should I buy ? That’s a difficult question. It depends on what kind of music you play, the tone you like, how much you are going to play the guitar (it doesn't make sense to get a mint guitar and play the heck out of it) and a variety of other factors. You should talk to a reputable vintage guitar dealer who will take the time to understand what your likes and needs are so they can recommend a good used vintage guitar.

What about Reissues ? Many companies have re-issued popular vintage guitars. These reissues are high quality reproductions of popular and rare vintage guitars. They generally sound like a vintage guitar and have been well received in the market. While we would prefer a vintage guitar and vintage guitars are likely to have the best chance of appreciation but we also like reissue guitars, particularly when you are looking for a particular vintage guitar that may be out of your price range.

Where do I start ? One of the first things you should do before buying is educate yourself. Talk to dealers, talk to other players and take advantage of the great books that are our there. Vintage Guitar Magazine is also a great resource. Click here to see a few recommended vintage guitar books on our web site. Most importantly, take your time doing research and have fun buying, collecting and playing vintage guitars !

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