Is Every Vintage Guitar Worth the Price?

Vintage guitars are prized possessions among serious collectors. Additionally, vintage instruments may make great investments; however, not every old guitar warrants its price tag.

vintage guitar qualityFactors that distinguish vintage guitar quality include age, quality and demand. An original unfinished guitar often carries more value than its contemporary reissue counterpart.

The Materials

The material used in the body of a guitar can have a dramatic impact on its sound. Woods produce different tones that resonate differently, so choosing quality wood is critical to seek quality sound. Some types of wood are becoming harder to source, increasing their value even further. Furthermore, neck and headstock materials have an even bigger influence – guitars made using rare materials tend to be more desirable.

Consider how your guitar changes over time. Many believe that vintage guitars improve with age, and their tones become richer – much like fine wines or single malt whiskies do with time. As wood matures in your instrument, your tone will also improve.

Alterations to a vintage guitar may also affect its quality, including replacement parts. Guitarists are notoriously fidgety, often replacing pickups or other components without notice – an action that can lower its value but does not compromise playability.

The Hardware

Many classic vintage guitar quality have had parts replaced over time, which can affect their overall quality. While this might not necessarily be detrimental – replacing pickups may lead to instruments with greater sonic potential than their originals – collectors seeking an original instrument may see this change negatively as collectors attempt to track down an “all original” guitar.

Some guitarists attempt to revive vintage instruments by replacing tuning gears, string trees, tremolos or other hardware with modern 1:1 copies of better materials with exact dimensions for better playing quality. Unfortunately, this can also compromise overall guitar quality when purchasing replacement parts that do not meet original quality standards.

As part of assessing the quality of vintage guitars, their electronics should also be considered. Luthiers who constructed them will have paid careful consideration to which type of wiring was chosen when crafting their instruments; this can make a significant difference to its sound and functionality; furthermore, wire quality will affect how well all-electric components interact together which could impact how versatile and functional your instrument may be; additionally, it also impacts how easy it is for anyone tinkering around with changes – something especially helpful for tinkerers!

The Finish

Vintage guitar finishes do more than make their instrument look good; they also play an integral part in its tone. Lacquer finishes, often made of nitrocellulose (think automobile paint), are commonly found on vintage instruments yet can be difficult and hazardous to work with before setting. Although toxic before and after setting, nitrocellulose offers excellent wood protection while not muzzling instrument sound.

Unfortunately, some leading manufacturers created guitars with thick gloss finishes that distorted their sound, eventually yellowing and cracking over time. However, good luthiers use UV-cured poly-glosses to apply thin coats that add plenty of shine without impeding sound as much.

Gibson Custom Shop and Murphy Labs have something in store for those seeking something more subtle: rolled fingerboard binding is available on some core finish models from each company to create an “authentic vintage feel.” This technique softens the feel without altering the colour or appearance of the finish, mimicking how a well-used guitar would feel over time.

The Sound

Finding the sound of a guitar can be challenging, particularly with older instruments. A high-quality vintage instrument will sound stunning (provided it has been properly maintained).

Hardware plays an essential role. A quality instrument should include high-grade tuners, bridges and pickguards. Any such hardware installed crookedly or looking cheap indicates subpar craftsmanship; similarly, bright or glossy-painted hardware indicates poor care being taken with its maintenance.

Enhancing the sound of a vintage guitar may be possible by adding new pickups and electronics, though doing so may add significantly to its cost and potentially create an unintentionally period-inappropriate Frankenstein guitar. Finding a truly excellent vintage instrument requires diligent searching, testing, and listening to find your ideal instrument.