Vintage Semi-Hollow Electric Guitar

Vintage Value: 7 Ways to Decide if Your Guitar’s a Treasure or Just a Keepsake

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Wondering about the value of that old guitar? Here are some ideas to help you decide if it’s worth appraising or if your guitar’s value is mostly sentimental.

Prowling around a closet or attic you come across that daisy decal-festooned ‘60s-era electric guitar you remember your dad occasionally plinking on. How do you tell if you’ve got a potential treasure worth thousands, a piece of family memorabilia that has keepsake value or a Goodwill giveaway?

Read on to learn how you can assess whether you’re sitting on a treasure, trash or something in between.

In the world of music gear the term “vintage” carries a lot of cachet. Manufacturers invoke the V-word to cash in on the allure of classic gear. Brand-new guitars receive aging treatments to give them the look of a much-played elderly instrument. Manufacturers put oxblood and tweed grille cloth and coverings on spanking-new amps to conjure a retro vibe.

What’s drives a lot of this quest for vintage mojo is the fact that certain highly collectible guitars command huge sums these days. Because of their iconic status plus wonderful playability and craftsmanship, well-preserved Gibson Les Pauls, Fender Stratocasters and Telecasters, and vintage Martin acoustic guitars can bring in a king’s ransom.

Even lesser known brands and models in good condition command big price tags. There’s a huge market in vintage guitars, that includes collectors who specialize in all sorts of offbeat instruments. For example, some collect 1960s vintage Japanese and Italian models bristling with strange control knobs, futuristic plastic parts and three or four no-name pickups.

Factors That Primarily Dictate a Guitar's Value

Condition: A mint-condition instrument that includes its original case and parts commands top dollar. Any modifications or repairs, even those expertly performed, will likely reduce the value. The value drops off sharply for guitars rated in “good” or “fair” condition.

Rarity/Demand: These two factors often go hand-in-hand. As mentioned above, however, there are many specialty collectors willing to pay more for a less in-demand guitar if it fills a missing spot in their collection.

Age: While an older guitar will generally command a greater value than a newer one, there are many model-specific exceptions. Consulting price guides and checking the prices of similar models will help zero in on a value.

Memorabilia/provenance value: Instruments owned by notable players or those having other historic interest will bring in top prices. For example, charred Stratocasters that Jimi Hendrix immolated onstage have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

1. Identify What You’ve Got

To the untrained eye, a highly desirable 1960s model and a recent reissue will look essentially the same. It is essential to identify exactly what the vintage of a given instrument is. Serial numbers, hardware, finishes, workmanship, electronics, woods and materials will all offer clues. As noted below, guitar price guides are invaluable in running down the pedigree of the instrument.

2. Check The Condition

  • Are there any scratches or cracks?
  • Is the neck warped?
  • Are the frets worn?
  • Are there any separating glue joints?

Any significant blemishes will diminish the value of the guitar. It’s normal for older guitars to have a little wear and tear, but truly vintage instruments will be structurally sound, play well and reflect pride of ownership.

3. Has it Been Altered?

Musicians don’t usually consider the value of their instrument 50 years on when they change pickups or slap stickers on it. The less a guitar has been messed with, the better. An instrument that has a few scratches on it but has all its original parts and finish is usually worth more than a perfectly refinished specimen.

4. Listen to the Tone

Even if the body looks perfect, the guitar is no good if its sound is muddy. It should sound clear and crisp. Issues such as fret buzzing may be significant or minor depending on their cause. If the neck is severely warped, that will usually seriously diminish the guitar’s value. On the other hand, if a little set up work will cure buzzes and tuning issues, the impact on value is negligible. A guitar tech should be consulted if you’re not comfortable with setting up a guitar.

5. Rare Woods and Materials

Due to their endangered status and scarcity, certain prized tonewoods such as Brazilian rosewood are no longer used to build guitars. The same is true for tortoiseshell, ivory, and ebony inlays and embellishments. Their presence signifies a quality instrument and will usually positively impact the guitar’s value.

6. Do Your Research

A quick Google or Ebay search of your make and model will show you what others are selling guitars like yours for. You can also consult the Blue Book of Guitar Values to see what it is worth. Another great resource is Vintage Guitar Magazine's Price Guide, which is regularly updated and available at Amazon.

7. Get An Appraisal

If your initial research leads you to believe you’ve unearthed a real treasure, getting an appraisal from a reputable luthier may make sense. It’s best to find someone who comes recommended and who doesn’t have an axe to grind. A disinterested third-party expert may give you a more honest appraisal than a dealer interested in maximizing his profit when he resells your instrument.

Tags: Electric Guitars Acoustic Guitars

Comments  

# Barry Walker 2017-01-04 09:50
I recently found and rescued a classical Grauer acoustic guitar that is supposedly nearly 90 years old. I haven't been able to find any information on Grauer guitars. Anyone know of them?
Reply
# Micah 2016-11-28 10:03
I have what I'm told is a rarecrucianelli acoustic guitar.
Reply
# Maxwell D. Brown 2016-10-25 00:20
I have a Gibson J160E I bought in 1966 second hand. I played it in a Jazz band for about 2 years and when I married it was put in the cupboard for the next 40 or more years It is in a excellent case but I don't think it is a Gibson case. I started playing again about 6 years ago but lost my index and middle finger in an accident so I don't play it much now. the number on the back of the neck is 231008. What could be the value?
Reply
# Mark 2016-10-05 18:40
I have a 1971 Flying v, no case...any idea worth? Thank you...it's # 292 out of 350
Reply
# Travis Murphy 2016-08-31 21:12
I have an old les Paul style guitar (it's a Japanese lawsuit fake or something of the sort) there's no noticeable serial number. I checked everywhere for it, believe me. Does anyone have any ideas on how to date it or even price it?
Reply
# Bobby j 2016-08-25 11:57
I got an older pulse bolt electric. Someone give me direction on reselling it?
Reply
# Elliot 2016-08-16 11:26
i have a fender stratocastor with the serial number 329742 that have hobocken pickup that read Gibson and it also has a fuzz control that works with a 9 volt battery I wanted to know if anyone knows the history of this fender I haven't got to much information all I know it may have been made in the 1970-1971 because of the serial number
Reply
# James Running Wind 2016-07-14 11:47
I have a Jackson V I believe is a 1984 model. Its mint and the case is mint also, closet kept over 30 years when I got it. What could the value be.
Reply
# Pete 2016-07-24 13:54
Seems no one answers any of these questions...pay for the books , click so this site gets their .1 cent per referral
. Corporate money mongers control all. Where are the old school Axe heads? Where are the true quitar enthusiast sites.
Reply
# Bill 2016-06-19 16:48
I have a 1941 Martin 0-18 (a little rough but all there). I am trying to find out what it is worth and also where I can get a case?
Reply
# Brian 2016-04-28 02:33
Hi in 1967 I bought a second hand Epiphone model Century Guitar with the case (serial no. 68541).I have checked it was made in the Epiphone Philidelphia Plant USA in 1955. I would love to know the value!!!
Reply
# Max lang 2016-03-26 13:24
I have an american made fender telecaster elite from 1983 it has gold hardware and mother of pearl tuners the body of the guitar is pewter and the fretboard is maple it has active pickups and a white pickguard that looks like a pickguard that you would find on a gibson les paul. There are absolutely NO scratches, dents, chips,marks, or ware of any kind on it
and it has all original parts. And it came with a brown hard shell case it feels like a hard plastic and it has butterfly locks on it. The guitar is EXTREMELY RARE and i want to know the value so please help me out
Reply
# ChrisJ 2016-03-19 09:07
Hi
I have a 2004 Gibson 60's Hummingbird from the Historic Collection which I would like to sell but have no idea of it's value. Can amyone recommend how to get it valued (Warrington Area).
Thanks
Reply
# Donna Kinsella 2016-03-08 10:07
I have a Rivolti Epiphone Baldwin which i believe origibated in America dyring the late 40's to mid 50's.. it belonged to my Dad who was also the Original Bass Player of Crazy Cavan & the Rhythm Rockers..
It has a serial number which is: 68198 & a Style number which is: EBV 232.
I hope you may be able to help give me some sort of idea as to how much it is valued at?
Many Thanks
Kind Regards
Donna
Reply
# Dave NOLAN 2016-03-01 18:27
I have an old, 1950's Fender Telecaster. I need an appraisal. I live in Newcastle NSW. How do I find someone reputable ( to insurance companies) to value my guitar?
Reply
# Ande Smith 2016-02-12 07:22
i have an original gibson cherry es 345 td bixby vibrato custom dating back to 1964 with a serial #153673 original owner looking to sell...
Reply
# Pete C 2016-01-03 14:25
I have a 1955 Fasan acoustic guitar , made in Germany.. Good condition . I am trying to find its value. I believe it is quite rare!
Reply
# Jami 2015-12-26 08:59
I have a Linus guitar that a friend told me might be worth some value, so I'm searching to find out.
Linus (electric acoustic)
2006
Custom Made by Linus Korea
Model No. LSC50E
Thank you!
Reply
# Patrick 2015-12-12 11:29
I've got a 1968 Gibson SJN in fairly good condition, the machine heads have been replaced - still got the original- also the pegs and saddle, has anyone got an idea of a fair price
Reply
# Diane Dietrich 2015-11-02 09:06
I have a beautiful sunburst electric guitar. It is a Ibanez (Epiphone) guitar with no model or serial numbers on it. On the very top is printed RAVEN and the V in the middle is bigger with a picture of a raven or eagle or hawk? in the middle of the V. The weight of the guitar alone is about 20 to 25 pounds and the case is hard shell with a beautiful blue velvet interior. Looking for any information on this guitar including value. Thank you.
Reply
# James Running Wind 2016-07-14 12:38
Epiphone was made in the same factory next to Gibson insturments. Hope this helps.
Reply
# Diane 2015-12-13 15:20
Diane Dietrich 2015-11-02 09:06
I have a beautiful sunburst electric guitar. It is a Ibanez (Epiphone) guitar with no model or serial numbers on it. On the very top is printed RAVEN and the V in the middle is bigger with a picture of a raven or eagle or hawk? in the middle of the V. The weight of the guitar alone is about 20 to 25 pounds and the case is hard shell with a beautiful blue velvet interior. Looking for any information on this guitar including value. Thank you.
Reply
Reply
# Lauren M 2015-10-21 14:38
I have been having many issues figuring out how to date and match an acoustic guitar that was left to me by my grandmother.... All i know from looking at it is, it states inside and on neck its a Seville and from inside it states Seville Guitars made in Korea model # s14 (possibly 514.....) I am unsure how to even figure out anything on this guitar.... Any ideas on how to find it at least? Thanks.
Reply
# Harry L 2015-10-15 14:00
I have a 1966 Epiphone Riviera in Sunburst
SN 434090 Model ES360TD
Bought it new still in hard case.
In very good condition.
What is it worth?
Reply
# Patti 2015-08-13 21:35
I have a B C RICO Wave N.J series. . I think it was made in 1983 or 1984 . what is the value ?
Reply
# JCBoucher 2015-02-27 17:17
Guild , 1966 t100d
Reply
# Mike B 2015-02-27 13:58
I have a 1970 Gibson SG Pro with walnut finish in mint condition. All original including the not so mint case. Dual P-90s and Bigsby. Any idea what it's worth?
Reply
# Mark Rosenbaum 2015-02-27 13:52
I have a 1969 Gibson Les Paul Custom in Cherry-burst finish. Bought it new and have all original receipts and original hard Gibson case. Not sure what it's worth.
Reply

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