What is Your Guitar Collecting Philosophy?


I grew up in a household of collectors. Between my parents, my brothers and myself, there were coin collections, antique collections, photograph collections, record collections, baseball card collections, snake collections (yes the living, breathing, reptilian kind) and that’s just the beginning. In this collection of collections one thing stood out. Each individual item had either sentimental value or monetary value, or both. Some pieces were traded or sold, but others could never be parted with.

Collecting can be enormously fun and challenging. It drives you to set goals, budget your time and carefully manage your ever important financial resources. Something I’ve always enjoyed about collecting is that you meet other people who share your interests. Through buying and trading you get to meet some pretty cool people. Also, you learn a lot from other collectors. And as you get to be more knowledgeable, it’s cool when you can help out a newer collector with some tidbit of info.

My massive guitar collection–for now–is only massive in my dreams. I currently own 3 guitars and 2 basses. In the scheme of things, a collection of 5 objects is pretty small, maybe even minuscule. But even though it’s small, the collection process is the same. I picked each guitar because they caught my eye when I saw them in person. I didn’t want to buy a guitar just because it was a good “investment.” I wanted to be emotionally attached.

Before buying any of my guitars I researched them. A lot. By the time I was ready to purchase the guitar, I knew more about it than the seller did. Google is an excellent resource, along with a ton of books out there. This helped me authenticate it and hopefully allowed me to avoid looking or sounding like an idiot. It’s also hard for someone to rip you off when you have done your homework ahead of time.


Nigel Tufnel, aka Christopher Guest, shows off his Vintage 3 pick-up Custom LPah the sustain!

I have had great luck over the last couple of years in dealing with private sellers. When you meet in person and talk to them, you find out some of the guitar’s history. I like knowing if the guy selling it is the original owner and bought it when he graduated from high school in 1976. Or maybe he is the third owner and bought it from Norm’s Rare Guitars. Whatever the case, it adds a lot of fun to the collecting process to know something about the guitar (assuming you’re collecting vintage guitars and not new ones!).

Don’t be afraid to negotiate a FAIR price. As long as you did a little research ahead of time and are respectful about it. For example, the seller is asking $1,000 for a guitar that you know recently sold for $750, go ahead and offer $750. Also grab a copy of the latest Vintage Guitar Price Guide and show the seller that it is currently listed at between $650-850. I hate douchy collectors who low-ball though. Don’t be a jerk and offer $300 for an all original 1964 Fender Strat. Hopefully the seller will know enough not to sell it to you, and if you’re lucky he won’t also kick you in the nuts!

By the way, if you’re looking for great guitars that are also good investments, these ones seem to be growing in value on an almost exponential level. Now that the market is pretty depressed because of the economy, you can probably get a good deal that will really be worth something some day:

  • Pre-CBS Fender Stratocasters, Telecasters, Precision basses, Jazz basses
  • Vintage Gibson Les Pauls, ES-335’s, SG’s

So my collecting philosophy is to have fun, find the guitars I really like, learn a lot about them from books and from the previous owners, and I like knowing I bought it fairly. Oh yeah, and I really like playing the damn things! So far, this philosophy has led me to buy (1) a Sunburst 1986 Fender ’62 Reissue Strat, (2) a Tobacco Burst 1976 Gibson Les Paul Standard, (3) a 1973 Gibson J50 acoustic, (4) a Tobacco Burst 1976 Gibson Thunderbird Bass, and (5) an Olympic White 1983 Fender ’62 Reissue Jazz Bass.

What is your guitar collecting philosophy?

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