What Makes a Guitar Vintage?

There is no question that good vintage guitars often make great investments. For instance, depending on the model, Les Paul guitars have been known to sell for over a quarter of a million dollars, while some Fender Telecasters command close to $100,000 in today’s market place. In fact, some of the most popular vintage guitars from the 1960’s can go for more than $20,000.

Photo by Dan Coplan

But just what is it about these guitars that make them so special? Vintage (also called collectible) guitars are basically instruments that are at least twenty-five years old and elicit a sense of “romance” in the hearts and minds of people. It doesn’t necessarily matter if they are acoustic, electric, hollow body or solid, as much as just how popular the type is with famous musicians past and present. In other words, if Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page or even Steve Vai is known to play one, then collectors are sure to want the same one too.

Next comes the manufacturer’s name, i.e., Di Giorgio, Gibson, Fender, etc. Some collectors only want guitars from specific makers. In addition, value increases depending on their rarity. Workmanship and sound quality, as well as whether it looks “cool” are factors that go into determining the value of anything “vintage” including the public’s basic love for an item, and thus its actual value. To connoisseurs, the very design, finish and color of many vintage guitars make them true “works of art” to be cherished. Without that special “romanticism” it is just an old or used axe with little worth in the resale market.

However, it is interesting to note that electric guitars currently seem to be commanding the biggest share of the vintage guitar market, although that is not to say that acoustics aren’t commanding a lot of attention as well.  It will be interesting to see how things go over the next few years to see what comes out on top in the vintage market.

Corey Palmer is a guitarist from Woodstock, NB Canada who has been playing for the past 20 years.  During this time, he has been a member of many different bands ranging from rock, metal and even a little country.  He currently jams with a band called gNosh.

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  • Kevin Wellington

    Guess I’m vintage in my old age, wish I still had my 1959 les paul standard that I got as a kid. I was stupid and sold it in the 70s for $1000. who knew it would blow up like it did!

  • I’d just like to have one of every guitar on that wall in the pic… not asking too much is it???

  • Janice Carlin

    Just yesterday I purchased my “dream guitar”, a 1979 Martin DH -35 in excellent condition. For me, that’s vintage because 8 years earlier, back in my college days, I could only afford my Martin 00018. I also don’t now have 30 years to break in a new axe! The D35 feels and plays like an old friend.

    • Hi Janice, congrats on the D-35! I had an early 80s Martin D-35 and it was one of the nicest acoustics I had ever played.

  • oryphic maini

    people i know have claimed that guitars don’t need to be “old” to be vintage. i don’t understand this, becuase if it’s true then a guitar being vintage must have more to do with the rarity than age? someone clarify this for me please. my friend has a daemoness 7 string and claims it’s vintage, but it’s literally only a year old, if that.

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