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.

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David Peterson

David Peterson

My love is music...my passion is guitars. Since 1967 with paper route money in hand, I bought my first guitar and amp. Since then, some 50 plus years later my involvement within the industry has grown and now I am focused on players, musicians and collectors alike to help them keep their treasures, buy pieces that are special to them and help them get top dollar in the marketplace. Guitars ARE collateral in our world !

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