When it comes to the best six-string investments, the choice is plain: rock’n’roll may claim to be about revolution, but the vintage guitar market is notoriously conservative.
The Telecaster (1950) Stratocaster (1954) and Gibson Les Paul (1952) are still industry standards, as proved by the fact that many of today’s handmade ‘boutique’ guitars still reference them in their design. Fender’s ‘B-team’ of Jazzmasters and Jaguars have enjoyed sporadic revivals in the wake of Kurt Cobain and others, while Gretsch and Rickenbacker’s products have appreciated notably in value over time. But for consistency, the big three reign supreme.
Gibsons have tended to fare better than Fenders for a couple of reasons: the changes in colours, pickups, and so on on models like the Les Paul (which even went out of production for a spell) have been more drastic than with the Strat and Tele, whose subtler evolution takes more knowledge to identify, while the Fender bolt-on neck construction has meant that it’s less certain that what you have in your hands came out of the factory in that configuration. Also, the takeover of Fender by CBS in 1965 made guitars manufactured before that date appreciate in value due to a perceived fall in quality control after the takeover. The reverse, of course, is also true…
Auction houses, which have been blamed by many for starting the ‘guitar and investment’ culture, are a barometer of price trends. Film star Richard Gere sold his 100-plus collection in October last year at Christie’s in New York and made a total of $936,438 for charity. Top lot was a 1960 Les Paul that sold for $98,500, while a Flying V owned by Albert King made $74,000 – not record figures, but respectable. The auction house’s Kerry Keane was ‘thrilled and delighted’ at the prices achieved, and with 96 per cent of the lots sold believed ‘the market clearly responded to the appeal of (Gere’s) collection.’
2. Old Fashioned Values - The Vintage Guitar Market