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Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Thoughts on 50's Tele Refins

Discussion in 'Vintage Tele Discussion Forum (pre-1974)' started by steveokla, Apr 11, 2017.

  1. steveokla

    steveokla TDPRI Member

    Apr 9, 2011
    I've been without a Tele for some time--too long, indeed. Anyway, it's time to find one, and I'm somewhat torn, hence my post.

    The last Tele I owned was a '68. It was a great player and all original. I sincerely wish now I'd kept it, but, alas, a '56 Strat came along I just had to have, etc., etc. I was particularly fond of the '68 because it had.a great neck profile (on the round, chunky side), was light (just under 7 pounds), and, being an earlier model, had a lacquer board: I really dislike a urethane board. Anyway, it's gone. My 'quest' is limited thus: either another '68 (if I can find one with a lacquer board); or, I may be able to afford a 50's Strat if it's a refin, but not otherwise.

    I'm given to understand that, all other things being equal, refinishing reduces value by something like half, perhaps more. I'm guessing (rank speculation) that a refin, '50's Tele might run somewhere between $10-$12K, depending on condition and originality of other parts. First, am I pretty close on this? Alternatively, I could get an all original '68 for less than that, so far as I can tell.

    Therein, the dilemma: an adulterated, '50's refin (I'm looking at a '53 and a '55 right now) or an unadulterated '68. The appeal of the '50's is obvious, but I struggle with the refin idea, especially should I decide to part with it later. Would really appreciate thoughts, insights and input here. Thanks so much, Steve

  2. khai123

    khai123 TDPRI Member

    Jun 9, 2011
    Fresno, CA
    If it's a good refin, I'd go 50's. 68 is cool, and all original is nice, but I don't think that refins are inherently bad news, not at all, as long as they're done well and look good.

  3. Jimmy Owen

    Jimmy Owen Tele-Meister

    Apr 2, 2017
    Moravian Falls, NC
    Hi Steve,
    I'd go 50s. The strat in my avatar has been with me for more than 30 years; I've never regretted buying it.

    A 50s neck (to me) is the stuff that dreams are made of.
    t guitar floyd and old crow like this.

  4. Major Gruber

    Major Gruber Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 24, 2012
    Colombes France
    I love refinished guitar because it makes them affordable and you never have to worry about the finish where ever you take it. I have several refinished guitars, a 63 strat, a 71, 67 and 56 telecaster. They're all amazing and the 56 is one of the most killer Tellies I've ever tried. I never could have afford a collector grade one. I compared it to whole originals early 50's and it was at least as good. The only inconvenience with player grade guitars is that they're harder to resell, but if you love old wood and want to play them, players are a great way to get it.
    t guitar floyd likes this.

  5. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Telefied Ad Free Member

    Nov 15, 2009
    Austin, Tx
    I owned a (body only) refinished 55 Esquire.
    It was light, sounded great, had a one piece body, and was original except for the (too yellow) refin.
    I wish I had kept it.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2017

  6. steveokla

    steveokla TDPRI Member

    Apr 9, 2011
    Thanks, all, for the insights. Resale struck me as the only drawback, as someone noted. On the other hand, the market for collector grade stuff, it strikes me, is pretty small--a fairly limited number of buyers disposed and prepared to shell out $20K plus for a collector grade Strat or Tele. Simply put, there are likely a lot more folks (players, at least) who can come up with $8-10K than $20K or more, such that it would seem the market of available buyers for refins is significantly larger than that for museum pieces. If I'm right, that suggests refins may, in the end, may sell more quickly than collector's grade pieces. All rank speculation on my part, of course.

    Fact is, I bought a really nice '56 Strat a while back (again, selling off my '68 Tele among other things). It's wonderful old guitar (pictured), one owner and stock except for one tuner (original failed and is in the case), which was replaced with a tuner from a '57. It's under 7 pounds (a big plus for me), neck is flawless and a joy to play.

    On the down side: it's got the original frets, which, for me at least, are tiring. If I re-fret it, it'll play even better, but diminish its value to collectors should I wish to sell. Moreover, I own no Tele. I've pretty much resolved to 'morph' it into two guitars--a player grade Strat (looking for a '61 slab) and player grade Tele, if possible--hence, the question about refin Tele's versus original '68. IMG_0410.jpg

  7. deytookerjaabs

    deytookerjaabs Friend of Leo's

    Jun 5, 2015
    Be careful, be diligent. IMO folks have really gotten good at the little details of cloning the bodies so it's hard to justify thousands upon thousands if the other parts aren't there and aren't RIGHT. If the price is right, and the details check out, do it!

    Remember, there's lots of "vintage" stores who love their high quality repro parts too and don't tell that up front. So many clean guitars out there these days, haha.

    In any case, if you find one, lots & lots of pics then see if you can contact Nacho Banos, he knows a thing or two.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2017

  8. steveokla

    steveokla TDPRI Member

    Apr 9, 2011
    Thanks much for your counsel. That, of course, is the other big concern I have--discerning whether a guitar is original, save the refin and such other changes as are disclosed. I'm really no good at that, so my plan is, as you recommend, lots and lots of pix which I'd planned to post here to get the counsel of experts.

  9. petebrown

    petebrown Tele-Meister

    Sep 22, 2003
    No. Cal.
    I'm a BIG fan of "issues" guitars, great way to get into a high-end instrument for (more) reasonable $... Can get MUCH more bang for yer buck in playing quality-
    Tacotuesday and old crow like this.

  10. steveokla

    steveokla TDPRI Member

    Apr 9, 2011
    That's a point worth making--otherwise unaccessible guitars thus find their way into the hands of players. After all, it's the way the old stuff plays that, at the end of the day, actually makes it great old stuff. A friend of mine has so far located a '53 refin (don't have details yet on any other changes), a '55 refin with a humbucker rout, and a '62 slab refin, otherwise original. As I get more details, including price, I'll post such pix and info as I have for scrutiny.

    Meantime, by way of highjacking my own thread momentarily, you'll note the old '56 5E5-B (circuit nearly identical the the 5E5-A), save a resister or two), the Strat's leaning against. When I still had my '68 Tele, I found the Pro to be my absolute favorite amp for a Tele--not too shabby with Strats, either. I wanted to save the PN15, which still has the original cone and sounded pretty good, so I installed a '60's JBL D130F. With a Tele, it's a deadly combination. Was wondering if others of you Tele masters have tried yours with a narrow panel Pro and reached similar conclusions.

  11. 63telemaster

    63telemaster Tele-Meister

    Jul 29, 2013
    I too like player grade guitars and the bang for buck they represent. I had a 50's LP Jr refin and still have my '63 strip finish tele both of which I've played out extensively over the years. Don't think I would have been so keen to do that with collector grade guitars and the attention they would have attracted. Also consider the dilemma you have with the frets on your '56 strat....another reason for buying player grade. Take your time finding the right one and don't let your heart rule your head.

  12. Uncle Bob

    Uncle Bob Tele-Meister

    Mar 5, 2017
    West Virginia
    If it saves money on the front end, why does it matter if it sells for less on the back end?
    Piggy Stu likes this.

  13. Piggy Stu

    Piggy Stu Friend of Leo's

    Feb 26, 2017
    I guess it depends if your plan is for it to go up 100 fold in value and buy a yacht

  14. steveokla

    steveokla TDPRI Member

    Apr 9, 2011
    Point taken. I'm not experienced in buying refins, but my guess is, though their value may not escalate like collectors' pieces, their value remains pretty stable in any event. And, as you say, there's much to be said for saving a bunch up front to get a classic player, which matters most anyway.

    Still searching in terms of prices. Don't know yet on the '53. Checked Reverb, which shows non-refine ranging from $20-$30K. No clue as to refins yet. I checked Gbase some, but, of course, their prices are maniacal.

  15. Radspin

    Radspin Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

    Mar 7, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    From everything I've heard, a refret does not devalue the guitar as much as a refin and is one of the most "acceptable" mods to collectors. After all, what good is a nice vintage guitar if the frets are so worn it's unplayable?

  16. steveokla

    steveokla TDPRI Member

    Apr 9, 2011
    I think that's right. Is that a BF Princeton I see as your avatar? Very nice!

  17. old crow

    old crow TDPRI Member

    Feb 22, 2009
    I've had a few collectable and player grade, both 50's
    and 60's and my personable favorites have been 50's.
    My # 1 these days is a mongrel, 60's body w a 57 neck
    and aftermarket pups...Its the best neck I've had ( personal preference) and one of the lightest weight, best sounding...again, subjective,
    This guitar also allows me to sleep at nite, knowing that
    I'll never need to sell it, as it has very little value.
    Now if you can sleep well w a $10k refin, then go for
    the black guard.
    w the great selection of pups now, I usually recommend
    aftermarket, as that also saves you $ , but in your budget, if you can find an early 50's refin w orig. pups
    you should end up w a killer git...
    It sounds like you'll also be able to try before you
    buy, which is now a no brainer...

  18. Masterbuilt

    Masterbuilt Tele-Holic

    Oct 28, 2004
    There's an awful lot of blackguard refins about. Sub $12k they seem to sell pretty quickly, Fiesta Finishes move theirs along at a lightening pace despite the many mods and issues. Once they creep over $12k they seem to hang about for years. The '53 Esquire at McKenzie River has been there for a good five years now. Yet I see original blackguard with no issues as such sell in days. Emerald City and Rumbleseat never have them for long and we are talking $38k+ guitars.

  19. steveokla

    steveokla TDPRI Member

    Apr 9, 2011
    This is all very helpful, guys. I'm still awaiting photos and info on the three I'm considering at the moment. My first choice among them initially (without more info) is the '53, for all the obvious reasons. Much of it, naturally, turns on the pricing.

  20. mannymann

    mannymann TDPRI Member

    Apr 14, 2017
    I am in the same boat as you. I have the opportunity to buy a 53 Esquire. It has a refin, a refret and repro tuners installed. It does come with a '54 thermometer case. I could get it for about 13K Canadian (9.7K USD). The refin was about 30 years ago. It plays wonderful, but seems like too many non original items, I would want to be able to recoup my cash. I am having a hard time with the tuners being replaced. What do you all think is a fair price, or should I just stay away.
    Asmith likes this.

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