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Status of the Vintage Guitar Market

Discussion in 'Vintage Tele Discussion Forum (pre-1974)' started by DavideBassista, Jan 19, 2021.

  1. DavideBassista

    DavideBassista Tele-Meister

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    Hi. I bought my first vintage Fender in 2014. Before that I hadn't had any experience with vintage solid body guitars. I have been following the market off and on over the past few years and have often read about a market bubble in vintage guitars that popped with the 2009 recession. It sounds like prices were pretty astronomical before that. Compered to what things were like in 2014 when I first started to pay attention to the makers it seems as if prices today are notably higher than in 2014. Maybe 50-100% higher in some instances. I am curious as to how much things took a dive after the market bubble popped with the 2009 recession. How much have prices recovered today? Do people think the market is generally strong now? Steady healthy growth? Hype and overinflation? How is the current Covid-induced economic situation affecting the market? I'd be interested in hearing what people who have been following the market longer than me think about it.
     
  2. Rufus

    Rufus Tele-Afflicted

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    I'm certainly no expert on vintage guitars or amps, but consider this...

    I equate this with the older LP record technology. Those who grew up listening to a vinyl record album played on a turntable through a quality tube amplifier with decent speakers KNOW how much better and warmer the analog signal sounds than the compressed, digital CD. However...if you did not grow up with that experience, then you don't know what you're missing.

    To oversimplify...The Baby Boomers (myself included) grew up listening to popular music played on Teles, Strats, Les Pauls, SGs through Fender, Marshall, Vox, etc tube amps. That WAS the sound of country or rock and roll. We wanted what our heroes played.

    Now 2 or 3 generations later, kids growing up are not listening to those same guitars and amps, so they do not have the same connection to the tools that we had. Their music might have been recorded on a pointy guitar thru a Line 6 amp. So the perceived value of a 50s tweed Fender Bassman or '62 Fender Strat is probably not anything close to what an older (ahem, I mean...more MATURE) fan would feel.

    It all comes down to Supply and Demand. If there is not a demand for those instruments, they are obviously not going to appreciate in price.

    I believe that vintage prices peaked in the 80s...maybe into the early 90s? The Baby Boomers had more disposable income once the kids grew up and left, so that Les Paul Goldtop that they wanted as a teenager, was suddenly somewhat attainable. Now that the Baby Boomers are no longer spending big buck$ on them, the demand and prices have dropped.

    There will always be a few young people that want to play the older instruments...but not enough to justify ever increasing prices.

    Personally, I would NOT buy a "vintage" guitar simply with the intent of making $$ off of it. (Unless its a guitar played regularly by a famous musician with provenance.)

    You might make SOME, but I don't see what would suddenly make these instruments suddenly more valuable to a younger played born in the 1990s or 2000's. I can see buying because you want to own a piece of history and a (probably) quality instrument...but in my opinion, figuring that you are going to sell and make big bucks today or in the future, is a losing proposition, at best.

    You mileage may vary.
     
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  3. Masmus

    Masmus Tele-Meister

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    I disagree slightly with Rufas’ post however I completely agree that if you buy vintage instruments for for an investment there are far better ways to increase the value of your money. Rarely do you ever even cover inflation.
     
  4. capgun

    capgun Tele-Meister

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    I agree 100%. Eventually anyone who was willing to pay for this stuff will be dead. Kids today don’t care. If you want to sell something for a profit I’d do it sooner than later.

    Capgun
     
  5. Fretting out

    Fretting out Poster Extraordinaire

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    Vintage guitars are kind of like art though I believe at least for the next 50 years or so they will be collected, if even by non-players

    Just for the sake of saying “yeah I have a 59 Les Paul, it was only 500k” that type of deal

    If I had the money I’d be buying up early 70’s cbs fenders because they are gonna be the next to jump since “pre cbs” is so unobtainable

    I don’t know I’m off topic

    Although I also agree with you as in all these 50-70 year old men are buying 1960’s muscle cars for extreme sums while someone of my generation won’t care about them and would rather have a “fast and furious” car

    But SOME will retain value like guitars

    Although as far a investment I’ve always maintained there are safer things to invest in like if someone bought 350 Dollars worth of gold in 1960 rather than a guitar it would probably be worth way more
     
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  6. capgun

    capgun Tele-Meister

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    I still have to disagree. Your muscle car vs Japanese import is a good example of what I mean. Kids today don’t even want to own cars, big houses, get married, etc. If it’s not something they can fit in a backpack, they have no interest in it. And I get it. I’m 46, but I’ve been minimalist pretty much my whole life. Kids today are even more so. They aren’t buying art for art’s sake, let alone guitars for art’s sake.

    Back to the car example. Yes, there are still guys buying Fast & Furious type cars over old muscle. Car guys. Not the average consumer. Average consumer just wants a decent car at a good price. Average kid that may want a guitar, same.

    Car guys will exist long after the old guys with money stop buying old guitars. I just don’t see a future in vintage instruments once a certain demographic leaves this world. The car guy will fall away as well if the internal combustion engine is ever outlawed.

    Capgun
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2021
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  7. regularslinky

    regularslinky Tele-Afflicted

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    I'm no expert, but it's really hard to imagine vintage guitars not depreciating in value in the near future. Aging/dying Boomers (increased supply) + disinterested younger people (decreased demand) = devaluation.
    Bonamassa can't buy them all . . . can he??
     
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  8. AmpHandle

    AmpHandle TDPRI Member

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    The price boom for 70's Fenders is skyrocketing right now. Who is going to sell them at a loss after paying a premium? What was looked at as a good deal has mostly vanished.
     
  9. DavideBassista

    DavideBassista Tele-Meister

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    Just to clarify, I wasn't asking about the vintage guitar market from the standpoint of a financial investment from a wealth management standpoint. But I get that that is a component.

    Regarding the discussion about boomers aging out of the market and no-one coming to take their place - I see what you are saying but there are tons of Youtube and Instagram accounts hosted by young people that are obsessed and dedicated to vintage guitars. It's not just people that grew up in the 60s and 70s. Lots of people in the indy rock and Nashville scene value them too. I mean look at all of the offerings from Fender and Gibson - they are all trying to emulate and re-create the vintage feel. This isn't all marketed to Baby Boomers.

    One of my curiosities was how far off are priced today compared to early 2000s when they were at their peak? For example if a Pre-CBS Strat is worth say $20K now, how much would it have been selling for in 2007?
     
  10. ElJay370

    ElJay370 Tele-Afflicted

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    When I first got into...we'll say "accumulating" rather than "collecting" old gear in the early 90's, you could almost always hunt the local music stores, pawn shops, garage sales, and even the occasional guitar show and find good deals.

    Not anymore. eBay, Reverb, and fake, staged "reality" shows like Pawn Stars and American Pickers effectively killed any hope of finding a bargain...Because everyone thinks they're an expert now, and suddenly everything is "vintage" and "collectable" and its all ridiculously overpriced.

    All original, unmodified "golden age" Fenders and Gibsons? Forget it. Only lawyers, dentists, and Joe Bonamassa can afford them.

    CBS Fenders and Norlin era Gibsons are approaching a similar fate as the Boomers age out and the Gen Xers start pushing 60. It may not feel like it, but 1991 was along time ago. All the Jaguars, Jazzmasters and other ugly ducklings that collectors didn't want back then are gradually getting out of reach also.

    What's still relatively affordable and gaining respect among collectors now?

    - Early USA made shred machines like Charvels, Jacksons, and Kramers.
    - Other American makes like BC Rich, Dean, and Hamer.
    - High end Japanese "lawsuit" copies. Especially Ibanez.
    - Travis Beans and acrylic Dan Armstrongs.

    Basically...I see the 70's and 80's taking over for the 50's and 60's.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2021
  11. TeleUpNorth

    TeleUpNorth Tele-Meister

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    Being mid 30’s I’ve put a lot of thought into this. I have owned many old and awesome guitars (mostly the “unwanted” models in the 90s). I would love an old Fender or Gibson. Reality though, even though my household income is something my parents would envy we don’t have nearly any disposable income after student loans, health insurance, out of pocket medical, and just life expenses. I think the financial strains on younger people, even ones who make decent money, make it impossible. That said I have a hard time seeing the vintage market holding for much longer. I also don’t think this is only relevant to the guitar market, but that’s a whole different conversation. I’d love to fork over $2500-3000 for the 76 Thinline I’ve had on loan for nearly two years, but that just seems like a poor investment when I could do things to help my family with the same money. Not to mention the fact that I could likely build a very similar model for <$1000, especially now that the WRHB has been reissued. Would it be the same, no. But I would be much less likely to lose money and it would sound close enough, especially for any audience I play to. Not complaining, just is what it is and I know most families in our age group and income demographic are in the same boat. Makes it hard to imagine the market climbing much longer.
     
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  12. cnlbb

    cnlbb Tele-Afflicted

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    Oof, lots of guessing at what's up with kids these days. A quick perusal of young people guitar culture on youtube will show you that there's still plenty of people in their 20s who fetishize vintage guitars and gear.

    Will the prices continue to increase? Who knows, but the reasons for that have little to do with if kids are playing telecasters these days or not. I mean... I don't see too many violins in popular music but the prices for rare and old violins keep going up. And well, I see lots of guitars (including telecasters) in popular music. Lots of jazzmasters too actually.

    Perhaps the question of our relationship to history, objects, and perceived value is a bit complicated. Certainly complicated enough that it likely isn't worth betting the house, car, or money you can't afford to lose on.
     
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  13. Robert H.

    Robert H. Friend of Leo's Gold Supporter

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    I must start off by saying - NONE of us really has a great feel for what the vintage guitar market is going to do. It’s educated guessing. After watching and participating in this market for 5 decades, it has become clear that the vast majority of "old" instruments do not gain much if any value. Some do, and some really do. It remains a question of supply and demand. Here's is a foreboding example - I have a 1956 Gibson L-5C. I bought it in 1973 for about $750. In the late 1980's these guitars (mid-50's Gibson archtops) were selling for more than $15K. Today, and for the past dozen years or more, the price is half of that. The demand for these has dropped off. Some of the older D'Angelico archtops remain very expensive and collectible. Why? Demand and short supply.
    1950's Les Paul Bursts remain incredibly desirable and therefor expensive. Many of the lesser models - LP Specials for example - have dropped in price from their highs 12-15 years ago. It's not a monolithic marketplace. Some items rise in value, most do not.
    So where do we go from here? Will young collectors in China create a greater demand for 1968 Teles? Will younger American Rockers want old Gretsch Duo Jets? Will large Fender amps - which have declined in value while smaller Princeton Reverbs have shot up in value - rebound?
    Will Bitcoins take over our monetary systems?
    Who the hell knows...?
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2021
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  14. Rykus

    Rykus TDPRI Member

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    The market is way higher than 2007 now..the population is bigger than ever so when a limited and diminishing amount of something exists it will continue to grow in value if it is a known collectable...

    violins aren't less expensive now that classical music isn't mainstream popular. You can get one cheaper if you factor inflation but an older one made by a known luthier is still worth a lot!

    Also I think too there are a ton of guitar geeks that love old vintage.. I grew up in the 90's and just turned 40 and have spent a lot of time and money buying and selling vintage stuff and researching it indepth and there is more resources now than ever.

    Unfortunately fakes will be the increasing danger as the value grows and people that knew the most pass on.

    I doubt the market will suddenly drop ever... I wish it would but I seriously doubt it!

    I dont see how you guys are seeing the market be down at all? But I guess our dollar is not great, but still in 05-10 era i saw a ton of stuff way cheaper 335's 45's specials juniors mustang's duosonics musicmasters etc where inexpensive and readily available... now even butchered ones are over 3k!

    And yeah all the 70s stuff that ten years ago no one wanted is all of a sudden being reissued and people are buying em all up at custom shop or higher prices.

    Crazy times!
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2021
  15. guitarist232345

    guitarist232345 Tele-Meister

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    There is no doubt about it - the market can only continue growing under the current circumstances.

    Yes the death of boomers will shake things up, but the reality is guitars are more popular than ever before in sales at the moment. A new generation is getting into the joy of the guitar RIGHT NOW heavily due to the mess that was 2020. Last year, Fender had its most successful year ever. In ten years' time or so, the fruits of this will begin to show when today's beginners release their first music. Around this time there will naturally be another boost in vintage instruments as the 2020 beginners go down the rabbit hole so to speak. With this considered, the 'disinterested young people' argument is rubbish. Interestingly, the guitar is also very inclusive, with 50% of its users being female. This again is a major plus as women drive the majority of consumer spending against men [the old primary demographic]. If even more women get into guitar [above 50%], it can only further drive sales.

    To add to this, the instruments are nigh on 100 years old. If anything their value will probably rise even higher throughout the coming years.

    When the boomers die many will undoubtedly be lost or destroyed too.

    There is also the historical significance of the first mass produced electric instrument given everything we are currently going through right now with rapid technologisation. The electric guitar was always an icon of change, but if anything the last few years have further consolidated the importance of it with the rise of digital music [something it arguably laid the foundation to].

    Finally, the proliferation of e-commerce post-pandemic will probably make the sale of these instruments easier and less local, thus giving them a global market like never before. Before some would be online but many would also be for sale in a local vintage guitar retailer. Now, I suspect 90% of them will be listed online. Expect even more of these instruments to end up not in America. The easier access to them will increase global demand thus pushing up prices.

    To say the market will take a hit when boomers die is shortsighted and ignores some critical information.

    It will only go up in my eyes. It can only go up due to the growing guitar market right now and online sales revolution.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2021
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  16. Stanford Guitar

    Stanford Guitar Tele-Afflicted

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    If you want to make money buying and selling instruments the only way to do it is by owning a pawn shop. Otherwise, there are far easier ways to make money.
     
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  17. richiek65

    richiek65 Friend of Leo's

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    There was a famous vintage guitar shop in Sydney back in the 80s/90s that was advertising early Gibsons and pre CBS fenders for 100K+, some of their rarest items priced at over 500k (AUD). I world sometimes go inside and try not to drool over the amazing items he had on display.

    I won't go in to the sad ending the store had, but since it's demise, the prices commanded down here have dropped by maybe half?
     
  18. Sea Devil

    Sea Devil Friend of Leo's

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    To some extent, the vintage guitar market is like the comic book market. There's a huge gap in price between the pristine rarities at the top (all-original '59 LP, mint condition Action #1) that are openly acknowledged as investments, never to be played or read, sold at Sotheby's, etc.; and the stuff that players and fanboys who like the old stuff can afford (rare comics in bad shape, modded or refinned guitars). Then there's the reprint/reissue market. I think the reprint/reissue market will see the greatest numerical growth; they're cheaper and you can always make more. The super-high-end stuff will continue to get more expensive. I have no predictions about the stuff in the middle.
     
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  19. _Presto_

    _Presto_ TDPRI Member

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    That store got me into vintage guitars.

    In the early 2000s someone stole my guitar (during a home break in). I walked past there one day and saw what I was looking for as a replacement hanging on the wall. It wasn’t vintage, but I remember going in to try it out and thinking ‘what is all this other stuff?’ and ‘does the tag on that tele really say $50k?’.

    They also plugged me into a Matchless to try out that guitar. I’d been playing at solid state amp before that....so needless to say it was a pretty eye-opening visit to a guitar store.

    Now 20 years later I own a pre-cbs Fender, an early 60s Gibson, some nice old Fender amps....and a Matchless :)
     
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  20. Oldsmobum

    Oldsmobum Tele-Meister

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    47C8FEE3-DB7C-4A9E-B90D-1CE4BBC45786.jpeg
    Fender got this data via subscriptions to Fender Play. And you left out a key detail that actually runs counter to the argument- only 20% of new subscriptions were people under 24 years old.

    There are two key points to this-

    1. 24 years old is not that young in terms of learning a new instrument- in fact it’s ancient

    2. Only 20%, on a platform that is more likely to oversample this demographic is not exactly a good sign that a “new” generation is taking up the guitar.

    Yes, fender had it’s best year ever... and how many people on this forum went from 2-4 guitars to 12-16 guitars just this year?

    But this is besides the point... the only thing we all know for sure, is that anything can happen...
     
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