1982 Olson (Built for Johnny Cash)


First, I don't know where to post this so if it's not in the correct area then I'm sorry.

So, I own a guitar that was originally built for Johnny Cash by James Olson. Here is a quick synapses of how I came to own this guitar.

My dad is an old gospel artist. During his heyday he heard of a guitar luthier from his home town. My dad contacted Olson to see if he could come by his shop to play a few guitars and see what's going on. Olson knew who my dad was and was excited to have him come by. My dad got there and played a few guitars but saw the all black Olson hanging on the wall and asked what the story was in it. James proceeded to tell my dad that he had built that guitar specifically for Cash and had twice brought the guitar to a concert only to be turned away by security and management and it had since hung on the wall. My dad (being a big Cash fan) asked if he could play....& then purchase the guitar. Olson agreed to sell it to my dad for a steal.

Year or two later Cashs secretary wrote Olson stating that Cash had heard that Olson made him a guitar and he was very interested in owning it. Olson wrote back stating that he has sold it to my dad. Cash personally wrote back and said "I'm so glad Dallas has the guitar. He is June and I favorite gospel artist"!

Few years back my dad gave me the guitar and the letters for my birthday.

I'm writing this because I'm curious...brace yourselves...how I would go about selling something like this. Now I'm more curious then I am serious right now but I would still like to know. When my dad owned it he thought about selling it numerous times but never pulled the trigger. He gave me his blessing to sell it if I ever needed to or just wanted to. I know what the guitar itself is roughly worth but adding in that it was built for Cash and owned by my dad plus the letters, how would I go about appraising it and selling it? If I ever chose to...which I have no intent on currently! I know it's worth is sort of dictated by finding the right buyer (huge Cash fan) or better yet a buyer who is a huge fan of Cash & my dad. It's a very specific buyer I would be looking for I know.

Thanks for your time and help.


Gold Supporting Member
I would call Gruhns or Carters vintage in Nashville. They would be able to give you an appraisal.

I wouldn't sell it though unless it was absolutely necessary. Thats a great family story.


that is a great story and a really nice guitar...

Mr Olsen's demand peaked just before the crash. At that time you could not even place an order, per his site. Rather he would refer you to re sellers. That has changed and at last look they were on a wait but obtainable. Since his guitars start at 15k now, it is safe to say that if the build is from the "desired time" and it is in good condition you can expect to ask a fair amount for the instrument. IN general it is his small bodies that are sought after.

If you look at his site it should show you some links to shops who have used Olsen guitars or have brokered them. I would start with those shops, they will have the best indication of the demand for the instrument. I would not discount Elderly however, they often have people on a wait for instruments like this.

IF you do not "need to sell" this guitar, I would not. This is not a strong time for acoustics. Although this is a one of kind instrument and highly regarded, I do not see the 20-25k these went for used back a decade ago happening again or at least anytime soon. Much will depend on what body, woods and condition the guitar is in. I do not see it's providence adding to the value of the instrument unless you find the right buyer or the guitar can be linked to recordings of merit.

Guitars of this caliber will have big swings in market value you will likely need to take your time, keep the European and Japanese markets in mind. But it is the eastern block countries that have collectors with pockets and the demand for Bluegrass type instruments is on the rise.

Best of luck...


Gold Supporting Member
Most of the value would be that it is a James Olsen guitar. The story is great, but since Johnny Cash never owned or played the guitar, the "celebrity value" would be minimal.

Selling through a well-known dealer that specializes in high end acoustics might be your best bet.


Senior Member
yes pics please :)

and the story is very, very cool, but i'm not sure it adds a cent to the value. who knows though. collectors can be nuts.

Da Geezer

Silver Supporting Member
#1 - don't sell it. Take my word, you'll regret it

#2 - I think any collector of Cash, gospel, Dallas "Blank" (...you've not given your dads full name, so I won't either), the Gospel Music Hall of Fame inductees, contemporary Christian music (there's a LOT of $$$$ with those artists, and your dad was a pioneer in that genre), with the proof you apparently have, would pay a premium for that guitar. I know I would, if I was a successful artist with a bunch of cash to blow.
The convergence of 3x of the absolute best at what they do (Johnny, your dad, Olsen) is something certain folks would pay for, I think (?)

Best to you (and your dad) whatever transpires
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Platinum Supporting Member
Get a hold of Marty Stuart and see if he is interested. Marty has an incredible collection and Johnny's D-45 and many other historic guitars. Trouble is, is that it seems many were gifted to him or he got them for a song.


Not Dallas Holm, is it? ;)

I grew up listening to him... "Rise Again" was a favorite "special music" number from our pastor.


Listens to Johnny Marr, plays like John Denver
Silver Supporting Member
There was a day when I would have mortgaged my house for that guitar. Maybe that binding is actual wood herringbone? That would be cool. Thanks for sharing!

Bobby D

herringbone. and that is an AWESOME guitar, one that deserves quite possibly $50k in my humble opinion.

Lt Dak

Silver Supporting Member
Not Dallas Holm, is it? ;)

I grew up listening to him... "Rise Again" was a favorite "special music" number from our pastor.
I think I still have an autographed tape of his around somewhere. :)

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