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How did you acquire your knowledge of old guitars?

WordMan

Wax Rhapsodic
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
9,880
I was over in an acoustic thread, getting ‘splained to about how a guitar with a 5-piece laminated neck and adjustable truss rod sounds just like a vintage 000-28.

:facepalm

Anyway, I ended up doing a Sunday-morning post about how I learned about old guitars.

How about you all? Any specific shop, experienced old timer, or gang of fellow nerds really get you on the path to vintage? Share your story here!

*****
From the other post:
As my fellow Vintage Forum nerds know, I got my Gladwellian 10,000 hours of vintage nerd time at RetroFret. I would show up for the day - maybe bring burritos for everybody, or be included in their lunch run - and just sit there. I had figured out their patented Voodoo Guitar Economics - i.e., if you time your swaps, you can turn a good shop into a Vintage Guitar Rental Library - so I would go hang out and learn and swap new guitars into my set to live with a variety of guitars. I worked out the costs one time and after the initial investment, it was like having a gym membership.​
Nothing like running through the couple-dozen archtops they had an any given time, and doing it with George - the only guy Ry Cooder lets sell his high-end guitars - looking over your shoulder and nerding with you over what you’re experiencing (or gently take the guitar from me and show me what it can really do - George playing Stella By Starlight on Ry’s Super 400?! Swoon). And Peter Kohman actually talks more than me - shut up, it’s true!! - and loved it when I pointed to some offbeat Kel Kroyden, or Vega flattop, or Stromberg and launch into a oral version of his old Vintage Guitar column. I got handed Lefty Frizzell’s J-200, Rosanne Cash’s converted F-7, the aforementioned Super 400…Oof.​
It got to the point where I won’t say I was used as a Wingman by them, but….I was kinda used as a wingman by them ;). If a customer was full of Guitar Shop Anxiety, I would ask a question of Peter about one of the guitars they’d been eyeing to get the chit chat going. Or I would be running the archtops with George, and some person would simply join in - hey, the more the merrier.​
Hey @WornFrets - you live a few blocks from their new location; any of this sound familiar to you?​
Or @jackaroo - we hung in the shop together a few times, although your playing ability and taste in guitars were both a much higher level than mine! I think you approached RetroFret the same way during that time, yes?​
If the shenanigans I currently have in play with them work out, it could be a lot of fun ;)
 
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pepedede

Member
Messages
3,668
Pre internet, late 80's, early 90's from good old books and magazines. Once the web was running, lots of right/ wrong advice and debate. Just like here and now. :)

I don't own any vintage guitars now, the oldest I've ever had was a 68' gibson es335 tdc with trapeze tail, wolfetone legends and renecked.

I still like looking and learning about guitars past and present.
 

Jayyj

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
10,184
Early on, I had a bunch of books that I read multiple times (I could pretty much quote you entire passages of Gibson's Fabulous Flat-tops) and whatever I could see locally. When forums took off I used to spend a lot of time on UMGF and used to keep folders of saved images and notes on interesting guitars that came up at various dealers. Gradually I also started buying poorly guitars online and fixing them up to sell on, so I'd get to try out a fair few that way and learn more about them from working on them.

Dealers in the UK aren't the embarrassment of riches you have in metropolitan areas of the US. There's a really good dealer near me who used to buy lots of less collectable vintage stuff from the US, including a lot of older small body Gibsons and Kalamazoo acoustics so I saw quite a bit via him, Richard Henry who handles some really high end stuff (including the Keith Richards and Peter Green/Gary Moore Bursts) is local and always nice to catch up with when I run into him. I used to do the run of Denmark St when I was in London which is at least useful for playing spot the undisclosed issue on a guitar priced 30% over market value. Obviously pre-covid I was in the US quite a bit and anytime I'm in a city over there I'll try to check out whatever dealers are in the vacinity.

I always feel like my hands on experience is probably lacking relative to the amount I learn from online research, but at the same time I'm always a little taken aback by how little some of the self-appointed experts seem to know on the models I'm into, so I don't feel too bad about it.
 

9iron

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
433
In my late teens a friend and I would buy old guitars until we had a car full. We'd drive from Atlanta to Nashville and sell 'em all to George. My buddy started the first vintage shop in Atlanta shortly after that, about 1974.
 

pepedede

Member
Messages
3,668
Early on, I had a bunch of books that I read multiple times (I could pretty much quote you entire passages of Gibson's Fabulous Flat-tops) and whatever I could see locally. When forums took off I used to spend a lot of time on UMGF and used to keep folders of saved images and notes on interesting guitars that came up at various dealers. Gradually I also started buying poorly guitars online and fixing them up to sell on, so I'd get to try out a fair few that way and learn more about them from working on them.

Dealers in the UK aren't the embarrassment of riches you have in metropolitan areas of the US. There's a really good dealer near me who used to buy lots of less collectable vintage stuff from the US, including a lot of older small body Gibsons and Kalamazoo acoustics so I saw quite a bit via him, Richard Henry who handles some really high end stuff (including the Keith Richards and Peter Green/Gary Moore Bursts) is local and always nice to catch up with when I run into him. I used to do the run of Denmark St when I was in London which is at least useful for playing spot the undisclosed issue on a guitar priced 30% over market value. Obviously pre-covid I was in the US quite a bit and anytime I'm in a city over there I'll try to check out whatever dealers are in the vacinity.

I always feel like my hands on experience is probably lacking relative to the amount I learn from online research, but at the same time I'm always a little taken aback by how little some of the self-appointed experts seem to know on the models I'm into, so I don't feel too bad about it.

It was always fun to question and critique some of the stuff in the denmark st shops. They would bite, snap and get defensive so easily. :)
 

WordMan

Wax Rhapsodic
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
9,880
It was always fun to question and critique some of the stuff in the denmark st shops. They would bite, snap and get defensive so easily. :)
Some of the places where the owners were feisty could be their own education. Matt Umanov could be cranky as hell - I remember when he heard my last name and realized I was a fellow Ukrainian Jew; we spent the rest of the time discussing how our grandparents/parents got over here, but I could get into the cabinets after that ;). And Zeke, Umanov’s lead guy who is now at Rudy’s, was an amazing sales guy for either complete noobs, or for the rock stars that came in. He and Steve Earle were best buds. But for Possible Suits Who Thought They Knew The Blues(tm), good lord would he size you up. I can’t recall what I said that got me through the gauntlet but it took a while until he handed me a ‘53 J-200 and explained why it was a 1 in 100 example, i.e., not a Whispering Giant.

It made trying out a guitar at Guitar Center a whole lot easier ;)
 

Spider-Man

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,781
I started playing in the early 80's when you could still buy older Teles and Strats. I had a '56 Esquire, a '57 Strat, '63 Esquire, '68 Tele Thinline, '76 Tele Custom, various Melody Makers and a few other old guitars throughout the 80's. Sold them all for one reason or another and really didn't consider purchasing vintage guitars because the prices kept rising and it made more sense at the time to buy reissues and then Relics. But I still paid attention to vintage guitars even though I didn't think I would ever own one again.

Back in the late 70's I had a good friend, Jim, who was really into old Fenders and was quite the source of knowledge as he had an almost a photographic memory of the details about Fenders. He's definitely the reason I'm a Fender player in the first place and he knew more about Fender's than I do. Unfortunately, Jim died unexpectedly this summer. He was a great resource when I started looking for a Pre-CBS Strat a few years ago. I'd send him links to everything I was looking at and he would help me scrutinize the details. I'm going to really miss him if/when I start looking at 50's Strats.

Most of my current knowledge comes from reading multiple books on the topic. I use them to cross reference one another. And this forum has been very helpful. There are several old threads that I have saved as a PDF for future reference in case they ever go away.
 
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pepedede

Member
Messages
3,668
Some of the places where the owners were feisty could be their own education. Matt Umanov could be cranky as hell - I remember when he heard my last name and realized I was a fellow Ukrainian Jew; we spent the rest of the time discussing how our grandparents/parents got over here, but I could get into the cabinets after that ;). And Zeke, Umanov’s lead guy who is now at Rudy’s, was an amazing sales guy for either complete noobs, or for the rock stars that came in. He and Steve Earle were best buds. But for Possible Suits Who Thought They Knew The Blues(tm), good lord would he size you up. I can’t recall what I said that got me through the gauntlet but it took a while until he handed me a ‘53 J-200 and explained why it was a 1 in 100 example, i.e., not a Whispering Giant.

It made trying out a guitar at Guitar Center a whole lot easier ;)

I lived in the UK mostly from 1995 to 2018. Let's just say there was many well known stories of high end gear going around and around with various changing claims. :)

Music Ground got caught famously.
 

WordMan

Wax Rhapsodic
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Messages
9,880
I lived in the UK mostly from 1995 to 2018. Let's just say there was many well known stories of high end gear going around and around with various changing claims. :)

Music Ground got caught famously.
I've sure heard the stories.
 

jbviper4

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,023
Usually by perusing "Vintage Guitars" here on TGP and fantasizing about vintage guitars by watching Christie's Auctions. I'm no expert by any means, but I know where to look when I need an opinion.
 

WordMan

Wax Rhapsodic
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
9,880
Usually by perusing "Vintage Guitars" here on TGP and fantasizing about vintage guitars by watching Christie's Auctions. I'm no expert by any means, but I know where to look when I need an opinion.
Okay, I’ll bite: where do you look?
 

deytookerjaabs

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,355
Everything.

I took lessons and later gave them at a vintage shop, so just being around old stuff all the time was cool and everything vintage was always discussed in the shop ad nauseam. Plus, going to shows and overhearing the other (often loud) crazies. Aesthetics, as a player it's just cool to get something of a cultural heirloom in your hands. The books, first one was "The Tube Amp Book" then after all the more detailed/fact filled ones I try to get my hands on along with the online stuff. Then an apprenticeship for instrument making is what made me think about things backwards. Also, behind the scenes interviews from folks who were there are great. Players, in music school and at jams there were always a few older players who were into it, many weren't. Really, just learning how to source **** is an art in and of itself, there's good knowledge then there's....well, blah.


On the flip side, I've never been into the hyperbole fanfare, I have no desire to read the thousandth article on how Joe B is so happy with his new X, Y, Z or Billy Gibbons had his life changed with this or that or the "Believer" series mooshy gooshy et cetera, if I'm reading pulp fiction for grown men there's better stuff out there. However, things more specific to a well known guitar can be informative.
 

jbviper4

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,023
Okay, I’ll bite: where do you look?
Usually someone online talks about a particular lot (say David Gilmour) on Christie's and I look (for example) at a Takamine EF-341 from 1986 - 1988. Then I dig past the obvious examples from there to CL, Reverb or TGP Emporiums. As I mentioned, I'm in no place to stock up on even reasonably vintage guitars haha I'm upset about prices at the supermarket!

EDIT: I don't actually take any advice from TGPers in any event. If I make a bad buy, it's on me and me alone haha
 

fernieite

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
255
Not that I know much, but I got the vintage bug pretty much when I started playing guitar in 1978.

After having bought my first electric guitar in '78, (a used 1968 maple cap Tele from the local newspaper classifieds) I met a local guy who used to (and still does! ) sell cool old gear out of his apartment. He encouraged me to buy Pre-CBS Fender and pre '69 (Norlin) Gibsons, etc...

After that, I guess I bought and read lots of books and magazines. Eventually, I got a subscription to Vintage Guitar magazine when they first came out, and then the various discussion groups /forums when i stumbled upon them in about 2001...

I also learned things by hanging out at guitar shops and the odd show.

So, like many here, it was a combination of all of these things, plus owning various vintage guitars, amps and pedals where I learned.
 
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Jack Daniels

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,104
In 1966, the year I was born, my dad was working at a music shop in the burbs of Chicago. The Beatles, The Ventures, The Beachboys, Elvis and Johnny Cash were selling albums out the wazoo. Therefore Vox, Fender Gibson, Martin and Gretsch guitars and amps were flying out the door. Probably the only decade in history where a small mom and pop store could actually make a million dollars instead of lose it. I was around music and guitars from day 1. Several years later, my dad bought the store including all the old/used inventory. I spent most of my adolescence digging through a basement of old guitars, amps and lititure. I started building and repairing guitars before my 8th birthday. After school, I would walk to the train station and take the 3:00pm train to the town our shop was in. Walk to the shop and would manage the front end while my dad gave guitar lessons. Did this from 6th grade to graduation. Bought, sold and traded 1000s of guitars during that time. we closed the shop in the 80s when Sam Ash, Pro Am, Sam Goodies came to town and would sell guitar less than we could buy them.

After high school (1984) , I bought and sold used guitars from my house. I had several vintage/used shops that would buy from me regularly. I could buy an old Strat for $350 and sell it for $500 with a single call. Les Pauls would go for around $500-600. SGs a little less. Any Gibson, Fender, Gretsch or Martin would sell quick. Vox, Fender and Marshall amps were like printing cash before the “rack gear” era came along in the late 80s.

Being an avid Les Paul fanatic, I read everything I could about them. When the internet came along and “The Les Paul Forum” started I would hear guys talk about this batch or that batch of serial numbers had these features. I started to apply this to Gretsch guitars, logging 1000s of guitar serial numbers and quickly dispelling the myths about adhoc parts and features. I shared much of this on the Gretsch Pages where eventually a guy name Ed wrote a book about this methodology of batches and build features. I’ve stayed pretty active in the Gretsch community, but mostly in repair and restoration these days.

I’ve worked on my neighbor’s guitars on the same bench as I have some of the worlds most icon guitars owned by iconic artists. I love them all.

Recently got to work on some old Korina from 58 and am a bit hooked ATM. As a builder, I couldn’t miss the chance to blueprint and build my own. Building gives you a unique look at guitars in a way in which others may not see. Jointery, glues, materials, machining and build process all help you to understand what makes vintage guitars so special.
 
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treeofpain

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
7,329
Got bit by the bug in 1988. A couple of other friends were into vintage stuff, and I bought the handful of books available at the time from The Bold Strummer. This was before a lot of the books were published in the 90's and afterwards. No internet. So other than a few books, which sometimes turned out to be wrong or incomplete, it was all about hands-on learning, visiting vintage dealers, and guitar shows. I have probably learned the most about vintage guitars by OWNING THEM - spending time with them, taking them apart and reassembling them, living with them awhile before selling and getting the next one. A lot of cool guitars have gotten too expensive for most of us to do that today.
 




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