How important is originality in a vintage guitar to you?

Discussion in '"Vintage" Instruments' started by Jayyj, Dec 1, 2017.


  1. Jayyj

    Jayyj Supporting Member

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    I thought this might be an interesting topic bearing in mind a lot of the comments in the 'refretting a vintage Strat' thread, and I'm really curious to know how people view this topic. It's easy to talk about the vintage market as if it's a simple demographic where it's easy to apply rules but I'm really interested in how many people there are collecting vintage guitars who don't fit the obvious pattern - players who look for the vintage guitars that most fit their needs as devices for making music, even people who like the weird little mods that make a player grade instrument unique.

    Looking at the collection I have, very few of my more valuable guitars are of a standard that would excite someone who prizes condition and originality: they range from all original but with lots of playwear through refrets and minor changed parts through to a couple of refins and a couple of vintage partscasters. In part this is due to budget: I earn a fairly modest salary and don't have a massive amount of disposable income so often the only way I can afford a particular design I love is to accept a few changes that get the price down. I'm also a player who owns almost exclusively old guitars and expects them to perform well - I don't want to own guitars that aren't good guitars from a functional point of view.

    But I also think there's more to it than just budget and playability: a big part of the appeal of vintage guitars for me is that they're artifacts from an era that represented great change and innovation both in the music being made and the way the instrument makers responded to and in turn inspired the players: if they show the scars of having actually lived in that era rather than being museum pieces, that's part of the appeal.

    These guitars carry with them a personal history: if a guitar I own has a refret because its previous owner played a thousand gigs on it, is that a minus because it's no longer 'all original' or an amazing thing about this particular guitar that it has made so much music in its life? I love a guitar that looks like it could tell stories, and a guitar that is mint because it lived its life under a bed doesn't have those stories to tell - I'm glad those mint guitars exist to document how they would have left the factory but the player guitars are the ones that make most impression.

    I'm really curious to know how other people view this stuff.
     
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  2. The Opera Panther

    The Opera Panther Supporting Member

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    DISCLAIMER: I'm not a vintage guy.

    But, if I were, I'd be fine with things done in the course of maintaining the guitar as a playable instrument over the years. So, I'd be fine with a refret, changing out broken parts, new pots if the old ones are shot, etc. I'd be less likely to want something pieced together from parts, or big routs, replaced pickups, dubious refins, etc.

    But, I'd be buying a vintage guitar to play, not to hang on a wall.
     
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  3. Kurzman

    Kurzman Supporting Member

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    I only collect vintage guitars with re-radiused fretboards.
     
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  4. deytookerjaabs

    deytookerjaabs Member

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    Not at all, but I'm not buying an old guitar if the plan is to make a bunch of changes to it. I GET doing that 30 years ago when the options weren't there, but not today. Those guys who shave necks, flatten fretboards, or hack pickup routes must really love that particular guitar since just buying another one won't do.

    Originality is important in pricing though, no doubt.
     
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  5. misterturtlehead

    misterturtlehead Member

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    The most important things are that I like how it plays, I like how it sounds, and I can use it. Most of my guitars are old. Most are completely original and still in good working order. Though two or three had refrets. My 1960 ES-330TD has changed tuners. Though I have the original tuners. I changed the tuners to direct replacements because one of the originals felt a little bit rubbery. And my favorite guitar, a 1957 Les Paul TV Junior, was refinished by Gibson in the mid 1960s. It was originally TV yellow but refinished in TV yellow. Its tuners appear to be original and are in good working order. My late 1970s Ibanez CN100 may have changed pickups.

    I may be more of an accumulator than a stereotypical collector. I am not particularly anal about them. I don't care if it came with its original case or not. Though I am more picky about things the more I have to pay.
     
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  6. DeVilleDude

    DeVilleDude Member

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    Ive never owned anything older than a '79 335, but if I were to make the investment in a vintage instrument, I'd want it to be completely original, except for the frets.
     
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  7. GiorgioV

    GiorgioV Member

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    It's all relative to price. Let's say I like vintage Les Paul Juniors. I'd be happy to buy one in great conditions for a fair price, as much as I'd be happy to buy one with mods (refrets and refinishes do not bother me much) for an equally fair, much lower price. Between the two, I'd rather buy the one that sounds and plays the best overall, so I guess I'm more of a player than a collector.

    Some mods bother me tho. Neck reshapes bother me, changed tuners bother me greatly, expecially when a guitar has had Grovers or Schallers installed and the owner puts original Klusons back in (with the tuner rattling in a significantly enlarged hole) and claims it's original. Bitch, I can see the marks of different tuners both on the front and the back of the headstock. Ugly routings bother me too, expecially if the structural integrity of the guitar might be compromised (a vintage SG junior routed for a neck pickup? next one please...).

    In the end, it all boils down to a fair price relative to conditions.
     
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  8. massacre

    massacre Silver Supporting Member

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    It depends, I have a stock rare vintage guitar, right down to the screws and I would never change that one. It has vintage frets, which I know many don't like but I like them just fine. I don't know what they made those frets with but I have played the crap out of mine for decades and the frets are still good lol
     
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  9. 27sauce

    27sauce Supporting Member

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    It all depends on the price and how much I like the guitar.

    My #1, all time favorite, yada yada...is a refin, refret, grovered, plugged route ‘59 les Paul junior that the only original parts were two pieces of plastic(jack plate, control cover). It was only $600. I got a ‘58 pickup for it for $125, and I am good to go.

    I wouldn’t have looked twice if it was any more expensive. Glad I did.
     
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  10. ripgtr

    ripgtr Member

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    I have a few vintage guitars. I am not a collector, I'm a player. I'm just old, lol

    1960 ES 330. When I bought it in '73, it had had the tailpiece replaced with a Vibrolo trem. I took off the pick guard, not sure where it is, probably buried in some pile at my moms house (yea, she still lives in the same house).

    60 strat I bought in '76. First thing I did was replace those "bad" tuners with schallers. Hey, it was the 70s. It is on its 4th set of frets, 3rd volume pot, third nut. The tuner holed were doweled and redrilled and vintage style tuners installed. I put a gotoh trem on it in the early 80s. No routing, but there are still 4 screw holes from the locking nut. Original trem is back on, including the original saddles, that had been taken off for brass saddles in the 70s, but it is back to stock now. Oh, and the wiring has been replaced. Had shielded wire installed in the early 80s to try and help with the noise. Back to cloth wire now. Recently, I had to lift one end of the cap as it had drifted to .6 uF (yea, .6) and put a .022 or some such. Much better. Oh and I installed an Ilitch backplate. Much better than the wiring attempt decades ago.

    '61 melody maker. I got it cheap as some guy painted it ugly yellow and replace most of the parts. I stripped it, only thing I kept was the wood and the strap buttons. Even the frets were replace. Put p90s on it.

    1957 Stringmaster. This one is actually stock, with original case.

    '50 (probably) Rick lap steel. 8 string. It was a double neck someone cut in half with a band saw. I apparently go the other half.

    Early 60s supro lap steel. 6 string. The magnet was missing. I got a replacement from Lollar

    A silvertone acoustic. Age unknown, probably 60s. It wouldn't be worth much even without the big crack that was glued, probably with Elmers glue. Found in my MIL basement when she moved. I am going to put nylon strings on it one of these days, I think steel strings would tear it apart.

    Except for the silvertone, these are all guitars that have been gigged, some a LOT. Parts have been replaced.
    Just an old guy with old guitars, lol.
     
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  11. Bluzeboy

    Bluzeboy Gold Supporting Member

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    I play mine but, refrets I’m pretty much okay with, pickup changes, tailpiece changes, refins, tuner changes I’m walking away from. Even if the price reflects the changes at this point I don’t care. I hate it when people say “great player with upgrades”. I’ll determine if they’re upgrades or just a hacked up guitar thank you very much.
     
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  12. Nonvintage

    Nonvintage Member

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    Depends on the deal. I have a '63 Telecaster Blond, it's an old Refin. 6.5 lbs. Rewound neck pickup and Lollar bridge pup. Saved $$$ because it came with a 63 Jazzmaster case. So I bought it without the case. Found a like new Fender brown tolex case for $99. August 63 neck and an L series neck plate, it wasn't cheap. But it sounds so good I had to have it. '63 featherweights Telecasters are pretty doggone rare.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2017
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  13. GGinMP

    GGinMP Supporting Member

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    I’d want a re-fret if the old ones were too worn. I want new caps and a three prong in an old amp (and new power tubes, if necessary). I can take a new speaker in an old amp but love it if the old one still works. Some things just wear out and should be replaced.

    Things like a refinish, or changed parts, may be ok if the price is right and one wants a “player,” but if paying a vintage premium I prefer to get very good to excellent condition/originality there.
     
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  14. scmavl

    scmavl Enjoyer Silver Supporting Member

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    I'm of the opinion that if the wood and pickups are original and unmolested, I'm good with it.
     
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  15. Codyyy

    Codyyy Member

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    I’ve grown playing vintage pieces, guitars and amps. I am fine with modifications so long as they can be easily reversed, and I’m even fine with a stripped finish because I can usually afford it better and I don’t care so much for colors. I don’t buy vintage original pieces though, I buy projects.

    Frets are a bit tough for me. I’ve mentioned before my dad wore the frets down on his ‘74 Strat I inherited. It’s something he did. He also put gold Sperzel tuners on it and a bronze bridge. Of course I want the original tuners and bridge but again: it’s something he did. If I bought that guitar from a random person I would just change it.
     
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  16. Jayyj

    Jayyj Supporting Member

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    I should probably add, I get that value is firmly tied to originality. I don't mind buying a player grade guitar but I will expect a proper account from the seller and a price that reflects its condition. It's pretty shocking how many sellers are clueless, even if they have the word 'vintage' in the shop title.

    'These tuners aren't original'
    'Huh? They look pretty old to me. Are you sure?'
     
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  17. GiorgioV

    GiorgioV Member

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    I'll tell you what scared me off the last time I decided to "go vintage". A friend recommends me a famous, well respected vintage dealer in england, with whom he has made good and honest purchases in the past. He says he has a refin Junior for a good price. All original and unmolested, just a refin.

    I get in contact with him and all checks well...except that the headstock have the markings of having much bigger washings installed at some point.

    I ask the dealer about it and he says: "yes there were Grovers at some point". What the actual fu*K??? Do I have to ask about it so that you tell me that a key element of the guitar has been irreversibly altered at some point in time??? I mean, if you drill the headstock for larger holes you can't just put the older ones in and call the guitar "fine" (either you plug and redrill, or install conversion bushings, or leave the old tuners rattling in a hole that doesn't fit anymore).

    So I thought to myself "if even a so-called top dealer won't be honest with me I'm better off looking elsewhere for a vintage-sounding guitar". Also, I live in Europe so old stuff is both pricier and harder to come by. I decided I would stop looking for vintage stuff that I couldn't check out in person and I'm happily waiting for a guitar built by Clive Brown to arrive at my door now.

    If I was living in the US I wouldn't have given up, I was there a few weeks ago and they had 4 '58 to '60 cherry double cut juniors side-by-side that I could compare in the sunset blvd guitar center. But here in Europe the offering is way too limited and dodgy stuff is all around the corner.
     
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  18. slowerhand

    slowerhand Supporting Member

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    For me it's the parts that have to do with the tone: wood, pickups (not rewound) and bridge system. As long as it's priced in I don't mind things like refrets (if well done), refins, changed tuners and changed plastics.
     
  19. massacre

    massacre Silver Supporting Member

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    Honest question: aren't frets kind of like a wear item? Like tires on a car? Or fan belts?
    If I bought a vintage car and it didn't have the original tires, I'd probably be ok with it.

    If the original style and size fretwire were used, and the refret was done well is it really an issue?
    Again this is an honest question, how much would a refret bring a price down?
     
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  20. nmiller

    nmiller Drowning in lap steels Silver Supporting Member

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    I agree that frets are a "consumable" part of the guitar; it's nice to have the originals, but not if they make it hard to play or set up the guitar. I don't view a refret as a repair, just maintenance - the same as replacing filter caps on an old amp. I may be partial to clean, original vintage pieces, but I still buy them to play them - and I've had a number of them refretted as a result. To me, as a buyer, a pro-quality refret therefore doesn't detract at all from a guitar's value. It still needs to be disclosed along with any known aspect of the instrument's history, but a good undisclosed refret wouldn't be cause for me to return a guitar or demand a partial refund.
     
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