pre=CBS strats were already cool with the players i knew in 1981-1982.....we went "hunting them, and paid between $500-$1000 depending on the guitar.....and passsed on a LOT of refins and modded pieces.....
I swapped a Les Paul for a pre-CBS Strat back in mid-76 from a friend of mine. It was an early 1959 Strat when they still had maple necks. I had a 74-75 Gibson Black Beauty LP that I had purchased new the year before. I seem to recall it was a 2nd (although I never could figure out why). It cost me around $579 new out the door, I think. My buddy liked the Les Paul and i liked the Strat, so we did the deal one day while jamming. The body had been stripped to natural and refretted with larger frets, so it's no museaum piece. I had it refinned in the early 80s. Every thing else is stock. Fast forward 35 years and I've had guys offer me more for the pickguard than I paid for the entire guitar! I still own it today and have never thought twice about that Les Paul.
I dont know about the '70's but I bought my first Fender stratocaster in '86 and I coudnt affort a new one so I bought an old one that wasoffered to me. I bought a '59 sunburst strat with rosewood board for about $400. It sounds weird nowadays but back then it was viewed as just an old guitar by the previous owner. It got stolen in 1991 and it was never recovered. Still sick about it to this day!
If you had one with a three bolt neck.. The ones made by Leo were the "COOL" ones but they were cheap. I saw a 1957 Sunburst with the original "strap and even had the key for the case" go for 550 bucks in 1981...
I bought my '60 SB Strat with orig. case in '72 for $250. fm a Mcfayden's Music in Fayetteville, NC. The guy at the store threw in a Gibson Discoverer Amp. My friends att said George you got it backwards, you need a Gibson guitar and a Fender amp. I still have the guitar and amp.
In 1973 at age 18 I bought a '52 Goldtop for about $250-needed some work, about $100 for refin and frets.Couple of years later traded for mint '54 SB strat and a Champ.Hated the strat, couldnt roar like Duane, so guy let me trade back . A buddy paid $100 for the #7 Strat! He would loan it to me and I would play it thru a blackface twin. He screwed the strat up-stripped it, shaved the neck, gave it away. I never liked it either-too clean for my Duane ears at the time though I expect I would now like it very much as my tonal likes morphed. Note:none of the above mentioned geetars sounded or played any better-by my recollection- to current versions I now own, such as my 290 for P-90 sound or Vinetto mapleneck strat-ish type
When I got my '61 in 1975, it wasn't so easy to find used stuff. Want ads mostly. I bought a Buylines press, or whatever it was called, for northern NJ. Mine was the first one listed, and was close to where I was going to be that day. 300 bucks. No finish, guy had changed the bridge and tuners. Had I worked my way down that list, I probably could have found several of that vintage or earlier in better condition.
The cult of vintage was around I guess, but nowhere near the pop culture it is now. I remember stopping in at Gruhn's in Nashville, 1978, thinking what a cool idea it was to have all this old stuff in one place. So much easier than cruising classifieds.
It used to be everyone flipping through the Buy Lines which was a magazine in those days looking for used stuff or going to pawn shops. Today with the web it is almost impossible to make a score as everyone is on to checking what they find on Ebay including Pawn shops. I can remember this 17 yearold kid coming into my friends Mom and Pop store about 13 years ago and my friend was telling me the kids neighbor died and the guys wife had given him his guitars which included a pre-CBS Strat, Tele and a 60s Gibson ES335 that needed a bit of work. My friend asked him if he wanted to sell them and the kid said no way as he already sold the Tele on Ebay for 15K on an auction and was putting up the other two. I just hope he threw the guys wife something but considering he had a little entourage and the way he acted I doubt it.