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Vintage Guild Starfire models.

Mykalli

Member
Messages
96
I'm looking at a few different models, and was wondering if those in the know could fill me in on the differences in the models. Right now I'm looking at 60's models of the Starfire II, III, IV and V.

Was originally drawn to the Starfire III. Then thought the II looked pretty sleek with tailpiece. Then heard the IV had a great 335ish vibe. Then just found out about the model V.

Not sure if there were any models to shy away from. I'll be trying out a couple of them in person soon. Would love some first hand knowledge before going in to check them out. Thanks for the help.

Guild Starfire models II, III, IV, and V. Give me the good, the bad & the ugly on these.
 

nmiller

Drowning in lap steels
Messages
6,710
The I, II and III are single-cutaway fully-hollow guitars. The I had a single pickup and was discontinued after a couple of years. The II and III are identical except for the Bigsby on the III. The IV, V and VI are double-cutaway semi-hollow guitars. The IV had dot markers and a harp tailpiece, whereas the V had block markers, a Bigsby and a master volume. The IV gained a master volume in the '70s. The VI had gold hardware, more laminations on the binding, and V-block inlays on the neck; it came with and without a Bigsby. However, IVs and Vs from the '70s and '80s sometimes show up with gold hardware as well.

There are no models or years that are objectively bad. The late '60s/early '70s models had thin necks, which some folks dislike. The pickups also changed several times between 1962 and 1970, but that's down to taste. The center block also makes a big difference, but again, personal preference.
 

Kurzman

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,217
I would go for one without the master volume. When I had a Starfire it was ALWAYS in the way of my strumming.
I like Starfires and think they are reasonably priced.
 

teleking36

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,898
I've owned a few great vintage Starfires - a '64 Starfire IV all mahogany with dot inlays and a '64 V in sunburst with bigsby. The IV was better tonally to my ears, but the V needed better frets for it to be a fairer comparison. Both exceptionally well made instruments that are of a tremendous value. Try buying a '64 ES-335 on a musician's budget! Starfires can get pricey, but they're substantially more affordable than their Gibson counterparts, and in most cases, just as well made.
 

swiveltung

Member
Messages
14,501
The early SF's were fully hollow. Like an ES330 or ES225 Gibson etc. So pay attention to that and what you really want. Similarly, some of the M75 and Bluesbirds were fully hollow up to... 1970 ish. Depends on what you want.
 

Leonc

Wild Gear Hearder
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
18,051
One other thing to be aware of on the Starfire V -- neck / body joint. I've had two; one with the body joining the neck at the 17th fret, one where it joined the body at the 19th fret. Of course, this has an impact on your ability to reach notes in the upper register. Be aware before your purchase.


 

soulohio

Member
Messages
11,008
i really was interested in a Starfire III
I saw one once with block inlays
a cat played a music fest in west floRIDA with a SF III
DeArmonds
and the guitar sounded like bells
bells!!
in 2008 you could still find a 64 for about $650 bucks
 

kracdown

Custom User Title
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
5,982
My Starfire IV is an ES-335 killer. It's a 68 with early 70's electronics. Since its relabeled on the inside its clear this was a factory done procedure. I threw the Bigsby on because it was just begging for it. The pickups sound like dynasonic humbuckers. Everyone who plays it is completely blown away.


 

Sampler

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
609
I have the pleasure of owning 2 vintage Starfires...both were purchased this year. The first below is a 1966 Starfire IV which was purchased from the local Guitar Center for $1,999 all-in out the door. I was intrigued by these after hearing the tone John Mayer got live on the song "Come when I Call" with the JM Trio. These guitars are quite different from 335s to me, and the pickups are a big part of that...very low output and wired out of phase in the middle position...very 345/355 type tone but super clear. These pickups take overdrive VERY well and the tone is very sweet...woody and articulate..but no where near as much push and output as a PAF equipped 335. FWIW I flipped the wires on one of the pickups so that the pickups were "in phase" in the middle position....this is easy to do on these pickups and can be reversed easily. All in all and incredible value if you ask me, I think it's one of the best vintage guitars I've purchased.....it's near mint BTW!


The Guild below is a 1961 Starfire II. Unlike the guitar above it's fully hollow and has DeArmond pickups which are incredibly unique. I would compare this guitar more to a Gretsch or a P90 equipped hollowbody Gibson. The two guitars could not be more different. This one has more of a Jazz tone, but also sounds great overdriven. I was blown away at how versatile this guitar is...it really can cover more ground than you would think and it plays incredibly well. Upper fret access is not as good as the guitar above given the neck joint location. Also a great guitar and what I would consider a great value.


A couple of things to consider when looking. Binding shrink and rot is common...expect that some repair may be required. Also, headstock veneers can de-laminate...not an issue for a competent luthier to repair. Also...the tuners are usually open back Grovers or import knock offs...with a little love they can work great...they just need some lube and to be tightened correctly. Don't give up on them right away...replacements can be tough to find that fit the original footprint (my 66 above has import tuners). Finally neck sets can be shallow so make sure there is some saddle adjustment left. Once you have level frets and a set-up they are incredible playing instruments and one of the great values in the vintage market. I hope this helps you in your quest! JD.
 

drew365

Member
Messages
969
Here's a pic of my Starfire IV. I bought it new in '66? (Serial #EL841). So she's a one owner. I had the Bigsby put on by the shop where I bought it, in Willoughby, Ohio.
I still have the hang tag and receipt. You can see a couple of Eastern Airline tags on the handle from when I'd check it with my baggage. Boy have times changed.
 

davess23

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
6,389
Beautiful guitars. These are making me miss a Starfire IV I had many years ago. Not sure what year it was, but it was a great guitar.
 

Artie Fisk

Member
Messages
1,534
The I, II and III are single-cutaway fully-hollow guitars. The I had a single pickup and was discontinued after a couple of years. The II and III are identical except for the Bigsby on the III. The IV, V and VI are double-cutaway semi-hollow guitars. The IV had dot markers and a harp tailpiece, whereas the V had block markers, a Bigsby and a master volume. The IV gained a master volume in the '70s. The VI had gold hardware, more laminations on the binding, and V-block inlays on the neck; it came with and without a Bigsby. However, IVs and Vs from the '70s and '80s sometimes show up with gold hardware as well.

There are no models or years that are objectively bad. The late '60s/early '70s models had thin necks, which some folks dislike. The pickups also changed several times between 1962 and 1970, but that's down to taste. The center block also makes a big difference, but again, personal preference.
The DeArmond-equipped I, II, and III are VERY different animals compared to the Guild mini-hum versions of those guitars. I definitely prefer the sound of the mini-hums in those guitars. Dave Davies had a '64 III with them, and it SCREAMED.
 

PaulLamb83

Member
Messages
3
Hi I noticed a very knowledgeable reply you left on a guild starfire thread. I was wondering if I may pick your brain about a question concerning those models. I am interested in buying one locally. It’s advertisef as walnut brown with a master volume. It had a harp tailpiece. The owner doesn’t know what model it is Exactly but I’m guessing it’s a starfire Iv. It’s a 1978. I’m wondering if this is considered a decent year for production and if you think $1550 us is a fair market value? Thanks you so so much for any info you may be able to shed on this!





The I, II and III are single-cutaway fully-hollow guitars. The I had a single pickup and was discontinued after a couple of years. The II and III are identical except for the Bigsby on the III. The IV, V and VI are double-cutaway semi-hollow guitars. The IV had dot markers and a harp tailpiece, whereas the V had block markers, a Bigsby and a master volume. The IV gained a master volume in the '70s. The VI had gold hardware, more laminations on the binding, and V-block inlays on the neck; it came with and without a Bigsby. However, IVs and Vs from the '70s and '80s sometimes show up with gold hardware as well.

There are no models or years that are objectively bad. The late '60s/early '70s models had thin necks, which some folks dislike. The pickups also changed several times between 1962 and 1970, but that's down to taste. The center block also makes a big difference, but again, personal preference.
I'm looking at a few different models, and was wondering if those in the know could fill me in on the differences in the models. Right now I'm looking at 60's models of the Starfire II, III, IV and V.

Was originally drawn to the Starfire III. Then thought the II looked pretty sleek with tailpiece. Then heard the IV had a great 335ish vibe. Then just found out about the model V.

Not sure if there were any models to shy away from. I'll be trying out a couple of them in person soon. Would love some first hand knowledge before going in to check them out. Thanks for the help.

Guild Starfire models II, III, IV, and V. Give me the good, the bad & the ugly on these.
 

nmiller

Drowning in lap steels
Messages
6,710
Hi I noticed a very knowledgeable reply you left on a guild starfire thread. I was wondering if I may pick your brain about a question concerning those models. I am interested in buying one locally. It’s advertisef as walnut brown with a master volume. It had a harp tailpiece. The owner doesn’t know what model it is Exactly but I’m guessing it’s a starfire Iv. It’s a 1978. I’m wondering if this is considered a decent year for production and if you think $1550 us is a fair market value? Thanks you so so much for any info you may be able to shed on this!
In 1978, it was most likely a Starfire IV since the V was already discontinued and the VI (V-shaped fret marker inserts and gold hardware) was not built in large numbers. There really are no bad years for Guild productions, though their '70s guitars tend to have narrow necks that some people don't like. I've found that some of the late '70s Starfires are on the heavy side, but in terms of build quality they're top-notch. That's a reasonable price, not a steal but not a rip-off either.
 

Artie Fisk

Member
Messages
1,534
There are, of course, also Starfire basses and a Starfire XII as well. All well-made, great-sounding guitars.
 

Sweetfinger

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
12,223
If the one you're looking at has a volute, make sure you're comfy with it. It ended up being a deal breaker for me.
 

E-Rock74

Member
Messages
88
One other thing to be aware of on the Starfire V -- neck / body joint. I've had two; one with the body joining the neck at the 17th fret, one where it joined the body at the 19th fret. Of course, this has an impact on your ability to reach notes in the upper register.
Does anyone know what year the change from 17th to 19th fret neck/body joint happened?
 




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