I’ve read some of the greatest poetry ever written, and as beautiful as it sounded, those words never stuck in my ear for days on end. However, I’ve listened to a few of the greatest guitarists and songwriters ever to live and found myself humming their tune nonstop for a week. That’s the power of the vintage guitar.
Want to give a poet the superpower to amplify their words around the world? Give them a guitar.
Stringed instruments have evolved over hundreds, maybe thousands of years. The first resemblance dates back to Babylonian times 3,300 years ago, where a stone carving shows an entertainer holding something resembling a guitar.
Over the last hundred years, the guitar has become a cultural symbol of enjoyment, creativity, and expression. A sound so memorable that, if crafted by the right musician, will play in your head for days after you first hear it.
Largest Vintage Guitar Collections
Songbird Guitar Museum
The Songbird Guitar Museum in Chattanooga, Tennessee, might be the largest collection of vintage guitars in the world. Curator David Davidson grew up with an uncle who owned a small music store in New York City. His curiosity for guitars was born, and he began buying and selling his own guitars for profit.
David Davidson began to hone his skill to find amazing vintage guitars and resell some of them for profit. He recalls a day when he listed a 1954 Stratocaster hardtail on eBay for $25,000 to test the new online auction website. At the very last minute of the auction, the guitar sold to a mysterious buyer.
The buyer ended up being very serious about finding collectible vintage guitars. He wanted to meet David and find out how he was able to find incredible vintage guitars. The two met face to face, and the rest is history. The mystery buyer convinced David to help him assemble “a little collection of guitars,” and that’s exactly what the two did.
Norman’s Rare Guitars
Norman Harris began his music career playing a Hammond Organ touring the Miami, Florida area in the 1960s. While traveling with his band, Norman purchased a vintage Fender Jazz Bass. He began to get comments about the vintage bass, and people began offering him much more money than he paid. A light bulb went off; Norman could make money buying and selling vintage guitars.
In 1975 Norman opened his first vintage guitar store in Reseda, California. Over 40 years later, Norman Harris operates one of the largest vintage guitar shops in the world. A-list musicians and renowned collectors have purchased guitars from Norman over the last 30-plus years, making his shop one of the most trusted sources for vintage guitars.
Not only does Norman’s Rare Guitars own millions of dollars worth of vintage and rare guitars, but they have one of the most popular YouTube channels for vintage guitar collectors and musicians. Norman’s Rare Guitars YouTube channel is a must-visit site for music fans and vintage guitar collectors with almost a half-million subscribers. You could easily spend a half-day watching Norman’s videos, mostly recorded from inside his shop.
Vintage Guitar Prices
If you’re thinking about starting a vintage guitar collection, there are a few basics you should understand. What age is a guitar vintage? The vintage guitar is generally defined as any guitar 30 years or older, or produced before 1980. A guitar over 100 years old would be considered an antique.
Condition matters a great deal in the vintage guitar world, but some wear and usage marks are sometimes ok, especially if the wear was caused by a famous musician while playing the instrument.
Original parts are another essential aspect. Refinished or refurbished vintage guitars can be worth only a fraction of a comparable model that features completely original parts and finish. But this often depends on the buyer’s purpose for buying the guitar. If you’re planning to use the instrument, then all original parts might not be as important as if you were strictly a collector only.
Vintage Guitar Price Guides
There’s a handful of resourceful vintage guitar price guides published online. Reverb has a massive database of almost every vintage guitar in existence. A nice feature on the Reverb site is a category for collector grade vintage guitars and player grade guitars, helping to distinguish and guide you to the right purchase according to your goals.
VintageGuitarPrice.com also offers a huge database of collector and vintage guitar values. You can sign up for free account access and search by the manufacture, model, year, and features.
How Lucky Can One Man Get
The greatest guitar players of all time get asked, “when did you first realize you were interested in music?” The details vary, but most of the answers to the question end with the same conclusion, something like, “and I was very lucky to pick up that guitar.”
Indie rocker, guitarist, and songwriter Kurt Vile was 14 years old when he received his first instrument; he was given a banjo as a gift. Legendary singer/songwriter and guitar player John Prine was also 14 years old when he picked up his first guitar. They both remember the day very clearly.
I’ve been a fan of Kurt Vile since I saw him perform live, where not only his lyrics but his guitar playing would leave a lasting impression. Half-way through one of his songs, he unleashed his favorite guitar, a 1964 Fender Jaguar, which he purchased at Gruhn Guitars, with an unbelievable solo that I can still hear in my head to this day.
Maybe it was because I was standing directly in front of the giant sound system, but Kurt’s guitar cords hit me like I’d imagine a bolt of lightning striking an oak tree. My eyes lit up; I was struck with the power of the 1964 Fender Jaguar vintage guitar.
Combine a poet with an old guitar, and you can change people’s lives in ways you could never imagine. Comedian Bill Murray recalls a time where he was especially depressed and couldn’t snap himself out of a severe funk.
His friend, Hunter Thompson, gave him some strange but very effective advice. He told Bill, “you’re going to have to rely on John Prine for his sense of humor.” Not exactly knowing what that was supposed to mean, Bill picked up John Prine’s ‘Great Days’ album and started working his way through it, listening to each song.
Murray finally stumbled on the song, “Linda Goes to Mars,” and found humor in Prine’s songwriting. After the song was finished, he says his entire mood shifted. It was the “very bottom” of the funk he was stuck in. How lucky could Bill Murray get to have a friend’s advice lead him to a song performed by John Prine, which would make such a lasting impression on his life?
“How Lucky” is a simple song, but the meaning can be deep and profound, depending on the listener. The Kurt Vile and John Prine version make me appreciate two very different artists, and the old guitars string the lyrics together as nothing else could.