A place for all things vintage, rare and six-stringed.
by Ryan Gabrinetti, Burbank Shop Manager
You have probably arrived at this post for one of two reasons: either you are a gear freak lusting after a new flame and trying to squeeze the highest value out of your old reliable, or you were just gifted a dusty old case from your grandfather’s attic and you don’t know what’s inside. It doesn’t take a forum moderator to know there are vintage guitars out there that sell for small fortunes, but figuring out how that actually translates to a sale can be a different matter. We buy and sell used and vintage guitars of all shapes and sizes every day in our four shops — here are some of the factors we consider before pulling out the checkbook.
If there is one benchmark selling vintage guitars it is condition above everything else. It’s not an exact science, but using some common sense on grading will save you from a lot of debate and DM snobbery. Your buddy might swear they have a “dead mint” 90s Les Paul they play at the bar on Friday nights, but it is crucial to grade as conservatively as you can so that the buyer has the best possible idea of what they are getting. As far as we’re concerned, a Mint guitar is one that has never left the box. From there, anything that has touched air but has minimal handling and playwear we’d consider Excellent. If the guitar has a fair bit of pick scratching and maybe a ding or two, we’ll likely call it Very Good. Most used and vintage instruments will fall into the Very Good category as long as they don’t have major structural issues like body separation or heel or neck repair — anything below this threshold would earn a Good or Fair grade.
After seeing enough player-grade vintage guitars with Kahlers and Neon Pink refins, it’s a wonder that any guitar survived the 80s without modifications. If you’re trying to fetch top dollar for your closet classic, everything on the guitar should be as close as possible to how it left the factory new. Most vintage guitars will have a few practical parts changed like plastics or tuners, and a little research can help determine what belongs and what doesn’t. The best case scenarios won’t have a single screw out of place and might even have original hang-tags or strings! Chances are, that Mustang you found at the pawn shop didn’t come with a brass nut. More than anything — be honest! Experienced buyers can smell fabrication from a mile away.
The older a guitar you have, the more likely you are selling a story as much as a chunk of wood. Part of the fascination with buying vintage guitars comes from where they might have been, who might have played them, and how they made it through the decades of playing and into your hands. Nothing is cooler than seeing photos of an original-owner guitar up on the bandstand with their old workhorse back in the day, and this kind of documentation can paint a vivid (and persuasive) picture in a buyer’s mind. At the end of the day, the more you know, the more power you have!
If you still don’t know where to begin selling your vintage guitar — contact us here!