Trash or Treasure: Peavey T-15
I really enjoy your articles and was just looking through some older ones. I have a guitar you might not be too familiar with. It’s a Peavey T-15 and I bought it brand new in 1982 or 1983. It came with a case that has a little built-in transistor amp. It plays nice and sounds fine, but the pickups are terribly microphonic! Can you tell me a little bit about my guitar and what it’s worth today?
Burt in Greenville, Mississippi
You’re right—I’m not too familiar with the Peavey T-15, but that’s because it’s one of the less common T-Series guitars produced. I hear a lot more about Peavey’s T-60 guitar and T-40 bass.
Mississippi-based Peavey Electronics, as many of us know, first made its mark as an electronics company that produced amplifiers and PA equipment. Though Hartley Peavey used to draw sketches of guitars in high school, he never intended to become a guitar builder. But because of his company’s success in the amplifier market—according to Peavey—large guitar manufacturers such as Gibson and Fender were pressuring dealers to buy their proprietary amplifiers if the dealers wanted to carry their guitars. So Peavey decided to “fight fire with fire” and compete by building guitars too.
Peavey’s T-15 short-scale guitar represents not only one of the company’s first guitar models, but a design that helped ignite a new way of manufacturing guitars. Photo by Steve Kikoen, The Guitar Studio
The 1970s were an experimental time for guitar makers. Manufacturers were struggling to produce more guitars at a lower cost, and quality often suffered. Hartley Peavey looked for a better way and took note from his gun collection, because mass-production techniques were successfully being used to join wooden rifle stocks to the barrels with precision fits. Peavey had the idea to shape guitar necks on a copy lathe—something no other guitar manufacturer had tried up until then. By using computers and a machine to create the neck, every one was essentially the same. This method allowed Peavey to build guitars at a high production rate with low cost, yet maintain a high level of quality. It also helped ignite the CNC revolution in the guitar industry.
Chip Todd, a guitar builder and engineer who started working at Peavey in 1974, was chosen to lead the guitar division. Peavey invested heavily in the guitar project by buying all the necessary machinery and completely overhauling a plant for guitar production. By 1978, the first T-60 guitars and T-40 basses rolled off the production line. Because of the low cost of production, Peavey’s guitars could compete very well against the large manufacturers. In fact, Peavey ran an ad ran with the headline “Why?” that compared the price of their $375 T-60 to the Fender Stratocaster at $790 and a Gibson Les Paul at almost $1,000.
In 1981, Todd went to work for Fender and luthier Mike Powers joined Peavey to take over the guitar division. New T-Series models were underway when Powers came to Peavey and the short-scale T-15 was nearly ready for production. The idea behind the T-15 and its 23 1/2" scale was to have a model available that could make learning easier for beginning guitarists and provide faster fretting for experienced players.
The T-15’s operating guide states that the bodies are made from “select hardwoods.” From most reports, the bodies were cut from either ash or maple, depending on the finish. The bolt-on necks were constructed from rock maple and topped with a maple fretboard. The pickups used were single-coil Peavey Super Ferrites and electronics consisted of shared volume and tone knobs, and a 3-way selector switch. The T-15 was offered with the optional Electric Case, a hardshell case that had a built-in, 10-watt practice amp with three control knobs for pre-gain, post-gain, and EQ.
Other T-Series models made it to varying stages of production. The T-25, made out of a composite called “Sustanite,” didn’t get past a few prototype models, but a 3-pickup version of the T-15 called the T-30 and other projects including the T-26, T-27, and T-45 bass made it to full production. The T-Series instruments remained in production until the T-60 was officially discontinued in 1988.
The T-15 was produced for just three years during the early ’80s, and originally retailed for $260.Being Peavey’s first guitars, you’d think that T-Series instruments would be extremely collectible. Surprisingly, most are worth about what they sold for new over 30 years ago. Your T-15 with the case/amp combo included is currently valued between $250 and $300 (between $150 and $200 for the guitar only). The monetary value isn’t that high, but these are great guitars that have achieved almost cult-like status and can be purchased at a relative bargain.