Premier Guitar

Fender Princeton Reverb

October 21, 2009
This is the first of a two-part article. We’ll discuss the Fender Princeton Reverb this month and the Gibson ES-175D next. Both of these pieces were in our office, so I was able to inspect them personally. Some information in this article cannot be seen in the picture(s).

Hey Zach,
I bought this Fender amp and Gibson guitar new in the late 1970s or early 1980s and only played them a few times. A few years later, I gave the guitar and amp to my father, but he played them very little as well. My father passed away last winter, and I found these when I was cleaning out his closets. I still don’t play, so I’d like to sell them, and I’m curious as to exactly what I have and how much they are worth. Thanks!

Jim in Forest Lake, MN

Hey Jim,

I’m sorry to hear about your dad passing. It’s a shame neither of you kept up with guitar playing. The good news is that the guitar and amp are in near-mint condition, because they’ve spent most of their lives in a closet.

I inspected your amp thoroughly and did some research on it. First of all, I don’t think this amp was new when you purchased it. Based on the serialization Greg Gagliano compiled for the now defunct 20th Century Guitar magazine, the serial number in your amp of A268XX indicates it was produced in 1972. The two-letter date code stamped on the tube chart was discontinued after 1969, and there is no speaker date code, so aside from taking the chassis apart to look for other date codes, the serial number is the only dating feature we have.

While Fender produced the silverface Princeton Reverb continuously from 1968 to 1981, they did implement some subtle changes along the way that also help us date it today. First, Fender used the grille cloth on your Princeton from approximately 1970 to 1975. Before this, there was an aluminum frame around it. After 1975, the grille cloth color changed from silver and blue to silver and orange. The Fender logo on the amp lost its tail around 1974 and the model name on the control panel used to read “Princeton Reverb Amp” prior to circa 1971. This confirms what the serial number told us all along: that the amp was built circa 1972.

This amp has 12–15W output, one 10" speaker, a seven-tube chassis (preamp: 1x7025, 2x12AX7, 1x12AT7; power: 2x6V6GT, and a 5U4GB rectifier), a single channel, reverb, tremolo, front silver control panel, two inputs, six knobs (Volume, Treble, Bass, Reverb, Tremolo Speed, and Tremolo Intensity), and a footswitch jack (not included). It features Fender’s trademark black Tolex covering, a silver/blue grille cloth, and a black handle.

I plugged the amp in and played for quite a while. I noticed that the tremolo wasn’t working, and after some research discovered that the footswitch actually has to be plugged into the vibrato pedal footswitch jack on the back panel. A borrowed footswitch from a silverface Super Reverb confirmed that the tremolo worked just fine. Aside from a burned out pilot light and one scratchy potentiometer in the tone circuit, this amp played and sounded just as it should. It appears to be in near mint condition with alloriginal components, including the speaker. There are extra tubes in the bottom of the cabinet and the ones installed do not match, so at least a few of them have been replaced.

I don’t want to say that you were fooled into buying a new guitar amplifier in 1980, when it’s actually a 1972, because I don’t know all of the circumstances. It’s possible that this amp sat in inventory for eight years, but I would suspect they used it as a rental or someone traded it in after seldom playing it. Realistically, if the price was right and the amp looked new when you bought it, does it really matter when it was built? Besides, a 1972 Princeton Reverb is worth more today than a 1980. The vintage Fender amp market has softened a bit in the past two years, but you can expect to get between $1,000 and $1,200 retail for this amplifier—of course, wholesale price is going to be quite a bit less! Truly, there are very few Fender tube amplifiers that aren’t treasures.

Next month: A near-mint 1980 Gibson ES-175D!


Zachary R. Fjestad
Zachary is the author of the Blue Book of Acoustic Guitars, Blue Book of Electric Guitars, and the Blue Book of Guitar Amplifiers.
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