Philly Show and ‘06 Market Recap
Some folks think Reading is a railroad property from Monopoly. It’s also a town in East-Central Pennsylvania that hosted the recent Philly Guitar Show. The Philly Show moved from Ft. Washington due to the loss of their venue, and was held at the Greater Reading Expo Center. The Expo Center is a massive collection of buildings that was the former home of Lucent’s high-tech microelectronics plant. Many professional jobs left the area with the closing of the facility in 2003. It is a bit ironic that three years later the building that once produced electronic components now housed a guitar show with many instruments on display worth more than a year’s salary of the average worker at the factory.
Gary and Bonnie did a great job putting this show together, considering the loss of their previous venue so close to the show date. Saturday morning at the open saw a line at the door that lasted two hours. Attendance and guitars walking in any show are the measure of success used by dealers and this was a good show. The outlet shopping and hotels were a pleasant bonus compared to the Ft.Washington area. Friendly greyhounds were present for a third time and a six-string salute to all the generous dealers and patrons that donated to help find homes for these retired athletes.
New patrons attending brought some uncirculated vintage guitars, like the elderly couple that walked in Sunday afternoon with a pre-war Martin “Bone” (aka D-28 Herringbone). The couple was besieged with offers from many dealers and said they were taking the guitar home to weigh their options. Nice original-owner Martin Bones are hard to find, so one walking into the Philly Show was certainly a highlight; other sought-after guitars walked into the show too.
No one should complain about the availability of nice vintage pieces for sale on booths at the show; asking prices is another matter altogether. Several Bursts, blackguard Teles, custom-color Fender guitars, several LP Jr. and Special models as well as plenty of store-stock ($2000 and under guitars and basses) were available for sale.
Taking a quick look back at the vintage guitar market in 2006 as covered in this column, many interesting issues were highlighted:
February - My “Wood Street” column showed a table of the USA stock market indices that went nowhere in 2005 while premier vintage guitars increased at a greater rate than the historical trend. Some models doubled or more and other popular models showed aggressive appreciation rates.
March - The vintage market is approaching a crossroads, I believe. The stakes are too high to make a buying or selling mistake, and many under-capitalized players have become irrelevant. Verification and selling metrics will change if old guitars join the ranks of fine art and other high-end collectibles.
May - People often say that if something was valuable it was, “worth its weight in gold.” Well, those folks don’t own any Bursts, pre-war D-45 or mint first year Stratocaster guitars. A bit of simple math shows us that these iconic guitars are worth more than their weight in gold with some examples worth more than their weight in platinum.
August - There may come a day when the best vintage instruments are sold by a handful of dealers and auction houses, effectively shutting the door on many of today’s dealers and brokers.
Random thoughts that closed out the year of columns: I think two PAF L-5 and Super- 400 models are undervalued along with ES-175 and other multiple PAF-equipped archtop guitars from 1957-1962 (not including the high-priced ES-335/345/355). Blackguard Telecasters rose in price this year, partly due, I think, to Nacho Baños fine book about this model, distributed by JK Lutherie.
Following expensive older models, 1970s Teles and Strats sold well with higher prices. Prices on pre-CBS Sunburst Stratocasters have risen so much in a short period of time that many nice examples have come to the market. Dave Crocker of the Arlington Guitar Show stated that VIP attendance was up 50% from last year and that says to me more investors and speculators are looking to this market for a place to invest some of their available funds.
It was an interesting year in 2006 and something tells me the fun is just beginning. Next month’s column is my annual Wall Street vs. Wood Street edition. I’ll summarize the equity markets performance versus important Tier-1 vintage guitar models.
Larry Meiners writes the Serious Guitar Collector Column for Musicians Hotline® Magazine. Larry is the author of the Gibson Flying "V" and Gibson Shipment Totals books as well as the audio CD book for collectors, Live! At The Guitar Show.
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