I have a great Guild 12-string jumbo here,
and this thing sounds huge! Everything is
original except for the electronics. The serial
number is AJ520145. I researched the guitar
a little bit, and I think it is from the 1990s,
but I’d like to know what year it was built
and what it is worth today. I’m also wondering
what happened to Guild?
Syracuse, New York
There is no question that Guild’s jumbo
acoustics are some of the loudest guitars
out there! Your guitar appears to be a model
JF-55 12-string, which is no doubt a loud guitar.
Unfortunately, Guild guitars aren’t what
they once were, and most of this is due to
several ownership changes and manufacturing
relocation over the years. Let’s discuss
Guild’s glory years first.
Jewish emigrant Avram “Alfred” Dronge
founded Guild in 1952 in New York City. In the
early 1950s, the union labor force was very
prevalent in New York, and it forced many
guitar builders out of the city. Epiphone finally
had enough of the union and relocated to
Philadelphia in the early 1950s. Many Epiphone
employees didn’t want to move, so Dronge
recruited several of them to work for the new
Guild guitar company. The first Guild guitars
appeared in 1953, and in 1956 manufacturing
moved to Hoboken, New Jersey. By the late
1950s, production was rolling and Guild was
offering a full line of acoustic and electric guitars.
In 1966, electric parts producer and supplier
Avnet Inc. purchased Guild, but Dronge
remained president. In 1967, Guild relocated
to what would become its home for the next
35 years in Westerly, Rhode Island. Becoming
a corporate entity didn’t seem to affect Guild
negatively like it had Fender and Gibson,
and in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Guild
was blossoming. But tragedy struck in 1972,
when Dronge was killed in a plane crash.
Guild’s vice president, Leon Tell, then became
president until 1983.
In 1986, Avnet sold Guild to an investment
group, but that was just the first of what
would be many sales of the company in the
next 10 years. In 1989, the Fass Corporation
(later renamed U.S. Musical Corporation)
became the new owners. Electric production
was suspended for much of the early 1990s
as the company focused on acoustic production.
In 1995, Fender Musical Instruments
Corporation purchased Guild, and it continues
to own them today. Guild was FMIC’s
first big purchase in the music industry, and
during the late 1990s the company prospered
with the reintroduction of its electric
line. In 1997, a Guild custom shop opened
in Nashville, Tennessee, and in 1999 luthier
Robert Benedetto signed an agreement to
build a few high-end Guilds.
As FMIC grew, it acquired more brands and
seemed to focus on bottom-line profits.
It closed the Westerly factory in 2001 and
moved all production to an existing manufacturing
facility in Corona, California. Many
Guild enthusiasts consider this to be the
unofficial end of Guild. Guild production
moved again to Tacoma, Washington, in 2004
after FMIC purchased Tacoma Guitars. And
in 2008 it was moved once again to New
Hartford, Connecticut, when FMIC bought
Kaman Music Corporation. Guild has strictly
produced acoustic guitars since 2005, and
many of their models are now produced
overseas. However, the Westerly factory is
still in use by a new guitar company called
Campbell American Guitars, which employs
several former Guild workers.
According to the serial number on your guitar,
it was produced in 1995—a time when
ownership was being transitioned from U.S.
Musical Corporation to FMIC. But the guitar
was indeed built in Westerly. Your JF-55
features Guild’s revered jumbo body style in
12-string configuration, a solid spruce top,
solid rosewood back and sides, scalloped
bracing, abalone rosette, ebony fretboard
with pearl block/abalone wedge inlays, gold
tuners, and an ebony bridge. The electronics
are more than likely aftermarket, and as long
as the guitar hasn’t been altered, it won’t
affect the value negatively. It appears to be
in excellent condition, so today your guitar
would be valued between $1500 and $1800.
The JF-55 12-string was introduced in 1991,
and the regular six-string was introduced two
years earlier. Both models were discontinued
when the Westerly factory closed in 2001.
Today, Guild is considered FMIC’s high-end
acoustic line. A few Guilds are still produced in
the US, but they aren’t nearly the same as what
came out of the Westerly factory. This is disappointing
for many Guild enthusiasts, and it has
driven the value of Westerly-produced instruments
higher, because no more Guilds will come
from that location. Most collectors wouldn’t
even consider this guitar vintage, but it already
has vintage-style value based on its history, and I
would certainly consider that a treasure!
For more information on Guild guitars, read
The Guild Guitar Book: The Company and the
Instruments, 1952–1977 by Hans Moust.
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.
Questions can be submitted to:
Blue Book Publications
Attn: Guitar Trash or Treasure
8009 34th Ave. S. Ste #175
Minneapolis, MN 55425
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