And my eye kinda stuck to this one particular spot in this junkyard. I turned away from it, and I swear my eyeball snuck right back there—just like it had a mind of its own. Well, I kept a lookin’, trying to figure what was grabbin’ my attention. It was almost like it was screamin’, “Here I am, see me. Hey stupid, I’m right here!” That one must have gotten through the usual fog, for at once I recognized one of the most familiar pegheads in the world. I let out a holler, “Hot damn—Strat,” and jumped, not really knowin’ or carin’ what I was going to land on. Glidin’ over the junkyard’s lower remains to the Strat sighting, I said, “Self, what we got here is a godsend,” and went to work. Now feeling like an archeologist on a mission, about a half a day later I pulled out the most damnable sight you ever saw—the early ’60s sunburst Jazzmaster (SN# 55489) was reborn sideways, and appeared almost exactly like you see it now, minus the bridge, my name carved in it, and the one fret that had to be changed after it got hooked on a nail when I dug it out.
Much like me, The “Dump Master” had been used, abused, and discarded. What could be more natural than a junkyard hookup? This axe sure does sound sweet to me. —Zebulon “Zeb” Cash-Lane, 1997
Found in a junkyard, the Dump Master is an early ’60s Fender Jazzmaster that has been naturally relic’d. Its serial number is 55489 and it’s seen some hard times, but it’s now in good hands.
Curious readers probably have many questions about the story of the Dump Master. Did this guitar start Fender’s Relic series? Should the guitar be refinished? Did Zeb’s discovery mark the beginning of what is commonly known today as “picking”? What is a guitar this beat-up actually worth?
Zeb’s Dump Master was discovered during the relic craze of the mid 1990s, but Fender started working on relic instruments in their Custom Shop circa 1994. Based on the techniques that Fender has used to artificially age its instruments (that is, sanders, belts, nails, and more), the Dump Master and a Fender Relic are similar.
The serial number indicates that the guitar was built in 1960 or 1961 (carefully removing the neck and locating the neck stamp date will further aid in determining production date), and it was in mint, original condition. The instrument is worth between $6000 and $7000 today. Obviously, the condition is a bit lower than mint. In fact, a guitar in this condition (lower than 60 percent) is not commonly valued in the Blue Book of Electric Guitars, because instruments in this poor shape should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The guitar plays beautifully and is, for the most part, fully intact. Based on this, Zeb has a $1500-$2000 early 1960s Jazzmaster—which he found in a dump. Needless to say, this is a treasure anyway you look at it.
To Zeb, the guitar is worth more in the condition that he discovered it. However, many players would appreciate the guitar more if it looked showroom new, and there are talented luthiers who could whip it back into shape. Vintage Jazzmasters have a lot of what I call “collector value”—that is, much of the value of this instrument has been created by collectors having a strong interest in it. Today, a guitar’s original condition is the number-one factor in determining its value. Once the guitar has been altered from its original configuration, the value will drop significantly. Even if Zeb were to have this guitar refinished to mint condition, it would be worth approximately 50–60 percent less than the same guitar in mint original condition, or $2500–$3500.
Flip through the cable channels, and you’re bound to find a number of reality shows on collectibles, such as Antiques Roadshow, American Pickers, Storage Wars, and Pawn Stars. What the creators of these shows have done is capitalize on Zeb’s pastime of rummaging through other people’s junk, identifying it, and determining if it has any value to a captive audience—after all, it is often fascinating! While I don’t endorse the idea of stumbling through a junkyard in pursue of the Holy Grail (nobody wants a rusty nail through their big toe), I do encourage collectors to keep an eye open—you never know what you’ll find!
Zachary R. Fjestad is author of Blue Book of Acoustic Guitars, Blue Book of Electric Guitars, and Blue Book of Guitar Amplifiers. For more information, visit bluebookinc.com or email Zach at firstname.lastname@example.org.