Who doesn’t like to look at guitars?
Interestingly enough, unlike many things in life, the older our guitars get, the more attractive they become to us. Like a classic car or a good bottle of wine, as your guitar ages, it picks up a lot of character and history. Looking at a ‘50s Telecaster these days means a trip back and a lot of stories about where it’s been.
This month, Solidbody Guitar, located in Mounds View, Minnesota, took some time to show off some of their prized pieces, straight from the vault, only for Musicians Hotline. Just keep in mind that we cannot be held responsible for players cashing in their retirement accounts to get their hands around these axes.
How has the Minneapolis music scene played a contributing role to your business?
I was in the remodeling industry in the late ‘80s and had amassed a large collection of vintage guitars. After each completed job I would purchase a pre-CBS Fender or ‘50s Gibson. This was a period of time when a ‘56 Stratocaster was $4500.00 and a Les Paul Jr. was $700.00. There were 2 areas of the country where I was getting most of my vintage guitars. The New York area, where vintage instruments drifted in from the Catskill entertainment scene, and the Upper Midwest.
James J. Hill had completed the Great Northern Railroad in the late 1890s and had petitioned Scandinavian countries for immigrants to farm, operate the transportation systems, and maintain the grain processing facilities in Minnesota, the Dakotas and beyond. All of these people watched Lawrence Welk and his Champagne Music Makers. The instruments that were played were all very difficult to master, and either required conditioning of the lip or formal education. The ‘50s Stratocaster that Buddy Merrill played was the exception.With a couple of days practice, one could fashion a few chords and master two or three simple songs. Taking the guitar to the next level required more intense practice and a lot of these Stratocasters found the closet.
|In the end, I guess I chose Minnesota because of the “Lawrence Welk Belt,” as we have harvested many Stratocasters from this area. Strat sales are the bread and butter of our business.|
What is your take on the current state of the vintage market?
The vintage market has seen the sharpest incline in its history over the last 18 months. The retail price of a ‘58-‘60 Les Paul Standard has doubled. I don’t see a decline.We are dealing with a limited quantity and many vintage guitars and amplifiers have left the United States via the Internet. This has left fewer original pieces. The law of supply and demand takes over.
The negative aspect of this has been an increase in forgeries surfacing, and the fact that the average player has been priced out of the market.We seem to be selling to investors, many of whom cannot play. The premium then is on the complete originality of the piece and not the tone. To put this in perspective, one must ask which guitars will be collectable in 200 years. If you can answer this question and invest, you will still be able to hop aboard the vintage express.
Tell us about the Les Paul TV model and its place in history. (see cover)
In 1954, we had only black and white (monochrome) television.White guitars glowed fluorescent on the screen. Gibson used a limed mahogany finish on their Jr. and Special series that toned down this effect. They silk-screened TV Model on the Jrs and they have become very collectable. You can see the restoration of one of these in the last 3 issues of this magazine.
Values range from $12K-$30K
|A1954 Les Paul Custom, 1961 Les Paul Custom (first and last year of issue), a couple of 1959 Les Paul Standard Sunbursts (the ultimate collector’s piece) and a 1955 Goldtop. This group represents the three different finishes of the “professional” Les Pauls of the era.
Values range from $40K-$415K
|1956 maple neck, 1960 slabboard rosewood neck, 1969 black logo, 1965 transition logo and a 1965 Candy Apple Red custom-colored Strat. These are examples of pre- and post-CBS Stratocasters.
Values range from $11K-65K
|A rare double-cut 1962 White Penguin.
Valued between $65K-$80K
|Some non-reverse Firebirds, including a Gold Mist III. There is a 1964 Reverse Firebird III in foreground.
Values range from $4K-$15K
|1954 Silver Jet.
Valued between $12K-$15K