Unpacking the Value of "Limited" and Signed Guitars
You’ve hung in this far – only one more installment to go and we’ll get back to our normal Trash or Treasure articles. Last month, I really dove into the meat and potatoes of guitar evaluation, and I’m going to finish it up with some tangents and a conclusion.
This is a phrase so many of us like to hear because it makes the guitar in question sound special. What is a limited edition? The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition defines it as “An edition, as of a book or print, that is restricted to a limited number of copies.” That sounds simple enough, but what does it mean when it is applied to guitars?
Let’s say Joe Buck Guitars built 1,000 instruments, finished 750 in standard colors, 250 in custom colors, and called the smaller batch limited editions. Would you pay more for a guitar that is exactly the same but has a limited edition finish? Gibson is notorious for this, and it confuses many people into thinking they have a Custom Shop model when it is nothing more than a standard production guitar with a special finish. In order for a limited edition guitar to be worth a premium, it has to have some real collector appeal or other special feature.
Remember the scene in Half Baked when Jim Breuer’s character Brian is at work at the record store. He offers a customer $5 for a used Kenny Loggins record, when the customer, obviously offended, reminds him that Kenny Loggins himself has signed it. Brian replies, “Alright, I’ll give you $4.” I’ve appraised several guitars and when they’re signed, most people think they have a nine-pound piece of solid gold, shaped like a guitar. 99.9% of the time, the only value attached to the signature is the nostalgia the owner has to the person who signed it. When originality dictates how much collectors will pay for a certain guitar, a signature may actually take away from the value of the instrument! If you had an original ’59 Burst, would you have anybody sign it, even if it was Ted McCarty himself? Don’t get me wrong, a signed guitar can be cool, but don’t expect the guitar to be worth more because of the signature.
Originality and Authenticity
These are words all guitar collectors need to take seriously. When it comes to value, originality is almost as important as condition. Look for replaced parts, repairs and refinishes on guitars. A refinished guitar is typically worth only 50% of an original finish. Sometimes if a person refinishes a 60% guitar it becomes worth less because the 60% price is higher than half the 98% mint price. There are a lot of nonethical builders that are trying to cash in on the vintage guitar boom by producing excellent copies and fakes. Some copies are really good, and people have been fooled into shelling out too much cash for a ’59 ‘Burst that they believe is authentic, but in reality was a fake built in Japan! Make sure you inspect a guitar from endto- end to ensure authenticity – otherwise you may find yourself taking an unwanted bath.
Trash or Treasure
Hopefully you’ve learned something over the past couple of issues when it comes to identifying, dating, and evaluating your guitar. However, if I give you too much information, guitar owners will be able to do all of this on their own and I’ll be out of a job! There are only a few things you really need to know to determine “Trash or Treasure.” Identify the proper manufacturer and model, date the guitar, and use the tools I provided to evaluate it. Next month, it is back to individual models and I encourage readers to send in guitars that you are curious about – you never know what I may dig up!
Zachary R. Fjestad
Zachary R. Fjestad 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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