This all-tube 15" combo from the mid-’90s was produced for just a couple years, but helped develop an amp series that lives on.
I bought this Peavey amp back in the 1990s as a more affordable version of a Fender. (Let’s face it, I was broke.) Doing some quick internet research tells me Peavey still makes amplifiers, specifically the Classic Series, but I can’t really find anything about my Blues Classic. Can you tell me anything about it and what it’s worth today?
Chad in South Carolina
Thanks for the question! I remember those days and the always difficult choice of trying to afford decent equipment or pay the bills. The good news is you happened to find an amp that was a relatively good bargain then, and still is today. Yes, you are correct that Peavey still produces the Classic Series, but let’s go back a bit to explore Peavey’s history and how your amp came about.
Hartley Peavey grew up in Meridian, Mississippi, and after spending time in his father’s music store, he began building his own guitar amplifiers while in high school. In 1965, Peavey decided to go into business himself and founded Peavey Electronics in his parents’ basement. He initially only built PA systems, but after rapid company growth, Peavey began building guitar and bass amplifiers in the 1970s.
Circa 1973, Peavey developed a line of Fender narrow-panel tweed-inspired amps, appropriately called the Vintage Series. These amps utilized 6L6 power tubes and relatively obscure 6C10 preamp tubes. The Vintage Series eventually evolved into what we now know as the Classic Series, with most of the amps utilizing traditional 12AX7 preamp tubes and EL84 power tubes. This is somewhat of an unusual combination, however, since it uses both American (12AX7) and British (EL84) tubes to make a unique sound. Think Fender meeting Vox.
Your Blues Classic has 50 watts output, a single 15"speaker, and the American/British tube combination of three 12AX7s and four EL84s. Italso has two channels, spring reverb, a master volume control, and an effects loop. While there is no directrelative of this amp in Fender’s lineup, it is somewhat similar to an early Bandmaster, Bassman, or a mid-’50s Pro, which all utilized a 15"speaker. Keep in mind that many blues/jazz players choose 15"speakers as they tend to not lose the treble/high-end tones, so it makes sense this amp was coined the Blues Classic.
You don’t see these amps very often, mainly because the Blues Classic was only produced in 1994 and 1995. That said, there are a lot of different Classic Series models out there. The most common/popular model is probably the Classic 30, which has 30 watts output and a 12"speaker, and is similar to a Fender Deluxe. Other models in the series include the Classic 20, Classic 50, Classic 100, and Delta Blues, and all are wrapped with tweed-style covering to project that 1950s look and music style.
When Peavey discontinued the Blues Classic in 1995, it retailed for $800, but you could probably have bought it brand new for about $650 with standard discounts. It’s worth between $325 and $400 in excellent condition today. It may seemlike the amp hasn’t held its value very well, but the reality is that the value hasn’t changed much in nearly 25 years. (The used value of this amp in the mid-1990s was probably between $325 and $400, too.) Most Peavey Classic Series amps are still very affordable today, including the models that were discontinued many years ago. And from what I’ve heard and read, these amps are generally favorably reviewed. Maybe that means it’s a hidden gem? I’m not sure, but it’s reassuring to me that there are still some legitimate deals out there.
Hartley Peavey continues as the CEO at Peavey, which celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2015. The company still offers a full line of guitars, amplifiers, and PA equipment, and continues to innovate within the industry. Like many other guitar and amp manufacturers, Peavey now outsources most of their production overseas, but their headquarters remain in Mississippi.
A late-1970s entry-level axe picked up for $200 undergoes a complete makeover. Is it now a treasure?
I bought this guitar from a small shop on Sunset Boulevard in 1986 for $200. It is in very good condition overall, but I had some work done, including installing Lollar pickups, all new wiring and switching, a new nut, Grover tuners, and I had it re-fretted. The bridge and tailpiece are original. I’ve played the guitar often over the years and I love the feel and sound, which I believe is because of the compound radius. So I’m very curious what you think of my guitar. Trash or treasure?
Eric Davis in Savannah, Georgia
First of all, I like telling all guitarists that if you find a guitar that sounds and plays well—regardless of how much you paid for it—it’s a treasure. An inexpensive early 1990s Washburn acoustic/electric is still my player of choice. That said, guitar collectors might look at it a little differently since they are interested in the investment aspect as well.
I’ve written about early Ibanez guitar history in previous columns [“Ibanez ‘Lawsuit Era’ Les Paul Custom Copy,” July 2010 and “Ibanez Custom Agent,” December 2012] and touched on the company’s infamous “lawsuit” models in both, so I encourage readers to check those articles out for more information on Ibanez’s interesting background. When the lawsuit centering around the assertion that Ibanez was copying Gibson’s designs was settled shortly after it was filed in 1977, the company was already producing several of its own designs, and by 1979 Ibanez’s entire catalog was void of any obvious copies.
Your guitar, an ST 50, was part of the Studio series introduced in 1979. The Studio models featured slightly offset, double-cutaway construction with a set neck, 24 frets, and an unusual 25 1/2" scale. Many people have described the Studio series as comparable to Gibson SGs sonically, but the longer scale makes them more akin to playing a Strat. I’m guessing the re-fret you had done helped the compound radius play even better.
For pickups, Ibanez outfitted the ST 50s with their V-2 humbuckers. According to Ibanez marketing materials from the era, the pickups deliver “scorching output.” Many players have described the output as warm, while others have used “muddy” to describe the V-2 tone. Regardless, it wasn’t a sound for everyone and some players replaced the pickups on these Studio models with something softer—the same thing you did by swapping in a set of Lollars.
The ST 50 was the entry-level model in the Studio series. Other features include a mahogany body, laminated-maple neck, rosewood fretboard with dot inlays, nickel-chrome hardware, and master volume and master tone knobs governing the pickups. Other variations include the ST 55 (similar to the ST 50, but with individual volume/tone knobs), the ST 105 (same as the ST 55, but with a 3-piece maple/mahogany body), the ST 200 (a maple/ash body outfitted with the “EQ-2 Tone System”), and the top-of-the-line ST 300 and its Tri-Sound pickups.
Other upgrades include a set of Grover tuners, a new nut, and a re-fret to get this Studio Series find into playing
shape for its owner.
The first series of Studio guitars lasted until circa 1981, when they were replaced with a new line including the ST-70, ST-370, ST-390, and the impressive ST-1200 double-neck. A 1982 catalog shows what appears to be the last series that featured a more offset double-cutaway body—but with 22 frets—with the ST60, ST80, and ST90 models.
Your guitar’s serial number (B7978XX) indicates it was made in February 1979. During this period of manufacturing, Ibanez corresponded a letter to a month within their serial numbers (“A” is January, “B” is February, “C” is March, etc.), and the first two numbers in the serial number are the last two of the build year (79 indicates 1979). It is also likely that FujiGen Gakki made your guitar, since most guitars from the late 1970s and early 1980s with this serial-number format were built by the Japanese manufacturer.
As for your guitar, reconfiguring an instrument from its original condition typically reduces its value compared to an all-original example. However, the modifications you made are tasteful and we aren’t talking about a high-quality vintage instrument from the ’50s or ’60s. I believe your guitar is currently worth between $400 and $500. An all-original version in excellent condition might fetch $600. According to my favorite inflation calculator, $200 has the same buying power as approximately $438 today, so your guitar has kept up in that regard. This calculation doesn’t take the modifications you’ve made into consideration, but since this guitar is a player, I’m guessing that doesn’t matter to you! I think you have a treasure, because you’ve found a guitar that plays well and sounds great. And most musicians will agree that’s the main goal—regardless of cost.
Vox acoustic guitars are rare birds, but how high do they fly in today’s market?
I bought this Vox acoustic guitar in the early 1990s at a guitar show for $150. At the time, I thought it was really cool, but didn’t play it much. Now it sits around amongst my guitar collection and I’m considering selling it, but would like to know what it’s worth and if it’s worth holding onto. Could you share some history on the guitar and tell me what it’s worth?
Jeff in Eugene, Oregon
When it comes to Vox, AC30s and the Beatles likely come to mind first. But since the company was founded in 1957, they’ve also offered a wide range of electric guitars, acoustic guitars, organs, and effects in addition to their famous amplifiers. I suspect $150 was a pretty fair price to pay for this guitar in the early 1990s, but the question is if the guitar has increased or decreased in value.
Vox’s first electric guitars were designed in 1960 and introduced in 1961. Built in England, these first models—called the Stroller and Clubman—were based on Fender designs. Interestingly, Fender guitars were unavailable in England during the early ’60s, so these first Vox models were designed to fill a void. The pentagon-shaped Phantom series followed in 1962, and became Vox’s best-known and most-collectible guitars. Other models followed in 1963.
A few things happened to the expanding company in 1964. First, Vox outsourced production of their guitars to an Italian manufacturer called Eko. Then, in order to raise capital for his company, Vox founder and owner Tom Jennings sold a controlling interest of Vox to U.K.-based Royston Industries. A year later, the Thomas Organ Company of California began importing a line of Vox-branded acoustic guitars built by Eko into the U.S. For those of you familiar with Eko guitars, the similarities are striking. As far as I can tell, no acoustics were offered in England.
Vox’s acoustic models included the dreadnought Country Western V238 (a rebranded Eko Ranger 6), the Folk XII V239 (essentially a 12-string version of the Country Western and a rebranded Eko Ranger 12), the entry-level folk-style Serenader V220, the 12-string Shenandoah V279, and your guitar—the Rio Grande V278.
The Rio Grande is essentially a more ornate version of the Country Western and also a quasi-signature model for the late Nashville-based country artist Eddy Arnold. Your Rio Grande features a solid-spruce top, mahogany back and sides, a set mahogany neck (as opposed to the bolt-on neck of the Country Western), a rosewood fretboard with large pearl-block inlays, a pearl vine-themed headstock inlay, and a three-point pickguard with both Eddy Arnold’s signature and the model-name “Rio Grande” adorning it.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any reliable serial-number lists for Vox guitars and the numbers used by Eko seem like they were assigned completely at random. We do know that Vox acoustic guitars were built from late 1965/early 1966 until they were all discontinued in 1969—when both U.S. and European guitar manufacturers were feeling the pressure brought on by cheaper offerings from manufacturers in Asia.
Vox restructured their line with a series of Japanese-produced solidbody guitars, but they didn’t offer acoustic guitars again. Vox reissued their Phantom guitars in the late 1990s and would also produce the original-design Virage series that launched in 2007. Vox continues to produce a full line of guitar amplifiers, but currently only has one guitar in their line-up, called the Starstream. They are, however, currently producing ukuleles.