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Vintage Guitar and Bass

vintage guitars

Why vintage guitars?

There is something special about musical instruments of a certain age. Guitars built from the mid 1950s until the late 1970s are generally held in high esteem; techniques and materials, particularly pre-1970 were vastly superior to today's 'mass-produced' standards. But is a vintage guitar really much different to a modern day equivalent? People often say wood is wood, but this is simply not the case. Centuries old trees that were regularly harvested for guitar manufacture in the 1950s are now protected, and it is these old trees with close grains and unbeatable tonal qualities that make the very best guitars. With rainforests rapidly diminishing their protection can only be a good thing. But it does mean that good quality older guitars, perhaps with a few modern upgrades can make some of the very best instruments available. What's more, much of the painstaking attention to detail lavished upon fine old jazz guitars by special order/custom departments and aimed at serious guitarists has been replaced by the continual churning out of 'limited editions', aimed at serious collectors. Whether these rare, but ultimately not-so-special guitars will be quite so desirable in 30 years time remains to be seen.

What is a vintage guitar?

Different people have different opinions on what makes a vintage guitar. For the purposes of this site, a vintage electric guitar or vintage bass is one that was produced in the golden age of rock and roll. From the very early 1950s when Fender first produced the Esquire and Broadcaster, and Gibson the Les Paul; to the early 1980s, when both of these companies sold to their current owners.

Why play an old guitar?

The musical revolutions occurring during the period in question created the first well-known guitar heroes, and gave their guitars iconic status. It is no surprise that the right guitar can immediately conjure a specific period in time, both with looks and sound. And modern day guitarists who want to capture an essence of that period will naturally tend towards these guitars. Nothing says 1950s quite like a Gretsch. Nothing says 1960s quite like a Vox teardrop or Phantom.

vintage guitars

Numerous classic guitars made by the likes of Gibson, Epiphone, Fender, and Guild are worth thousands, sometimes tens of thousands; a little expensive for the average player, and often these are the preserve of investors and collectors. Early versions of the Gibson Les Paul, SG and Flying V guitars, or the Fender Stratocaster or Telecaster. But there are still very many affordable, great sounding, and exciting to play vintage guitars that offer something simply not available in a new guitar. A well-built vintage instrument, although expensive can actually be superb value for money in comparison to some of the new guitars available at that price.

Vintage guitars for sale

This site is for information only - we don't sell vintage guitars - but do check out our Vintage guitar collectors pick list: a regularly updated selection of rare guitars, vintage catalogs, or unusual items currently that we've found for sale on the web. We especially like to feature Vintage guitars with a story! If you're selling something interesting yourself, get in contact and we can help promote your item.

Latest Site Updates

1977 Gibson ES Artist prototypeNot to be confused with the Gibson ES Artist launched by Gibson in 1979; this ES Artist was an early model designed by the Gibson research and development team in Kalamazoo in 1977, the instruments themselves constructed by Gibson artist Chuck Burge. It was planned for launch as a high end semi acoustic with 335-style construction (central maple block) and innovative circuitry - but was pulled at the last minute, being deemed too expensive. Apparently, several examples were produced with varying specifications, though exactly how many actually left the Kalamazoo plant is unclear. Certainly two guitars were sold to LaVonne Music by Gibson in around 1980. Read more about the development of this guitar, with details from Chuck Burge and the story of it's sale to LaVonne music
1959 Hofner CommitteeThe Hofner Committee was a truly beautiful guitar produced in Germany, primarily for the UK market. It was a large bodied (initially 17 1/2") guitar with a carved spruce top, available as an acoustic or electric guitar. By the early sixties the carved top was replaced with a laminate, and although still a very fine guitar, the earlier carved top examples, with frondose headstock (like the example shown here) are far more highly prized amongst musicians and vintage guitar collectors.
1965 Gretsch Chet Atkins TennesseanThe Gretsch Chet Atkins Tennessean, or model 6119 was Gretsch's best selling hollow body of the 1960s. This wonderfully faded example from 1965 was originally Dark Cherry Red, but has turned a mid-orange brown. The original color, however, can be seen underneath the pickup surrounds. 1965 specs: maple body, two-piece neck, Brazilian rosewood fretboard and Hi-Lo 'Tron single coil pickups. Nickel plated Gretsch Bigsby tailpiece.
1965 Gretsch catalogThe 1965 Gretsch catalog, or catalog #32, featured 10 hollow body electric guitars, including the newly launched Gretsch Viking; four solid body electrics, including the Astro Jet - making it's only catalog appearance; just one bass, the single pickup PX6070; nine acoustics and 12 tube amplifiers. Pride of place went to the Chet Atkins Country Gentleman that adorned both the front and back covers. 24 pages, six of which are in full color.
Guitar Repair: fixing fret buzz and sharp fret endsLoose frets are especially problematic in certain old guitars, but are generally very easy to fix. You'll be amazed at the difference you can make with just a few tools, a bit of knowledge, and a little time. Fixing loose frets can eliminate fret buzz, remove sharp fret ends, and greatly improve the tone of any guitar. If your luthier bill will be greater than the value of your guitar, definitely time to have a go yourself!
1966 Hagstrom guitar catalog Hagstrom guitars were distributed in the mid-1960s United States by Merson of USA. This eight page 'worlds fastest playing neck' catalog, printed in two-colors contained six solid body electrics, three solid body basses, two electric acoustic guitars, two electric acoustic basses and five acoustics.
1965 Hofner President The President was produced by Hofner in Bubenreuth, Germany, specifically for Selmer, who distributed the brand in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and other commonwealth nations. The President was a hollow body electric acoustic, available as a full body or thinline, and with blonde or brunette finish. It was a great playing guitar that sold fairly well in the second half of the 1950s, throughout the 1960s, and into the very early 1970s. The example shown here is a full-body depth guitar in blonde - and as a 1965 guitar, one of the last to feature the rounded Venetian cutaway. From late 1965 until 1972, the President sported a sharp Florentine cut. Naturally, such an electric acoustic suggests jazz and blues, but many of the original British Hofner President players were part of the rock 'n roll, skiffle and beat scenes of the late 50s and early 60s.
Fender 1963 catalogue"The Choice of Professional and Student Musicians Everywhere" This eight page catalogue was included as an insert in the 1963 annual "school music" issue of Downbeat magazine (September 1963). As well as keyboards and pedal steels, this catalog contains seven guitars, three basses and ten amplifiers - from student guitars such as the Musicmaster and Duotone to professional models like the new Jaguar.
1971 Gibson Les Paul Recording guitar owners manual; border= The newly designed Les Paul Recording guitar was released in 1971, in many ways as an updated version of the Les Paul Professional that had debuted two years earlier in 1969. The new guitar came with a new owners manual explaining the (somewhat complicated) controls, their operation, and giving other specifications, including recommended strings, action and control settings. Compare with the broadly similar owners manual for the Les Paul Personal / Professional
1971 Gibson Triumph bass owners manual; border= The Les Paul Triumph bass, like the Les Paul Recording guitar was first shipped in 1971, but was based on a slightly older model, the 1969 Les Paul Bass. Functionally, these basses were very similar, although the Triumph did offer low and high impedance operation, without the need for a transformer cable. This owners manual details the basses specifications, suggests a string set, recommended action, and suggests a series of tonal settings for rock, country and solo bass playing.
1981 Gibson Gibson Rosetti catalogue (UK) 20 pages, black and white with color front cover. In the middle of 1981, Rosetti took over distribution of the Gibson line in the UK. Rosetti were a very big name in Britain, having distributed Epiphone since at least 1963, as well as Hagstrom and others. This catalogue was produced at the tail end of 1981, and introduces a number of models to the UK, such as the MV-II, MV-X guitars and the Victory basses, the GGC-700 and the Flying V bass. Some of these models were so short-lived that they were actually never included in US brochures. The cover image (reproduced in part here) showed some of the earliest demonstration models, including a Victory with a highly unusual white scratchplate.
1981 Gibson Victory MV-II electric guitar A closer look at a 1981 Gibson Victory MV-II electric guitar. The Gibson Victory MV, or 'Multi-Voice' guitars had very wide tonal palettes; with coil-tapped humbuckers they could produce typical Gibson tones, but were also designed to 'out-Fender' Fender. Two models were launched in the summer of 1981. Whilst the MVX, was designed to do everything a Stratocaster could do, the MVII was 'primarily for the discerning country player' - placing it squarely against the Telecaster.
1982 Gibson loose-leaf publicity sheets Gibson produced a series of single sheet flyers in 1982, promoting some of their newer models (Victory bass and Multi-Voice guitars, Chet Atkins Classic Electric and the already best-selling Sonex-180 Deluxe), and a few classic reissues (30th anniversary Les Paul Standard and Heritage Flying V) - all of which were received with some applause at the 1982 Atlanta NAMM show. These flyers all contained one or more side-panel, that folded out with model specifications, but were also designed to be reproduced in guitar magazines of the time without the extra fold out.
1963 Vox Clubman II The Clubman was one of the earliest UK-built guitars produced by Vox at it's Dartford plant. As an entry level model it was very light, fitted with the most basic components, and not made of the most select woods, but it's unique styling, low price and easy playability made for a relatively popular guitar. Initially there were two guitar models, the single pickup Clubman I and dual pickup Clubman II, and a companion Clubman bass - check them out in the 1962 Vox catalogue. The guitar was redesigned in the middle of 1963, getting a new Strat-style body, but examples with the older body style were still being shipped perhaps as early as the start of 1964.
1963 Vox Consort The Vox Consort was produced in the UK throughout the mid 1960s; originally modelled on the Fender Jaguar, it was one of JMI's better quality instruments, with many features not seen on lower-priced guitars. This early example mixed innovative tone circuitry with Vox's original chrome-covered V1 pickups, for "every possible variation of tone from bass to sharp brilliance". By the middle of 1963, the model had been redesigned, becoming less Fender-esque and more Vox - have a look at the redesigned Consort in the 1963 Vox catalogue
1966 Selmer guitar catalogue The 1965/1966 Selmer guitar catalogue contained guitars by a number of different makers imported for the UK market, the most numerous being German-made Hofner electrics, acoustics and basses. There is also a fairly large Gibson section, but it by no means contains all instruments produced under that brand at the time. Other instruments featured include guitars and basses by Hagstrom and Futurama, and Brazilian acoustic guitars by Giannini. 44 pages, with UK pricing in guineas.

Older updates here

vintage guitars

Is older always better?

But older guitars are not always better than new guitars; they can have unreliable parts, or be difficult to maintain. A lot of these are upgraded to make great players grade instruments. Keeping the essence of the original vintage guitar, but adding a little of today's reliability. A great example is the 1960s Gibson Melody Maker; an all-mahogany set neck guitar with Brazilian rosewood fingerboard and beautiful nitrocellulose finish. Well-built by Gibson, in their Kalamazoo factory, but with very basic pickups, tuning keys and electronics. Upgraded examples are everywhere, and are exceptional value as players grade instruments. Then again some guitars, especially early Japanese and European models aimed at the student guitarists of the early 1960s are completely unplayable. Even the cheapest modern day guitars put these to shame. Before buying any vintage guitar it is a good idea to know exactly what you are buying!

This site aims to be a reference point for guitar players and guitar collectors. There's information, history, photographs and sound clips of many famous, and not so famous guitars and basses by makes such as Danelectro, Epiphone, Fender, Gibson, Guild, Gretsch, Hagstrom, Harmony, Hofner, Rickenbacker and Vox. There is a section on effects pedals too!

Check out the classic guitar advertisements, guitar catalogs, or listen to vintage guitars being played. If you get stuck, try the sitemap or post a message in the forum

Guitars bought! Do you have a vintage instrument for sale. I am looking for good condition guitars and basses circa 1950-1980 by Gibson, Guild, Hagstrom, Hofner, Vox and others. Let me know what you have available

Levys luxury soft case

Levys luxury soft case

"Best bag money can buy, period" - available in five colors: for guitar or bass. Expensive, but exceptional quality.

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Vintage guitars for sale

VINTAGE 1964 USA FENDER KLUSON DELUXE TWO LINE GUITAR TUNER NICKEL 1965 1966

PLANO, TEXAS, 75025, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$225

ORIGINAL 1964 USA KLUSON DELUXE GUITAR TUNER .. HIGH E, "TWO LINE " , NICKEL FINISH, PATENT D-169400 BASE PLATE, NICKEL METAL BUTTON, 1" STRING SHAFT WITH SPLIT DESIGN TIP. NORMAL VINTAGE WEAR, LIGHT SATIN PATINA, NOT BENT. .THANKS FOR LOOKING!... more

Two Vintage 60's Fender Mustang DuoSonic WHITE Pickup Covers

MIAMI, FLORIDA, 33143, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$74

These are original 60's white (yellowed) Fender pickup covers for Mustang or DuoSonic. All original. No cracks. 7 % sales tax will be added to all items shipped inside the state of Florida. I will ship most of my items to many countries other than USA, but I ask that all buyers contact me before making a purchase. Foreign buyers are responsible for all of their taxes and customs duties. I will NOT declare lower values or declare items as gifts under any circumstance.... more

Compatible with Fender Esquire 61-64 Vintage Repro Capacitors / Resistor

CAPE CORAL, FLORIDA, 33990, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$46

Compatible with Esquire vintage reproduction capacitors and resistor for years 1961 to 1964, be the king of tone and make it look like the original thing with this awesome set Check out my other items! Be sure to add me to your favorites list! Sign up for my email newsletters by adding my eBay Store to your Favorites... more

1965 Fender Cloth Wire Cover Pair- 12cm Each Black & White Matched Pair Wax USA

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH, 84105, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$39

Original Pre-CBS Wiring Covering Original 1965 Fender Pre-CBS Wiring Lengths from serial number L88499 J-bass. Each length is about 12cm long- a black and white one are included. They are wax coated and not reproductions SKU# 3186... more

Vintage 1945 Gibson J-45 Banner Guitar Tuners. Tuning Pegs. Wartime L-00 LG

CHILMARK, MASSACHUSETTS, 02535, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$295

Up for sale is an original set of wartime Gibson tuners. Removed from a 1945 j-45 but correct for other Gibson’s from the era. These are the real deal! Original screws are included. Perfect for your vintage restoration or custom project    I'm always happy to accept returns if an item is not as described. I ask that you please study the photos and contact me with any questions. I've been selling on ebay for 20 years with excellent feedback so bid with confidence.... more

Vintage Original 1966 Silvertone / Harmony Bobkat or Silhouette Wiring Harness

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, 10003, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

C $80

Here is a vintage circa 1966 Harmony / Silvertone Bobkat or Silhouette wiring harness with original parts & pickup selector. Perfect for a restoring or upgrading your vintage guitar. Also perfect for a project guitar. Excellent condition as shown in the photos. Harness is exactly as pictured. Buyer pays $10 for US shipping, $50 for international. All Sales Final. Item is as pictured. International Buyers – Please Note: Import duties, taxes, and charges are not included in the item price or ... more

1965 Harmony Floating Bridge For H78 H76 H73 H74 Saddle Top For Bigsby Vibrato

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH, 84105, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$99

1965 Harmony Floating BridgeWith Plastic Saddle For Bigsby-Equipped Guitars Very rare floating bridge assembly for Bigsby-equipped Harmony / Silvertone / Airline Valco Semi-Hollow Guitars. It is in nice used condition without any breaks or repairs, and with one modification (read on). Base is 5" long. Some patina to the metal. Both height adjustment screws and thumbwheels are still present. It was installed on a non-Harmony vintage guitar for a period, so there are extra string slots cut onto ... more

Vintage 1940's Gibson Ultratone Lap Steel White and Coral

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, 60622, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

$449

Vintage 1940's Gibson Ultratone Lap Steel with Case White and Coral This has got to be the most collectable lap. Circa 1940's. The Gibson Ultratone Lap from the '40s is perhaps the most beautiful lap made. This one is in the needs TLC condition. Everything that's here is original. The white finish has some yellowing, some checking, some minor dings. The pickup cover / overlay is cracked. The headstock cover is somewhat solid, though it is cracked. All 3 tall barrel knobs are here and solid. ... more

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