This site is a resource for vintage guitar information; primarily electric guitars by American and European manufacturers. The term vintage can mean different things to different people, but for the purposes of this site, vintage guitars are those produced up until the early/mid 1980s; ending approximately with Norlin's last Gibsons, CBS's last Fenders and the demise of Hagstrom, Guild and Gretsch. These brands have all now been revived, and many offer good replicas of their classic models, but there is nothing quite like the real thing!
Content is sorted by manufacturer, and the majority of information relates to the following brands: (in alphabetical order)
Epiphone were one of the big American brands of the first half of the twentieth century. Along with the likes of Gibson and Gretsch, they epitomised quality, producing some of the very best electric acoustic guitars of the period. But the best known vintage Epiphone guitars are those produced from Gibson's Kalamazoo plant after 1957; most notably the semi-acoustic models based on Gibson's ES series, the Epiphone Casino, Sheraton, and Rivoli bass.
For more about Epiphone instruments see the Epiphone Index
Fender are perhaps the best-known electric guitar company in the world, producing a handful of models that are household names to even those completely un-versed in guitars: the Fender Stratocaster or Fender Telecaster. Although incredibly sucessful, Fender had a completely different ethos to the old-guard; after all they evolved from an electronics background, not from the manufacture of jazz and orchestral instruments like Gibson, Gretsch and Epiphone. They stuck to what they did best: simple solid body guitars, with excellent electronics, easily assembled by a largely unskilled workforce. It just happened that this novel approach coincided with the birth of youth culture in the USA, and the two went hand in hand.
For more about Fender instruments see the Fender Index
Gibson guitars, especially vintage Gibson guitars, are always associated with quality. Well-made instruments, high-end woods, high quality finishes and only the best components. Unlike Fender above, Gibson's focus was on the art of instrument manufacture; the Gibson workforce included a lot of talented. It is no wonder that vintage Gibson guitars only go up in value!
There is considerable Gibson content on this site, sorted into the following sections.
For more about Gibson instruments see the Gibson Index
Gretsch started producing guitars in the 1930s, mostly acoustic and semi-acoustic electrics. The 1950s and 1960s saw the manufacture of a lot of fine guitars, most of which command high prices today; especially the ornate semi-acoustics. The 'Baldwin' period of the 1970s was traditionally less interesting to many Gretsch afficionados, but it did see the introduction of several interesting new models, mostly short-lived, and now growing in popularity.
For more about Gretsch instruments see the Gretsch Index
Guild were another of the really highly respected American guitar companies of the 1950s and 1960s, although they only started producing guitars in 1953. They almost immediately had a highly-skilled workforce, taking on ex-Epiphone employees after Epiphone relocated it's production from New York to Philadelphia.
They produced a wide range of full-body electric acoustics, thinlines (including the well-known Starfire range) and solid bodies. Some are quite original in design, others quite traditional, Gibson-styled guitars.
For more about Guild instruments see the Guild Index
Hagstrom were a Swedish accordion maker when they first started the manufacture of guitars; but with the beat boom of the middle 1960s, guitars became the mainstay of the company. Some models were re-branded for sale worldwide, including Futurama in the UK, and Kent in the US.
Hagstrom also made high quality components: bridges and pickups were used by numerous other guitar manufacturers including Guild and Harmony.
Hagstrom catalogue scans
For more about Hagstrom instruments see the Hagstrom Index
Harmony, of Chicago, were another of America's long-standing guitar companies with a history of acoustic and electric instrument manufacture. It is estimated that they were in fact the largest by far; space-age named models like the Stratotone, Meteor and Rocket captured the countries imagination, and at one point in the 1960s, Harmony were producing more guitars than all other US companies combined. Most were entry, to intermediate level, ideally suited for the thousands of budding guitarists appearing across the US.
For more about Hagstrom instruments see the Harmony Index
Germany company Hofner were one of Europe's best known brands, at a time when exported US guitars were very expensive indeed. Like Epiphone, Gibson and Harmony, they had a long tradition of luthiery, especially in stringed orchestral instruments such as violins, which lead to a certain style of guitar manufacture, including a lot of well-made acoustic and electric acoustic guitars. The guitar range included several high-end professional models, and with endorsements of big stars like Paul McCartney, and of little home-grown competition they managed to capture much of the early 1960s UK market.
For more about Hofner instruments see the Hofner Index
Ovation are one of the newer companies on this list, only starting production in Connecticut, USA in 1967.
For more about Ovation instruments see the Ovation Index
Vox were responsible for some utterly iconic guitars; the Phantom, and teardrop-shaped Mark series pretty much scream 1960s. But Vox's mid sixties guitar range was quite extensive, and others were a lot more generic, often Fender-styled guitars.
Vox, like Fender above, were primarily an electronics (amplifier) company when they started producing guitars. Consequently a lot of the early Vox guitars were relatively straightforward in construction; but perhaps fitted with complicated effects electronic circuity, such as fuzz, tremolo and tone boost. Vox were associated with the Beatles, the Stones and many more; demand peaked right in the midst of the guitar boom of the mid 1960s and Vox had to outsource production to Eko and Crucianelli of Italy to keep up.
For more about Vox instruments see the Vox Index