Guitar companies have pretty much always printed catalogues, and aspiring guitarists have always pored over the different models, usually way out of their reach... Perhaps one day... But they can also be very useful when researching a vintage instrument today. The original catalogues, price lists, brochures, owner's manuals, and other promotional material can be really useful in establishing dates, but also giving general information on how the manufacturer intended it to be used. Vintage guitar catalogues are getting almost as collectable as the guitars they feature, and when included as 'case candy' can certainly increase the desirability of a vintage guitar.
Unfortunately the originals can be very hard to track down; some are quite commonly listed on auction sites like eBay, but in a lot of cases, few were ever printed, and the vast majority were simply discarded. Some of the rarer brochures and leaflets can sell for high prices; usually tens, but often several hundred pounds/euros/dollars.
A number of old and rare catalogues are included on this site, in order to aid guitar identification. Most contain a guitars intended specifications, but these original documents almost always contained exceptions and errors, so this information has to be treated with caution.
The catalogue scans on this site are sorted by manufacturer: follow the links to find vintage guitar catalogues, brochures and owner's manuals, primarily 1950s-1970s.
Overseas distributor guitar catalogues
Guitars sold worldwide tended to have an overseas agent looking after the distribution and advertising in that particular territory. For example, in the early 1960s, Selmer were the UK distributor for numerous non-UK brands: Hofner from Germany, Hagstrom from Sweden, and Gibson from the US. UK brand VOX were distributed by the Thomas organ company in the US, whilst Vox's parent company JMI distributed Fender in the UK. So British catalogue listings for Gibson and Hofner, for example, appeared in Selmer catalogues.
Other examples include Merson, and later Ampeg, distributing Hagstrom, and Sorkin distributing Hofner in the USA. In the UK Boosey and Hawkes distributed Guild and Arbiter distributed Gretsch.
Catalogues were typically available from guitar dealers and by mail from the manufacturers themselves (or the distributors in overseas territories). What's more, some larger music stores produced their own catalogues. Often these contained pages from the manufactures own catalogues, but sometimes they were entirely separate. Examples include LD Heater in the US, and Bell music in the UK.
Some of the bigger manufacturers (most notably Fender in the early 1960s) started including somewhat slimmed down catalogues in the centre pages of popular music magazines such as Downbeat. Later Gretsch, Gibson and other companies followed suit. Early catalogues were naturally black and white, with the occasional two-colour font or page design. Some of the first full colour guitar publicity was produced by Gretsch in the 1950s. Though by the mid-1960s guitar sales were at a peak, and most manufacturers were using colour, often producing lushly designed full-line catalogues containing all guitars, basses, amplifiers, banjos etc produced by the company at that time.
Since the 1970s, colour printing has been the norm. All but the smallest companies print catalogues in significantly larger quantities than in the previous decades.
See also - Vintage guitar advertising
Catalogue updates on this site
Scan of 1968/1969 Selmer guitar catalogue (printed July 1968), showing the entire range of electric and acoustic guitars distributed by the company: guitars by Hofner, Gibson, Selmer and Giannini. Selmer were the exclusive United Kingdom distributors of Hofner and Gibson at the time, and this catalogue contains a total of 18 electric guitars, 7 bass guitars, 37 acoustics, and 2 Hawaiian guitars - all produced outside the UK and imported by Selmer, with UK prices included in guineas. This catalogue saw the (re-)introduction of the late sixties Gibson Les Paul Custom and Les Paul Standard (see page 69
) and the short-lived Hofner Club 70. Other electric models include: HOFNER ELECTRICS: Committee, Verithin 66, Ambassador, President, Senator, Galaxie, HOFNER BASSES: Violin bass, Verithin bass, Senator bass, Professional bass GIBSON ELECTRICS: Barney Kessel, ES-330TD, ES-335TD, ES-345TD, ES-175D, ES-125CD, SG Standard, SG Junior, SG Special GIBSON BASSES: EB-0, EB-2, EB-3 - plus a LOT of acoustics branded Gibson, Hofner, Selmer and Giannini
'Gibson Specials' was part of the June 1981 pre-owners manual series, but unlike the other folders contained a mish-mash of different guitars: limited editions, test marketing and close outs. You will find the unusual, the brand-new, and the bargain within this folder. End of line 70s guitars like the Marauder
, and L-6S Custom
mixed in with brand new models the The V
, The Explorer
and the Flying V Bass
It was the largest folder in the series, with 24 inserts, (19 guitars and 5 basses): Guitars: 335-S Standard, Melody Maker Double, Marauder, L-6S Custom, S-1, RD Artist, Firebird, Firebird II, Flying V, Flying V-II, The V, Explorer, Explorer II, The Explorer, The "SG" Standard, Les Paul Artist, Les Paul Artisan, ES-335 Heritage, ES-175/CC Basses: Grabber, G-3, L-9S, RD Artist Bass, Flying V Bass
The 1968 Shaftesbury 'Electric Guitars' catalog was just four pages long, and contained four guitar models: the six string Barney Kessel-style 3264
; and three Rickenbacker-styled semi-acoustic models: the six-string 3261
, the twelve string 3262
and the 3261
was the house-brand of major UK distributor Rose-Morris
, and seems to have been launched as a response to the company's loss of it's distribution deal with Rickenbacker. The guitars were mid-priced, and built in (initially) Japan, and later Italy, by Eko
1970 Rose-Morris catalog, dated April 1970. It featured 6 electric guitars, 32 acoustic guitars, 3 basses and 1 steel guitar. It contains the following instruments, over 20 pages: Electric guitars: Shaftesbury 3261, 3262, 3264, 3265, 3400; Top Twenty 1970; Bass: Shaftesbury 3263, 3266; Top Twenty 1971; Acoustic guitars: Eko Rio Bravo, Rio Bravo 12, Ranchero, Ranchero 12, Colorado, Ranger, Ranger Folk, Ranger 12; Aria 1674, 1675, 1676, 1679, 1680, 1695, 'John Pearse' Jumbo, 'John Pearse' Folk; Rose-Morris 15-11, Kansas, Georgian, Florida; Suzuki 1663, 1664, 1665, 3054, 3055, 3060; Tatay 1713, 1714, 1715; Peerless 3052; Steel guitar: Aria 3425
The sixteen-page 1971 Rose-Morris catalog featured electric guitars by Rose-Morris' own brand, Shaftesbury, and budget brand Top Twenty; aswell as acoustics by Eko, Aria, and for the first time Ovation. The catalog contains the following instruments: Electric guitars: Shaftesbury 3261, 3264, 3265, 3400, 3402; Top Twenty 1970; Bass: Shaftesbury 3263, 3266; Top Twenty 1971; Acoustic guitars: Ovation: Balladeer, 12 String, Glen Campbell, Glen Campbell 12 string; Eko Rio Bravo, Rio Bravo 12, Ranger, Ranger Folk, Ranger 12, Colorado, Ranchero, Ranchero 12, Studio 'L'; Rose-Morris Florida; Aria 'John Pearse' Jumbo, 'John Pearse' Folk
The 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.
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.
"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
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
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.
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
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.
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 Brazilian acoustic guitars by Giannini. 44 pages, with UK pricing in guineas.
The Gibson Sonex
series pre-owners 'manual' was produced for circulation in early summer 1981, along with nine other manuals representing different segments available from Gibson at that time. Rather than a manual in the conventional sense, it is actually a mini folder with three loose-leaf inserts with catalogue-style image and description, one each for the 180 Deluxe, 180 Custom, and a new model, the Sonex Artist. The Sonex-180 Standard was not included, having been dropped from the Gibson line earlier in 1981.
series owners manual - 16 pages of information for the care and operation of the Gibson Sonex guitar: pickups, electronics, controls, coil tap, tune-o-matic bridge, tailpiece and stringing. Pertains to the Sonex-180 Deluxe, Standard and Custom models.
Original vintage catalogue scan. Harmony produced regular full-colour catalogues throughout the 1960s, but because these catalogues were released pretty much annually, there were only incremental changes from year to year, sometimes the only differences were the prices listed within. 1965 was an absolute boom time for American guitar manufacture, and this catalogue includes most of the best-known Harmony models: Rocket, Meteor, Silhouette, H75/H76/H77/H78, but it is the last publicity for the Stratotone guitars which were phased out later that year.
This early Vox brochure comes from summer 1963, still the early days of JMI production, and shortly before the beat boom of the mid 1960s. At this time, Vox guitars were built in the UK, primarily for the British market. The company had refined it's production methods, to some extent, and many of the guitars shown are quite different from those in the Choice of the Stars
catalogue from late 1962. Includes primarily Vox solid body guitars, basses and amplifiers. See other Vox catalogue scans here
The 1960 Selmer guitar catalogue featured a whole range of acoustic, electric semi-acoustic, and solid body guitars manufactured by Hofner. There were also a small number of Hofner-made (but Selmer branded) acoustic guitars, Futurama branded solid bodies, and a Futurama electric upright bass. From the very fine (and even shorter lived) Golden Hofner, to the budget Selmer 222 flat top. Monochrome, 32 pages
Goya was well-known for it's acoustic guitars, produced by Levin in Sweden; but in the mid 1960s they added a number of Italian-built electric guitars and basses. Semi-acoustic models such as the 105, 107 and 109 Rangemaster guitars and Panther II bass were made by Polverini, whilst solid body models 116 and 118 were made by Galanti. These were well-built good quality instruments, but perhaps too expensive to sell in large numbers.
This is one of the earliest JMI catalogues to show guitars, and although undated it was most likely printed in late 1962 or early 1963. There are many well-known Vox guitar and amplifier models shown, amongst several that would be completely redesigned before appearing again; the most interesting examples are perhaps the Phantom I and Phantom II
which are electronically quite distinct from the Phantom that would follow a little later. The Vox Escort
and Vox Soloist
only appear in this brochure, being deleted before the next was printed in mid-1963.
In 1972 Gibson produced a series of 'Guitar of the Month' brochures, each dedicated to one of their high end models, the Les Paul Recording guitar
, Super 400-CES
. Each brochure was a single sheet folded into four panels, with details of the instruments themselves, their features, musical purpose, and a little history behind the development of each guitar. Only the Les Paul Recording
was a new model; the others were all well established in the Gibson line. Follow the link to see scans and further information on these leaflets and other Gibson guitar catalogues from the CMI and Norlin periods.
This was the last guitar and bass catalogue produced by Vox under the ownership of JMI. The cover features Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, playing his trademark Vox Mark VI
teardrop, and features a line up of British and Italian built vox guitars and basses; Vox Phantom, Vox Mark, Vox Spitfire, Lynx, Super Lynx and the Jones' Stones colleague Bill Wymans signature Wyman Bass. Twelve pages.
Vox catalogues were issued in different parts of the world representing the products available in that region. Guitars and amps were made across three continents throughout the 1960s, but this early JMI newsletter/catalogue was aimed at the British market, and showed guitars and amplifiers available in the United Kingdom. Most are British made, although there are electric acoustics imported from the Italian guitar builder Crucianelli, and some of the solid body guitars are fitted with Italian-made (Eko) necks. Also shows British-built Vox amps, and acessories. Eight pages
Gibson / Monzino guitar catalogue, 1971. America saw numerous promotional publications from Gibson in the first years of the 1970s, but new models were coming and going at such a rate, that some never made it into print. Just one US catalogue was printed in 1971: the Low Impedance for High Performance
mini-catalogue, which contained just the Gibson Les Paul Recording guitar
, and the Gibson Les Paul Triumph bass
. However other countries were producing their own literature, capturing a snapshot of the Gibson range not seen in print in the US. This brochure was printed by the new Italian distributors, Monzino, and shows several instruments yet to be seen in US catalogues (the SG range in particular) and one that would never make it: the Gibson SB400 bass
Entitled Fine Electric Instruments
, the 1964 1965 Fender catalogue was circulated from mid 1964, and despite being just eight pages long, contained a large number of guitars, amplifiers and other instruments. This was the first catalogue to show the new Fender Mustang
guitar, which was available in normal or 3/4 scale at that time. This catalogue was included in the 1964 annual guitar issue of Down Beat
magazine (July), massively increasing the potential readership, both in America and worldwide.
With 'Beatlemania' and the 'British Invasion' firmly underway, Vox needed a US distributor for it's products. Enter the Thomas Organ Company. This 1965 Vox guitar and amp catalogue was the first issued by the Thomas Organ company for the US market. It features a few Italian-made guitars, as well as a lot of British made ones. In contrast, the next catalogue features almost exclusively Italian instruments.
This interesting guitar tuition book featuring the Shadows, is peppered with Vox guitar and amp images. The Shadows themselves used Fender guitars
and Vox Amps, but the then-new Vox Phantom
guitars and Phantom bass
feature prominently. There are also advertisements for a selection of British-built Vox guitars, the Consort
, Super Ace
and Clubman bass
. This book is undated, though most likely from 1963.
By 1970, Vox UK was owned by the Corinthian Bank, and the number of guitar models offered had been slashed drastically. gone were all the Italian Vox's; being replaced by a small number of Japanese 'lawsuit' models. This catalogue is aimed at the UK market, with prices in Sterling, and contains just three guitars: the Gibson Les Paul styled VG2
, and the Gretsch Country Gentleman styled VG6
bass. The catalogue concentrates on amplifiers: AC30
, Defiant, Supreme and Foundation
bass, and organs: Corinthian, Continental and Riviera.
That Great Gretsch Sound
. The 1979 Gretsch catalogue has the new Gretsch Committee on it's front cover, and features a selection of hollow, semi-hollow and solid-body guitars and basses. This was printed shortly after Chet Atkins ended his involvement with Gretsch, and although he is not mentioned explicitly, many of the models featured have some form of Chet Atkins connection, be it a name or signature-embossed scratchplate.
7 inch 45 rpm promo disk for the Gibson Marauder. Unlike the earlier Les Paul Recording / Triumph Bass flexi disk, this record is vinyl with a picture sleeve. It demonstrates the Marauder's versatility, both unaccompanied, and within a band, being played by Gibson employee/jazz guitarist Bruce Bolen in a range of styles. See also the main Gibson Marauder
The first Gibson catalogue of the 80s was fairly substantial; 58 pages, with a different instrument on each page: 39 electrics, 10 acoustics, 4 basses, 4 banjos and a mandolin. From the prestigeous Kalamazoo Award Model to the lowly Sonex-180 Deluxe.
1969 Fender bass catalogue, featuring 5 basses (Precision, Jazz, Telecaster bass, Coronado and Mustang), and 5 amplifiers (4 valve and one solid-state Bassmen amps.
The 1972 full line catalogue: guitars, basses, amplifiers, banjos, keyboards - Fenders full range from 1972. Full colour, 68 pages.
One of twelve mini-catalogues from 1970. Full colour, 12 pages. Features Gibsons range of artist instruments and electric arch-tops: Citation, Johnny Smith, Trini Lopez Deluxe, Trini Lopez Standard, Barney Kessel, Super 400-CES, L-5CES, ES-175D, ES-150DC, ES-125CD
Gibsons early eighties range, as demonstrated in this 28 page full-colour catalogue. Features selected instruments from the range of electric guitars and basses.
The 1968 full line catalogue: guitars, basses, amplifiers, banjos, keyboards - Fenders full range from 1968. Full colour, 48 pages.
The 1970 full line catalogue: guitars, basses, amplifiers, banjos, keyboards - Fenders full range from 1970. Full colour, 96 pages.
Fold-out ten sided Guild catalogue. Updates the 1970 Guild catalogue. featuring an expanded range of S series solid bodies, with the addition of the S-50 and S-90. Models are shown with new 70s styling and Guild humbuckers.
Fold-out ten sided Guild catalogue. Updates the 1969 catalogue with the new S and JS solid bodies, and the ST double florentine cutaway semi acoustics.
Fold-out eight sided Guild catalogue - solid body, acoustic and bass models from this American manufacturer. Featuring Starefires, BluesBirds, full body-depth jazz guitars and more.
'That Great Gretsch sound' - full scan of all 36 pages. Features all guitars, basses, acoustics and amplifiers produced by Gretsch at that time. Electric guitars: White Falcon, Viking, Country Gentleman, Nashville, Tennessean, Double Anniversary, Single Anniversary, Jet Fire Bird, Duo Jet, Corvette, Clipper, Rally Acoustics: Rancher, Folk, Sun Valley, Silver Classic, Eldorado, New Yorker Basses: 6071, 6073 Amplifiers: Fury, Chet Atkins, Dual Playboy, Tornado, Nashville, Rogue, Super Bass, Pro Bass, Dual Twin, Compact, Pre Amp Reverb, Deluxe Reverb.
Scan of the 1975 Hagstrom guitar and bass catalogue. Features the entire mid seventies Hagstrom range; HG800 (F200N), HG801, HG802 Scandia, HG803 (Swede) HG804 (Jimmy D'Aquisto) electrics, and the HB901 (F400N) and HB903 (Swede) basses.
Scan of the 1972 Hagstrom guitar and bass catalogue. Features the entire early seventies Hagstrom range; Swede, Viking, Jimmy D'Aquisto and F-200 electrics, and the Swede, F100B and F400N basses. It also includes a range of 8 acoustics.