I used to have GAS. Guitar Acquisition Syndrome. I think one of the prime causes of GAS is a desire that many of us have experienced to return to the days of our youth, when things seemed better, easier and enjoyable.
Speaking for myself, as I grew older, gravity attacked my body, my pants needed a double scouch more room, I found myself shopping in the Husky Boys section, family responsibility trumped doin' my own thang and a great pilage of bills seem to find their way to the corner of the dining room table each month.
So why wouldn't I want to go back to those trouble free days of yesteryear in Leave It To Beaverville, when you could buy a 1956 Fender Stratocaster for around $259 complete with a tweed case. A brand new 1965 Fender Deluxe Reverb would set you back $199.
Some folks collect old toys, some build model railroads. I believe these hobbies generate a sense of youth. Vintage guitars bring back these same memories.
I have followed the Vintage Guitar market since the early 1990's and in 2008 I must admit, it has reached the point of absurdity.
For instance a 1958 Gibson Dot Neck ES-335 is valued at $55,000 to $75,000 as long as there are no modifications done to it. I have recently seen a 1959 Les Paul "Flame" being offered for $135,000. A 1959 Gibson Flying V could set you back well over $200,000.
A 1951 Fender Nocaster* can go for over $50,000. (*The Fender Telecaster guitar was originally called The Broadcaster. However the Fred Gretsch Musical Instrument Company was using that name for a drum set they were manufacturing and filed a legal motion against Fender. Fender abruptly removed the word Broadcaster from their neck decals. So for the remainder of 1951, the guitars were only labeled Fender).
A Gibson Gold Top Les Paul from 1952 to 1955 will bring anywhere from $35,000 to $85,000. And these are for guitars that have no known provinance. If you have records showing the guitar was owned or played by someone famous, the price could be at least twice what I have mentioned.
Even old beginner guitars are fetching outrageous prices. Upscale Harmony guitars, such as the Patrician, the Montclair and the Catalina that originally sold for around $50 are now being offered for over $1,000. Stella guitars were made by the same factory that made Harmony guitars, Chicago Musical Instruments. These were cheap laminated instruments primarily made from birch and sold in the range of $25. I own one that cost me $20. They are bringing $500-$1,000.
Ironically much of the market for these old guitars is from wealthly Asian business men and many of the USA manufactured instruments are now stockpiled in Asian countries, while the majority of the guitars sold in the United States are modified replicas or exact replicas of vintage USA instruments manufactured in China, Korea or Japan.
In 1999 I went with my family to Renfro Valley to hear some wonderful country and bluegrass music. During those days all Bluegrass players were required to own a Martin D-18or D-28. And of course the players at this show were equipped with the traditional Martin instruments.
However as of late, Blueridge guitars, which are produced in China, are being used by some prominent Bluegrass players. The top end Blueridge guitar are not cheap but are a quarter of the price of a Martin. Blueridge instruments play well and use the same top of the line solid tone wood that Martin uses. Recording King is also jumping on the bandwagon. This is an acoustic guitar manufactured by the same company that manufactures Jay Turser electric insturments.
Even good old Martin & Co. is now very aware of the preservation of forestry and is manufacturing well made laminated instruments for the first time. Their popular travel guitar, the Backpacker, is manufactured in Asia. I would not be surprised to see some of their laminated instruments become outsourced.
In that same year, 1999, I purchased an amplifier manufactured by the Pignose company. It was based on the schematics of an older Fender Bassman. The amplifer worked just fine, but at the time I was critized by some for purchasing a Chinese made amplifier.
Let's jump ahead to 2007 and 2008. In 2007 Fender Musical Instrument had a winner with their Chinese manufactured Champion 600 reissue. This was a re-do of one of the first Fender tube amplifiers and had a retail price of $189-199. Stores could not keep them in stock. This year Fender introduced another set of Chinese made amplifiers that are selling at a frenzy.
The Fender Vibro Champ XD and the Fender Super Champ XD. Both amps contain tubes and sell for $250 and $299respectively. The Fender FM series was boo-hooed at first due to it's country of origin, but have maintained a very respectable sales due to the price and sound. Asian produced amplifiers are now officially acceptable.
I have more guitars and amplifiers than I will ever need. I was fortunate to hang onto a wonderful old Gibson guitar from my teenage days. The other electrics and acoustics I own are more than sufficient. I still enjoy window shopping, but I have more pressing issues, such as the pile of bills on the dining room table that need my attention. My GAS cleared up a few years ago.