21-04-2011 14:34:28

Vintage guitars, beware rising prices !

According to our experts, after wine, the vintage fever has taken hold of musical instruments of the 50s-60s way ahead of second-hand clothes. Selmer-Maccaferri guitars, favored by Gypsy players, are all the rage! And Gibson guitars are going for €40,000 at Pigalle (Paris) where you can eat them up (with your eyes) unless...

By Hélios Molina

Translation by Odile Plettener and José Pietri

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The electric guitar, rock 'n' roll’s iconic instrument, is at the center of soaring costs. Arnaud, university trained, from the Oldies Guitars shop in the heart of Pigalle (music area inside Paris), tackles the topic in a didactic way. "The Martin, Fender, and Gibson brands had a beginning, middle and end before the revival of the Seventies. For the hard-asses, the word vintage stops in 1967. After this fateful date, brands started becoming global and there is the beginning of mass production. Not to mention a lack of interest and the public’s disenchantment. They used to be made out of Brazilian rosewood, nowadays it is Indian rosewood. The post-war Gibson is no longer the same!"

And so, the most popular guitars are the instruments that have written the history of rock 'n' roll. The Fender Stratocaster (1) like Jimi Hendrix's from 1965 is still popular. The first guitar that Jimi Hendrix burned was sold in September 2008 in an auction sale in London for the exorbitant price of €346,000. (After he had set his guitar on fire, Hendrix had a short hospital stay in London in 1967 for hand burns). Prices are haggled over case by case, but Arnaud nevertheless suggests a price of $15,000 for a Stratocaster in very good condition. (A rare Custom Colors from 1967 is quoted at about $27,000). You should count on paying a small fortune about $500,000 for a Gibson Les Paul of the same year as Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin's guitarist). These are of course collectors’ pieces that you will not find in a store in Paris but at auctioneers in London or New York. The American guitarist Stephen Stills (of the folk rock group Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young formed in 1968) in a solo concert in Paris was expected to perform with his "antiques". Hoping to see the mythical character of the 70s with his vintage guitars on stage, the fans could not believe it. Stills was playing only on reproductions. Why such a letdown? Prices on these instruments have reached such peaks that artists do not dare to take such risks on tour. Arnaud points out that "Europe or the United States are no longer promising markets. China, Russia and India have entered into the race. The vintage guitar still has a future because one Gibson out of ten built nowadays will be just decent, but that's as far as it goes. A small Gibson that costed €100 in the 50s is worth €3,000 nowadays".


Daniel, a collector and dealer in the musical stronghold of Pigalle points out that the 1940 Gibsons are quoted at between €2,000 and €4,000, affordable prices for enthusiasts. But beware, prices can rise quickly. In the same store, Daniel has a 1956 Gibson at €40,000, the price of a new car. Daniel says "So, investors show up in times of crisis. They know very little about music". Another observation: before the Internet era, London could not be ignored. It seems that the Web has demolished the supremacy of London or New York. So, notice to collectors: prices are not necessarily cheaper in those cities of The House of Rock. As for the gypsy guitar (that saw the light of day near the St Ouen Flea Market) like the Selmer-Maccaferri models, it is enjoying a fabulous revival and France is one of the top in that field to negotiate. They were quoted at 1,500 French francs twenty years ago. Nowadays, a very nice post-war Selmer-Maccaferri, like Django Reinhardt’s, is nevertheless quoted at €25,000 including the original case. Even counterfeit guitars come close to the high prices of major brands. "As far as the Custom Colors go, you will no longer find anyone (who is honest) who will guarantee the goods", concludes Arnaud.


1. One of the most popular was designed by Leo Fender in 1953

Photos by H.M.:

Arnaud from Oldies Guitars at Pigalle holding a Gibson L5 from July 3, 1947 which is quoted at €1,500

Daniel (the senior), collector and dealer for two years, rue de Douai, Paris

A Framus guitar (Bavaria) from the early 60s, Melody 9 model, with 3 bass strings and 3 double strings for the treble, quoted at around €1,500. Bargain-hunted with its case at Sound's Good in the Flea Market of St Ouen, Marché Dauphine

Old guitars at Oldies Guitars in Pigalle

The mythical Les Paul guitar, designed by Gibson

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