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More (Meandering) Musings on “Mint”

I deal mostly with guitars that are between 52 and 46 years old. I might occasionally come up with something a little older but not often, seeing as how the 335 came out in 1958. I might talk about newer ES models but I don’t, as a rule, buy or sell them.  Maybe the occasional 80’s model. But my feelings about the “M” word apply pretty well to any old guitar. My last post about this showed that I have no wiggle room on the term “mint”. It is either “near mint” (or less) if it has any wear or age related issue at all and “mint” if it is as it was when it left the factory. When you’re dealing with a 50 year old item, mint cannot really exist, at least not according to my earlier definition. I recently acquired a 50 year old ES 345 that is virtually unplayed. No fret wear at all. The factory sander marks are still on the fingerboard. The case doesn’t have a single scrape and the lacquer is still on the brass latches. The finish is perfect. So what happened while this guitar was patiently sleeping in its case? The tuner buttons shrunk. I might add that the binding yellowed as well. Some of the shine has faded too. I guess I could add that it’s kind of dusty as well. Is the guitar mint? I’ll ask my readers to weigh in. Is it mint if it has, say, a little wear from hanging on the wall at the dealer before it was sold back in the early 60’s? A ding somewhere? A scrape in the handle on the case? From my perspective, if those things make a guitar less than mint, then there is no mint-which is fine but you see it in so many descriptions that perhaps there should be some kind of guideline other than “exactly as it left the factory” because, as I said,  that doesn’t exist. At least not in a vintage piece. Not even a guitar can hide from the ravages of time.  I’ve come across 2 guitars that were put away within a year of their purchase and neither has more than 20 or so hours of play according to the original owners from whom I bought them. One was poorly stored for 49 years and is heavily checked and the other was played very rarely but didn’t spend its life in the case. That guitar is the one that appears to be mint. I should qualify that a little. It has a ding in the binding but it’s still a good illustration since it has all the other things I mentioned. So, I think I’m safe to say “mint” and know that you’ll take the fact that the item is 50 years old into consideration as long as I disclose the shrunken tuners, the yellowed binding and, yes, the single ding. I know that kind of flies in the face of my earlier post but that’s the only way a mint 50 year old guitar is going to exist. These stunning and extraordinary examples that come to light with surprising frequency are worth separating from the pack (I’ve found 2 in the past 2 weeks). Guitars are unique in this way, I think. It’s an instrument that so many (boys especially) want to play and have wanted to play since Elvis came along that there are a gazillion of them out there. When these same boys realize that it takes a good bit of hard work to learn to play them well enough to get the girl, the guitar goes under the bed to be forgotten until either the owner dies and/or decides to “sell that dusty old thing” to someone who might appreciate it. That someone is me.

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