Have We Seen the Bottom?

Lookee here! Only $17K and it's even got a coil tap or a phase switch or something. Oh, and the wrong case and Grovers. These are the same people that buy lottery tickets week after week, I'll bet.

That’s kind of provocative, isn’t it?  I mean the bottom of the vintage guitar market, of course. Judging by the prices at this past weekend’s Heritage Auction, it’s beginning to look like the worst is over and that prices will start creeping back up. let me temper that, however. For all of you sellers who have been holding out for prices unseen since 2007, you’re still completely out of touch and that includes a lot of the dealers as well. A ’63 for $37K? Are you nuts? Or a 64 for $28K and another with a Maestro for $19K and these are all dealers. Wake up, gents. Doesn’t it occur to you after 8 or 10 weeks that maybe your prices are too high? It isn’t just the dealers. Here’s a ’62 ES 345 with a freakin’ coil tap drilled through the body and Grovers. Sorry, that’s not a $17,000 guitar-that’s a $6,000 guitar. I believe that a live auction is the best indicator of the market because it’s a “put your money where your mouth is” kind of atmosphere. If you bid, you buy. These auction companies don’t let you weasel your way out of a purchase because you accidentally hit the bid button or you just noticed that there’s a headstock crack. The prices on the ES 330’s were really strong. They’ve been around $4K for awhile now and here we had 2 sell in the $5K range and both had Bigsbys. Heritage sold a 61 dot neck in gorgeous condition for over $25K in a previous auction which I think is a relatively strong showing as well. I’ve had mine listed at that same price for months with no results so maybe the market is coming up to meet me. There were still bargains to be had. The beautiful red 1960 ES 345 went for $12K which I thought was a great price for a near mint piece. While this would have been an $18,000 guitar at the top of the market, it would have been a $10000 guitar at the bottom, IMO. I think there’s nowhere to go but up now. The market will prove me right or it will prove me wrong. There will always be the Wall Street types out there with too much disposable cash buying up the cream of the crop at stratospheric prices but they aren’t the factor they once were-even though they have as much money as ever (thanks, Mr. President!). The rest of us, who didn’t get bailed out, will be the ones who bring the guitar market back to its former glory. It doesn’t take much to convince me that with new Historics going for close to $5,000, that spending $4000 on a 66 Trini at auction is a deal right now. I know which one I’d rather own even though the Historics are wonderful guitars. I’m a fan of 81-85 dot reissues in the $3K range as well. That doesn’t even get you a used Historic. The 80’s dots are great guitars and, in case you’ve been asleep for awhile now, they are nearly 30 years old. In 1989, when a Les Paul ‘burst was 30 years old, were you buying? I thought not. Of course, you can argue that the 70’s 335’s are approaching 40 years old but they’re still mostly crap to me. I don’t think it matters how old crap gets. It stays crap. Until it becomes dirt.

Sweet, sweet 1960 ES 345 at the Heritage Auction. Needs tuner tips and that's it. That's just about as pretty as my old 59 "Red One". I'll let you know when I get it.

2 Responses to “Have We Seen the Bottom?”

  1. RB says:


    First of all, sure looks like you snagged a clean original red ES-345 at the recent Heritage auction for a “fair” price – congrats on that. Your experience paid off. I saw tons of issues guitars in this auction making it tricky to zero in on good choices. Buying expensive guitars at big auctions like Heritage, Christies, and Skinner (without being there in person), is next to flying blind. Descriptions are typically brief and often less than complete … often obtuse. The vintage guitar market is still bouncing on bottom. But as you noted, the best-of-the-best stuff always sells no matter the market place conditions, but many vintage buyers are extra picky these days … especially those with a memory of how prices were a few years ago.

  2. OK Guitars says:

    As you know, the market is all over the place. Folks are still looking for $45000 for a ’60 dot neck. The true market is what you can get for a guitar on a given day and that’s what an auction does for you. It gives you a snapshot in time. I’m a sucker for red stop tail 345s. I think I’ve bought every original one thats come up in the past year. And most of the red Bigsby/Custom Made ones as well unless they have coil taps or something ridiculous like that. Although I did buy the one with the “back pad” on it but at least it was priced for the issues. I really believe that we have seen the bottom and, yes, we may be bumping along it, but I’m seeing signs of strength. Not recovery strength but incremental uptick strength which is what we need right now.

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