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Issues without the Shrink

This 61 dot neck had a broken (repaired) headstock, a replaced headstock overlay, Grovers, a replaced ABR1, a Bigsby and it sounded as good as the ones that sold for $28,000. It was priced at $7500 (and it still had its PAFs).

Spending $20,000 on a guitar is excessive for most players. Granted, there are plenty of folks out there with the expendable income to do just that but there are far more who can only look on with envy.  But think about why you would want a vintage 335 or 345. Is it for the investment? Or the tone? Or the sense of history? Build quality? All or none of the above? I’m betting you want one of these because you want to play it. You know what a new one sounds like and they can be pretty darn good but you also know that folks are spending the equivalent price of a small BMW to buy vintage pieces. Do rich people feel the expenditure of $20 grand the way you react to spending 10 grand? Five? Two?  No, they still know that $20,000 is a lot of money for an old guitar and while they may have come by that $20,000 more quickly than you can, I assure you, most are aware of how much they are spending. Spend some time around rich people and you’ll see that they are just as likely to hold tight to that dollar as you are. But if you’re buying a vintage piece to play and not as an investment, then you have a whole bunch of options that can keep the price down. I called some of them “dealbreakers” in an earlier post but I’ve since softened my stance. The easiest issues to deal with are changed parts but they won’t save you that much money. If you buy a vintage 335 with the wrong bridge, it’ll cost you $300-$600 for the right one. Tuners? $350-$600. Tailpiece? $200-$500. Pickups? $1500-$4000. You can spend more but you shouldn’t. these parts are readily available all over Ebay, Gbase and Craigslist. Where the savings start to really add up is when you buy guitars that are irrevocably altered. By that I mean repaired, refinished or full of extra holes. In general, a properly repaired or refinished vintage 335 will sound the same as a straight one. That assumes the refinisher has used nitrocellulose lacquer and the repairer has done a proper pro repair (and no, I don’t think the glue makes a particle of difference). The rule of thumb is that a full refinish will knock 50% (or more) off the value as will a headstock break. A neck reset or a partial refinish (top only or neck only) will knock 20%-40% off. That brings us to extra holes. I’ve talked about this a lot. the fact is that a single hole drilled in the top for a coil tap or some other such 70’s foolishness can knock $5000-$10,000 off the value. Bigsby holes in the top and by the endpin knock 25% off the price just like a Bigsby. Extra tuner holes can knock $5000 or more off of a $20,000 guitar. But these issues generally don’t usually affect the tone (other than the pickups). Then there’s excessive wear which can knock off a few thou and cracks and delaminations which will take a big bite and replaced or damaged inlays which can devalue a 335 as well. But it’s still a vintage 335 and it will probably sound just like what you always hoped it would sound like. The collectors have set the bar very high and , as players, we don’t have to play that game. When it comes time to sell the guitar, expect it to be discounted against the market just as it is now but also be aware that there will always be players who want a 64 block neck or a 59 345 no matter what’s been done to it.  I know a guy who only buys distressed vintage guitars and he loves them all. He’s got a pretty big collection because instead of paying $25,000 for a 61 dot neck, he pays $7000 for the one with the neck repair, Grovers and the messed up headstock inlay. Smart, if you ask me.

OK, I'm being a bit self serving here but where else are you going to find a PAF equipped original stoptail 62 for under ten grand. The refinished top makes it possible along with a few changed parts but no extra holes..

Refinned top a dealbreaker? Another original stoptail 62 with sealed PAFs for under $12K. This one is kept in your wheelhouse by changed tuners and player wear.

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