What’s in a Name?

Depends on the name I guess. If it’s Eric Clapton and you’re auctioning off an iconic 335, then the name is worth a little over $800K. But if you’re Richard Gere, it would be worth a bit less. I can understand Gere fans paying for his boxer shorts from “Pretty Woman” or at least paying more than the usual price for a pair of used undies but for his guitars? I dunno-and I like Richard Gere-he was in one of my favorite movies of all time-Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven”. But let’s consider what the name is worth. As an example, we’ll use a 67 ES-335 that sold for a little over

Not exactly a popular musician but popular just the same. But in a 100 years will anyone remember who he was?

$11,875 including the BP. The estimate was $4000 to $6000 which was probably a bit high considering it had the wrong Bigsby. I would have paid maybe $3000 but I’m a cheap bastard, so let’s say it was worth $4K. So, the name Richard Gere was worth $7800 to someone or an additional 200%. Not exactly Clapton territory but, hey, the guy wasn’t an musical icon. He’s as actor-right above lawyers and politicians in the grand scheme of things. Let’s look at the guitar that I was after. It’s a 1960 ES-335 in natural finish with four extra Bigsby holes in it. In the condition that it was in, this would have been a $40,000 guitar had it not had a non original Bigsby on it at some point. That, to me pretty much does what a factory Bigsby does-knocks it down 25% plus, say, another 10% because it didn’t come from the factory that way.   That puts it at $26,000 which was where I drew the line on this one. Had it been a 59, maybe I’d have gone a bit higher but a 60 with 59 features is still a 60 (I’ve got the 59/60 345 to prove it, too). So, the “star” premium was $21,000. That’s less than the 200% of the 67 but still a ton of money. I truly don’t get it at this level. If someone brought me a nice vintage piece that was once owned by a former President, I may be willing to pay a bit more-after all, how many Presidents play guitar? But an actor? How about a reality TV star…the Kim Kardashian Strat for a huge premium? It doesn’t compute, does it. In 100 years, folks will probably know who Eric Clapton was and his guitars will have considerable value. They may or may not know who Richard Gere was but they won’t care enough to pay a price for his guitar.  But I can guarantee that unless she shoots somebody really important, the name Kim Kardashian will garner a quizzical look and a big “huh”? Let’s look back 100 years to 1911. What would you pay for an instrument owned by Irving Berlin or Gustav Mahler? How about Charlie Chaplin or Mary Pickford? How about Edward Smith? Who? Ed. Ed Smith. He was much more famous than Kim Kardashian, at least for a few days. he was the captain of the Titanic. I don’t think I’d pay extra for his guitar, though, unless it went down with the ship. And yes, I understand that the proceeds went to charity and that a good and noble thing but I’m guessing it didn’t totally account for the high prices on these guitars.

$47,000 is an awful lot for this 1960 ES-335 with Bigsby holes in it. I can only hope the motivation for the price was the charity aspect.

10 Responses to “What’s in a Name?”

  1. rlan52 says:

    Hi Charlie, while I agree about the inflated prices, do you think that this was an auction for a worthy (I guess that some felt worthy) cause had something to do with the generosity of the bidders? I am sure that name recognition played a major role but, if you have $25,000 of disposable income to blow on a vintage guitar, how hard is it to justify an extra $10,000 for a great charity????

  2. OK Guitars says:

    I’m pretty cynical about this. When I see someone sell one of the guitars without mentioning the Gere connection, then I’ll be convinced that the charity angle is a reason for inflated prices. Personally, I’d rather donate directly to the charity of my choice.

  3. Robb Hindle says:

    I’m a little confused here. Are you complaining that someone else paid way too much for a 335? *scratches head*

    “He’s as actor-right above lawyers and politicians in the grand scheme of things.” Well, maybe most actors, but since you don’t know him, how do you make that judgement?

    BTW, Mr. Gere does a TON of charity work and since that’s where the money was going, I don’t understand why you’re complaining. You wanted a guitar, and some guy who was willing to spend more of his money than you were of yours got it instead?

    I’m disappointed.

  4. OK Guitars says:

    That’s OK. Be disappointed. I’m sure Mr Gere is a really nice guy who does plenty of good works. I suppose I would too if I made 10 million dollars per movie (or $5 million or $1 million). Also, the money from the guitars went to charity which is nice. But it also tends to artificially inflate the market which is bad for everyone who is trying to buy a vintage guitar. I just don’t get the “celebrity owned” premium unless it’s a revered guitar player. Again, what would you pay for Kim Kardashian’s guitar? She’s plenty famous. Or Paris Hilton’s. Celebrity doesn’t necessarily translate into desirability. Richard Gere can act and he may even be a decent guitar player but the fact that he had possession of a 60 335 for a few years doesn’t, in my mind, add $20,000 to its value. If someone bought it to make a charitable donation (and took a $20,000 income tax deduction) then so be it. But when the next guy with a blonde ’60 335 with Bigsby holes says he wants $47,000 because somebody famous once owned it, I think I’ll pass. If I’m giving $20,000 to charity, it will go to the charity of my choice, not Richard Gere’s. The actor, politician and lawyer thing was a joke. You need to lighten up. You must be a young man.

  5. Robb Hindle says:

    OK. Look, this kind of stuff happens all the time. Celebrities sell stuff and some people with way more disposable income than I have spend way too much for it. Get over it. I realize it makes it more difficult for you to collect guitars, but you might want to consider not taking it personally.

    Your sense of humor is….. curious.

    If some guy has a 335 and wants $47K for what you describe…don’t buy it.

    Young man? Depends on your point of view. I’m older than my 30 year old daughter, but younger than my 71 year old mother. Your thinly veiled insult was not called for.

    I was referred to your site as a good source for ES-335 info, and for at least that, he was right. but in a lot of your recent posts, you kinda come off a bit whiny.

    But as I part, a bit of friendly advice….

    Insulting men you don’t know isn’t how most of us get through life. You might want to consider adopting the same philosophy.

    Good evening……..

  6. OK Guitars says:

    My sense of humor is what gets me through the day. I think it’s interesting that you’re really the first reader who has called me out on a commentary and I think its kind of refreshing. On the young man thing-take it as a compliment. When did commenting that someone is a young man become an insult? Youthful ideals in an older person are to be commended. I just no longer have them; I’ve become jaded as civilization crumbles before my eyes. Shifting gears (or Geres), I’m not sure I insulted Mr. Gere. I placed him above Presidents, Senators, Congressmen, Alan Dershowitz, F. Lee Bailey and Johnnie Cochran to name a few. That’s not the worst company if you’re taking the comment to heart as literal. But it was, as I mentioned, a joke. At worst, I insulted politicians, lawyers and actors but not specifically Mr. Gere for whom I have more respect than most actors. At least he generally chooses good movies and can actually inhabit a role. Finally, it would be a dull blog if all I wrote about was the nuts and bolts. I would have run out of material by now anyway. There’s only so much you can say about brackets and wires. I get more emails and positive feedback about the “op-ed” (and yes I know I’m using the ‘wrong’ definition of op-ed) pieces than the informational ones. Keeps it fun for me.

  7. Matt Bailey says:

    I went to Christie’s twice and fiddled with many-a-lovely things…. The best being Albert King’s (alleged) Flying-V (which smelled of pipe tobacco….), a 1960 Les Paul w/ Bigsby, and a ’66 Trini in VERY good condition….
    I bid on 4 things, won none of them, and the Trini went for $9k+……. I mean it was great and all, but NINE? Oi….

  8. OK Guitars says:

    I should write a post about “auction fever”. People get caught up in the moment and do really stupid things. I’ve been guilty myself. What happens is you make the effort to go and you have a pocket full of money and you feel you’vce wasted your day if you walk away empty handed. It even happens with online auctions. Scary.

  9. Swisskit says:

    Hi Charile … continuing the theme of ‘how much is a name worth’ … just saw this piece on your second favourite guitar … the SG …. here is an original owned by Mr Les Paul himself and it came with a bunch of papers documenting the well known ‘tempestuous’ relationship he had with Gibson over this model ..

    ‘Pawn Stars’: Rare Les Paul Gibson ‘SG’ Guitar (VIDEO)

  10. OK Guitars says:

    Gil Southworth tipped me off to that. What did they pay $90,000??? They’re nuts. I wouldn’t pay any extra for a name. I just don’t care who played the guitar unless the guitar itself is iconic and there aren’t many of those (The Fool, Rocky, Pearly, Claptons 335, the Bloomfield burst and a few others). Keith Richards was once leaning against my car in the Weston, CT liquor store parking lot. Does that make my old Volvo it worth more?

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