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The Guitar Dick

This close to mint 61 dot neck had been refretted but everything else was a 9.5. Why would someone refret a near mint guitar? This calls for a dick.

No, it isn’t the guy who sold you a fake Chinese Les Paul (although he is a dick) and it isn’t Gary Dick, well known owner Gary’s Classic Guitars, it’s me. Or you, when it’s time to buy a vintage guitar. It’s this definition, not the other one: dick [dik] noun, Slang. 1. a detective. Detective work requires mostly common sense and a sometimes a little lateral thinking and creativity. In all vintage guitars we look for originality (and playability and tone but you don’t need a dick for that). Common sense tells you to look at the overall appearance. If the finish is worn, the parts are going to be worn. If the bridge looks shiny and new but the tailpiece has the plating worn right off of it, you might guess that the bridge has either been replated (doubtful) or replaced. Simple stuff, right? The problem with any vintage guitar is that there are so many parts that can be swapped in that are date correct but perhaps not “condition” correct. Do parts always wear evenly? No, they don’t but it’s pretty unusual when its glaring, especially during the 58-65 period when the metal parts were nickel plated. Nickel, unlike chrome, tarnishes and if the pickup covers look shiny and new and the bridge and tailpiece are tarnished, something might have been changed. So look at the solder on the back of the pickups. Have the covers been off? It’s not a slam dunk-there are folks who can reattach a cover with a solder blob that looks mighty convincing. How about a guitar that appears to be mint but clearly shows a refret? Ask yourself why a guitar that appears to have been rarely played would have a refret? If the wire is different-wider or narrower than stock, that could mean the player didn’t like the frets. A refret on an otherwise mint guitar can also mean that the guitar had a neck problem (usually a backbow) that was compensated for by a “compression” refret.  I’ve seen this more than once. It could also mean that the guitar was refinished and the parts replated and it isn’t a mint guitar at all. Ask yourself, “does this make sense?” The seller insists the case is original but the wear marks don’t line up. “uh…there was a different guitar in it for a few years…” Maybe but  probably not. How many cases get swapped out and then swapped back? Knobs are an interesting anomaly that can defy common sense. Since I’m no longer a gigging player, I rarely use the tone knobs. I dime ’em and leave ’em. So, when I see that the word “volume” is gone from the volume knobs and the word “tone” is bright and shiny on the tone knob, I don’t immediately think -replacement. Lots of people don’t mess with the tone knobs. You want to know if they’re of a set? Take them off and turn them over-the oxidation and crud under there should be pretty close to the same. Just ‘cuz you don’t use them doesn’t mean they don’t get sweat and polish and dust and other gunk under there over the course of 50 years or so. Fingerboard wear is another thing to look at. Does it make sense that the board under first three frets are heavily rutted but the owner says the frets are original (and show no wear)? Is the headstock beat to hell but there’s no wear on the body of the guitar? Is the case clean but the guitar is beat up? The reverse of that is deceiving, however. I’ve seen a whole lot of guitars that are in excellent shape with terrible cases. Gigging musicians who take good care of their guitars don’t always take good care of the case. Finally, consider that a swapped part that is vintage correct is not that big of a deal. Even if the bridge looks wrong, it shouldn’t be too hard to find one that looks right. If it’s too worn and you want one that is cleaner, they are out there. If it’s too shiny and you want it a bit more aged, there are those as well (or you can just play the crap out of it until it’s worn). Swapped parts that are wrong for the guitar will hurt the value but swapped parts that are right really don’t in most cases. It is too easy to change parts to know for absolute certain that they left the factory attached to that guitar but if you’re dick, you can lower the odds.

OK, it's not a 335 but it makes the point. This 68 should have a chrome bridge and tailpiece but these are nickel-learn to tell the difference. I pointed it out to the seller who recalled wanting the guitar to look more like a 50's LP. So he swapped them out. With any luck, he still has the originals somewhere. Fortunately I had a chrome set from a different 68.

2 Responses to “The Guitar Dick”

  1. RAB says:

    Swapped-out, era-correct parts don’t bother me…I always put wired ABR-1 bridges on all my Gibsons to avoid losing a bridge saddle on a dark, dank club stage…no fun! Of course I keep the original bridge safely squirreled away should I sell the git…

  2. OK Guitars says:

    Me too.

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