News From The Pit

This Old Guitar
By Jimmy Brown

Hi everybody.

Welcome to this month's column on old guitars. Sorry I have missed a month here and there, but I am going to try and get back on track. My head keeps spinning with many different ideas, anecdotes and personal experiences. Gee, if I could only slow it down a bit, perhaps I could get somewhere! There are plenty of ideas, and I am going to share them all over the next few months.

Recently, I have encountered several people who each wanted to buy or sell their guitar(s), not because they wanted to get a different guitar, or they had quit playing the guitar (the most common reasons), but for an altogether different reason. Enough of it was happening that I couldn't help but take note. These were individuals who wanted to make a change investment-wise. This was something that really fueled the vintage guitar boom that took place in the 1970's-1980's, when people could really do well investing in collectible stringed instruments; primarily guitars. But lately, this has slowed down considerably, with prices and availability stabilizing.

What struck me about these recent incidents where people came to me wanting to make these changes in their guitar ownership, you might say, is that they were coming from opposite ends of the spectrum, in terms of their points of view. Like I said, enough of this happened in such a small space in time, that I could not help but think about the phenomenon, asking myself "what's going on"?

I should note that all these people were competent guitar players who still play. They just decided to make a change. One in particular wanted to sell a very valuable old guitar because he felt it was time to put the money in what he felt like would be a better investment for his needs. Whether that was the stock market, or his IRA account, or whatever, the point is that he no longer saw this vintage guitar as the place to have his money tied up. The return would be better elsewhere.

Since I do not have a crystal ball, and I have not dusted off my ouiji board in years, I really could not offer much input into this. Vintage guitar prices have leveled off somewhat, and maybe that was enough. The emphasis was on what is best for him and his family. What holds the most security. If this is point A, let me tell you about point Z. Another person comes by, and wants to buy a rare guitar, because this person thinks that it has great investment potential, that it would be a great place to put their money.

Once again, I could not offer a lot of insight except to note that similar guitars, which were of fairly recent vintage, made in limited quantities, had appreciated very well over recent years, and yes, they often times sell as used instruments for considerably more than they sold for as new instruments just a few years earlier. A good example would be a Rickenbacker Roger McGuinn Limited Edition Signature model. It was made in the late 80's into the early 90's. They easily sell for twice today what they sold for new.

I have not been able to get these instances out of my head, and I realized that there is very much to this subject: "vintage and collectible guitars as investments". I put off writing about it for a while, because the depth of this subject is probably more than this column can hold. I thought I could at least illustrate in these two particular examples, how people can and will approach this phenomenon. After having a vintage guitar for a few years, a person decides it has probably leveled off, in terms of appreciation, and it would be best to invest elsewhere, let's say, in the security of one's future. And for them, I believe it to be the wise choice. Another person, who has money available, sees a particular new limited-run guitar as having lots of room for appreciation, so they invest their money in that way. And for them, I believe they made the right choice.

Person Z made the comment that is worth repeating: "I have fun buying, selling and playing guitars, and fun is priceless". The other person was telling me about his kids, and their home and feeling secure about his actions, and that, too, is priceless. So there you have it. Two people, different needs and wants, approaching this guitar as investment idea from different poles, both making decisions based on values that are personal to them. Kind of like these old guitars get to be. We have fun playing our guitar, meet new people to play with, write songs for our kids and our lives are enriched. And this, too, is priceless.

Well, I guess that's all for now. Like I said, this topic of guitars as investments is very broad, and maybe we can delve into it some more. So until then, keep rockin'.