1989 PRS Classic Electric (CE)

CRAVE Guitars says…

Thumbs up: Aesthetics including ‘that’ colour, playability, construction, tones, early ‘pre‑factory’ model, vintage affordability, OHSC

Thumbs down: Well‑used condition, no quilt maple top or ‘bird’ inlays, purists may not like the alder body and bolt‑on maple neck, no up‑bend on the vibrato, no hang tags or case candy

Decree: A glorious early under‑the‑radar PRS Classic Electric in a spectacular colour that punches way above its perceived weight

Model Description:

American luthier Paul Reed Smith launched PRS Guitars in Annapolis, Maryland in 1985 with the Standard and Custom models. Smith targeted both Fender and Gibson markets by cleverly positioning PRS instruments between the two industry giants. After a couple of years, PRS expanded their range by introducing the Classic Electric (CE) in 1988. The new model featured a Stratocaster‑like two‑piece alder double cutaway body and bolt‑on one‑piece 24‑fret maple neck, clearly differentiating it from the existing mahogany (Standard) and mahogany/maple (Custom) models. In 1989‑1990, PRS even offered a maple fingerboard option. Quite simply, the CE’s pragmatic specification was intended to appeal to Fender aficionados looking for something different at a lower price than PRS’s upmarket set neck models. Carrying none of the flamboyant ‘bling’ of other PRS models, it was seen by some as a ‘lesser’ instrument, while others believe the early CEs to be among the best ‘pre‑factory’ PRS guitars ever made. The very early Classic Electric examples are distinguished by a plain headstock face carrying a block font ‘PRS Electric’ decal, Vintage Treble and Bass humbucker pickups, standard volume/tone controls and a normal 3‑way pickup selector toggle switch. Peavey claimed that it had rights to the ‘Classic Electric’ name, so PRS changed the model designation to ‘CE’ in 1989. The facelift included a restyled headstock facia bearing the now‑familiar ‘Paul Reed Smith’ script logo, as well as revised electrics. By 1996, when PRS moved to their current factory facility in Stevensville in Maryland, the CE24 featured a mahogany body and the CE22 had a maple top. PRS also introduced a short‑lived CE bass in 1990‑1991. The PRS CE was discontinued in 2008 and wasn’t reintroduced until 2016. Perhaps because the CE is often regarded as the ‘plain and affordable’ PRS model, early CEs have largely gone under‑the‑radar until now. With hindsight, these first CEs are now beginning to attract collector interest and a commensurate increase in vintage market values.

Guitar Description:

Ooh, very nice. I introduce you here to ‘Lily’. She is a very early 1989 PRS Classic Electric in stunning solid Electric Blue finish. A vintage PRS in this specific colour has been on CRAVE Guitars’ wish list for some time. While many prefer the up‑market quilted maple 10‑tops and ‘bird’ fingerboard inlays, I actually favour the plainer models with or without a solid finish and no‑nonsense specification. The focus for PRS has always been on quality, tone and playability first and foremost, and the flashy aesthetics were the icing on the cake. This example is one of the very earliest CEs to be made by PRS, actually just the 473rd Classic Electric to come off the Annapolis production line. Neat PRS ‘features’ are all there, including the handy 24‑fret Indian rosewood fingerboard with the abalone dot fingerboard inlays and the single dot 12th‑fret side marker. She has been well played and there are a few marks to show for it, including a noticeable body edge dink on the lower bass bout. Also the finish on the back of the neck has worn the off, which looks like it was a result of regular use, rather than intentional sanding down. The upside is the silky smooth feel to the neck and fingerboard edges, which makes it a dream to pick up and play. I have no problem with a bolt‑on neck here, it never harmed Fender, so why get all snooty about it on a PRS? The very well‑engineered vibrato, low friction nut and locking tuners add practical versatility. The CE’s straightforward electrics are pure PRS and have all the now‑vintage tone you might expect at your fingertips. As with many early PRS guitars, the original hard shell case with black fur fabric is present but there is no case candy to go along with it. However, it is the instrument itself that is important and this is a really sweet example in a fantastic colour. Don’t believe the naysayers about these original PRS Classic Electrics being a second class guitar, it isn’t, it is just a different take on the PRS template and a mighty fine one at that.


  • Two‑piece alder body with Electric Blue nitrocellulose finish to the body
  • One‑piece maple bolt‑on neck in natural finish
  • Early non‑veneered unbound headstock in natural finish with block ‘PRS Electric’ logo
  • 3‑a‑side Schaller‑made individual closed PRS locking tuners
  • Scale length 25” (635mm)
  • Unbound Indian rosewood fingerboard with 24 frets, abalone ‘dot’ markers and low friction nut
  • 10” fingerboard radius
  • Original chrome and nickel plated hardware
  • Original Vintage Treble and Bass humbucking pickups
  • Original 3‑way toggle selector switch, volume and tone controls
  • Original factory PRS vibrato
  • Weight: 7lbs 12oz (3.5kg)
  • Original PRS hard shell case


  • Brad Delson (Linkin Park)
  • Alex Lifeson (Rush)
  • Billy Martin (Good Charlotte)


From 1990, PRS went one step further than the CE in its attempt to appeal directly to Fender Stratocaster players by introducing the PRS EG3 models with an alder body, bolt‑on 22‑fret maple neck, 3 single coil pickups mounted on a scratchplate and 1 volume/2 tone controls. An accompanying EG4 model featured a humbucking pickup replacing the single coil in the bridge position.

Detail Gallery:

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