January 2015 – Old Versus New Guitars

posted in: Opinion | 0

The question – are vintage guitars better than new ones? Simply… nope. They are just different. There is no doubt that many modern guitars are better designed, constructed, more reliable and consistent. New instruments are generally in great condition and far less risky to use on the road. You can certainly get aged new guitars that have all the look and feel of a well-used old axe, so that removes much of the visual question. New ones are (often much) cheaper to buy, eminently practical and often manufactured to exacting and very high standards. So, it’s not necessarily an issue of material quality. They are all tools for playing music, however much they cost.

Why then, the passionate attraction to and fascination with vintage instruments? Do they really sound that different? Some say it’s the way that the wood ages; others say it’s the way pickups are put together. Boutique pickups emulate the old ones pretty well these days. Looks? Well, the basic designs haven’t changed in 60 years! Maybe it’s the patina that can only come about through natural age and use. How they feel in use is not easily measurable in a purely physical way, so playability is subjective and value-laden. Additionally, at what point does a guitar become vintage? Some (usually with a vested interest) say the moniker applies only to pre-1965-ish instruments; others set the bar at 25 years old (i.e. before 1990, well into the modern era).

Who likes vintage guitars? Well, there are musicians, enthusiasts, dealers, collectors, historians, investors, speculators, to name a few. Some are worthy, some not. Which label applies to you (hint: they aren’t mutually exclusive)? Why is the value of an early Stratocaster multiple times that of a Jaguar of the same age? Is it simply economics allied with a collective (deluded) perception of value? It isn’t necessarily rarity or historical significance, brand identity, where they were made or what they were made of. Whatever the hell it is, it is ultimately down to personal choice and a whole bunch of irrational desire for something that is uniquely and fascinatingly indefinable. Just remember, all vintage guitars were shiny and new once! Discuss…

© 2015 CRAVE Guitars – Love Vintage Guitars

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