What to look for when buying vintage?

Discussion in 'Vintage Gretsch Discussion' started by charley, Apr 13, 2013.

  1. charley

    charley Electromatic

    41
    Mar 20, 2013
    NYC
    People often mention that vintage Gretsches often have issues, and require certain maintenance that seems specific to Gretsches, and does not apply to other vintage brands.

    I'm curious if we can make a definitive list of:

    1. what the common issues are
    2. What to look for/avoid with a vintage Gretsch
    3. Particularly good/bad model years (should this classification exist)

    Please excuse my uninformed questions if they are not answerable or worth answering. I have always been under the impression that vintage Gretsches are cans of worms, but want to be more informed before I write them off.


    Thanks!
     
  2. The Marlin

    The Marlin Friend of Fred

    Feb 2, 2011
    London...ish
    Watch out for binding rot, reset necks, hidden neck cracks, refinishing, and over customisation.

    I don't have a vintage Gretsch, would love a late 50's Gretsch. If I was going to buy one, I'd just post photos of it here, and get the good people here to check it out. Within an hour of posting photos, you'll know all you need to know about the guitar.

    Good luck

    Marlin
     
  3. Wayne Gretschzky

    Wayne Gretschzky Country Gent

    Aug 27, 2008
    East Coast
    1) neck resets, binding rot, uniformed sellers
    2) avoid #1, seek popular models at realistic prices
    3) most models have more coveted models years than others, but you'd have to consider each model to determine which they are.

    Don't write them off until you've played a couple.
     
  4. drmilktruck

    drmilktruck Gretschified

    May 17, 2009
    Plymouth, MN
    Avoid soldiers, postal workers, UPS delivery guys? :D
     
  5. charley

    charley Electromatic

    41
    Mar 20, 2013
    NYC
    That all seems pretty reasonable. As far as neck resets go, other than lowering collector value, would a well done reset have any other downside? It seems like it could actually improve playability/stability...
     
  6. The Marlin

    The Marlin Friend of Fred

    Feb 2, 2011
    London...ish
    Unfortunately, most are not done by skilled luthiers. I've seen some nasty hack jobs.
     
  7. charlie chitlins

    charlie chitlins Synchromatic

    582
    Aug 4, 2008
    near philly
    On a Gretsch, a real good, pro neck reset is seen as similar to a refret.
    It needs to be done to keep the guitar playable and can have minimal impact on the value.
    Binding rot/shrinkage is almost unavoidable.
    It's your call on how much you you can live with.
     
  8. knavel

    knavel Synchromatic

    834
    Dec 26, 2009
    London, England
    You need to first ask yourself what exactly you want out of a vintage Gretsch? Something to stick in a vault for years and years or something you can gig with regularly, or somewhere in between?

    Because there will come a day when, like Stradivari, there will not be a single one that doesn't have some sort of work on it, and it will come down a lot to the quality of that work.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2013
  9. charley

    charley Electromatic

    41
    Mar 20, 2013
    NYC
    Well, I am no collector. I only get what I mean to play. So, the idea of a Gretsch that has a proper reset/refret does not scare me away, especially if it increases playability. I would consider that a plus, especially if it lowers the value of the guitar.....more affordable for me.

    I would, however, avoid any guitar that has a crack/break/repair.
     
  10. knavel

    knavel Synchromatic

    834
    Dec 26, 2009
    London, England
    You will be avoiding a lot of otherwise very good guitars depending on your definitions of those terms, in particular "crack" and "repair".

    In the late 80s - early 90s when I was actively buying, a neck set or fret job was a value buzz kill. Didn't matter the quality of the work--if it happened it really affected value. As this discussion has progressed, it would seem that this sort of work is less important to the value IF done well these days.

    Rot didn't exist then but it's a massive issue now. There is hardly a Gretsch from 65-71 or so that doesn't have some degree of it. Very costly to address.

    But the potential good news is that it doesn't matter as it's an issue that doesn't affect playability. I have a 67 Monkees that needs the full monty of repair, neck, frets and binding. I would get the neck and frets done because the supertron pickups spit fire they are so great so the focus is to get it playable. I can live with the rot.

    Can you?

    Because if you can, then you should be able to get a nice Gretsch at a decent price, knowing you have to put in around $500 to correct the binding problem depending on the model (assuming you find someone who will take it on).
     
  11. charley

    charley Electromatic

    41
    Mar 20, 2013
    NYC

    When I talk about cracks, breaks, and repairs, I am only referring to major fixes, like a broken headstock for example.

    When I originally posted about wanting to learn about the "issues" people refer to when talking vintage Gretsch, I was worried that there was some major structural issue with the design that made them less desirable. Though, the rot thing certainly seems like it can get major.

    Thanks for the great info!
     
  12. gigatron

    gigatron Country Gent

    Age:
    66
    Oct 9, 2008
    Slovenia
    "Vintage" to me means a top of the line guitar in pristine condition. Anything else is just vinegar.
     
  13. 54club

    54club Synchromatic

    525
    Mar 31, 2011
    Kelseyville, CA
    Before you listen too hard to what everybody is saying here you need to ask this question of yourself and the forum: Do you want this guitar to play or to collect? A lot of things that are of concern to collectors are not so important to players. A good neck reset is not an issue either way IMO. Same with a quality refret. Have mods been made, tuners been changed, etc.? This will lower the price you pay but may not matter to a player who wouldn't be able to afford a "collectable" quality instrument. Your ears won't know the tuners have been changed or a control added or eliminated...actually some of these mods will improve playability and function.

    Also, certain models (mostly ones used by celebrity players) have values run up beyond all reasonable limits by collectors, while others will remain relatively inexpensive. If you have fallen in love with the sound of your friend's vintage White Falcon, consider instead a Country Club, basically the same guitar without the gaudy and (IMHO) tasteless appointments...again, your ears won't know the difference. (I actually do like White Falcons, I just can't see myself playing one...maybe a modern Black Falcon though.)

    Whatever you're looking for, run some pics by the forum, there are plenty of knowledgeable folks here who will let you know what's what. If I were in the market, I'd do that very thing myself.

    One other thing, especially if you're looking for a player, go to stores and play a bunch of Gretsches and get a feel for the sound of the various pickups. Then, when you're shopping you can shop for models which have the pickups you like best.

    Good hunting!
     
  14. charley

    charley Electromatic

    41
    Mar 20, 2013
    NYC
    Player here. I have no interest in buying as a collector. I have been sold on new Gretsch, but there is a really striking vintage Country Club DC in what looks like an original turquoise like color at a store near me that only sells vintage. (More experienced people please do not hesitate to correct my model/color description). So, I am considering it alongside a new WhitebFalcon DC!
     
  15. jflintmac

    jflintmac Country Gent

    To me, buying a Vintage guitar, with the hope that you are going to get a "better player" is a bit of an oxy-moron...
    While it is true that many of those old pickups did set the standard for what we now call "Tone", and that older guitars do tend to flow or settle in quite nicely...
    The good ones are at a premium, and there is a lot of junk out there that only really shares the date that they were built. The owners tend to beleive that this makes them somehow better than a new guitar.
    Much of Vintage Gretsch's value lies in their collector's worth. If your main concern is playability, you'd be far better off in getting something newer. When you get "a great deal" on a vintage Gretsch, quite often, it will be more of a project, than a player.

    Vintage is sex-appeal that comes at a price. I do love them, but I won't afford them because I too am a player, and I really can't tell the difference between a well set up new guitar and a well set up vintage guitar, simply by listenning to them.
     
  16. charley

    charley Electromatic

    41
    Mar 20, 2013
    NYC
    Good point. Agree fully. Sometimes vintage guitars just seem to have a mojo that new ones don't.....yet.

    Example for me is my Heritage 535 vs. my 1969 Gibson ES150D. The 150D is a fully hollow 335 that is 3" deep. Not exactly apples to apples I know! The Heritage sounds worlds better. Plus I have outfitted the 535 with a Tonepros bridge/tailpiece, WCR pickups and an RS wiring kit. It just kills. But, even though the 535 sounds better, the 150 has a vibe when you pick it up that just makes it feel right in your hands. As a result, I am in the process of completely upgrading it ( no new holes in case I want to return it to stock).

    I am a player so I am not afraid to mod my vintage guitars. With the 150, since it is stock, I don't want to do anything I can't reverse, but still, the guitar is pointless to own if I don't want to use it. Point being, there is something about vintage that I just love, a well played vintage axe just has a feeling in your hands that can't be bought new, in my experience. That is my attraction to vintage, no intent to ever be a collector, and worth paying for (to a point. No $25,000 strats in my closet!)
     
  17. Wayne Gretschzky

    Wayne Gretschzky Country Gent

    Aug 27, 2008
    East Coast
    charley... more info please on the "vintage Country Club DC in original turquoise". There's no such thing as a double cutaway Country Club, and the hue doesn't seem to describe the known finish options of the 50s and/or 60s. If you can get the serial number it will reveal much about the guitar (vintage, model, original finish).
     
  18. charley

    charley Electromatic

    41
    Mar 20, 2013
    NYC
    I am going to the shop this I week to pick up a tele that I am having some work done to (including a Filtertron in the neck!). I will find all the info and snap a photo to post!
     
  19. rcboals

    rcboals Country Gent

    Nov 21, 2008
    Springfield Oregon
    If you are buying a Gretsch as an investment a collector grade guitar hoping it will increase in value.

    1. A guitar that is in superior condition and has not been modified and is completely original

    2. If it has been modified or has any of the following it is not going to be considered by a serious collector that knows guitars.
    a. A neck reset
    b. a re-fret
    c. non original bridges or tuners or pickups, wiring, pots, switches or knobs or any non-original hardware missing or replaced
    d. a refinish or restoration of any kind partial or full. This includes binding replacement or repair.

    Guitars like these are rare and are priced as such. Now if you are looking for a player with a way cool, "look at I what I have and a you don't see one of these everyday guitar", then one in playable updated condition is the way to go. A guitar that has been upgraded correctly including pickups, wiring, switches, neck re-set, fret job, re-finish etc. etc. all these things just make it better player than it ever was as an original. Personally, I have enjoyed many properly modified upgraded vintage guitars and amplifiers than any 100% originals I have ever owned.
     
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