Old Guitars so much better?

Discussion in 'Technical Side of Things' started by Randy99CL, Jun 14, 2021.

  1. Randy99CL

    Randy99CL Country Gent

    Feb 17, 2020
    Serious question here: why does everyone act like old guitars are automatically better and worth more than new ones??

    It's obvious that some were better built "back in the day" or there was nicer wood to pick from or the pickups were hand wound or whatever.
    Most companies are making fantastic guitars today, often better than the old ones in many ways. There were periods when some old guitars were not built up to the high standards of today.

    I understand that many hollow and semi-hollow guitars mellow over time as the wood ages and I can appreciate that. Thinking of old Martins, Gretsches, and Gibsons, for example.

    But let's say a Mexican Strat, is a 2000 version better that a new one? My 2019 plays great with an amazing neck and frets, the fit and finish is flawless, the new pickups sound fantastic and I hear no reason to replace them. Everyone acknowledges that the new MIM Fenders are fantastic for the money.

    Why is a 20-year old guitar worth 50% more than a new one? I get the impression that it's an automatic reaction, old is better than new.

    What do you think?
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  2. otisblove

    otisblove Electromatic

    May 11, 2020
    Chicago, Illinois USA
    I get it, but I don’t buy it. When the Beatles were huge, they were playing new guitars.
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  3. radd

    radd Country Gent

    Dec 27, 2017
    Playing guitar
    There is something to be said for the beauty and craftsmanship of vintage guitars..However, I think never before has there been so many good guitars produced in so many different countries.
  4. Sabato

    Sabato Country Gent

    Mar 22, 2019
    Some craftmanship of old was superior across the board whether it's old houses (for the wealthy) or instruments, but now they're mostly aged and just old. I'll take new in any category. I know that language morphs with time but originally "vintage" meant of a certain time period, not antique or better. BTW, in today's sense, I'm vintage, so I guess some things do get better with age!
    Groutsch likes this.
  5. stevo

    stevo Friend of Fred

    May 1, 2012
    Ack in 2009, I was looking at Martin guitars and my local dealer and I agreed they were the best Martins ever made at the time.
  6. thunder58

    thunder58 Super Moderator Staff Member

    Dec 23, 2010
    tappan ny
    Admin Post
    I think with acoustics , the older the better as the wood " tones " better with age
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  7. G5422T

    G5422T Country Gent

    May 24, 2012
    IMO, a good guitar is a good guitar, any year of manufacture.

    If it's taken care of, it'll still be a good guitar in 50 years.

    My first and one and only acoustic. Bought new and 50+ years old.

    20200709_180108.jpg 20200828_234352.jpg 20200828_234327.jpg
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  8. wabash slim

    wabash slim Gretschified

    Feb 10, 2010
    lafayette in
    I feel QC is better these days for the most part. Not all old guitars are great. There are good old guitars, for sure, but bad bindings, necks joints coming apart, wear and tear, and other problems come with age. Tone woods aside, not every guitar ages well.
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  9. Henry

    Henry I Bleed Orange

    Apr 9, 2014
    Projection?: if they believe it enough about guitars, maybe it's true about them. :rolleyes:
    Robbie and Sabato like this.
  10. audept

    audept Senior Gretsch-Talker

    Dec 1, 2010
    Sydney, Australia
    Older is better, I have developed a nice patina in later years! :cool:
  11. mr coffee

    mr coffee Country Gent

    Oct 7, 2009
    I think a big part of the problem is that the higher quality samples of older guitars are largely the ones that have survived. We therefore look back and say, older guitars were better. Now, better guitars may have been more within reach in those times, and that's a factor as well. In the past thirty years, guitars that have been within reach were typically low- to mid-level guitars and the quality was often questionable. There are exceptions, of course, and the current offerings seem to be working on pushing the quality of mid-level guitars up a notch, but for a long time, if you wanted GOOD, you were going to pay for it. It's like whiskey. You've got sub-$15 rotgut, you've got the status quo, you've got a sweet spot between $30 and $70, then you have diminishing returns as you reach toward Pappy.

  12. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Admin Post
    I think that nails it. There were some wonderful guitars in the past, and I have nothing but respect for the skills of the luthiers that made these wonderful instruments, but there are a lot of great instruments being produced right now, and the quality is fantastic. My most recent acquisition was an Indonesian Squier, and it’s a fine guitar, more than up to the task of playing a gig.

    I remember playing many, many guitars and only finding a handful that sounded good. At one time, I wanted an ES-335, and more than a few that I played were quite disappointing. These were Gibsons built in the ‘60s, and perhaps into the early ‘70s, and they were far from universally good instruments. These days, you could buy an Epiphone 335, sight unseen, and probably be just fine.
  13. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Admin Post
    Survivor bias. The bad examples ended up in disrepair and probably came to an early end.
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  14. mr coffee

    mr coffee Country Gent

    Oct 7, 2009
    That, and I believe there's a skew that results from, for example, brands like Ibanez. In the 70s and 80s, the glory days of Fujigen, you couldn't get a bad Ibanez at any price. A cheaper Ibby might not be as feature laden or made from as desirable woods, but the overall quality did not suffer. As we progressed through the 90s and beyond, you began seeing more garbage guitars at the lower end.

    MotorCentaur likes this.
  15. new6659

    new6659 Country Gent

    Back in the later '60s, I was told that buying a used acoustic guitar (there was no such thing as "vintage" yet) might be a good idea because the wood used would have been from the original stock piles the companies had acquired over the years - the idea being that the folk music craze of the mid-60's had caused an unanticipated gigantic demand for guitars and the manufacturers had depleted their supplies of aged tone woods to meet it.

    I would agree, however. that we are now in a new golden age for guitar manufacturing.
    Sabato likes this.
  16. Groutsch

    Groutsch Gretschie

    Jun 9, 2018
    Maryland, US
    What I like about old electric guitars is the wood. A new finish is pretty, but my grail is a 60s Country Gentleman (if its binding isn't too janky).
    Bob Perrone likes this.
  17. RG7X

    RG7X Synchromatic

    Nov 11, 2018
    Los Angeles
    Good points... I just stay away mainly due to price. No way, IMO is a guitar worth the price of a car. There are so many great options out there.
  18. juks

    juks Synchromatic

    Nov 26, 2020
    Fremont, California
    Listening to people who have played many vintage guitars, they say there are amazing ones, and horribly bad ones. I don't think the price asked for vintage is worth it, unless it's an investment.
    L Robbins likes this.
  19. GlenP

    GlenP Country Gent

    Jul 23, 2019
    that is why there are toasted, roasted, or torrefied heat treated woods used in new guitars now, the reduced humidity as a result of the treatment gives an alternative to naturally aged wood and does come pretty close to the cellular structure of naturally aged wood and the acoustic characteristics.

    also, a played guitar gets looser and produces better tone the more it gets played, that is the motivation for the ToneRite break in device that attaches to the strings and vibrates them in a way to simulate years of playing in a much shorter time frame.

    Other than the traditional laws of supply and demand, the vintage guitar market can sometimes exhibit irrational exuberance.
    thunder58 likes this.
  20. dlew919

    dlew919 Country Gent

    Jul 18, 2016
    Sydney, Australia
    When I started professionally in the early to mid 90s, a professional guitar was about 5-600 and up.

    now a professional guitar can be had for 4-500 snd up. A massive drop in price and a massive increase in value.

    buddy holly played a new strat. Hendrix played cbs fenders. So does Brent mason. The good guitars survive.

    if you’ve got a 59 white falcon you’ve had fir ages and you live it you’re going to rightly think it’s much better than anything new. But is my electromatic with better wiring and Amore consistent manufacture not as good? I genuinely don’t know. But I got mine for substantially less than I can buy a 59 white falcon.

    Danny Gatton traded his 52 telecaster for a 32 Ford. He preferred to have the car and play his new signature model.

    a good guitar is a good guitar.
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