Some Ramblings on Vintage Originality
This month I thought we might have some customer brought to me in pieces. The case
fun and do some rambling about our vin- went through many clamping and drying
tage collecting fetishes and the concept stages to reattach both top and back, and I
of “originality.” We all have different applied fiberglass to strengthen a few worn
parameters in deciding what is collectible: areas, especially where wood was miss-whether an item or model fits in with our ing. With the application of a little color in
personal collection, the degree to which spots and some clear coat to strengthen the
we will actually play the instrument, what edges, the case was once again a function-level of restoration, if any, is acceptable, al, original partner to the PAF ES-345 with
and so forth. One of my criteria is that if which it left the factory.
I won’t play it – if it is just too minty and
unplayed, belonging more in a museum Last year I bought a ‘ 63 Barney Kessel
than on the bandstand – I then treat it more archtop – wood only – and a month later I
as an investment and eventually resell it. To bought the same exact model with all origi-search out and find the archtops that I am nal parts, although there was neck damage
not afraid to take on the bandstand, that on the second one. Using all those original
are close to original and have a straight parts, I restored the first shell I bought and
neck, are some of the peak moments of life! have since enjoyed playing it. Does this
of expertise, but even they cannot possibly know every vintage part and screw
on every model from every manufacturer.
This leaves it up to the buyers to educate
themselves as to what is truly original on
the models they are seeking.
In an era when gigs are increasingly hard to find, many modern
musicians have developed multifaceted careers, engaging in a
number of music-related activities as a way of piecing together
an independent career. My own
career is no different and has many
sides, including teaching, performing, writing, selling and publishing.
Most musicians today who want to
stay in music full-time find themselves in similar situations.
Most of us start drooling when we see our
favorite model in mint, unplayed condition.
With vintage guitars, the Blue Book goes
out the window in these cases. There is just
something about these guitars that brings
a high level of enjoyment when purchased.
What a joy it is to receive a 1961 Gibson
in the mail, and, before fully knowing what
we bought, turning a pickup over and see-
ing a genuine “Patent Applied For” sticker
on the back. I am revealing one of my
own collector fetishes here, but to
play the bop and post-bop jazz I am
interested in, I have only been able
to find the tone I am looking for (as
well as the perfect neck profile) in
early sixties Gibson archtops with
untouched, original PAFs.
One such enterprise that is related
to our topic – and has become a
small part of my larger business – is
restoring vintage cases. These cases walk
into my shop with tops and backs loose (or
off), wood missing, handles gone and/or
non-working hardware. This artistic restoration work grew out of my own interest in
vintage collecting and my desire to be able
to use an original, if worn, case. It is also
related to growing up around my father’s
wood shop. Now I see a decrepit Cali-girl
case or early sixties Lifton black/yellow
case as a work of art, in need of restoration and an important piece of a vintage
“blended” guitar qualify as “all-original?”
Well, yes and no. Certainly, after I pass on
and my wife puts all the guitars in the front
yard with a “for sale” sign, any serious collector would think this BK was all original.
For many of us who are actually
playing these old guitars, seeking a
certain tone helps shape the goals
of collecting. For those who col-
lect more as an investment, tone
becomes less important than market
value. The search for original vintage
gear is fun and can be an important
part of our search for the tone we are
seeking, but ultimately practicing, per-
forming and advancing our skills in our style
of choice are the top priority and have the
greatest lasting value.
My minty 1959 ES- 175 came to me with a
brown-interior case. Succumbing to collector fetish urges, I traded for a near-mint,
pink-lined Gibson-logo case to go with the
guitar. Both case and guitar are correct
for 1959; does this qualify as “original?”
Clearly, many decades from now it will be
sold by some dealer as original.
Correction: Last month we incorrectly identified the Peterson Guitar Special Amp as
factory-equipped with a 10” EV speaker. It
should have been 12”.
To increase collectible value, a piece has
to be functional and have some degree of
originality. In restoring an old case, I keep
everything I can, but I’m also not afraid
to do any restoration work that will make
the case strong and functional. The picture
shows a 1962 Gibson ES-345 case that a
In some ways, collecting is a risky activity
to be in and the buyer better know the
correct plating, numbers, dimensions and
tooling marks on every part when buying under the claim of “all original.” Most
professional dealers will have several areas
A clinician and jazz educator, Jim Bastian is a ten year
veteran of teaching guitar in higher education. Jim
holds two masters degrees and has published six jazz
studies texts, including the best-selling “How to Play
Chordal Bebop Lines for Guitar” (available from Jamey
Aebersold). He actively performs on both guitar and bass
on the East Coast.
An avid collector and trader in the vintage market, you
can visit Jim’s store in Gear Search at premierguitar.com