TRASH OR TREASuRE
Festival Series Washburn
A 1992 Washburn EA36 Marquee in vintage sunburst.
Inset: The EA36 is equipped with an Equis II preamp
and pickup system.
It’s hard to believe this instrument is nearly
20 years old now, but time flies when you’re
playing guitar. I have a Washburn acoustic-electric, serial number S9201XXX, that I
absolutely love to play. I’m wondering if you
could tell me a little about it and what it’s
worth. Also, the Equis electronics no longer
work, and I’m hoping you have some advice
on how to get it fixed. Thanks so much!
Cool guitar—I actually have one just like it!
This was my first acoustic, and it was a great
guitar to learn on. It’s easy to play, sounds
good, and the design is always a conversation starter.
The Washburn brand was introduced in
the late 1880s by Lyon & Healy to produce
quality stringed instruments for the ever-expanding distributor. Demand grew rapidly,
and during the 1900s the company was producing up to 100 Washburn instruments per
day. Lyon & Healy—along with Washburn—
was eventually overtaken by the Tonk Bros.
Company in the 1920s, and by the late
1940s the Washburn name was discontinued.
In 1974, the Washburn name was revived
on a line of acoustic guitars, mandolins, and
banjos imported from Japan. In the late
1970s, Washburn introduced new electrics
and acoustic-electrics, including the revolutionary Festival Series, which is what your
model is from. Washburn is actually something of a pioneer in electrified acoustics,
and their Festival Series became popular
stage instruments. They featured thin bodies, sharp Florentine cutaways, a transducer
built into the bridge, and onboard electronics. Interest was high in these unusual
guitars, and after a few years of tweaking,
several models were listed in Washburn’s
catalog. In the mid 1980s, Washburn moved
production from Japan to Korea.
The Festival Series’ Background
Festival Series models all start with an
“EA” prefix, usually followed by a two-digit
number. Generally speaking, the higher the
number, the fancier the guitar’s features. The
popularity of the Festival Series is evidenced
by how many artists had signature “EA”
guitars, including Craig Chaquico, Nuno
Bettencourt, and Gregg Allman, who had a
black EA20 that he called Melissa. Several
other artists played EA models as well,
including John Jorgenson, Robert Plant, and
even David Brooks (of the band Slammin’
Gladys) is pictured playing one in an early-
1990s Washburn catalog.
Festival Series guitars were designed to
sound good when amplified at high volumes.
In this context, their laminated tops were
preferable to the solid-wood tops found in
more traditional flattops. Guitarists who performed with Festival Series Washburns did so
because of the electric tones they produced.
Based on the serial number, your guitar is a
1992 EA36 Marquee in vintage sunburst finish.
It features bookmatched bird’s-eye maple top,
back, and sides, a shallow body, rosewood
fretboard and bridge, and Equis II electronics.
What really sets the EA36 apart from other
Festival Series guitars is that, instead of an oval
soundhole, it has nine “computer designed”
sound channels (early models only had six)
that run diagonally under the fretboard. Today,
very few guitars or even components are not
designed using computers, but in the early
1990s this was certainly cutting-edge technology. The EA36 came in natural, tobacco sunburst, and vintage sunburst, as well as a rare
blue finish available as a special order.
While the Festival Series has been successful
(these guitars are still produced today, and several models are in Washburn’s current catalog),
the model name and numbers were changed,
switched, and reused several times on many
different instruments. Before 1992, your guitar
was actually called the EA46, and, after 1996,
Marquee was dropped from the name. The
EA36 was discontinued in 1997, and the last
retail price was $1000. Looking at pictures of
your guitar, it appears to be in Low Excellent
condition, with a few dings. Based on that,
today it is worth between $450 and $550.
Weighing Your Equis Options
To my knowledge, Equis is no longer making
electronics or pickups, and Washburn stopped
using them in the early 2000s. A quick internet search provided very little information as
far as replacement parts or schematics. From
what I’ve seen, these systems are not terribly
complicated, and if you bring it to your local
guitar tech or repair shop, they should be able
to diagnose the problem and hopefully fix it. If
not, you can explore replacing the electronics
with a newer preamp and pickup system, but
keep in mind that altering the original configuration will ultimately change the value. Once
you get the electronics working, this guitar will
be a treasure for years to come!
Source: Washburn—Over One Hundred
Years of Fine Stringed Instruments by
Zachary R. Fjestad
Zachary is the author of the Blue Book of Acoustic
Guitars, Blue Book of Electric Guitars, and the Blue
Book of Guitar Amplifiers.
For more info, visit bluebookinc.com or drop an email to
firstname.lastname@example.org. You can submit questions to:
Blue Book Publications
Attn: Guitar Trash or Treasure
8009 34th Ave. S. Ste #175