I’ve got an early 1980s Boogie Mark amp and I’m trying to
figure out exactly what model it is. It has the 5-band graphic
EQ and the Simul-Class switch, so I think it is a Mark IIB. The
clean channel has a really shimmering tone and breaks up a bit
when pushed. Can you verify this and possibly estimate its current value? Thanks! —Allen in Detroit, Michigan
Mesa/Boogie is a true American
success story. They’re one of the
few long-time amp companies
out there still building amps in
the US under original ownership,
and the company is continuing
to evolve with new technology
Founder Randall Smith spent
a lot of time around electronics as
a child. While he was in a band
during the mid 1960s, he had the
opportunity to fix a blown amp.
After he successfully repaired that
amp, Smith and his band decided
to open a music repair shop that
became the humble beginnings
for Mesa/Boogie. At the time,
Barry Melton was the lead guitar-
ist for Country Joe & the Fish,
and when Melton’s roadies asked
Smith to modify a 12-watt, 1x10
Fender Princeton, he turned it into
something like a 60-watt Fender
Bassman driving a JBL D- 120 12"
speaker. Smith soon became known
for his ability to hot-rod small
combo amps and, in his words,
“What started out as a joke became
the foundation of the company.”
Smith’s shop was a popular
place among the hippie musicians
of the era, and one day Carlos
Santana wandered into the store
and played one of Smith’s modi-
fied Princetons. Santana loved
the amp and is quoted as saying,
“This little amp really boogies.”
This comment ultimately led to
the company’s “Boogie” moniker.
Smith estimates he built around
200 of these modified Princetons
before Fender figured out what he
was up to and cut off his supply!
In 1970, Smith left the music
shop and ventured out on his own.
In order to obtain parts and supplies at wholesale prices, he started
MESA Engineering. In the early
1970s, Smith began experimenting with new preamp designs to
produce the type of gain and distortion guitarists were requesting. The
result was what is now known as
cascading gain, and it was incorporated into the very first Boogie
production amp line—commonly
referred to as the Mark I.
As Mesa/Boogie evolved during the 1970s and early 1980s,
they made several changes to
their little combo amps. To
indicate the change in each new
variation, Mesa began calling
their amps the Mark I, Mark II,
Mark IIB, Mark IIC, etc. The
original Boogie had two channels, but there was no provision
for switching between them without changing input jacks.
After building approximately
3000 of the Mark I models, Mesa
introduced the Mark II in 1978.
It had footswitchable channels and
an optional 5-band graphic EQ.
In 1980, Mesa introduced the
Mark IIB, which had an effects
loop, an expanded control panel
that included Lead Drive and Lead
Master controls, and their famous
optional Simul-Class system.
The Mark IIC and IIC+
debuted in 1983, and they featured a quieter footswitch and a
revised reverb circuit. The Mark
IIC+ also had a revised lead channel and an effects loop. The Mark
II series lasted through 1985,
when it was replaced by the
3-channel Mark III series, which
was produced through 1999.
Mesa/Boogie introduced the
Mark IV in 1990, and it’s one
Left: Produced between 1980 and 1983, this Mesa/Boogie Mark IIB
features Lead Drive and Lead Master controls, a 5-band graphic EQ,
and a beautiful hardwood cabinet.
Right: The Mark IIB’s 100-/60-watt power switch is on the upper
right. Photos by Zachary Fjestad
of those amps that has everything except the kitchen sink.
For Mesa’s 40th Anniversary, the
innovative company introduced
the Mark V, an amp that incorporates features from the Mark I,
Mark IIC+, and Mark IV.
Based on the features of your
amp—including the Lead Drive and
Lead Master controls, and the 100-
/60-watt power switch—I believe
you’re correct that it is a Mark IIB
(but without Simul-Class). That
means it was produced between
1980 and 1983. Mesa has extremely
detailed records, so you can contact
the company and provide them
with the serial number to figure out
exactly when your amp was built.
There are several misconceptions about the exact meaning
of Mesa’s model designations,
such as the “+” portion of the
Mark IIC+. It is very important
to note that each model designation indicated an overall design
change and not a specific feature
or option (such as EQ or reverb).
Mesa often built amps to customers’ requests, so it is very common
to find each model variation with
different features. It is also quite
common to find these Boogie
amplifiers heavily modified from
their original configuration.
As you’ve probably heard
from many Mesa/Boogie users,
each Mark model has a differ-
ent sound, and these differences
affect the overall value. The Mark
I is popular because it is the
original Boogie. Many players
love the clean channel on the
Mark II and Mark IIB because
of how it breaks up slightly when
turned up. The Mark IIC/C+
is probably the most collectible
Boogie, because the circuitry had
been refined to what many con-
sider optimal settings, yet it’s still
simple to operate. The Mark III
is less popular because the new
channel design didn’t work the
way many users had hoped. The
Mark IV and Mark V are still so
new that not much of a collect-
ible market has been established
yet. Another thing to keep in
mind is that, Boogies with wood
cabinets (like yours) are much
more valuable than those with
ZACHARY R. FJESTAD
is author of Blue Book of
Acoustic Guitars, Blue Book
of Electric Guitars, and Blue
Book of Guitar Amplifiers.
For more information, visit
bluebookinc.com or email
Zach at firstname.lastname@example.org.