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Why do some people hate vintage guitars?

thin sissy

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Jan 2, 2006
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This is a thread I¨ve thought about posting some time. It's hard to put into words but I'll try.

Starting off, I'm one of the "younger" Les Paul fans, due to luck and hard work and dept I own a 55 Goldtop, a 57 Jr and a 07 R8.

Back when I didn't have any vintage Gibsons (or any Gibsons for that matter), I lusted for one. I didn't think they were overpriced crappy objects, I wanted one but realized it would take much effort to afford one.

Flash forward to the days of facebook, forums and other social media. The one thing I see sooooo often is "in a blind test, no one can tell the difference, these guitars are overpriced". They probably are. And also, I probably couldn't tell what guitar someone else is playing, not even if it is a humbucker or a P90. So judging by sound, what does it matter?

Well, to me it matters greatly what you feel when you pick up a guitar. My vintage lesters are so "soft" on all edges, the pots and pickups work together like nothing else, and the finish feels like warm glass. And I could absolutely tell if I'm playing my vintage Gibsons or a new guitar. My R8 is great also, but it's not even in the same league of inspiration. Now, is this all in my head? Maybe it is. I always let anybody who I happen to play with try my guitars, and the reaction from my Jr or GT is always the same awedropping (that I had when I bought them). It's probably in their heads as well, but it makes them inspired and play better than ever.

So why do internet folks love to slag these instruments off? I think it's great that not everybody wants them, that means maybe someday I'll be able to get a 50's Esquire, because if enough people despise them maybe I'll get to afford one. In the mean time I'll never shout "they are overrated pieces of junk". I want one, and I don't hate anyone who was smart enough to buy one :)

Also IMHO, 50's P90's with Centralabs ARE more useful than anything else I've tried. I wish it wasn't so, and people keep telling me pots are pots. But that is how I feel...


This was my friday night philosophical, I don't know if it's interesting to anyone, but I'd love to hear your take on it. If you disagree please let me know :) !
 

jb_abides

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Apr 6, 2005
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3,062
Hey Jealousy is not a song I hold in my heart.

I love them and would never slag them off, even though realistically I can never get them (especially because: Lefty)...

So I appreciate from afar and wish others the best who can get the most from them.

And, I dove in hard to the Gibson Historic / Reissue game to satisfy my GAS.

That said, I have a 65 SG Jr, and a 65/66 Gretsch Country Gentleman. Not the truest forms of 'vintage' but close enough.
 

sweiger

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Nov 25, 2002
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1,187
Great post, thin sissy.
Being an old fart, I remember when vintage guitars were much, much better than the new stuff you could get from the big manufactors. That has changed drastically in the last 30 years, with new historics & custom shop instruments being very close to the originals in both feeling, sound, looks & playability.
They do however lack the 10% "magic" that comes with the 50's and 60's Gibsons. Early 70's Gibsons are often really great too IMO.
So to a certain degree I do understand the "vintage rant" that some internet posters express, -maybe they hold their opinion because they never did own the real vintage stuff? And only tried a few on guitar shows / at friends?
Anyway they are entitled to their opinion, and one can just ignore their posts and be happy that not all musicians lust for vintage gear, as thin sissy wrote -which almost certainly would drive up prices to a complete unobtainable level for most of us.
 

irishbog

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Feb 14, 2018
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I went down the rabbit hole of vintage around 2017 - up to then the idea of owning a real 50s Gibson or Fender was an impossible dream.
I totally get what you mean when you write about things being in your head or not.
I have played some custom shops that kinda had the feeling but most of the time not even close.

My dream is to own and experience all the important guitars - even if I have to sell some to buy the next ones.
2020 was my crazy Les Paul year - and a managed to get a converted 52 Goldtop (to 56 specs) and a 56 Special and a 55 Custom (headstock repair)
There’s something about holding history in your hands that really appeals to me (I love old castles too)
But I actually sold those guitars in favor of Fenders !!! (Only LP I have now is a 57 TV neck repair)
Oh and the Fenders are a refin 57 Mary Kaye Strat - 60 hardtail Strat- 62 slab refin Strat and a refin 52 Tele (rewound pups)
 

scovell001

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Apr 15, 2016
Messages
108
Vintage es335 vs modern whilst this isn’t a les Paul comparison it’s probably the closest on the net I’ve found that demonstrates the difference- as the op has said the vintage instruments just seem as a ‘whole’ a better thing - I have one of the recent r8’s and it’s lovely but that extra 10-20% of an old model is noticeable
 

garywright

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Aug 17, 2002
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fwiw, 335s in general both new and vintage seem more finicky tone wise…often banjo-ee /plinky rather than full / robust..I’ve owned a fair amount of 60s stop tp 62-64s …although I prefer a med-large round neck profile the only one I still own is an early 63 that has a pencil neck but sounds heavenly both acoustically and electrified
 

thin sissy

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Jan 2, 2006
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Thanks everyone for your responses, very well put!

I guess I just don't understand the anger towards overpriced instruments. I mean sure, one can think it's crazy that they are expensive, and I never bring the guitar prices thing up among friends, but sometimes it comes up naturally. And there's always that one guy who says "there is no difference at all between old and new". I never take the fight. If you're active on facebook, perhaps you've seen the anger towards Junior prices lately? And yes, they are crazy expensive now, but they are also maybe the best guitars ever made IMHO. If someone told me "your 57 Jr won't be worth shit in 2030" then I wouldn't care, it's worth the world to me because it's the most inspiring guitar I've ever played.

I should add, the recent Historics I've tried have been awesome. Gibson is doing something right.
 

thin sissy

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fwiw, 335s in general both new and vintage seem more finicky tone wise…often banjo-ee /plinky rather than full / robust..I’ve owned a fair amount of 60s stop tp 62-64s …although I prefer a med-large round neck profile the only one I still own is an early 63 that has a pencil neck but sounds heavenly both acoustically and electrified
This might be worth a thread of it's own? Because I've played one 335 that was magical, but I've played probably tens of examples that were "dead". I don't know why, they are beautiful instruments though.
 

Hayduke

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Jul 6, 2016
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Does anyone really hate vintage guitars? I think more than anything, some internet dudes fight back against the price tags. In my opinion, vintage guitars earned their price tags as collectibles, not purely as guitars. I love bursts as much as anyone. If I had a few hundred thousand extra dollars, I'd buy a burst before a vacation house, or a super car, or any other big ticket item. But I also know that there is nothing about a burst that isn't "match-able" by the custom shop today. And I think that's the point a lot of guys get too heated about on the internet.
 

bern1

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Nov 23, 2004
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Well this line of argument is nothing new. It predates the internet. There have always been people to whom vintage didn’t mean anything. Who thought there was no difference in the feel or sound. Who didn’t care for the vintage price premium, thought it was too much, unwarranted, etc. Or simply didn’t care for all the hoopla.

I think the phenomenon you are witnessing today is simply “keyboard bravery” where some people tend to diss things and people in a more heated manner from the comfort of their home sweet home, whatever that in actuality may be.

I get all the feelings you have for vintage instruments, many of us share them. But not all of us. Which is good, as the variety of instruments and opinions keeps the world swinging around.

Like Sweiger, I’ve been around vintage instruments for a long time. I got my first old Les Paul in 1969 and have had many guitars come and go with some hanging around longer than others. Some have been special, others not so much.

Again, like others, I got into this vintage guitar thing because in the late 60’s and into the 70’s you could not buy a new guitar that was as good as an old one. In general, there are always exceptions. Today that is really no longer the case. There are many new instruments that are as good or better than vintage. I have a few. Yes, there may be 10% more magic to each of us in this or that guitar, new or old, than in another one. The world keeps on turning and doesn’t stand still.

In fact as we all know, the most important element in playing an instrument is not something that is part of the instrument. It’s of course the soul and the part of you that you throw down for the rest of us to enjoy when you pick up the guitar to play it.

Some people may call that mojo, but it ain’t in the guitar. Some things never change.
 

thin sissy

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Great points everyone. I probably chose the wrong word "hate", some poeple's gut reaction to vintage guitars seem to be anger, maybe I should have used that instead.

An example is expensive stamps. I don't understand why some pay good money for stamps, but I would never tell them they're wrong, it makes them happy and that's what matters.

And I also agree that there are so soo many great affordable guitars these days. For some of us, the romantics/feel or whatever of vintage guitars is worth spending a lot of money on.
 

Frutiger

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Oct 17, 2007
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I completely get the hate for the prices. They are crazy now. I've been 'collecting' vintage guitars for about 23 years now (I'm 44, bought my first Gibson when i moved to London at 21, have only bought one 'new' guitar in the 40 or so I've had in that time) and what we have now is a market that's almost impenetrable for a lot of people and is difficult to have examples of different vintage guitars for many of us. Even in the crazy times of 2005-7 prices weren't like this and there was still way more supply.

I consider myself now priced out of the market in many ways, but am in the fortunate position of having a ton of cool vintage gear already. The Les Paul Junior pricing is a good example - years ago Juniors were cheap and it was easy (and very importantly, FUN) to buy a couple, sell them, buy more and find out what you did and didn't like. But now even Juniors are big, single item purchases for many people. You can see how crazy things are by the fact there are so few acoustic archtops for sale nowadays, when for a long time they were the pariah of the vintage market and there was always a sea of them because NOBODY wanted them. Even player grade examples of higher end guitars are out of the question now and there's a lot of junk out there for serious money.

I think this makes it really difficult for people to get into the world of vintage guitars and experience it in the ways many of us have over the years. I think that's a big barrier for people to even like vintage, because there's very little 'fun' left in it and it takes serious money to get into a serious market.
 

charliechitlins

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Nov 16, 2021
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I completely get the hate for the prices. They are crazy now. I've been 'collecting' vintage guitars for about 23 years now (I'm 44, bought my first Gibson when i moved to London at 21, have only bought one 'new' guitar in the 40 or so I've had in that time) and what we have now is a market that's almost impenetrable for a lot of people and is difficult to have examples of different vintage guitars for many of us. Even in the crazy times of 2005-7 prices weren't like this and there was still way more supply.

I consider myself now priced out of the market in many ways, but am in the fortunate position of having a ton of cool vintage gear already. The Les Paul Junior pricing is a good example - years ago Juniors were cheap and it was easy (and very importantly, FUN) to buy a couple, sell them, buy more and find out what you did and didn't like. But now even Juniors are big, single item purchases for many people. You can see how crazy things are by the fact there are so few acoustic archtops for sale nowadays, when for a long time they were the pariah of the vintage market and there was always a sea of them because NOBODY wanted them. Even player grade examples of higher end guitars are out of the question now and there's a lot of junk out there for serious money.

I think this makes it really difficult for people to get into the world of vintage guitars and experience it in the ways many of us have over the years. I think that's a big barrier for people to even like vintage, because there's very little 'fun' left in it and it takes serious money to get into a serious market.
This speaks to me very strongly.
When I got involved with vintage motorcycles, it was a bunch of quirky working guys (and some gals), and just about any bike was accessible.
Then the prices went nuts and I cashed out.
They became toys for rich boys and it just wasn't fun anymore.
 

corpse

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Jun 9, 2007
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A friend was interested in a TV jr two years ago- another one had a TV jr- wasn't particularly interested in selling it- but said "maybe I'll bend him over and ask $9K". Friend #1 paid $14K, as friend #2 decided to hang onto his.
Two years ago.
 

bern1

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Nov 23, 2004
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Pricing: Well, this is just the way it goes, it’s completely normal in a collector’s market. Especially in a world awash in a sea of cash where everybody is an enthusiast.

It’s the same in a lot of areas, not just guitars. Not saying I like it, but it’s reality. Let’s face it, nobody actually NEEDS these guitars, watches, cars, Tiffany lamps etc. etc.

Stay on the sidelines and wait, this too shall pass. The question is, when……..
 
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