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Vintage Guitar Myths (the truth no one wants to hear)

How many times have you heard about so and so who can date a vintage guitars from across the room? This is a line the delusional love to propagate. Its also a load of BS.

The vintage market is its own animal ... covered with faux fur. Anyone who tells you they are an expert and can tell a real guitar from a fake 100% point blank (never mind from across a room) is delusional. There are more vintage guitars currently for sale than were ever actually produced. Where did they come from? What happened to all the Floyd Rose cut strats, the humbucker routes, etc. Today all you see is 100% original examples and every store (and Ebay - yikes)  has a bunch. Stores didn't have that many 20 years ago when they were just used guitars.

I love vintage guitars as much as anyone. All I am saying is - its a jungle out there. The best example I can speak of to date is finding one of my guitars hanging on a store wall as vintage. The salesman (unaware who I was) assured me it was legit as it glowed under black lights. Of course it did, I used nitro paint and aged it to replicate times influence, including the reactions of UV light. Had I not created every scratch on it I may have been fooled. The black light trick is useful as a repair tool but merely a sideshow act if used as method of authentication. Can I make a new paint job glow? You bet I can. Many of my finishes have been deemed original vintage by "experts" with their UV stick in hand.

I am not saying stores/people are out to rip you off. I believe that most who offer fakes likely have been fooled themselves. Usually the stock is mixed, some are real, some questionable. The astute dealers know it but dare not speak its name. Demand is high and they need vintage stock, for that reason a certain % is going to be copy. Sometimes they just have to trust their knowledge when buying and know they could be fooled. The people who are being dishonest are those who tell you they are 100% about every item in their store. You know they are either delusional or lying. Its tough to find vintage stuff in 100% original condition. Most dealers will be honest about changes as its their legal escape route to say things like "pickguard may have been changed" in listings. Fact of the matter is unless everything is 100% original and matches you really don't know what is what. The better dealers will tell you that straight out. They have a good idea and it has to be excellent quality to pass by them, but excellent copy is out there. Some just refuse to talk about it. There are also a shocking amount of dealers who know very little about the product at all. Often they are respected shops too. Its stunning.

Do experts exist? Surely the rules read in books are golden right? I've studied/recreated vintage pieces just as many others have. Old guitars involved both automation and hand work. While consistencies exist so do variations. Its equally foolish not to question authenticity as it is to dismiss anomalies you've yet to learn. I have yet to meet an "expert" who hadn't made several mistakes in their own dealings let alone those they paid consultants for. Nothing wrong with that - the best of us run into each others work and if its that good - its that good - period. Then there are the circus act types who travel around "appraising" guitars at a glance. One has to pick a specialty, gain access to prime examples and dedicate years of study. Those who claim otherwise are just telling the public what they want to hear and charging them to be their ignorance enabler and jack of all trades. "I can tell you the grand value of your treasure across the room - for a fee, your adoration,  perhaps a book sale" .. this line has been working for decades in all walks of life. Much like the self help gurus with books on how to get rich and be happy. Yet with investigation you find 3 failed marriages and all meaningful income derived from book sales/seminars. Same story just insert guitar here.

The "boys club" we see quoted in all the books slapping each others backs - they are some of the biggest scammers out there. None of them will ever admit to being anything other than an expert and totally honest. The jails are full of convicts who are innocent and the vintage guitar shows are full of god fearing good ol' boys who'd never tell a lie.  Seriously, how is it possible with more vintage stock trades than ever with these same folks? The well of vintage guitars they sell has never run dry, rather it runneth over and inline with demand. For example, how many vintage Stratocasters has George Gruhn sold? The number likely exceeds the amount ever produced. Is  that discussed in his books, personal appearances or articles? It it were, lack of record would conveniently explain it away I surmise. Not to pick on Gruhn, I use my scenario as a hypothetical exercise. These questions should be asked of anyone making a living as "expert" and salesman. The Guitar industry is a small one, the vintage guitar industry is miniscule (in the grand scheme of things). Its a small subculture ripe for rogue experts. With that said it is also full of people who simply have a passion for the subject. Obama was President of the United States for 2 terms. Hitler was revered in his time. People can, and will, give strange icons their faith.

Faith in the subculture, like religion, is chosen and questions do not get asked. The most important point is one made in a court trial regarding a "fake" vintage guitar transaction. Buyer thought he had been duped by seller. A vintage expert was called to testify. The case never made trial. Why? The lawyers pointed out to Mr Expert that he would have to state he knew if the guitar in question was real or fake. To say 100% regarding the year the object was made could not be done. Therefore the Expert had to admit he could not tell a guitar was made in 1959 or made to 1959 specs 10 years ago. To state otherwise would be perjury. The case was over. The expert continues to make a living authenticating vintage guitars. To top it off the defendant legal team investigated and found the expert owned only one of the guitars he claimed to be an expert on and had owned it just 3 years. Before that he was a show goer who made friends with the boys club of vintage traders mentioned earlier. His only vintage guitar is one he bought from the people who gave him expert status. For all he, or we, know - his expensive guitar is a fake! He has one example to compare client guitars too and it could be the fakest thing on the planet. This is the reality. There are indeed experts but not many. Of those none can say anything at all without doubt - not to the extent of having value in legal court. So .. they are hobbyists at best. I myself admit this. The most educated vintage guitar buffs I've met are private collectors who remain very private and all have a few mistakes to their credit.

The 80's were a boom time for fake vintage. Many of those guitars have actually aged naturally by now. The rich foreign buyers people joked about in the 80's were not so stupid. They may have been paying premium prices for actual vintage guitars so they'd have good examples to copy and sell back to the market. It has been rumored that's exactly what was going on. I've seen a few things that would support the rumor. Many big name experts bought copies. In fact there is a book out now from Italy. A book of vintage strats with a blatantly fake '64 in its pages. So a bunch of people will be looking at that for reference. Sheesh.

Truth is you have to really know your stuff when it comes to vintage gear. Even then, there are people out there that know just as much or more. People have a habit of choosing what they will consider the truth. When money is involved both sides of the transaction will be spinning webs. There is so much copy many people are basing their knowledge on copy they believe vintage, further clouding the waters. If I had a nickel for every true expert I'd ever met .. I'd have a quarter at most. The only real fool is the person who thinks they know it all.

I know this article is going to be unpopular. I will get hate mail from the "experts". Oh well. The facts are what they are - its up to each individual to choose their opinions carefully. I will get mail from people saying I'm part of the problem. I recreate classics just as they were once made to an extreme detail. This is true. I do not claim my guitars be be vintage and discourage anyone else from doing so. But because some will certainly try to do that is their own issue. If in doubt send me a photo of a guitar you think may be mine. I'll tell you. That's all I can do on that front. People have to decide their own behavior. There is nothing wrong with trying to reclaim the past. That is after all what vintage is all about. For whatever reason we look upon a period or object favorably for all it represents. You can either pay thru the nose and risk wading thru many fakes - or just recreate it and know for sure what you have. Depends on ones ability/requirements to live the dream.

Vintage guitars are great fun and representatives of history. The prices leave most out in the cold. That's where I come in. My guitars are not cheap but they are affordable in comparison. So detailed the only difference from a utilitarian standpoint is the money left in your pocket. They are meant for personal enjoyment, playing music and living your dream ... real simple. Whether you have a 1959 Les Paul, a Lashing replica or a $300 import copy - if you're enjoying yourself with it than its a great guitar IMO.