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.
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
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.
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.
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
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