Vintage Gretsch Guitars

Trading Modern for Vintage

1

Just wondering, for those of you with vintage Gretsches, how willing or not are you to trade your vintage guitboxes for modern versions? Im curious about the importance placed on vintage vs fender-era or modern or whatever.

2

The vintage pieces I have are generally my retired work guitars(and amps)and while one may come out to the gig occasionally on special occasions,I rely on the modern ones for work.I wouldn't trade any of them,and would sell only in the most dire circumstances.I can see someone with a large collection of instruments with which he doesn't have personal history enjoying some wheeling and dealing,but I'm not sure why someone would exchange old for new.

3

I've owned both and would not trade my vintage Gretsch for a new one. Not even for a Stern custom shop. Every new Gretsch I've owned (2 6120's and one 6130KPW) are gone. They were all great guitars but just didn't have that feel of the old one. Feel the same about my vintage 335. They are just 'special'. Hard to explain but those that own them know what I'm talking about.

5

My problem is with the trading part.

6

Yeah I don't do many vintage for modern trades, to amplify the above, because as a general rule you maximize vintage value by selling for cash, not trading for pieces that are going to depreciate in the near term. I'd have to really feel like I was getting big excess value on the modern pieces to do it, or the vintage piece was a tough move for some reason.

7

People play and subsequently acquire guitars for differing reasons. I can appreciate the professional musician types wanting the reliability and cost effectiveness of a newer Gretsch. But I am not one of those. My playing is limited to my own enjoyment, and for that reason I maintain an affinity for the vintage Gretsch models. It's all about the mojo of playing a guitar that was made before I was born, and the journey each has been on prior to my stewardship. Does that make me a better musician, no... but it increases the enjoyment I get by playing them. That's enough for me.

The modern instruments are fine guitars, and I own several. But I find I use them in winter when my vintage stuff gets put away during the dry season. I guess I perceive the modern guitars in my collection as more expendable, or at least more impervious to the climate in my house during that season.

My attraction to the vintage Gretsch models does not however cloud my common sense, so if the "trade" proposal is a new Stern made Custom Shop Penguin for a 1960s Clipper... I will happily send the Clipper packing and embrace a state-of-the-art Penguin (to play in the winter). But if the OP's question is would I ever conceive of trading a vintage version for a like-model modern version (i.e. vintage single-cut 6120 for a modern single-cut 6120)... the answer is hell no.

I've actually challenged myself to this question before. Of the modern models I think the Stills White Falcon would be a cool guitar to have. I'll never own a vintage single cut Falcon, so it's crossed my mind. But when I thought to myself which of my higher-end Gretsch guitars I might trade (or sell) to acquire the Falcon, I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

Just one guy's opinion.

8

I may not be the best person to offer perspective, because as a left-handed player/guitar owner my experience in "rarity" is different. But I think my conclusions are probably just enhanced versions of those of right-handed players.

I own both modern and vintage Gretsches, and I believe all are excellent guitars. The vintage guitars are so different in feel (and sometimes sound) that I consider them to be almost a separate brand. When you get a vintage piece that has it all going on (and not all of them do), then that's a special thing––and I say that as a long-time confirmed devotee and proponent of modern Gretsches. Decades of drying wood and use––even light, careful, in-home use––infuse desirable qualities of resonance and playability. And the old neck profiles can be a revelation.

Beyond that, one cannot ignore the fact that they aren't building more vintage guitars, and so the opportunities to acquire are restricted. There is more than dollar-trade value in play in that regard. One can buy a 6122-1959 any time; one might wait for years for a vintage Gent from 1959 to appear on the market (and when it finally does, you can be sure that it's going to cost more than it would have the year you decided you wanted one!). If you have a true '59 and trade it off, you may never get the chance to own one again.

On that basis alone, swapping away a vintage for a modern is a non-starter in my book. (Bear in mind that for us lefties, this is writ large, as few were made in the old days; I own what I believe are the only left-handed examples of a couple of models––a '60 single Annie with a Filtertron and a Viking––, and I could not afford three others that I believe were also one-and-only left-handed examples of their models––a Rambler, a '60 Tennessean, and a double cutaway Country Club.)

The vintage appreciation versus modern "used guitar" depreciation issue needs no explication.

So unless you have a reason independent of the trade opportunity to want to divest yourself of a vintage piece (you don't like the sound or playability, you have another one just like it, or you have concerns about your ability to preserve it), then I would recommend against swapping away vintage for modern.

Paul/FF909

9

Great comments above…

I can't comment specifically on vintage vs. modern Gretsches, as I've never owned (or even played) a vintage Gretsch, but I have quite a few vintage guitars, and in my specialty, gypsy swing, it isn't even close. It seems almost everyone these days is making Selmer copies (along with Busato, Favino, di Mauro and Castelluccia copies), and a number of them are really good. But only a handful (or even fewer) come even close to the sound, feel and vibe of the real thing. Wood improves as it gets older, and building techniques and materials, such as glue) change as well. Everything has an effect.

I owned a 1959 Les Paul once, and stupidly sold it before the mad climb in prices. I own modern Les Pauls because I can't even dream of affording a real one any more. I do have an old Charlie Christian ES-150 from the last batch made in early 1940, and I can tell you that no one comes even close to replicating the sound of that pickup. I've tried a bunch, and they sound nice; they just don't sound like the original CC pickup at all.

Maybe vintage doesn't matter as much with solid wood bodies, I don't know. But it matters a lot to hollow- and semi-hollow bodies like Gretsch and Gibson made.

I figure I own my modern guitars, but I consider myself merely a steward of the vintage ones. They cost more to maintain, and I am fanatical that they get all the care they need to stay in fighting shape without undermining their originality and integrity. That's part of the obligation of living with these guitars. I probably drive my guitar techs nuts at times, but he loves my axes as much as I do. I just drove a guitar from Chicago to the DC area a couple of weeks ago because it's a lone survivor of its type, so far as I know, so I wouldn't ship it, and I would only let one man work on it.

I would never swap vintage for modern unless you just want a beater, or, as someone said above, I didn't want the responsibility and expense of stewardship. If you have an original, you are living the dream, so enjoy it if you can. Once lost, it will be awfully hard to get it back.

10

First off, there has to be a modern version of your vintage guitar to answer the question. In my case, I have one Gretsch there is a modern version of (sort of) and one that isn't. Now, from my personal experience and literally everything I've ever read from the owners of quality vintage guitars, we all consider them to be very special in several regards. Occasionally, they've lived longer than we have or more often are from the era of our youth when we admired but couldn't afford them, and are still delivering a quality playing experience and sound that we not just appreciate, but revere and respect, and so we give them whatever they need in the way of repairs or little tweaks and the best of care.

With modern guitars from any of the top brands, high quality of construction, not necessarily using similar vintage types of materials, is pretty much a given. Leaving the smaller custom builders out of the equation, few if any use ebony, let alone rosewood for the fretboard but rather opt for a genetically engineered material they claim is 'just as good' and won't wear. True it won't wear the way you see on some older guitars but they won't deliver the warmth of tone of real wood. Any claim to the contrary is an attempt to justify not opting for using the original material - it still can be had legally - and is just an exercise in trying to blow smoke up our asses. Same goes for not simply using good bone material for the nut. No issue with it being a restricted material or expensive to obtain and make no mistake, there never has been or will be a better material for great tone. Same BS explanation as for the fretboard is given regarding what they're using today. Especially in the case of bone for the nut, this is clearly a case of "it wasn't broke, why do you feel the need to 'fix' it??" I play a number of guitars at various stores and while never questioning their quality, they all have a tangible sterile sound and feel to them. For me, that poly finish has something to do with this.

Now let's deal with the body's wood. In the case of my '41 Syncro 100 in a natural finish with tortoise shell binding, the top is a carved, solid spruce, not plywood laminate, and isn't covered in a tone and sustain killing poly finish! Try finding that in any modern factory made guitar.

My other Gretsch is a '72 Super Chet, and aside for a brief period of a questionable reproduction from Terada, doesn't have a modern counterpart. Now I'm doing something that again you don't tend to find many owners of vintage guitars doing and that's modifying it. I'm doing this out of necessity as the wheel controls aren't reliable and have a mind of their own so I'm having them replaced with modern top mounted controls and Gretsch knobs. I happen to have a pair of Ray Butt's gold pickups I'm having installed which seems fitting as Chet had a hand in designing this guitar and Ray built his first pickups for Chet.

I also appreciate being a caretaker of wonderful vintage 'living things'. My '41 only ever had one owner prior to myself and for a guitar that old, that's extremely rare and every time I pick her up I consider it an honor to own and play her.....and since her re-fret with period correct vintage style frets and a good careful cleaning, she impresses the hell out of everyone who hears her. Try and get that sound out of anything made today! Talk about a guitar that 'talks to you' when you hold it and particularly when you start playing it. I've had some other good players play this guitar and they're literally 'moved' by what they feel and hear.

As most vintage owners have said "would I trade my vintage for modern?......hell no!" I concur. As this question has shown itself to be rhetorical, I think a better question to ask would be: If money wasn't an issue and there was a more or less similar vintage and modern version available, what would be your choice to look for to purchase, and why? I believe a lot of folks will quote some of the same reasons as I have as to why they'd prefer the vintage version. I totally understand the reasons why many busy, artists prefer the modern versions for their ability to better stand up to the vagaries of travel and heavy use, and their outright value, etc but many of these folks have vintage instruments at home they only play for themselves or occasionally use for local recording.

Vintage seems to be carrying the day

11

I own 2 vintage Gretsches - '64 Tennessean and '67 Monkees.

I've owned the Tenny since 1967. "My first decent guitar". It's dings are mine and, knowing its history, it would be hard to part with, period. I would not be interested in trading or selling it for a modern Tenny even though I tried one and do like the modern neck a lot.

I've owned the Monkees for less than 2 years. The Monkees is closer to my tastes than the Tennessean and does not have a modern counterpart. However, I would probably part with this one first based on sentimental logic, although I am not thinking about doing so.

I can't explain the magic of the vintage. Maybe the wood. I like them a lot, but my favorites are my modern guitars; maybe because of the 25.5 scale or bigger bodies of my favorite moderns vs the 24.6 scale, smaller bodies of my vintage. My ears are not qualified enough to hear the difference simply based upon new vs old wood although I don't doubt that logic.

Unless I get down to a burning building situation, I like the diversity of both. But then again, I'm still searching for my Holy Grail.

12

While I'm totally infatuated with old wood, and owned some fairly rare instruments here and there, I've decided that I'm not a collector, I don't want the responsibility of caretaking for the next generation, and I definitely don't want any "closet queen" instruments.

I have to be able to bring anything I own out to the corner bar, or my average gig, or swap a pickup on it, if the original dies, or doesn't cut it for my needs. I'll be upset if I get a scratch on it (I really baby my instruments), or if somebody spills a beer on it. But it won't take $1,000 off the value.

Would I love an old 6120, or a Jet? Sure. But it would never leave the house. Which would mean I'd need to own my 59LTV and 6128TCG anyway. Which would really defeat the purpose.

13

The way this post is phrased, Trading Modern for Vintage, I assumed the topic was trading a modern Gretsch for a vintage one. Different animals.

Ownership vs, Stewardship (as Ed perfectly said.)

And vintage neck profiles are a revelation. (thank you Paul/FF09)

14

I like the feel and features of the modern Gretches more than the vintage Gretsches I've played and the one I have. And I like clean-feeling guitars, which is not always easy to find in vintage guitars. But I would agree that aged wood is just nice--although that's more important on acoustics and hollowbodies and my main squeeze is a Jet.

15

Thanks for the answers guys. This stemmed from a conversation in which somebody with a pricey pro model was looking at getting into vintage, amd wondering whether to sell the pro model to buy a vintage was the way to go, or if people with vintage would be open to trading for a newer model.

Doesnt look like it :)

16

Old and busted, or new hotness...

17

My first good guitar was a '64 Country Gent, and it was already vintage at the time (about 1990). Since then, my main guitar has always been a vintage Gretsch, so they're really what I'm used to. I don't have a whole lot of experience with modern Gretsches. I've tried a bunch of them out in shops. And I've had to gig with a new 6122-62 a few times when subbing with Beatle tribute bands. I can tell you that they really don't do much for me. The quality is obviously there and I couldn't point to any particular nits to pick. They just don't feel the same. They feel kind of generic.

On the other hand, the Custom Shop reissues I've tried ('55 6120, '55 Falcon and '57 Duo Jet) were a completely different story. They did feel a lot like the old ones. But at the current Custom Shop prices, I'll stick with vintage.

18

I love my 6120DE but it's not a substitute for my vintage guitars. I'm not a guy who wraps my vintage instruments up in cotton wool or keeps them in a perfectly humidified room to only allow a select few to look but don't touch. I play them, I gig with them...that's their purpose. It's what they were made for.

My main gigging guitar is my '55 Jet but the '55 6120 gets a lot of stage time too, and if they should pick up a scratch or a blemish along the way well that's what attracted me to vintage instruments in the first place. They've lived, and traveled and worked hard and picked up that elusive 'mojo' as vintage guitar guys are wont to say.

Modern instruments, as fine as they are, need to mature to catch up to vintage instruments....just this man's opinion.

I wouldn't trade any of my vintage guitars for modern.

19

I own a 1948 Jet 21, and a 1958 New Yorker, neither of which is a highly collectible guitar. They both play well and are in decent shape for being over 60 year old instruments.Their worth in appraised $ is questionable ,,their worth to me? Never even thought of it. I was going to sell my New Yorker when I first got it from a Craigslist ad,but since I had a neck reset done that is no longer an option as it sounds beautiful. (to my ears)

If someone offered me a trade of a couple of Proline Gretschs's in trade for my old Gits straight across,I would have to respectfully Decline.

They're a little beat up, a little worn out, the finishes are a little cracked here and there,and they have 60 years of mojo built in, and to me they are still a thing of beauty .

20

It's all about poly vs. nitro finish.

I really believe that if modern guitar manufacturers finished their guitars in nitro instead of polymer plastics....the vintage market would dry up.

All these vintage guys talking about "feel" and "mojo" that they can't put their finger on...it's that old nitro finish. Poly will never be like that.

21

It's all about poly vs. nitro finish.

I really believe that if modern guitar manufacturers finished their guitars in nitro instead of polymer plastics....the vintage market would dry up.

All these vintage guys talking about "feel" and "mojo" that they can't put their finger on...it's that old nitro finish. Poly will never be like that.

– guitarcapo

I believe you nailed it. I have a DSV Duo Jet, a Gretsch Corvette, a Gibson Les Paul 50's Tribute and my original design Freestyle guitar all finished in nitrocellulose and they feel great. When I pick up a Pro-line or Electromatic Gretsch or any other modern guitar finished in shiny polyurethane in a music store they just don't feel as good to me.

22

I love my 6120DE but it's not a substitute for my vintage guitars. I'm not a guy who wraps my vintage instruments up in cotton wool or keeps them in a perfectly humidified room to only allow a select few to look but don't touch. I play them, I gig with them...that's their purpose. It's what they were made for.

My main gigging guitar is my '55 Jet but the '55 6120 gets a lot of stage time too, and if they should pick up a scratch or a blemish along the way well that's what attracted me to vintage instruments in the first place. They've lived, and traveled and worked hard and picked up that elusive 'mojo' as vintage guitar guys are wont to say.

Modern instruments, as fine as they are, need to mature to catch up to vintage instruments....just this man's opinion.

I wouldn't trade any of my vintage guitars for modern.

– NitroG

Agree. I might trade modern for vintage, but I doubt that I'd ever trade vintage for modern (and the thread title seems backwards to me in relation to the premise in the OP).

23

This kinda brings up a whole new subject. For me, I can't really see any increase in desireability/value with the modern ones, the older they get it seems the value is going down. While the vintage ones may have peaked, at least they have a solid value that could increase, not sure the modern ones ever will. I guess time will tell.

24

I have a 59 Anni, a62 & 64 Country Clubs and newer 6120-1959LTV & a White Falcon-LTV. On both guitars the TV Jones are gone in place of original FilterTrons with the exception of the bridge pickup on the WF which has a Setzer Sig. pickup as It sounds very close to an original FilterTron. Both have vintage wiring harness's, Bigsby's, knobs, tuner's, etc. Basically the only new things on them are the body & neck, bridge & pickguard. Let's face it, if they built the new guitars in Brooklyn as well as Terada builds them in Japan, we'd be stepping all over ourselves. I love the build quality of the Japanese and Custom Shop guitars that are finished in Nitro. I've owned a number of new ones but intently dislike any musical instrument finished in Polyurathane. I know the guys over on the Modern section will knock anyone who thinks that the Poly finishes aren't any good, but "F" them! Guitars are individual and each one is slightly different. But I don't know what "Jasper Woods" laminated the maple ply with back in the50's & `60's, but I'd bet you good money it was with Hot Hide Glue and the same thing with the neck construction and I know the neck/body joint was done with Hide Glue. I'd really like to see the older gluing methods used to build a new Gretsch as I bet it would sound very similar to an old one. The old, original guitars sounded great from Day One and better as they were played. But these are jusy my observations. I would very much like to sell my 6120-1959LTV if anyone's interested..

25

What Kap'n said in post 12.

I've plaid the guitar in the header this page. Fantastic guitar. Magic. A couple of years ago I wouldn't hesitate to trade my SSLVO for that one.

Now I'm not so sure anymore.


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