Modern Gretsch Guitars

Pre-Fender vs. Post-Fender Gretsches?

1

I keep seeing lovely Gretsches for sale from the early-2000s for considerably less than more recent ones. I have heard all sorts of things about that era, including quite a bit that's uncomplimentary, like wrong body shapes, inferior wiring, lower-quality pickups, etc.

I traded my Club last fall for a Don Grosh Custom ElectraJet , and although the Grosh is fabulous, I am really trying to find a Dyna-equipped Duo Jet to leap back into the groove with.

Can you folks weigh in on the topic, specifically as regards Jets and Dynas? Feel free to expand beyond to all pre-FMIC Gretsches if you like. I am always looking to learn from the wise heads around here.

2

This has discussed to death here, but it does depend on the model you look at regarding features. Generally Gretsches built after Fender took over distribution and marketing have improved wiring and better pickups. Not always necessarily though. After Fender, around 2003, the pots improved to be full-size CTS pots rather than mini Japanese-spec pots - definitely an improvement. Jacks and switches changed to USA Switchcraft - a huge improvement, and what Gretsch would have used originally. They are less likely to stop working or become noisy.

Duo-Jets have improved quite dramatically since Fender - I am not an expert but the per-Fender Jet I had was heavier than the newer ones as it was less routed out. Newer Jets have much more wood removed from the body so are more accurate to the originals but there is still some debate as to whether they rout them enough still! Whatever - my recent Jet feels and sounds a lot better than the pre-Fender I had.

My pre-Fender Jet also had too big a headstock to be accurate as a repro of an old Jet. The Dynas mine had were not great. It is a while since I sold it but I recently tried a Dyna style equipped Jet and it sounded an awful lot better than I remember my old one sounding. Others here know more about this stuff than me.

Basically IMO the more recent a Japanese Gretsch is the better. Pre-Fender Gretsches I have owned have all had lifting frets. Not badly, but enough to be annoying. Recent Gretsches I have are much better fretted and finished. I also think the neck shapes are more accurate now, but that may not be a good or bad thing for some players. I love the soft-V shape of my recent Jet.

Having said all of this, the pre-Fender Gretsches are not necessarily bad guitars. Electronics can be upgraded for not too much money or hassle. And the looks can simply be personal preference. But i like the newer ones.

3

Thanks, Jimmy. I knew it had been discussed to death, but since the crash, it seemed lots of those threads were lost. I've been reading what I could find from other forums as well, but opinions vary, and I was hoping to get confirmation from guys like you here, whose opinions I have more confidence in. But I think you confirm the other things I have read.

This was driven by the fact that, pre-crash, it seemed like there were more FMIC-era guitars for sale at good prices around here, and since the return of the Gretsch Pages, most of what I have seen is pre-FMIC or very expensive. I have a slow itch for a Jet, so I was considering an earlier one. Since I'm hankering for a Caddy Green one, an original will run upwards of $15K!

Sounds like I need to just sit back and wait for the perfect one to appear.

4

On a practical note, if you consider resale value when you purchase a guitar, the post-Fender betterness is a common perception, right or wrong.

5

On a practical note, if you consider resale value when you purchase a guitar, the post-Fender betterness is a common perception, right or wrong.

– Feynman

Then again, there are some who believe that before Fender "took over and moved production to Japan" (not my words, mind you), every Gretsch was made in USA. Some dodo was selling a pre-Fender Gent on a Norwegian facebook site, claiming it was US-built. And even though I told him what the serial number (which was in one of the pics in the ad) actually meant, he was adamant that I didn't know what I was talking about. Ahhh, people....

But I digress. I don't have any experience with Jets, but I have a pre-Fender 6120-60 and a post-Fender 6120AM. Both wonderful, but different, guitars. And both have TV Jones pickups. The -AM has a thinner top, a floating pickguard extension, and is lighter in both sound and weight. While the -60 is heavier, more "chunky" sounding when unplugged and appears to be more robust. Even though it's been broken a couple of times (thank you, Air Alliance...)

Bottom line is, try before you buy. If possible. If you're not completely anal about the "vintage correct" shapes etc, you may like a pre-Fender one as good as the newer one. And pickups can be changed.

Anders

6

Then again, there are some who believe that before Fender "took over and moved production to Japan" (not my words, mind you), every Gretsch was made in USA. Some dodo was selling a pre-Fender Gent on a Norwegian facebook site, claiming it was US-built. And even though I told him what the serial number (which was in one of the pics in the ad) actually meant, he was adamant that I didn't know what I was talking about. Ahhh, people....

This is very common here in Europe, unfortunately. Many believe it. I have even seen a fairly well known Gretsch player make such claims on TV.

7

As always where guitars are concerned, and especially Gretsch instruments, "certainty" is a relative thing. Personally, I've seen some excellent pieces from both sides of the "Fender" timeline. Especially on the Gent side of things. Having said that, I'm of a mind that if I were buying a piece sight unseen, I'd lean toward the post Fender era. I believe that consistency is more of a factor, especially with the higher end units. Even so, I'm not so convinced of it where Jets are concerned. I've seen some later day units that were definitely suspect in some of the finer details - small cracks in the finish, neck issues, etc.. I don't think I pick one of these up without absolutely seeing/trying it first. FWIW...

8

As always where guitars are concerned, and especially Gretsch instruments, "certainty" is a relative thing. Personally, I've seen some excellent pieces from both sides of the "Fender" timeline. Especially on the Gent side of things. Having said that, I'm of a mind that if I were buying a piece sight unseen, I'd lean toward the post Fender era. I believe that consistency is more of a factor, especially with the higher end units. Even so, I'm not so convinced of it where Jets are concerned. I've seen some later day units that were definitely suspect in some of the finer details - small cracks in the finish, neck issues, etc.. I don't think I pick one of these up without absolutely seeing/trying it first. FWIW...

– General_Lee

...unless I bought it from Rocky or Joel!

9

I have a Silver Falcon and a 6122Jr, both pre-fender guitars. I also have a 6040mcss FMIC era guitar. All three play wonderfully. I have changed pups on the Falcon do to the pups on it not sounding great. I have left the stock pups in the Jr, because they have a charactor of their own that I like. the 6040mcss has stock filter and added a Fishman bridge to it for accoustic playing. I didn't buy any of these guitars as investiments, so I think the try before you buy is the most important thing. Pots can be changed, pickups can be swapped bridges be replaced; but if the guitar plays like crap....my two cents....

10

.. dusting off this thread. Sorry, but glad it's still here.

I've been watching a used 6122 CCII on Craig's, lingering there, reposted for months. It's for a stock '99 model that seems to be in good shape. No mute switches, standard Gretsch closed tuners (instead of Grover Imperials). He's asking $1400 (case included).

In finally responding, and inquiring about a couple of blemishes detailed in the photos, I closed by alluding to a non-specific offer that we'd find mutually agreeable. Not that it's an outrageous asking price, just anticipating some wiggle-room. To which he replied; the asking price was not negotiable. Furthermore, that the 'pre-Fender models are much more desirable.'

.. huh. I had to double-check my homework on the pre-Fender Gretsch issue, and yeah; virtually everything I've heard and read is to the contrary.

Again, not saying $1400 for a good condition 6122 CCII is unreasonable. But I'd rather (and likely) find a newer one on Reverb for a little more, and in great condition. They're out there, but they sell pretty quickly.

Thanks again, Gretsch Pages.

11

Plenty of other fish as they say. If you have patience and cash, it's a buyer's market.

12

I have had both pre-Fender and post-Fender Gretsches. The pre-Fender versions were heavier, had cheaper parts and pickups, and were not as musical. I would save your money until you can get a 2004 or later Gretsch. Also, they get more historically accurate all the time. The 3 Gretsch guitars I have from the last year are all excellent. I have a 2013 6120 DSW which is also fantastic.

13

I understand some assuming that all pre-Fender era Gretsches were USA made. With the wave of outsourcing overseas during that time it's an easy leap of logic. My own assumption would be that it's just another benchmark for how old any given model is, depending on the context of its use.

Either way, between the inconsistencies in their production throughout the 1960s into the Baldwin era, and how poorly they tend to age (binding rot, wiring harness decay), a true vintage Gretsch seems like it would be a challenging privilege to own.

Contrasted with all the grief and decline Gibson has been enduring (much of it self-inflicted), it's been refreshing and inspiring to see Gretsch reinvent itself, reclaimed as a family business, and excel beyond its already legendary status.

14

I'm pretty sure that pre Fender Gretsch was being made in Japan beginning when Fred Gretsch III acquired the company in '85. Fender became involved in Sep. 2002. I have a late 2002 6120 Jr that is a transition model and still has a 5 ply top and ceramic pickups, but has a Terada serial number. Fantastic guitar by the way.

S Mac

15

Other than the ill-fated 90s "Custom shop", yup, they were all Terada-made. And even the 90s "Custom shop" ones have somewhat dubious claims to being US-made.

For what it's worth, the later Pre-Fender models had gotten a lot better. Fred was listening, and speccing better pots, thinner plies and other upgrades. A lot of what we think of as Fender improvements were actually in place before. Then Fender kept improving.

16

I had a 2001 EE Signature Duo Jet I'm looking to get another one from 2001 so what is the difference between the 2001 and the later ones?

17

.. I'm seeing another Country Classic II for sale on Reverb that's a 2000 make. The seller claims it's 'Made in USA' (oof!).

He's clearly not a dealer or reseller, and its original owner. Very light play, so apparently in great shape. The $1695 asking price still seems a bit steep though.

Again, I am noticing the newer Fender era 6122s rock the Imperial tuners, but they're otherwise all Terada made, yes? How much did they change from the year 2000 to 2003 or beyond?
I'm inclined to think that a minty 2000 model 6122 Country Classic would be a safe buy for the right price.

I am especially tempted because he's within an hour driving distance. Checking it out before buying, and ultimately saving the shipping cost might make it worth the purchase.

18

.. I'm seeing another Country Classic II for sale on Reverb that's a 2000 make. The seller claims it's 'Made in USA' (oof!).

He's clearly not a dealer or reseller, and its original owner. Very light play, so apparently in great shape. The $1695 asking price still seems a bit steep though.

Again, I am noticing the newer Fender era 6122s rock the Imperial tuners, but they're otherwise all Terada made, yes? How much did they change from the year 2000 to 2003 or beyond?
I'm inclined to think that a minty 2000 model 6122 Country Classic would be a safe buy for the right price.

I am especially tempted because he's within an hour driving distance. Checking it out before buying, and ultimately saving the shipping cost might make it worth the purchase.

– Edison

“ultimately saving the shipping cost might make it worth the purchase.”

You should play a newer Gretsch. They are a different animal. If you are really looking for opinions, I would say don’t pay $1,695 for a Pre-Fender Gretsch. The difference in quality is real. 5 vs. 3 ply top, inferior pickups and parts, and you can get a post Fender for that price.

19

I wouldn't pay that asking price. again, too steep, even if it's in excellent shape.

And if the differences and improvements of the 6122 since FMIC stepped in are that numerous and distinct, I likely will hold out for a newer model.

Thanks!

20

Baldwin era Country Gentleman -- all made in USA -- practically all of which are much superior in terms of craftsmanship and workmanship to all Brooklyn-era guitars after 1954/56 can be had for much less money than Brooklyn-era guitars and it is possible to find one occasionally on Reverb and Ebay for under $2000 and in excellent condition.

21

I paid less than this for a fender era 6122-58. Beautiful guitar with tv Jones pickups. Patience is your friend. Know which model you want and wait for a good price.

22

I paid less than this for a fender era 6122-58. Beautiful guitar with tv Jones pickups. Patience is your friend. Know which model you want and wait for a good price.


Register Sign in to join the conversation