Other Guitars

And while I’m ranting about ReverBay…

1

Conversions. I should have known they were a thing. I wouldn't have dreamed they were this much of a thing. (Just search guitars for "conversion," and bring your airsick bag.)

I knew guys were buying perfectly nice non-peak-year vintage guitars, or non-most-desirable models and then parting them out down to the last rapaciously priced vintage-patina screw - and sometimes just plain parting out great guitars because they bring more in pieces ...

... but I guess I hadn't known this was going on.

Frankenguitars cobbled over the bodies of freshly-killed donors. 20 grand? Why not? It's better than 200k for the real real thing, right?

(No, I'm not sour-grapey. I've never in my life remotely wanted a 1959 Les Paul.)

(Yes, I get that the "converters" must have the very maddest of mad modding skills across a whole honorable range of crafts. Hooooo-ray!) (So, presumably, did Victor Fronkenschteen.)

(Yes, anyone can make any amount of money pursuing any legal enterprise they wish, open markets, caveat emptor, whatever.)

Just something about this, right after it evokes a derisive guffaw, turns my stomach.

3

They can use all the original parts they want and full disclosure too but it's still a conversion, therefore not an original S/N and by extension, not an original guitar. Knock a zero off the asking price, that's all I feel it's worth.

4

Tim, Ebay & Reverb are giving you a gastric ulcer. You should abstain from viewing these sites in deference to your health.

5

Even Zsa Zsa wore Cubic Zirconia!

But did she grind up diamonds to make them?


Tim, Ebay & Reverb are giving you a gastric ulcer. You should abstain from viewing these sites in deference to your health.

Yeah, I'm not looking for these outrages. I'll be doing a perfectly innocent search for something else, and they pop up in the sites' damned cookie-conditioned suggestions. I should know not to click on them.

But what slimepits those sites have become.

6

Converting anything from P-90s to humbuckers is the real abomination.

9

It's an old trick with a new twist, I suppose. Several decades ago, I became a tad suspicious of a beautiful, clean, low-mileage '68 Shelby GT500KR that was being offered for sale at a very reasonable $22G. At first glance, it had all the right parts, the motor seemed right, the body parts seemed to be correct, etc. (If you are not a car nut, see the picture. Not my car, not even the one I was looking to buy)

But the VIN bugged me, so I ran it in my local DMV office.

How about an insurance write-off, bought by a local autobody shop and convertedin the rebuild process from an ordinary `68 Mustang to the somewhat more desireable Shelby. Looked it, sounded it, rand like it, the whole enchilada, but in the end, it was really not one. Just another Mustang.

Nothing is really new, is it?

10

This has literally been going on for 50 years with 'bursts. Nothing new to see here.

– Jonathan A. Sipes......maker of aluminum dust.

Exactly. Not a new phenomenon at all, actually I think it's less popular now than it used to be at one point. Late 50's ES175's have been getting robbed of their pickups, knobs, tuners, pots, harnesses, etc.. for a long time, and this is one of the reasons why.

Funny how some of the most wanted specific guitar models were only around for an extremely short while - and the desirability, apart from the fact they really are great guitars, is mostly idol driven. 1959/1960 Les Pauls and 6120's were really only made for two years with the specs everybody wants so badly.

12

Conversions didn't start with Les Pauls, btw. A lot of tenor/plectrum necked Selmer/Macaferri guitars, probably most of them by now, have been converted to a six-string neck, quite a few Gibson tenor banjos got a five string neck later in life, people like Roy Book Binder and Jackson Browne have been playing converted Gibson (hawaïan) Roy Smeck guitars into regular necked acoustics, and quite a few Hawaïan Martins were converted - Martin archtop to flattop conversions even spawned a still-current Martin body size. (the "M" bodies were derived from Martin's extremely unsuccesful F series arcthops).

Different kind of conversions, but still....

13

I can defend most of the other "conversions" as they seem to convert an instrument no longer useful, no longer "in vogue" into a different instrument. And yeah, I know the exact same language could apply to destroying a Les Paul Junior to "turn it into" a '59 burst.

But turning a tenor banjo into a 5-string, or a Hawaiian guitar into an acoustic is much more of a transformation. It's done, I would think, for musical purposes. You'll have a hard time convincing me a '59 burst with 'buckers is more musically useful than a '58 Junior with P90s.

Were the converters of tenors to five-strings, or Hawaiin guitars into "regular" acoustics doing these things to create a replica, a counterfeit, a knockoff of a different and much more "valuable" specific model - or to get the benefit of a wholly different instrument?

In this case, we're going from an equally "vintage" electric guitar - to another electric guitar. If it were different hardware and parts, a re-fin, that's one thing. But this is re-shaping the body of a Junior and gluing a top on it - to turn a musically useful instrument of the same type into the counterfeit of one that happens to be worth more on the market.

I think most of the benefit here goes to the converter, not to the buyer - who still doesn't have a '59 Les Paul and knows he doesn't hahve a '59 Les Paul (never mind whether it's rational for him to want one).

(Unless of course the specter of possible fraud hovering over the transaction actually lands. This guy is clearly selling the guitar as a conversion - but what prevents his buyer from trying to pass it off later as "the real thing"? And never mind that functionally, it will likely perform within the natural tolerance of "the real thing," we all know that isn't the point here.)

But IF the buyer ever wants to sell the guitar as a conversion, will there be a market for it at what he paid?

It just smells to me as though the buyer's vanity and frustration are being exploited. I could be wrong. And maybe I'm splitting hairs.

And maybe it's just that I don't have, never had, and will never have enough money to make rational considered value judgments about musical instruments trading in even the 20k range - much less hundreds of thousands of dollars. I know they don't have any more intrinsic value as musical instruments than much less expensive instruments.

I keep thinking, "my Gawd, I could pay for 18 months of bad health insurance with 20,000.00!"

Also, I'd rather have the Junior glued inside the replica.

14

I'm trying to wrap my head around the value proposition. The main selling point seems to be that at heart, this is a 50's Gibson. However, I'm at a loss to see what about this guitar is anything like what left the factory in the 50s. Besides all the body manipulation, an LP Junior neck has no binding, so the conversion means the neck profile and its "mojo" would have to have been modified to add the binding, let alone the dot to block inlays. Maybe the headstock is factory original? Even there, don't LP Jrs have a screened Gibson logo and the regular LPs a MOP one?

The description of the pickups makes no sense either - "We took 50's P-90's and dismantled them and built PAF's out of them. This includes the coil wire, magnets and pole screws" - besides the shame of destroying perfectly good vintage P-90s, it's still a new wind - "mojo"?

Given the dramatic modifications done, how is this anything but a newly built guitar made of old mahogany with pickups made of vintage materials? I guess there's "mojo" in the wood having passed through the Gibson factory before being completely changed into something new?

At least he's being honest about what it is. I hope the "conversion" status stays with them when they change hands in the future.

15

Believe it or not, that's actually quite 'cheap' for a LP conversion. Of late, some of the early/mid 50s goldtop to 'burst conversions have been selling for over £40K - albeit with genuine PAFs and hardware.

So let's set aside the moral and genuine/fake considerations for a moment - and the frightening prospect of absurdly wealthy 'burst collectors getting taken for a ride.

If it's a seriously hacked up goldtop - with humbuckers added already, one of those 80s trems carved into the top, and perhaps a refinish - it's surely fair game from a restorer's perspective.

After all, the guitar will need serious work. If it's put back to original goldtop spec, then it will only be worth as much as a refinished P90 equipped LP.

On the other hand, re-topping, routing for PAFs and installing a late 50s bridge and tailpiece may require very little extra work, but the resulting conversion could be worth 3 or 4 times as much. Even after sourcing original parts, the profit margin will be greater.

As long as Les Paul enthusiasts persist with the delusion that tone is all 'in the wood' and therefore the wood has to be old, these things are going to happen. Sadly a lot of great old Gibsons will end up asset stripped as a result.

18

Way out of my price range anyway, so I don't have a dog in this fight. I guess if there's a market for it and the guy does well, then good on him.It just blows me away that 20k is just pocket change to some people.

19

Unless of course the specter of possible fraud hovering over the transaction actually lands. This guy is clearly selling the guitar as a conversion - but what prevents his buyer from trying to pass it off later as "the real thing"?

Don't forget you're talking "bursts" here. The 58-60 Gibson Les Paul Standard has reached a "beyond spinal tap" point, they've sold and sell for more than a quarter of a million dollars. If one buys a burst, one hires a burst authenticator. That's an actual real thing, not a joke - which is understandable seeing the money these things fetch. A junior-to-standard conversion is not going to get sold as a real burst any time soon, unless the buyer is a complete nitwit with too much money.

20

Dutch tulips, 1636.

I had it wrong. The smartest guy here is the Burst Authenticator, who is paid for what's in his head, and no risk - and who has the personal satisfaction of keeping the bloodline pure.

The next smartest is the Converter, who employs skill and art to provide a weirdly needed service, who has found and exploited the untapped economic utility residing between the value of one old thing and a different "old" thing, and who risks a comparatively small investment and his time and labor. Like any businessman with stock in trade, he prospers as long as the stock is prized - so his trick is not to be overstocked when the streak ends. Also, with every conversion he sharpens general skills that can be employed in other endeavors when that happens.

The Buyer of the Conversion, while in the grip of an irrational mania, is actually smarter than the Buyer of the Real Thing, because he has "invested" about an order of magnitude less and thus stands to lose much less when the ship hits the sands.

It's the lofty Grail Collector at the top of the pyramid who is most vulnerable, and the dumbest of the bunch. When (not if) the burst bubble bursts, and he realizes the Grail is just another cup, he takes an enormous financial hit. If he's wealthy enough, that may be just a bad day at the office, but if he bought as an investment, suddenly he stares at a much dumber guy in the mirror. If the money is only a way of keeping score, it's still a kick in the almighty ego to have gambled and lost. And if he was a True Believer in Mojo Magic, there he stands stripped of illusion, his faith betrayed.

He'll go around bleakly muttering "but Jimmy Page...Michael Bloomfield...Peter Green!"

Of course before that happens, he may extract priceless satisfaction and joy from having owned a precious antiquity. And at least his heirs will get a tax break when they donate it to a museum.

21

...is this some sort of "Manafort" pass through laundering company?

22

One aspect of buying and selling anything in the collector realm, it's always "What the market will bear." Of course, it's all about what you can get for it when you sell it. Right now, some folks are willing to spend crazy money for things. Read Tony Bacon's "Million Dollar Les Paul". Many '58-'60" LPs were shipped to England because they just weren't selling here. The SG had come out, tastes were going a different route. The bursts were sold at a bargain price, and a lot of up and coming British musicians bought up great guitars at great prices. I was just the right time and place, all the conditions were favorable, and the stars and planets lined up. Music was made, the guitars developed a serious following. One of the sadder parts of the story, aside from the insane prices that some folks will pay, is that most of the collector guitars won't even get played often, if at all. Also consider, many years from now, will they be worth more, or will they become like Beanie Babies or Pogs if no one listens to guitar based music anymore? Any speculation, once you put money into it, is just a form of gambling, like the Dutch tulip crash.

23

I would rather have the 1959 Les Paul Jr. with P90s.


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