Vintage Gretsch Guitars

Anybody happily gone from vintage to modern Gretsch guitars?


Just wondered if anybody has happily given up vintage gretsch and moved to modern Gretsch guitars and why?


It would also be interesting to hear the answers if the question was turned around.


Just wondered if anybody has happily given up vintage gretsch and moved to modern Gretsch guitars and why?

– gretschcrush

Stick with your theme, gretschcrush. I'm interested.


Ok let's run with it then. I know a lot of vintage Gretsch dudes that like the stern customs but I guess it's the japanese pro lines I'm talking about


Boutique modern, OK...


This should be interesting... Never owned a vintage Gretsch but never played one that made me want it more than a modern proline.


This should be interesting... Never owned a vintage Gretsch but never played one that made me want it more than a modern proline.

– Chmason85

I'm the opposite. They just don't feel right. It's "played in" versus "new" I guess. I don't like modern guitars


Hang on a sec... getting popcorn. This thread should be an interesting read. As for myself, vintage vs. modern is of no consequence, I own, love and play both, but I owned modern first, and I gig a lot, so I tend to play modern era stuff more.


My first Grestch was a 1959 6118t .It was a great looking guitar but not a great sounding one,kinda dead. I sold it a long time ago .In 2012 I got a new version of the same guitar which has been one of my top two guitars to play ever since.Just a great feeling an sound. I also have this stunning 1955 Duojet which is one of the best guitars I have ever owned, Is that confusing?I can't imagine selling either one.There are good ones and bad ones in every year of production.


Bought my first Gretsch when i was 17 back in 1988, it was a 65/66 6120 ,i didn't really like the new models when they came out back in 89 cause they weren't vintage accurate enough for me,nor did they sound like my aul 6120.

I did however traded my way to a 96 6122I Country Classic back in 98,that was a nice guitar but again it didn't sound like the old ones,nice in it's own way but not classic Gretsch,to my ears.

Last vintage Gretsches i bought were 57 6120 back in 1999 and a 57/58 Gent in 2000.

I love the old stuff, especially the 50's to mid 60's ,but the new guitars from 2003 onwards keep me happy enough these days,i just don't have the money for the vintage Gretsches i want nowadays. Even used Stern stuff is out of my price bracket these days.

I just want to buy it and play it,with no hassles.


I'm the opposite. They just don't feel right. It's "played in" versus "new" I guess. I don't like modern guitars

– gretschcrush

Ah, irony. A trap for the un-wary.

Looks like you're the 21st century man, Chmason85. Love to hear your modern perspective balancing the traditionalist's view that the older the better.


"I just want to buy it and play it,with no hassles" - JC

Again, I'm the opposite, I like all the extra stuff you need to do with a vintage peice ( up to a point)!. I'm not a gigging musician so I can see the desire for the modern stuff if you are. ie looks great and plug it in and off you go. Vintage sound and feel is great for me sitting on my sofa! Most of the time I don't even plug them in


I really don't have an opinion about which is better. Because, for what purpose? Satisfaction of ownership, fulfilling a nostalgic memory, tone, playability, prestige, studio, gigging, collecting, admiring? All are perfectly valid motivations for ownership decisions.

Also, money appears somewhere in the equation.

I have all modern (that is, FMIC-era) Gretschs - but for a late 40s Synchromatic I've had three years and yet to play because it needs work, and I judge nothing by that.

I've played great vintage Gretschs, and would happily have a couple if I didn't have so many other musical adventures to fund. I guess if I was dissatisfied with the FMIC-era stuff, finding a good old one would be more of a compulsion.

I do get that vintage Gretschs have a certain lumpy lustre and patina which is attractive. It's that whole played-in thing. By contrast there's that other thing that, today, guitars are finished (PRS having had a ripple-out effect on the industry) with more attention to a flawless, level finish and generally a higher gloss. This is industry-wide, not Gretsch in particular. But that can go too far, and give the modern guitars a very different look than the vintage wood. And since we hear with our eyes (oh yes we do), we think it separates the modern from the vintage era in sound. I'm not sure it does.

I'm not complaining. I like shiny stuff.

There are good ones and bad ones in every year of production.

Yeah, well...that's a nice fair and un-prejudiced way to invite everyone to the table of mutual respect, but by all accounts there was more variability in build and mojo-blessing in the vintage era (particularly the 60s) than there has been in the FMIC era. (Which paradoxically makes the nice ones which have survived more desirable and valuable.) But I think the proportion of good ones to bad ones over the last 15 years has been higher than in the golden years. Even an unresponsive, dull-sounding uninspiring guitar is a rarity now - much less an out-and-out lemon with serious manufacturing flaws.

Is every FMIC Gretsch a blessed instrument of the gods? I don't know. I do know that new and recent used FMIC Gretschs can be purchased long-distance, sight-unseen, with full confidence you'll get a guitar completely up to standards.

That's obviously not the case with vintage examples. Was it true when today's old guitars were new? Short of time travel, we have no way of testing that, and it doesn't matter to our current situation when we can choose either guitars of recent production (new or used) - or shop for old guitars, with all the uncertainties that entails. (And, per any given model, figure double the price of new, at minimum, for a serviceable or better vintage piece.)

Again, I don't have a dog in the fight - I've played wonderful vintage guitars I'd have in a minute, were cost no object. But I guess, for my purposes, I don't prefer them to the point where I would trade 2 or 3 or 4 of my modern Gretschs for ONE vintage model. Having multiple Gretsch choices to play, across multiple models and builds and pickup configs, changes my musical life more than would having only a couple great old guitars. That's a function of the economics of the thing - and that FMIC, Terada, and SPG do such a stellar job now.

I don't believe a magic vintage guitar would suddenly make me a better player, improve my tone or expressive range sufficiently to enable me to do with the guitar anything I can't already do.

But if I had the money, I'd no doubt have a couple.


My guitar choices are based largely on aesthetics, knowing I can sort out many of the functional difficulties myself, and given that I will generally choose used things over new (other than basic clothing etc.) as I like things with history (also the world is chock-o-block with our cast-offs), I prefer older guitars.

Do I think they magically sound better? Not necessarily, nor will they make me a better player. I do often believe that they will likely have more sonic quirks and individual characteristics which can be as much about build inconsistency as it is about the ravages of time. I realize that to some, sonically quirky that isn't always ideal.

I guess I like them for their flaws rather than despite their flaws.

I do believe that the new ones are likely better built and definitely more consistent quality-wise and given two identical guitars (old and new) I'm not sure I could tell the difference in a blind test.

To me the aesthetic appeal of the older is part of what makes me excited to pick them up and play them, part of what inspires me to create. It's interesting to speculate about their history and the varieties of music that have been played on them.

Whilst I do a lot of writing and playing that would seem to be conventionally archtop appropriate, I also love the concept of other worldly, bizarre and challenging sounds being created by these classic beautiful old instruments. It's fun to imagine how the original builders and owners of these guitars would be reacting.

This is from a semi-professional viewpoint(used to be full time pro) so ALL my guitars are meant to be taken out to shows and played no matter how old and precious. They are all at least 40 years old, most 50-65 and none has ever let me down live or in rehearsal due to age or initial design. I don't find them to be unreliable or unpredictable in any way.

However I do know how to maintain them and ensure they give me consistent results. Essentially I keep them in the same state of functionality as any well built and properly set up new Gretsch out there. I don't see them as especially fragile or needing of coddling.


Ah, irony. A trap for the un-wary.

Looks like you're the 21st century man, Chmason85. Love to hear your modern perspective balancing the traditionalist's view that the older the better.

– jeffed

Yeah, that's me lol. I have a 53 VS jet, and Ive held and played a real 53, and honestly they were so close, at least aesthetically, but even more than that. I want something vintage "styled" for sure, but I want to plug in and go, and have a warranty! I don't know, I think vintage guitars are cool but not for me, the mystique is lost on this guy... Mine will be vintage one day haha.


For what it’s worth: I have owned dozens of vintage (pre 1966) Gretsch guitars and have worked on dozens more. The 2004 SSU I had was as good as any of those in its own right. I did sell it, but not because it wasn’t a great guitar.

Brian Stezer was using his Red signature model for years and said it was a good as any he owned. I think his final quote was “see folks, ya just need to play them”


I'll get pummeled for this after school. My dream is a vintage white falcon, but after playing a few beautiful birds I could not get over the fact that, for me, my humble 5120 seemed to play better. I still lust after a vintage falcon but with less passion.

You may now punch me in the nose.


I currently have several modern and two vintage Gretsches. My preference depends on the mood of the moment.

On the vintage side I like my Tennessean. The likelihood of my owning another guitar for over fifty years is slim and none. The marks and mojo on it are mine. The tone of the HiLos is an acquired taste which I have fully found. I also like my recently acquired Super Chet. The marks and mojo aren’t mine, but it’s a great guitar. Way different than the Tenny and plays/sounds terrific. Both guitars are good quality. My preference on vintage guitars is to leave them stock, however, the Tenny received Grover’s around 1968 due to a bent tuner and the Super Chet received TVJ Classics prior to my purchase.

The modern guitars all are good reliable instruments, some of which have been modified. I have less “guilt” about modifying a modern guitar. They don’t conjure up the intrigue of the vintage ones but are just as good with a better history of quality and are set up as I want them to be. It’s hard to compare vintage to modern if they are not stock imo.

My goal is to eventually whittle down the collection to just one or two guitars. I honestly don’t know at this point which one or two will be the last standing or whether it will be vintage or modern. The best guitar is the one you enjoy the most regardless of age. That’s been the Super Chet lately but is subject to change.


Had a vintage 58 6120 for years, traded a Gibson for a newer White Penguin a short while ago. The necks are just about twins! I must say that after getting arthritis in my left thumb my preference has turned to my 48 Synchromatic with its thicker neck.


Im a bit of a piker in this field, I only have one Gretsch and its carried me from when it was about 3yrs old until last week (the last time I had it out of the case). That`s a relationship which began in 1973 and is still strong today.

However, other than that, my guitars have pretty much always been new. Beginning with my first Aria in `68, through to the last one- my T5z, all but one I pulled from the shipping box myself.

I guess I kind of like that "new guitar" smell.....


I'm the opposite. They just don't feel right. It's "played in" versus "new" I guess. I don't like modern guitars

– gretschcrush

I think your ground rules exclude Custom Shop, but that's where I could get into modern. The Proline Gretsches just don't feel like Gretsches to me. I bought my first in 1990, a 1965 Country Gentleman, and didn't even know that Gretsch had been revived. I don't think I realized it until the late '90s. I don't read guitar magazines and nobody around here was selling Gretsches. When I did have the chance to spend time with modern Prolines, they felt like guitars that looked like Gretsches, but weren't. On the other hand, the few Custom Shop Gretsches I've played felt exactly like what I'm used to. And the used prices aren't bad. My problem is that I'm a traditionalist and most of the second hand CS guitars have goofy exotic specs that I just can't get behind.


I play both, and reading this thread has made me realize that I don't really distinguish between the newer post Fender guitars and the 6124 Anniversary from 1960, until I think about it. Having said that, I might have a preference for the old Brooklyn made Gretsches because the two modern era guitars that I have are both built at the Fuji-Gen factory and their specs seem to match the older vintage ones. Many Terada Gretsches have come and gone through here, but these ones have stayed, and I'll never sell the Fuji-Gen 6118T from 2005. If I sell the 6120, it will be to help finance an old Anni from 58-59 with trestle bracing, just 'cause.

It sounds like I've admitted to a preference to the old dawgs, but I can't really say why; just a feel thing I guess. I really like the newer ones, and about the only complaint I can think of is that some of them, not many, but some, are too.....tight?...heavy?....I don't know...just a tad unresponsive. I haven't played many vintage ones, but I would bet that there are some that are also unresponsive, so that might not be a fair criticism to ascribe to new VS old.

The best sounding Gretsch that I had was a modern era Falcon; that thing was amazing. So, I can't say that I dislike modern era Gretsches, I just finally admitted to myself that any guitar with a 25 1/2" scale is not for me. It was kinda like when I used to feel guilty for neglecting piano practice, until the day that I admitted to myself that I don't like playing the piano; instant redemption. The next 'to do' thing on my list is a conversion neck for my Telecaster.

Now that I think about it, the old ones seem to have acquired some degree of personality over the decades; not many vintage guitars that share the same model designation are identical. While the consistency of modern construction methods has produced, arguably, the best Gretsches ever, time and life have a way of forging character. Maybe that's what it boils down to; survival. Here's a thought, I'll never know what a vintage Terada built Gretsch is like.

Merry Christmas.


There's one other caveat to this question that's yet to be discussed or mentioned and that's the modern Gretsch - whichever one you're interested in - has to have a vintage counterpart or vice versa depending on which side of the discussion you're standing on for the question to be valid. In my case I have 3 vintage Gretsches that don't fit this ground rules.....4th one fits the rules but isn't restored yet. I have a my '41 Synchro which I've shown around here before; my '72 Super Chet, regardless of my upgrades, and my '76 Super Axe. Gretsch did briefly make a stab at a Super Chet comeback but wasn't successful. I certainly wouldn't have bought the original even if one of the modern ones was plentiful as it isn't true enough to the original to make it unique or appealing. The return to the standard size neck for the last 7 years of the original run put me off those versions even with the other details the same.

Gent to Gent, Falcon to Falcon, 6120 to 6120, et al seems to meet the requirements of the OP's question, which is interesting when there's a choice.

I can make one observation regarding my long gone '64 Gent.....wouldn't have a vintage one. I'd get the modern 6122-59, unavailable till this century, as it has the wider neck and no friggin useless, ugly mute system!

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