Gretsch Garage Sale

FS: Gretsch 5120 and 5125

1

Hey everyone, Just writing here for a bit of advice if possible. I’m going to buy my first Gretsch – a Country Gent (George H. Spec. One). I have read varying reports online about buying one vintage vs. New.

The general concensus seems to be, whilst there are some amazing old gretsches, they are quite inconsistent, hard to come by and the new ones are a safer/better bet. Please note i am in the UK, and will most likely buy one from the US as the prices over here are crazy for these guitars! I’ve played a couple of new ones in the shops and they are amazing, alas I wouldn’t beable to play a vintage (or new, but I guess they will mostly be fine..) one I was ordering first.

Any help/advice/opinions would be much appreciated. Cheers!

2

Welcome. Inconsistent isn't always a bad thing because of different likes and dislikes. The problem in my mind is the modern guitars are so similar that if it doesn't feel right you'll never find one that does. Conversely, if a new one sounds, feels and plays great then buy it. The quality of the new guitars is top notch and very consistent but old wood is always going to be old wood.

Buy both, sell the one that you like the least?

3

Vintage v. modern is somewhat akin to lacquer v. poly in terms of the ardor of the arguments both for and against.

The new Gretsches, as Curt mentions, are great guitars. They are consistent and reliable. At least, as far as we know at this point in time. However, because of the change in materials being used now, we have reason to think that binding material should last longer than on some of the older guitars. So, you get a brand new guitar that should last most or all of your lifetime, depending upon your age. And you get it for a price that is usually far less than what you might pay for a vintage Gretsch.

With a vintage guitar, yes, there could be inconsistencies from one guitar to the next. Probably much the same as any other handmade product. In a way, however, those inconsistencies are what make a great vintage guitar so special. You have worked your way through some lesser ones to find the hidden gem. The guitar already has the worked-in feeling to the neck that someone else has spent countless hours playing and smoothing out by hand. Sometimes the electronics on the older ones, such as with the wiring or the switches/pots, could be spotty, but those can be changed out for a modest price. So, if you are ready to invest a bit more money to acquire it, you can find a really special instrument that has lots of vintage mojo associated with it.

It really is just the player's preferences that should decide.

4

Hey Jim, welcome to the GDP.:)

Where in the UK are you? If you're near London, DO pay New King's Road a visit. The shop there has a wonderfull couple of vintage gents. At least they did when I was there in may.

5

Personally, I'd go with a vintage one before I'd buy a new one if price wasn't an issue. Out of all of my Gretsches my absolute favorite is my '59 Tennessean. Vintage guitars just have a little more mojo and cool factor in my opinion.

I had a new Gent at one point and I just couldn't bond with it. I have played a few vintage Gents and they definitely felt better to me.

I do own quite a few new Gretsches and I do like them, but the vintage one will always be my favorite.

6

Welcome!

The current modern Gretsches are surely built well and great instruments in their own right. An issue with vintage Country Gents is that the Harrison connection makes the early 60s double cutaway models relatively sought-after by collectors and therefore expensive compared to other Gretsch models.

There were lots of Gents made from 65-69 and they are regularly offered for sale in the 2,5-4k range but they differ a lot in terms of condition, playability and sound. In this particular period binding rot seems to occur quite regularly. Bindings are expensive to replace so keep this in mind.

I'd suggest, given that you are planning to buy online from the States, to start with a new one first as it will be a less risky purchase. Then try and find/see/hold some vintage examples to get a feel for how they react, and take it from there.

7

They be goodn's and they be baddun's....I got a baddun back in '65. By 72 the binding was rotting away and "pimples" were forming in the lacquer(it also looked like the hardware was Nickel Plated; but that was MY fault!)

Other than cosmetics; it still played beautifully, and the Electronics were fine.

Great Guitar the first five years!

....I miss it....wish I'd have kept it and......

8

Vintage. I can't even look at the new Gretsches without seeing a plastic toy finish in my mind.

I would add that of the two vintage Country Gents I've played, both around 67 one belonging to me and one to my brother, are some of the finest sounding Gretsches I've heard. OK it's a small sample but they really cut. My 67 sounds better than my 60 Anniversary (double pick up) and 61 6120.

But I'll be selling it eventually because 17" bodies are a bit awkward for me.

9

I had the same dilemna a few years back,my problem was that i wanted a fantastic vintage...so that means $$$$$$$.But even then when you do find one,you pray that it plays to your liking.I have a few new gretches and i am extremely happy with them.I also plan on getting a country gent like you and will go for a new one...unless something comes up.My advice would be,go with your budget.But make sure you try out the vintage if you go that way.Good lick!!!

10

I have a vintage White Falcon and a new(er) 5120. The Falcon sounds better (probably due to the bigger body, higher quality wood and dynasonics) but the 5120 feels better (albeit there are some modifications done to help the feel). I think the new Gretsch's are more consistent due to them being machined and not hand made. Machines are more precise and consistent than any human hands are ever going to be. In the end it really comes down to the hands holding it and the ears listening to it.

Plus with new ones you don't have to be nearly as afraid to take them to gigs.

edited to add an afterthought.

11

First off, welcome to the GDP family Jim.

Calling a used guitar "VINTAGE" is just an excuse to sell them for ridiculous prices to people who drank the Kool-Aid.

In my lifetime, I have owned six used Gretsch guitars and only one of them is what I would consider a good guitar. The other five were junk.

I would love an accurate definition of "MOJO" as it pertains to a guitar. That term irritates the heck out of me. There is no such thing as mojo. It is nothing more than a state of mind and marketing tool.

Buy new! There is an issue with some folks about the poly finish. Let's see, poly lasts longer, is shinier, and more scratch resistant than lacquer.

Gretsch, Gibson and others used lacquer in the past because it was the only thing available and was cheap. If poly had been around sixty years ago, this debate would never have taken place.

Bottom line, buying used, or vintage if you prefer, is risky unless you have ample time to inspect and play the guitar. With new, you get consistent quality, a realistic price, a warranty and a darned good guitar.

Now to be fair, I have played a couple of older Gretsch guitars that are fabulous. GDP member Curt's '62(?) Country Club is one of the best playing and sounding guitars I've ever had the pleasure of playing. I have also played some vintage turds. Quality control at Gretsch during the boom years left A LOT to be desired, you know, necks coming off, binding rotting, frets in the wrong place, little things like that.

I am reading Dan Duffy's book right now and he tells it like it is. Dan, if you aren't familiar with him, was head of QC at Gretsch before it was sold to Baldwin for thirteen years. I'm about three quarters of the way through the book and it would make me very cautious before buying an old Gretsch without having a master luthier look at it with a fine tooth comb. I would seriously advise you to read this book before buying an older Gretsch. Click on the word Link...for a source where you can purchase the book.

The vintage guys will now commence to having me tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail. :D

12

Mojo is just mojo Bear, it's not a marketing term. It's something that can't be defined but you can see it in action.

When I bring out my '09 5120 and my '59 6119 to gigs people gravitate towards the 6119 more than the 5120. The 5120 is way more decked out and pretty than the 6119, but even non-players are drawn to the '59. It has MOJO, some sort of magical power that draws people to it.

13

First off, welcome to the GDP family Jim.

Buy new! There is an issue with some folks about the poly finish. Let's see, poly lasts longer, is shinier, and more scratch resistant than lacquer.

Gretsch, Gibson and others used lacquer in the past because it was the only thing available and was cheap. If poly had been around sixty years ago, this debate would never have taken place.

-- Bear

You are right that if poly were around 60 years ago this debate wouldn't have taken place because there would be no concept of "vintage guitar".

With all due respect, it strikes me that you are the sort that believes a house of sheet rock, poured cement, foam core doors and vinyl siding are just great and wonder why it is that people would pay a premium for an old Craftsman house, or a Victorian farmhouse, etc etc. The sheet rock and poured cement certainly keep the rain off, and probably are fairly efficient with the heating and cooling. But they are sterile and characterless. Perhaps this is the lack of Mojo?

In my town in Italy (a place I moved to in part to get away from 100% sheet rock, etc of the USA) there isn't a straight line in the place. It all grew up haphazardly and organically. That is it's charm. A vintage Gretsch is a handmade instrument, and while they can have issues, that fact is its charm too. Virtually ALL of the music I like was made in the time period of these no-two-alike Gretches.

You should feel blessed you are happy with sheet rock and foam core finished Gretsches. It certainly saves you $$$!

14

I would definately buy a vintage if I could find one for an affordable price in this country; if anyone knows of any going for £2000 or less, please let me know! However, the only ones I can find that I can afford are from America, hence my worries of buying one without playing it before. What are the chances of buying a bad one if I buy an original? Are most fine, or most not great?

To be honest, I'm steering towards buying a new one from the USA (even with the shipping & import tax, its still £500-700 cheaper than the prices here..).

15

oh and thanks everyone for your help so far!!

16

The term 'vintage' started to mean a lot less to me when I realized it now applied to guitars that were made in MY lifetime. But I like mojo. In my guitar and my house. I'd have a lot more time to play the guitar if I wasn't so busy working on the old house!

17

First off, welcome to the GDP family Jim.

Buy new! There is an issue with some folks about the poly finish. Let's see, poly lasts longer, is shinier, and more scratch resistant than lacquer.

Gretsch, Gibson and others used lacquer in the past because it was the only thing available and was cheap. If poly had been around sixty years ago, this debate would never have taken place.

-- Bear

You are right that if poly were around 60 years ago this debate wouldn't have taken place because there would be no concept of "vintage guitar".

With all due respect, it strikes me that you are the sort that believes a house of sheet rock, poured cement, foam core doors and vinyl siding are just great and wonder why it is that people would pay a premium for an old Craftsman house, or a Victorian farmhouse, etc etc. The sheet rock and poured cement certainly keep the rain off, and probably are fairly efficient with the heating and cooling. But they are sterile and characterless. Perhaps this is the lack of Mojo?

In my town in Italy (a place I moved to in part to get away from 100% sheet rock, etc of the USA) there isn't a straight line in the place. It all grew up haphazardly and organically. That is it's charm. A vintage Gretsch is a handmade instrument, and while they can have issues, that fact is its charm too. Virtually ALL of the music I like was made in the time period of these no-two-alike Gretches.

You should feel blessed you are happy with sheet rock and foam core finished Gretsches. It certainly saves you $$$! -- knavel

Knavel, I do not want to get into a pi$$ing contest with you. You are as entitled to your opinion as I am to mine and I respect that. However, you're making false assumptions about the home I live in, what I like and dislike, and you are comparing apples and oranges.

Other than wood and metal, houses and guitars have nothing in common. You might as well compare a Prius to a horse. By the way, I do live in an older craftsman house as if that really means anything.

I do not know your age as it is not listed in your profile but I will be 65 in a couple of months so I was around when "vintage" guitars were new guitars and there were good ones and bad ones in all brands. So that means, you could spend thousands for a vintage turd or a gem. It is just a roll of the dice if you cannot inspect and play what you are purchasing.

Oh, and I just looked at my modern Gretsch and found no sheet rock or foam core. I just found some wood, wires and metal. Oh, and modern Gretsch guitars are still made by the hands of craftsmen who also happen to have access to the latest technology.

As I said in the beginning of this post, you are fully entitled to your opinion and I am not trying to convince you otherwise. If you prefer old guitars, that's great. I just don't share your opinions and do not believe in "MOJO" which is nothing more than a marketing phrase created by sharp sellers to get the most money they can out of the buyer's pockets, and it certainly seems to be working.

I feel blessed every day I wake up in the morning and know I have more time left on this earth. I hope you feel that blessing as well and continue to do so for many more years.

I would really like to hear a blindfolded test of say Duane Eddy playing his original '57 6120 and his new signature model. I would be willing to bet that few if any could tell the difference. It's not the guitar, it's the fingers, heart and soul.

18

Mojo is just mojo Bear, it's not a marketing term. It's something that can't be defined but you can see it in action.

When I bring out my '09 5120 and my '59 6119 to gigs people gravitate towards the 6119 more than the 5120. The 5120 is way more decked out and pretty than the 6119, but even non-players are drawn to the '59. It has MOJO, some sort of magical power that draws people to it. -- bombcityrocker

Denny, you know I love you but I don't believe in magic or mojo. The people probably gravitate to your 6119 because YOU feel better playing it thus your music is better.

If there is such a thing as mojo, my 5120 must have a lot of it due to the circumstances involved in my having it.

19

Nicely put, Bear.

I wonder whether by mojo people mean what in the antiques trade is called patina? Something that looks good but obviously isn't new and where ageing has improved the look? Note, I am saying "look" as it doesn't always seem to be about playability or sound.

Deke's '56 6120 is a case in point; both it and my mate's '54 6193 sound way better than my DSW probably through hotter pups - but for me the DSW feels better than the 6193 as the neck isn't so ultra thin. Which has mojo? The older ones, of course, have a certain something that maybe only guitar nuts would understand - history, a place in time - so maybe mojo is just another word for nostalgia? Priuses for courses!

Oh - and welcome, Jim.

20

Hi Jim, I can't say for the particular model you want to get. I visited Nashville in 2008 and bought my second Gretsch a 2004 6120sslvo (first was a 5129). Now I went to Guitar Center and initially wanted the RHH 6210. but they had this used SSLVO. Now the friendly sales guy told me "nah you don't want that, you want to check out our Vintage stuff. At the time I didn't really know that much about vintage at all(still don't) But I must say, for me personally when I was handed a sixties 6120 double cut, I Thought to myself "this is not what I need, what will I do when something fails or breaks, this feels a little fragile". I need a "new" guitar that suits my needs at this point. NOW is a different story though, now I have a couple of good reliable gretsched and I know more (Thanks to GDP) and my next Gretsch will probably be a vintage one. Obviously I don't know what your needs are but as you put it in your first post I guess I went with "new is probably the Safer bet".

/JR

21

A vintage Gretsch is a handmade instrument, and while they can have issues ..."

Excuse me? The Brooklyn Gretsch guitars were no more "handmade" than the Terada guitars! Gretsch, Guild, Gibson, are all assembly line guitars and not a luthier in sight.

There are some factors in building guitars en masse that require certain viable skills...binding... fret dressing...necksets etc, but when you say "handmade" the implication is 'handmade' like John D'Angelico made guitars. (The current D'Angelicos are made in batches, just like Gretsch guitars, by Terada).

When I worked in a music store in the sixties and seventies I saw several Brooklyn Gretsches brand new right out of the box that should never have left the factory.

I't buy a new terada unless a 'vintage' one came through that was cheaper.

22

Interesting question and conversation. I think it is significant that some of the more experienced (older) players here tend to have a greater appreciation of the new instruments. Like Bear, I'm old enough to have been there when what is now classified as "Vintage" were new guitars. Hence my own personal aversion to the use of that term to inflate to an irritatingly high degree the price of instruments that have no real artistic or intrinsic value other than their age. To me a Stradivarius is vintage in the truest sense: i.e. it's artistic quality has both proven and equaled the test of time. Mid 20th century guitars (as viewed by money-oriented speculators/collectors) are not. And in truth most of these instruments will probably NOT withstand the long-term acid test of history.

If I were looking for another GreTscH (and who among us ever stops?) then I'd have no problem whatsoever choosing to invest in a new piece - given the current standards being set by the Japanese. Not to say I'd buy the first one I come across, but I don't think it would take much effort to find state-of-the-art world class in some of these toys. A golden time for us players indeed!

As for MOJO, Bear, whether you like it or not, you have it in spades brother! :)

23

"Mojo" is kinda like charisma... it's a percieved effect but it doesn't make a player play any better. There is just enough variance in an instrumetnt that there will be subtle differences. How much 'mojo' can be ascribed to a plywood guitar is arguable.

I have a single cutawway gent made in 61. It could be said to be a vintage guitar but at the time I got it "vingage guitars" were not a marketing factor. I got it because it was used and I was able to get it (in 1975) for less than 300.00. It was still an expensive guitar to me at the time. A single cut was my dream guitar and at that time single cut gents were not made. I've been lucky. Binding is good and no neck reset is needed.

I still cannot justify the cost of a 6122-59 for myself and must be content with what I have.

24

While respecting and admiring comments from other fellow senior players, here, I will be direct and to the point.

I am pushing my 69th birthday.

Here is the 2nd Gretsch I owned, at around age 12:

A few years and a couple of Gretsches later --

I have to say that the new Gretsch guitars are much better than any of the "vintage" pieces I've owned -- and there have been several.

It always seemed that Gretsch guitars I'd bought in the 1950's and 1960's always had something wrong -- mostly minor stuff, but annoying. The pieces I've bought in recent years (new) have been flawless.


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