Vintage Gretsch Guitars

How does a guy start collecting?


Really, what I should say is, how do I know what is collectable and where does one start? Obviously, educating oneself is a good place to start. What's a few of your favorite sources of knowledge on what's collectible?



Collect what you like!


You can start by making a new home for my '63 6120! :D


The key is knowing that at some point you will have too much and need to start selling off stuff so that you can continue to upgrade the collection without just adding to the collection. Don't be afraid to start small but always be willing to sell. Otherwise you just wind up with a ton of guitars, some of real interest and some not so much.

Not sure how I knew that...


Almost forgot, good luck in your quest.


I collect orphans. Lately, it's been the Historic series (and the now orphaned 400JV). All cats-eyes.

I'm not thinking they appreciate in value, but that I just like them for they're play & look. If I don't bond with it, it's sold or donated.

I plan to continue buying Historic series guitars. They've all been great quaity & playability. I've only sold one ever, and that was part of a trade for an awesome amp from JBGretschguy.



A lot depends on what you're trying to accomplish.

Are you collecting in order to achieve a diverse range of tones? Or in hopes of their increasing in value (unlikely).

If you're looking for a range of tones, I'd recommend by starting with pickups - get one with Filtertrons and one with Dynasonics. Also check out Hilotrons though they're not as popular.

Then you can go to body type (hollow, semi, solid), scale length, etc.

Of, pick out players you admire - maybe Duane, Brian a d George - and try their style of guitars.

Lots of ways to get started. The hard part is stopping...


The key is knowing that at some point you will have too much and need to start selling off stuff so that you can continue to upgrade the collection without just adding to the collection. Don't be afraid to start small but always be willing to sell. Otherwise you just wind up with a ton of guitars, some of real interest and some not so much.

Not sure how I knew that...

– CBell

The key is knowing that at some point you will have too much and need to start selling off stuff so that you can continue to upgrade the collection without just adding to the collection. Don't be afraid to start small but always be willing to sell. Otherwise you just wind up with a ton of guitars, some of real interest and some not so much.

Not sure how I knew that...

– CBell

I need to re-read this on a weekly basis. A good mantra to live by, albeit difficult for me.


They don't call it 'Collecting' anymore, Now they call us 'Hoarders' :|


It all starts with opening your wallet or checkbook and it's a slippery slope from there! The "collect what you like" advice is good. The next bit of advice (particularly if you're married) is to set yourself reasonable limits. I started off wanting "one of these" and "one of those". Now, I always confer with the wife before a big purchase, and I always keep something in mind for trade. Always start by thinking about a trade. While money and space aren't an issue for some - most of us just aren't so lucky.

When you can't recall how many or what you've got - you've probably have gone to far - either in guitars or senile dementia. If you're succeptible to any compulsive disorder or addictive behavior, I would veer away now!

My wife has three great tests to keep me honest: "What's different about this one (besides the color)?", "Can you do something with one of the one's you've got to make it sound/play like this one?" and "What's going to leave the house to make room for this?".

As far as "what to look for" goes, there are several good Gretsch books on the market that can give you an idea of what's out there. Try searching for "gretsch" on Amazon or Vintage Guitar magazine's price guide probably isn't a bad idea either. I actually spotted a 2011 price guide on the shelf at the local public library.

Besides Gretsch guitars, I also have a fondness for Danelectros. The main difference from collecting Gretsch guitars is that while Danos also come in a huge variety, they're comparatively inexpensive. Some of them are great deals for the money. I've had some great Danos over the years, but it's only ever been one or two at a time. I try to keep my Gretsch habit to the same level, but it can be so challenging!

I also never buy anything that I know I can't fix, and I prefer buying things that don't need fixing at all; however, the best deals always require some level of effort. I've also never bought something as an "investment". You can't really play an "investment" on a daily basis without risk, and the whole speculative vintage guitar market thing is nothing BUT risk.

How about the rest of you? Any of this ring true?



I am not a collector. I don't have the collector gene. I have never had more than 6 or 8 guitars (including basses) at one time. However, over 40 years I have owned easily 100 guitars. They come and go, and still are. I like to keep it to about 4. Still have the 2 gibson acoustics for sale.

But like they say, collect what you like, don't overspend/overpay for something you want, and keep refining the collection around whatever your criteria is. Good luck and keep us informed -- and we're all happy to offer opinions.


Patience, research, and staying focused on what you are really looking for are your best friends. I have been collecting, semi-seriously, for a long time now. The very few times things didn't work out is when I ignored one of them. it's easy to get swept up in the moment, and I do get a rush when I do a deal, but it's better to let one pass than wind up with something you don't like or isn't right, or was priced wrong. Unless you are at a very advanced level, you'll get multiple chances to buy. Use that to your advantage in both negotiating and deciding what to buy. You'll miss a deal here or there, but your purchases will be much more likely to please. And I do agree with the folks who talk about playing these things - when deciding, I certainly factor in whether it's something I'll get a kick out of or just a display piece. Narrow your initial focus, be tight with your cash, and learn as much as you can about the market and the instrument.

Good luck - it's a great hobby.


I try to be more of a "bang for the buck" collector at this point. The big exception to that is my Duo Jet which is the most expensive item I've ever bought for myself besides a car. If my circumstances improve over the years and I have more space I could see myself acquiring a few more guitars. I'm pretty happy with what I have though. I say as long as you're having fun and are happy with what you are collecting then it's a win.


It's a total crapshoot knowing what will be collectible thirty or fifty years down the road.Maybe pieces that are now about ten to twenty years old and look as hokey as a plaid leisure suit and prescription glasses tinted at the top.Pointy guitars maybe? The usual '50s-'60s (and amazingly some '70s) icons by now command the price of new transportation and then some,but and George Gruhn's shop have a lot of them if a buyer has a lot of money. Budget-level guitars and amps from the Fifties to the mid-60s like Harmony,Danelectro/Silvertone/Airline,and Kay generate some interest and prices are generally pretty reasonable when you can find a good piece.One thing I'm also seeing is interest in the Sixties Japanese imports.Not very good as instruments but the kitsch factor is off the charts and that makes them cool in a dreadful sort of way.

EDIT: Vintage Guitar Magazine has quite a few ads from vintage dealers;I've always thought those were a good source of information,and I read the articles too ;-)


A better source than the Vintage Guitar Price Guide is the online Blue Book of Guitar Values, they have much more information about the models and are updated more frequently.

Gruhn's Guide to Vintage Guitars is also very helpful.

If you haven't subscribed to Vintage Guitar magazine you should (you can read it in my office if you want. 8-) )


You will need to make that choice between vintage and modern guitars as well. Vintage stuff can be rewarding but there are a ton of fakes and mods that ruin the value. If the buy is for value be very cautious, if the buy is for vibe and you are not concerned with vintage correctness then go for the fun. As others have said here, be careful.

I'll share this much, I always wanted Gibsons when I was younger but could never afford them, so when started down this path I got a bunch of them. Turns out I really don't the damn things, but I did discover Gretsch and that I only really like single coils. What fun!


Collect what you like. It just depends on what you are trying to do and there all kinds of collections. I collect very specific models of standard guitars. Not vintage but classic models. Flame top les Paul blonde black guard tele orange 6120 gretsch etc...


Once upon a time I thought of building a collection of semi-valuable guitars. Now many guitars later I've found my niche - less common models like the Corvette, Ramblers and Astro Jets, with a sprinkling of modern models. Preferably ones I can modify. Never get rich but have a lot of fun doing it.


I don't think I am a "collector"... but somehow there are 13 guitars in my basement.


I started "collecting" by accident, really, but after I had 3 or 4 basses, I decided to set some parameters - so step 1 is "Set Parameters". I decided to restrict myself to 4-string basses, and then to try to get one of each different type; short scale, long scale, and body types- soild, hollow, semi-hollow, neck-thru.. you get the idea. Of course, you could try something completely different, but be warned: collecting with the idea of making a fortune at it is not very likely. Just have fun with it; I have, and learned a lot along the way. Good luck!


I'm with Kevin F. If you buy instruments you like as you go along you may end up a collecter by accident.

I always thought guitars were kind of a tough "collection" because I can't just let them sit - they need to be maintained, what with string tensions and truss rods and humidity and such. If I was a real collecter, I'd go with records or baseball cards or rocks or coins. Or maybe dried insects.


Generally I'd say hoarding was frowned upon as a preferred nomenclature, so they changed it to collecting. :) usually don't collections start by accident..?


I collect basically guitars that need lots of love and TLC. I repair them and put them into as good a condition as I possibly can. My wife don't really seem to mind because she knows that they are worth more when I finish with them then when I bought them. Plus my Luthier skills increase with every one I do.Just have fun


Nick touched on something-reissues.Certainly if someone not named Donald Trump wants an instrument that replicates a piece from Da Golden Age but doesn't cost its weight in gold,there are a lot of excellent reissues from the major manufacturers at just about every price point,and if you want some of the off the wall and budget stuff,Eastwood is reissuing things many of us hoped back in the day never to see again 8-o ;-)

EDIT: I wonder if even now someone is plotting to reissue some of the guitars JPG&R and other Brits made do with while they were working their way up.

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