Vintage Gretsch Guitars

I just inherited an old Gretsch, can anyone tell me about it?

1

From the info on this site, I see that my serial number (25008) means it's probably a 1957, but could be one of the 1000 serial numbers that ended up in 1965. My mom says she remembers her dad having it before 1965, but she was just a little girl at the time. Maybe the equipment on it can verify it's age? It is missing the low E string guide at the bridge, and the pick guard is definitely aftermarket, but other than that, it looks/sounds nice. I'd be interested to hear if anyone can tell more about it from these pics. Also, if anyone has info on where i can get the correct pick guard and a replacement string guide (or whatever it's properly called), I'd appreciate it! Also, does anyone have a clue as to the value it has? I should probably add it to my homeowner's insurance, but I don't know if it's worth 300 or 3000!

2

sorry for fuzziness but here's another pic, one more coming.

3

last pic, thanks for any info!

4

The tuners (and maybe the bridge?) have been changed also. Great looking guitar!

5

I’m in love. That’s a beautiful thing.

6

Changed tuners, bridge, pickguard (as you observe) and probably pickguard bracket (which can be a slightly trickier vintage piece to find as modern ones last I recall are constructed somewhat differently). Bigsby looks vintage but from a period later than what I would think would have been on that guitar. Not 60s.

I thought in the first pic maybe refinish, but the second pic makes me inclined to think not.

Case?

7

Great looking Gretsch, super vintage colour, wow, keep in the family""

8

From the single-coil pickups (DeArmond 2000, "Dynasonic" in Gretsch parlance), gotta be 1957.

As well as the pickguard, the bridge and tuners appear to be aftermarket (though those are not serious deviations from original, as they're easily swapped with no mods to the guitar itself - and all appear to be from near the period, not modern).

And I'm curious about the pickguard, because it's cleverly cut out for the master volume knob. Not many guitars at the time even had a control in the cutaway bout, and it surprises me anyone would have made a pickguard to accentuate it in that way. I've never seen such a pickguard on a Gretsch (though I'm far from the ultimate vintage guy), so I wouldn't accuse it of being a factory option - but it may well have been custom-made for this guitar. Since it's bound, that would have been a pretty special operation.

I think at the time, the Bigsby would have been an available factory option, but not standard with the guitar.

Can you make out a model number on the label? This sure looks like a Country Club to me, but your pictures vary wildly in color. Country Clubs came in natural (which this looks to be); the 6120 Nashville (which looked superficially similar) came in the customary Gretsch orange, as seen in the guitar at the top of every GDP page. A measurement across the fattest part of the guitar (the bottom "hips") would tell the story: a Country Club is 17", and a 6120 is 16".

The guitar looks to be in beautiful condition - but we'll want lots more pictures.

As for value, if you're selling it to ME, definitely 300.00. But otherwise, certainly more like 3,000.00. (Or more. Again - pictures, man!)

9

It looks like 16'' to me. Once Ed gets here he'll confirm the batch from the serial number. Agree with your most important point about mod reversibility. The only thing I wouldn't know is if the tuner holes had to be bored out to take those Imperials.

10

According to Ed's charts, the 250XX batch is from roughly mid-1957. That's also the first batch with the "new" orange/grey labels.

The original bridge would have most likely been a bar bridge or Bigsby bridge.

11

'57 6120. Like mentioned it has some some changed parts but in all it looks very nice. We would need more pictures to determine a price range but if it's in good shape I think it would be more like $ 8000 and up.

12

It does look 16-ey. And would a Country Club in natural still have had a spruce top in '57?

Still hard to tell from the pics, but it could be a particularly light orange. Looks orangier on the laptop than it did on the iPad. And does the horseshoe on the headstock clinch it as not-a-Club?

If it were mine, I'd leave the Imperials alone. They're period, have often been considered a premium upgrade, and why not? As far as that goes, the unique pickguard isn't offensive.

Bridge has to go, though!

13

Yes, I don't think Country Clubs ever had a horse shoe on the headstock.
I would leave the Imperials because most likely the holes in the headstock were enlarged for that. But if it were mine I would try to find an original pick guard though....

14

The horseshoe inlay in the headstock is all you need to peg it as a 6120, unless there's evidence of a neck replacement of course. The Bigsby is a 60s era vibrato, and the factory installed "Duane-handle" version will run you 2x-3x what the existing unit is valued at. The other issues (guard, tuners, bridge) are all relatively easy fixes to get back to spec.

If she's in good playing condition (solid neck-set, good action, working electronics) and the binding isn't cracked or deteriorating (yet), and after those mods are reversed... this guitar could fetch north of $6k. If it has a cowboy case it would make for a nice package!

15

Wow, that’s a lot of info, thanks! I can take more pics, what should I focus on? The case isn’t vintage or anything. I’ll post more pics later today. My father in law is an incredible guitar player, but only plays Martins... he recommended I take it to a luthier to fix any issues.

16

Unless there are playability issues - and you WANT to "correct" the bridge, Bigsby, and pickguard (which are in all probability working fine) - there's really nothing for a luthier to "fix."

We'd like closeup pics of top, back, sides (mostly if there are any notable scratches, dents, cracks, repairs, etc), and any binding that looks deteriorated. Also the heel from both sides, the fingerboard, nut area, any notable fret or fingerboard wear, and something showing the height of the strings from the fingerboard. Back of headstock, back of neck. Better pic of the label, if you can get it.

That might do it!

17

Just askin', but wouldn’t the Bigsby on the '57 6120 be standard?

And as an aside, not to derail please, the ironicalness of that pickguard.

18

Wow, that’s a lot of info, thanks! I can take more pics, what should I focus on? The case isn’t vintage or anything. I’ll post more pics later today. My father in law is an incredible guitar player, but only plays Martins... he recommended I take it to a luthier to fix any issues.

– Fiendo

"My father in law is an incredible guitar player ... he recommended I take it to a luthier to fix any issues."

Hmmm, the only issue I see here is that it's not in my hands, but as I'm really not in the market right now there's not much can be done about that!

To be a little more serious..

LIke some, I'd try and restore the pickguard and leave the rest unless there are playability (or electrical) issues. I'm not offended by the tuners and truthfully the bridge would not be a deal-breaker for me, either. It can be fixed, I'm sure.

Does it "work"? Have you plugged it in, yet? A re-wire job could be a little more problematic.

19

Hi Deed... yes, the Bigsby B6 unit is a factory feature on the 1957 6120 (all model years of 6120 actually). But in '57, they looked like this. Note the indented patent number, the shaped (cast) aluminum handle with the slotted screw-head in the swivel, and the "spur" that limits the range of the handle swivel is located on the handle (not the bracket).

The B6 on the OP's guitar has the later features of raised patent number, steel handle, carriage bolt, and spur on the bracket. There are other differences found on the reverse side, but that's mute in this scenario since we can't view the back of the OP's unit.

20

Cool guitar,i have one myself from the last batch of 70 made for 1957.

If ya can get a picture inside of the wiring that would help too sir.

Pick guard looks like it's from a Gibson Tal Farlow to me.

21

Hello Fiendo, welcome to the GDP. Your grandfather left you quite a treasure. My grandfather left me several vintage instruments as well, so I know just how special it is to you. You mentioned that it's missing a string guide or "bridge saddle". Replacing the saddle shouldn't prove to be too difficult, but I'd consider replacing it with a more period correct bridge. The fellows here would most likely recommend a Tru Arc (PM our Proteus for info).

You haven't mentioned your experience with guitars. This is a very valuable vintage instrument, and may be in need of a good setup if it has sat unused for a long time. Setups and parts swapping are thing that many experienced guitarist do themselves. If you have any reservations, and feel the need to involve a Luthier, make sure that they are experienced with vintage archtop guitars.

22

Welcome Fiendo. As you are new here and don't know the players, kc_eddie_b is the expert on all matters 6120 (and quite a few other things). He quite literally wrote the book on the subject. You can get one from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Gret...

The rest of us are comparative hacks. Except for Deed.

23

I wouldn't bother replacing any of the aftermarket parts to make it 'vintage correct' unless you are planning on selling it to a collector and they can likely do this cheaper/easier than you anyway.

I think that tortoise shell pickguard is unique and cool looking and part of what makes this guitar itself unique. The tuners being imperials were used on all the top gretsch models and are frankly an upgrade. They're classy and beautiful, keep them too. Get the tunamatic bridge top fixed if it's missing a part. I would be inclined to go with a properly intonated archtop bridge myself but a serpentune or other simialr appropriate looking gretschy bridge would be good too. Tunamatics are practical but very generic looking which to me looks strange on a unique vintage instrument. However that is just my opinion.

As for luthiers I would only take it to someone who is experienced with vintage instruments and just get what needs to be done to make it playable. frets?, neck set?, bridge fixed. A mediocre luthier/guitar setup guy could really mess this up with inappropriate work which would be a shame as it is so valuable. Don't let anyone talk you into a refinish that kills a guitars value and your finish looks great. I would get a few professional opinions frankly. Oh and get it insured

24

The pickguard appears to be from a Gibson Tal Farlow model. The shape was designed to show off the inlaid scroll on the upper bout. I think it plays nicely with the Gretsch's volume control.

25

Good points from all, but I'm just going to add my opinion to the mix. Why not, its Sunday.

I actually would replace the non-correct parts. If you look at some old pics of Duane Eddy you'll see what a '57 6120 should look like and I'm sure you'll agree original looks better. That's not to say what you have needs replacing, but with such a cool vintage piece as you have there the non-original parts are detracting from its looks and its value.

I'm in the UK so I can't help with a valuation, but the figures previously offered are by no means unreasonable. For insurance purposes I'd say get it insured for $8-10,000.

As far as any work goes, make sure you find a luthier who absolutely knows vintage Gretsches. They're not rocket science, but they are quirky, and if you pick the wrong guy it could end in tears. Curt Wilson at Old School Guitars would be my advice, but I don't know where you are compared to Curt.

Your grandad had great taste. My condolences on your loss and congratulations on such a wonderful inheritance.


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