Vintage Gretsch Guitars

When buying Vintage: which non-original parts are deal breakers?


While searching for a vintage Gretsch, I often noticed non-original parts (bridges, pickguards, tuners, knobs, Bigsby/tailpieces, etc.). It's understandable that over time parts get swapped out and modifications are made for various reasons.

If originality is important to you, do you have a hierarchy of least to most offensive non-original parts? And how many? For example: perhaps you're okay with a swapped-out pickguard and/or bridge, but then add to that non-original tuners and you start to pause, and then on top of all that non-original pickups is where you draw the line.

So I'm wondering, with "all other things being equal," when considering purchasing a vintage guitar, which non-original parts are you not comfortable with, and which ones are okay?


I would say any and all non-original parts are acceptable as long as it’s reflected in the price.

Parts get replaced, it’s a fact of life. Getting an all-original vintage guitar is getting rarer with every passing year. But if the seller is up-front, the buyer is fully aware, and the price is a reasonable one, no harm, no foul.

So I guess the question should really be; what do we consider hurts the value the most?

It’s purely subjective and I expect a lot of variation, but for me it would be finish and pups in equal measure, then pretty much everything else in equal measure after that.


I agree with Deke but would add that it depends on how available and affordable the original parts are if I want to go back to bone stock, and what mods were made to fit the current parts. If for example, putting the correct tuners on will hide any added holes from the replacements then it doesn't bother me, if the mods will still be visible then the price needs to be right. Also, the various tuners Gretsch used are almost always available on Reverb, usually for reasonable prices. If I needed a genuine Cadillac tailpiece then that's the opposite end of the spectrum - rare and big $$$$$. Bridges, pickups and pick guards are somewhere in between the two.

I like my vintage stuff to have the correct electronics, but I can live with replaced pots if the pickups are original.

But I did use the fact that my last purchase had a later Bigsby instead of the stock "G" cutout tailpiece as a bargaining chip, even though I would have put a Bigsby on it if there wasn't already one there.


I'm okay with strings. :-p

I agree with the comments above.

if I was looking for a super collectible guitar I would look at prices for replacement parts before buying. But I have bought vintage guitars with many parts changed cause they sounded great and were priced well.

I use to think vintage pickups were special. I'm not so sure that is the case anymore with so many great pickup builders around. At least when I am comparing vintage fender pickups with recent handwound ones.

I think Dynasonics may be a lil more complicated to reproduce though and I am yet to hear repro p-90s sound as good as the vintage ones I have in a 50s es-175. But - I have not tried many repro p-90s and it may just be the guitar that sounds great in this instance.


The body. Absolutely. But only a deal-breaker if you're looking for an original body ...


As 66Gent points out… original parts can be difficult to source. So when I’m considering a vintage guitar that has changed parts, and that I want to return to period correct factory specs, I would consider which of those parts would I need to try and chase down. So a ‘58 6120 that needs a period correct B6 wouldn’t concern me because I know those are out there. But a ‘56 6120 that is from the #200xx batch and needs a breakaway handle B6 to be considered “right” would be deal breaker since those are impossible to source.


I would say the only absolute dealbreaker for me is the wood. No visible damage or extra holes, not even little tuner holes (I curse Schaller for placing their mounting screws where no other tuner will ever cover them up). As long as a guitar can be brought back to "correct", then it's just a matter of adjusting the price to reflect the time, effort, and expense required to get it back to where it should be.

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