Vintage Acoustic Guitars

Vintage Acoustic Guitars are popular collectibles among musicians for a variety of reasons, one of which is the way that wood ages. As the wood the guitar is made from matures over 25 to 50 years, the sound that the guitar produces will mature, leading to deeper and more resonate tones.

The most popular woods used in vintage handmade guitars were mahogany, maple and rosewood and they each peak at different rates. Mahogany peaks somewhere between 25 and 30 years and both rosewood and maple will do so between 25 and 50 years. Brazilian rosewood is no longer used to make guitars as the trees are now protected as an endangered species so this makes vintage guitars made from it highly collectible.

Other reasons for collecting vintage acoustic guitars are the remarkably fine craftsmanship and character of each individual guitar. The most sought after of these are acoustic guitars that were made during the 1920s and 30s.

Buying Vintage Guitars on Ebay

if you're going to buy your next vintage acoustic guitar on Ebay, there's a couple of things you should keep in mind as your browse listings.

Is the Guitar in Original Condition?

As is true with virtually all antiques and vintage collectibles, repairs and refinishing harm value. So if the guitar you are considering purchasing has been repaired, refinished or even been refretted, it will not be worth as much as a vintage guitar in its original condition.

Naturally, the better the original condition of the guitar, the more valuable it is going to be.

I would only look at listings in which the provenance of the guitar is described in detail, including repair history, and in which there are plenty of photos showing the guitar from all angles - with close-ups of any major issues that may affect value. Be sure to take a close look at the neck of the guitar as they can become bowed over time and may need to be reset.

Know Your Seller

Before bidding on a vintage guitar, make sure to check the seller's feedback and make sure you understand the terms of the auction. If you have any questions about the guitar, shipping, insurance or anything else about the auction, take the time to send your questions to the seller before you bid.

Collecting Vintage Acoustic Guitars

Do Some Research

If you're just starting to get into collecting vintage guitars, or even if you are only looking to own one, it pays to do some research on them first.

I personally find price guides generally are of little value (for collecting anything). Printed guides are out of date before they even hit the shelves. You are better off looking at completed auctions in Ebay to gauge actual values as those prices are what people are really paying.

Identification guides and reference guides on the other hand are very useful to determining whether a guitar auction you are looking at is for a guitar you would actually want to own. They will also help steer you away from known problems. You can take a look at a couple of guides I've chosen to the right.

Popular Vintage Acoustic Guitars

Gibson and Martin guitars are probably the most popular among collectors, but they are definitely not the only collectibles and there are several other guitar makers to consider, including D’Aguisto, D’Angelico, Epiphone, Gretsch, Guild and Stromberg.

Gibson Vintage Guitars

While the company is best known for the Gibson Les Paul electric guitar, Gibson has been making acoustic guitars since the 1920s. The company invented the Archtop Guitar and the most collectible of those were made between 1930 and 1959. Pre-war guitars are generally the most sought after.

For Vintage Flattop Gibson Guitars, you'd want to look at guitars produced pre-war and also during the 40s and 50s. Flattop Gibson Guitars producted during the sixties and seventies are considered inferior to the earlier guitars.

Martin Vintage Guitars

Martin started making guitars in the 1800s and their early flat top guitars are highly collectible. Other types of guitars made by Martin are not considered as nearly as desirable among collectors.

Basically any Martin flat top acoustic guitars made before 1970 are considered collectible and the most prized periods would be those from the earliest manufacturing period - 1840s to the Twenties and then the pre-war guitars up until about 1944.

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Comments 17 comments

Rob Jundt profile image

Rob Jundt 8 years ago from Midwest USA

Nice hub with a lot of research. I would like to chime in on one point you made concerning the woods used. The three you mentioned, mahoghany, rosewood, and maple are considered back and side woods. Meaning that they are used in construction everywhere on the guitar except for the top, or the sounding board. The topwood (sounding board) is usually a softwood such as spruce, fir, or hemlock. -- The brands you mentioned are indeed the most highly-sought vintage American guitars. I would add National to that list as well. As far the current colllectibles, a few brands to look for would be early Taylors and Breedloves. Thanks for the nice hub.


embitca profile image

embitca 8 years ago from Boston Author

Thanks, Rob. I appreciate the additional information about the wood. That's useful to know. And thanks for the additional brand suggestions too!


Paul Felix 8 years ago

Hi embitca very imformational my son in to acoustic guitars and is very good,He wants a different one and this helped me make a connection with why someone would pay so much for one [namin me] good hub~cool~cya


embitca profile image

embitca 8 years ago from Boston Author

Hi Paul, glad I could help. I hear you on the prices. Some of them are pretty astounding, but it does make a lot more sense once you understand a bit about why they are so collectible. Wood is like fine wine and fine scotch -- maturing into something even more wonderful than it was when new.


prasadjain profile image

prasadjain 8 years ago from Tumkur

Useful information on a rare thing.Thanks.

Years ago,I thought of starting to learn to play guitar.As soon as guitar came to know it,it fell to my feet and requested to spare him. I dropped my thought, as i'm a very merciful fellow!


dindin profile image

dindin 8 years ago from Texas

Enjoyed the hub.

More on the wood...You mentioned maple. Maple is used in some arch top acoustics. It is a common wood for the backs, sides, and neck of archtops.


Whitney05 profile image

Whitney05 8 years ago from Georgia

Great way to promote products and give tons of info. Great idea embitca.


embitca profile image

embitca 8 years ago from Boston Author

Prasadjain, LOL, very funny.

Hi Dindin, thanks for the additional info!

Thanks, Whitney :)


my-hair-tools profile image

my-hair-tools 8 years ago from Ohio

yeah wow lots of great info. I've been playing for a couple years and have been very interested in vintage gear but haven't invested in a good vintage guitar yet. good information!


Robert S 8 years ago

Good hub - useful and informative. With regards to the info on Gibson flat tops, a couple of exceptions (to their golden period) might be in the case of the "Hummingbird", and "Dove" models, which were only introduced in 1960 and '62 - respectively. Both very fine guitars up until about... '67, I believe from about '68 onward the quality of Gibson flat tops (in general) began a downward spiral - up until the mid eighties which is when they began to lift their game.


Erick Smart 7 years ago

I am pretty particular about the feel of a guitar so I personally do not think I would ever really buy one online. I would want to touch and play it first.


Jessica 7 years ago

Anyone know anything about a 1975 Handmade Alvarez Classical Acoustic Guitar Model No. 5011 ? If so, Please e-mail me at blinkyfun@yahoo.com Thanks.


Research Analyst profile image

Research Analyst 7 years ago

I heard that Gibson Vintage Guitars are popular among collectors, because of the market for vintage Gibsons has always been strong, but according to Gruhn, the upwards trend in prices went up drastically starting in 2002 making them more valuable and sought after.


bamafatz 7 years ago

Youseem to know alot about this subject but have you ever see orheard of a Sovereign arch top made in the 30's? I've only seen one other than mine and not alot of people know about them. Ths is a beautiful sunding guitar, and looks alot like a gibson L-7. If you or anyone else knows anything please comment.


interesting-stuff 6 years ago from USA

I love the sound of vintage guitars and I'm considering getting a Martin acoustic. These tips are invaluable, thanks for writing


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

Great hub! I'm composing a hub on high end acoustics for flatpickers. I'm a lifelong guitar nut, but I've not been playing much lately. I'm sort of hoping to stimulate myself in that direction.


Used Acoustic Gui profile image

Used Acoustic Gui 5 years ago from New Zealand

This is a well organised hub with useful information. The only claim i can lay to a vintage guitar was an old '63 (i think) arch top cutaway Hofner. It belonged to my dad who was a jazz musician and it was the first guitar i ever played at 9! Thanks for the info!

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