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The Best Pre-owned Old Acoustic Guitar To Buy On Ebay And Why

Updated on February 7, 2015
abyssinal profile image

Elton graduated from Common Sense University, is a father, artist and is currently featured on multiple blogs, sites and even edits a few.

Playing an acoustic guitar is hard enough for buying one to be such a chore. Why is it so hard? There are new guitars, old guitars, expensive new guitars, even MORE expensive old ones, which is the best choice?

There are a lot of factors that come into play when making that all important acoustic guitar purchase. "How much can you spend on it?", "What are you using it for?", etc. are all questions that come into play. With that in mind, for now, let's just take the easy route, shall we?

For the sake of time and my own cramping fingers, let's assume you're new to this, as a player that's "old hat" will likely know what they're going for (hopefully). Though, there will be some relevant information in there for the vet players too. So, let's get the ball rolling...

Buy old or New?

Firstly, my credentials are these: I've been playing for almost 20 years (wow...I am old [sobbing]), so, I've been around the guitar buying block a few times. I've played a GAZILLION guitars during that time and know a good sound over a bad one.

I've played guitars in a zillion (not as many as a "gazillion"), situations (studios, garages, stages, indoor and out). So, whether that adds credence to what I say is entirely up to you.

Now, right off the bat, the question of "old or new?" is THE question from which all others lead in my opinion. My suggestion, buy an old one. I'll list my reasons now, so that everyone can gather their arguments together for the row in the comment section.

  1. Older guitars sound better, as age causes tone woods to become more dense, hence conducting sound through them easier. (especially pre-1980s acoustics)
  2. Older guitars are cheaper than new guitars. (check out eBay, it's not a lie.)
  3. New guitars are made from inferior tone wood.

Why old?

It's going to sound incredible, but, breaking it down to it's simplest and arguably insane form, regarding acoustic guitars; old is cheaper and better.

Good tonal woods (meaning dense wood that carry acoustic sound waves, via vibration through a guitar in a melodious fashion) used in the manufacture of guitars in general have been in steady decline since the mid-1960s.

This is due, in large part, to over harvesting and heavy deforestation. I'm not here to argue about the sanctity of forests and it's leafy greens. I'm simply stating facts. Trees, whose wood is highly valued for it's special tonal qualities, are going the way of the dodo bird.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of good tonal wood, newer guitars are often relegated to using substitute materials or slivers of tonal wood, piecemeal, to make guitars. When, once upon a time, a guitar might be made wholly from Brazilian Rosewood, now, might have a strip...about an inch wide running along it's back.

A lot of older guitars were made when those tone woods were abundant (and not being over harvested), hence they were constructed of better components. So, by default, having better tonal qualities than newer guitars. That isn't to say that all old guitars were made from great tonal wood, just...a whole lot more than are being made today.

Back then, even the cheaper guitars were made, at least partially out of pretty Now, those old cheaper guitars are coming into their own, tone wise.

Here's A Guy Talking About Brazilian Rosewood


How does an old guitar SOUND better?

There is a lot of speculation about how or why older guitars sound better. Some say it's because the guitar's wood has been allowed to "breath" over a longer period of time. Others claim it's the finish that has been allowed to "set" longer. Regardless, time and again, players of all stripes have proclaimed and gushed over the warmth and smooth tones of older guitars and how they have it over new models. If that still doesn't sell you, the prices will.

So, what? New is "new" meaning better, No?

Well, no, it's not. See, even though those "cheap" guitars from way back when, were made with better material. In addition to being made with better wood, depending on the age, the wood's tonal qualities have gotten better. It all makes for a richer, fuller sound, in general.

Don't old guitars cost more?

It's true that certain vintage instruments go up in value as they age. Look up the price of a Stradivarius violin and you'll see what I mean.

There are a lot of really, REALLY nice vintage, older acoustics made from fantastic materials that sound amazing...and are cheaper than new guitars. Why are they so cheap?

Frankly, because they're older. New players especially want to be "the first" to own a particular guitar, as though an older, pre-owned instrument were some how rejected. This isn't the case at all, of course. People sell or give up things for a lot of reasons and not all of them being "because it was bad".

A good older guitar isn't a handicap or a sacrifice. It's an investment in quality. They're fantastic for beginners and older players alike. Being the owner of several vintage instruments, I can say that I can hear the difference. A lot are made from better stock (tone wood wise) and can be had for a lot less money than it's newer counterparts.

So, when choosing a guitar to buy, go with old. You'll be happy you did.


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    • abyssinal profile image

      Elton Edgar 14 months ago from Pennsylvania

      Irving is absolutely correct. Venture outside the box a little, you'd be surprised at the high quality that budget instruments were made with back in the day. Superior materials were far easier to come by in the past and used much more frivolously on lower end models than today. The further you go back...with almost any brand and you'll find gems.

    • Irvin Watson profile image

      Irvin Watson 14 months ago from Mainland, Western Australia, Australia


      Vintage examples of older brands like Harmony, Hofner, Kay, etc. that ended up becoming "department store brands" were actually hand made with solid woods back in the early 1900s. So finding a vintage model and playing it may surprise you. I own a 40 year old Kay 00 that I absolutely love. and it gets better every day.

    • profile image

      Brad 23 months ago

      I agree, but I've done many hours of research looking for a vintage acoustic guitar.. however other than Martin, Gibson who's name bring large figures and (Taylor and Guild who still require large sums for the most part) what are some other brands worth seeking due to a good price? I was thinking about Harmony acoustics but that Jimmy Page sovereign model brings money due to him using It years ago. And Idk if vintage harmony is even made in america. Whay are some American made vintage acoustic brands worth looking for at a reasonable price? I need help! Great article btw!