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Guild Guitars A History & Current Guitar Prices (On eBay & Amazon)

Updated on September 24, 2013

Guild Guitar Company

The Guild Guitar Company was a USA-based guitar manufacturer founded in 1952 by Alfred Dronge, a guitarist and music-store owner, and George Mann, a former executive with the Epiphone Guitar Company. The name survives as a brand of the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation.

Guild_M75
Guild_M75

Pre-Fender Era

The first Guild workshop was located in Manhattan, New York, where Dronge (who soon took over full ownership) focused on archtop jazz guitars, both electric and acoustic. Rapid expansion forced the company to move to much larger quarters, on Newark St. in Hoboken, New Jersey, in what is now the Newman Leather building. The advent of the folk music craze in the early '60s had shifted the company into production of an important line of acoustic folk and blues guitars, including a dreadnought series (D-40, D-50 and, later, D-55) that competed successfully with Martin's D-18 and D-28 models, and jumbo and Grand Concert "F" models that were particularly popular with blues guitarists like Mississippi John Hurt and Dave Van Ronk. Notable also was the Guild 12-string guitar, which used a Jumbo "F" body and dual truss rods in the neck to produce a workhorse instrument with a deep, rich tone distinctive from the chimier twelve-strings put out by Martin.

The company continued to expand, and was sold to the Avnet Corporation, which moved production to Westerly, Rhode Island, in 1966.

As the folk scene quieted, a new generation of folk-rockers took Guild guitars on stage; the most notable Guild performance of that era was the D-40 upon which Richie Havens opened the Woodstock Festival in 1969.

During the 1960s, Guild also moved aggressively into the electric guitar market, successfully promoting the "Starfire" line of semi-acoustic (Stafire I, II & III) and semi-solid (Starfire IV, V & VI) guitars and basses. A number of early West-Coast psychedelic bands used these instruments, notably the Grateful Dead's guitarist Jerry Garcia and Jefferson Airplane's bassist Jack Casady.

The decline of the folk and acoustic market in the later '70s and early '80s put severe economic pressure on the company, and while instrument specialists generally concede that quality suffered at other American competitors, Guild models from the '70s and '80s are still considered to be made to the high-quality standards that the Westerly plant was known for.

In the 1980s, Guild introduced a series of superstrat-style solid bodies including models such as the Flyer, Aviator, Liberator and Detonator, the Tele-style T-200 and T-250 (endorsed by Roy Buchanan) and the Pilot Bass, available in fretted, fretless, and 4- and 5-string versions. These guitars were the first Guild instruments to bear slim pointed headstocks, sometimes called "pointy droopy", "duck foot" and "cake knife" for their distinctive shape.

Guild D50
Guild D50

Fender Era

After several changes in management and ownership, Guild was purchased by the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation in 1995. In 2001, it was decided that Fender would move all Guild production to its factory in Corona, California. This turned out to be short-lived, however, as Fender acquired the assets of Washington-based Tacoma Guitar Company in 2004 and all American Guild acoustic production was again moved to Tacoma, Washington, while production of US-made Guild electric guitars was completely discontinued.

Guild Bluesbird
Guild Bluesbird

Current Production

In 2008, Guild was once again moved upon Fender's acquisition of Kaman Music Corporation and its small production facility in New Hartford, Connecticut, and hand production of all USA-made Guilds resumed in a manner that is consistent with other high-end, boutique guitar builders. The New Hartford Guild facility began production in early 2009, with the D-55 and F-50 models being produced first. Production has since been ramped up to include most of the popular Traditional Series acoustic guitars.

In 2010, Guild released its Standard Series acoustic guitars, which are USA-built guitars (still manufactured in the New Hartford, Connecticut facility) that are based on models from their top-end Traditional Series. While these guitars still contain high-end features, they have slight differences in ornamentation and instrument finish options that make these guitars more affordable. Standard Series models include the F-30, F-30R, F-50, D-40, D-50, and the return of the F-212XL 12-string model. All Standard Series models feature red spruce bracing, satin mahogany necks, and bone saddles, nuts, and bridge pins, but have lower-grade wood and ornamentation than their Traditional Series counterparts.

In 2011, cutaway acoustic-electric versions of Standard Series models were released. These guitars feature venetian cutaways and a DTAR pickup system which allows blending between an internal microphone element and an under-saddle transducer. These models can be identified by the 'CE' suffix at the end of the guitar's model number.

The New Hartford facility has also created a new line of specialty guitars, referred to as the GSR Series. The GSR designation stands for "Guild Summit Retreat," as this series was first revealed to Guild dealers at Guild's dealer-only factory tour in mid-2009. These models feature unique takes on classic Guild Traditional Series models. GSR models include the F-40 (figured Cocobolo), F-30R (with master-grade Rosewood), F-50 (figured Koa), and D-50 (figured Cocobolo). Each of these instruments feature unique designs, wood selection, ornamentation, and have extremely limited production numbers.

Guild GAD25
Guild GAD25

Guild Import Brands

Guild has had 4 primary import guitars lines, which are defined as those that are not made in the USA.

In the mid '80s, Guild formed import brands for its acoustic and electric guitars that were made outside the United States. Madeira Acoustic Guitars were import guitars that were based on existing Guild designs, but manufactured in Asia. They are characterized by their substantially unique pickguard shape and differing headstock. Similarly to Madeira, Burnside Electric Guitars were Guild electric guitar designs (typically of super-Strat delineation) that were manufactured outside the United States. The headstocks on these guitars read "Burnside by Guild." Both brands were discontinued in the early '90s.

After Guild was purchased by Fender in the mid '90s, reissues of some Guild electric guitars were manufactured in Korea under the DeArmond brand name, which Fender also owned the rights to. Import reissue models included the Starfire, Bluesbird and Pilot Bass Series. On the headstock, these instruments display the DeArmond logo (above the Guild Chesterfield inlay), while the truss rod cover may be stenciled with the word 'Guild' and the DeArmond reissue model number. The DeArmond brand was discontinued in the early 2000s.

Also in the early 2000s, FMIC created a new line of Guild acoustic guitars called the GAD-series, which stands for "Guild Acoustic Design." As with the other import lines, these guitars are based on past and present Guild acoustic guitar designs, but are built in China. All of these models are designated with a 'GAD' as a model prefix. These guitars feature poly finishes (as opposed to traditional nitrocellulose lacquer on USA models) and nondescript wood grading. Interestingly, FMIC did not choose to create this line under a different brand name, but left it as a new series of guitars from Guild. This choice has caused confusion, as it marks the first time that an import has actually donned the Guild brand name, which had previously only been used to describe USA-made guitars. Because of this, it is no longer immediately clear if a Guild-branded guitar is a US-made model or an import, although the GAD models usually have unique ornamentation. The current product portfolio of GAD-series guitars is larger than Guild's US-build Traditional Series.

Guild Jet Star Bass
Guild Jet Star Bass

Users of Guild Guitars

Bryan Adams- F-50R

Billie Joe Armstrong- D-55

Joan Baez - F30R

Richard Barone - X-500 (Cool Blue Halo album)

Brendan Benson - 1959 Aristocrat

George Benson -[2]

A.A. Bondy

Paul Bonin - F65CE

Matt Donovan - D40,D4, Starfire II

Creed Bratton - Bluesbird

Roy Buchanan - T-200 and T-250

Jack Casady

Johnny Cash - D-60SB

Jerry Cantrell - JF55 - MTV Unplugged

Eric Clapton F-30, GF-60, S4CE/Songbird

Sheryl Crow - M-85 bass

Rick Danko- F-50

Dave Davies- Starfire III

Nick Drake - M20

John Denver - F-50R

Duke Erikson - Starfire III

Leslie Feist - 1965 Starfire IV

Tom Fogerty

Jerry Garcia - Starfire II

Barry Gibb - Songbird BG (stands for Barry Gibb)

David Gilmour - F-512 12-string

Colin Greenwood

Buddy Guy - Starfire IV

Richie Havens

Roger Hodgson

Lightnin' Hopkins- Starfire IV

Mississippi John Hurt - F-30

Mike Kinsella

Phil Lesh

Gary Lightbody

John Mayer Where The Light Is- Trio Set

Barry McGuire - F-212 12-string

Pat Metheny - D40-C, F-50

Matt "Guitar" Murphy

Pelle Ossler - Starfire

Bonnie Raitt - F-50R

Steven Page

Tom Petty D25-12

Andrew Perry

Randy Rhoads

Daniel Rossen - T-50

John Rzeznik - D-55, F65CE, F47M Valencia, S7CE Custom, S4CE, and more.

Brian Setzer - Bluesbird

Brian May - Guild Brian May (Signature) Electric Guitar

Chris Seefried - Guild Starfire, Guild D 212

Paul Simon - F-30 and F-212 12-string

Slash

Johnny Smith

Tommy Smothers - D-55 (TV model)

Bruce Springsteen - D-40SB

Bob Stander - D-50 and D-50 12-string

Stephen Stills - X-500

George Strait - Custom Shop D-100

Kim Thayil - Guild S-100

Peter Tork - Jetstar Bass

Ralph Towner F-312 12-string (custom)

Pete Townshend - F-512 NT 12-string

Dave Van Ronk - F-50R

Stevie Ray Vaughan - S-300

Tom Waits

Muddy Waters - S-200 Thunderbird

Gillian Welch - D-25M

Bert Weedon - Starfire (signature model - early sixties)

Paul Westerberg

Zal Yanovsky - S-200 Thunderbird

Sami Kukka - F-30

Scott Matthews

Keith Murray

Hank Williams III

Stephen Carpenter

Murray Dining GSR F-40

Great Guild Guitars on Amazon

Guild Bluesbird on eBay

My favorite Guild Guitar is the Bluesbird, it has a similar body style and sound to the Gibson Les Paul except the mahogany body on the Bluesbird is chambered so it gives it a more acoustic earthy tone, and is several pounds lighter.

DeArmond guitars on eBay

Around 1998 a line of guitars was also made using the DeArmond name under Fender ownership, using Guild designs under the supervision of Guild employees, and manufactured in Korea and Indonesia. The Korean-built guitars which were the top of the line models featured USA-made DeArmond pickups.

Do you own a Guild guitar? Tell us what you like about it!

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    • RBENL99 profile image

      RBENL99 4 years ago

      They look like awesome guitars, I wish I owned one.

    • Michelle Hogan profile image

      Michelle Hogan 5 years ago

      First, I must advise that Jann Arden also plays a Guild acoustic. It is one of the high end models, not sure which one it is. My best guess is that she plays a D-50 Bluegrass or a D-55.

      Second, I must take issue with your comments about the GAD models being built to inferior standards. I am finding that some of the very best production guitars have been coming from China over the last decade or so. I have a GAD-50E (S/N: 07718), and it offers excellent craftsmanship giving incredible tone, resonance and volume for the money. It is also a dreadnaught model.

      Finally, look up Mackenzie and Marr Guitars. They are two entrepreneurs who have taken their own design preferences and plugged them into the Chinese manufacturing base providing premium quality guitars for a very reasonable price.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Yes I have a 1969- Guild F50 Serial # AD439..That's right ... serial AD439. Yet all databases charting the serial #s including the Fender Website acknowledge the last 1969 Guild F50 made in Hoboken was serial # AD418. Ironically with photos...my attempts to correct the incorrect database have fallen on deaf ears, including Fender whom also received photos. I guess that makes it extra special.