Should your next guitar be vintage or a newer acoustic guitar? I’ve got a story that’ll change your perspective on vintage instruments, some concerns for vintage guitars, and a review of a *new* guitar that’ll turn heads…
In today’s Acoustic Tuesday at Home episode, I wanted to answer one question: are vintage or new acoustic guitars better? Ultimately, that led to lots of reflecting and few definitive conclusions.
So, be sure to let me know in the comments whether you lean towards vintage or new guitars!
But, this video is an excellent starting point to help you determine whether you like vintage or new acoustic guitars. To help you find your own pluses and minuses, I’ll tell the story of the vintage guitar that changed the way I thought about guitars.
Additionally, you’ll get to hear a brand new Furch guitar as reviewed by Brendan from Heartbreaker Guitars in Las Vegas, NV!
If you’re a beginner reading this, check out my top 5 picks for the best beginner acoustic guitars.
As always, you can catch Acoustic Tuesday at 10 am every Tuesday in these four places:
Never played a vintage guitar but I would pick one before a new one. Why? Its history and it being broken in already.
Hi Tony, I can totally relate on the vintage pc. I have a 1934 C3 conversion with Braz. RW, super sweet, a 1966 D18 all original and just bought a 1954 00-28 plus several newer Taylors. I find myself going to the vintage when playing and practicing, thanks. The vintage will always retain their value and even increase in value.
Tony, I love this topic on vintage guitars. To some a special guitar I have may not make the “vintage” criteria but I have a 1983 Martin D-18 Vintage Series. It is signed by both CF Martin III and CF Martin IV; my understanding this was a period of passing the baton. The guitar as a wonderful v-shape neck, which is very comfortable. I bought it off craigslist by the original owner who live in a little cottage in Berkeley. He bought it from Amazing Grace in san Anselmo, which was rescued from extinction from George Lucas. I took it to Larry Cragg a legendary guitar luther who set it up perfectly. The sound is intoxicating for me. It is my “Sunday” guitar :)!
Hi Tony, I love this topic on vintage guitars. To some a special guitar I have may not make the “vintage” criteria but I have a 1983 Martin D-18 Vintage Series. It is signed by both CF Martin III and CF Martin IV; my understanding this was a period of passing the baton. The guitar has a wonderful v-shape neck, which is very comfortable. I bought it off craigslist by the original owner who live in a little cottage in Berkeley. He bought it from Amazing Grace in San Anselmo, which was rescued from extinction from George Lucas. I took it to Larry Cragg a legendary guitar luther who set it up perfectly. The sound is intoxicating for me. It is my “Sunday” guitar when all I do is play!
Vintage vs. New a hard question to answer for me . I am a relatively new Guitar player but a Vintage person . I keep looking for the Martin or Gibson from the year I was born . The drive is two fold it would be cool to hold an instrument as old as I am and wonder if it’s old age aches and pains have made it a better instrument. I have mellowed with age and the aches and pains I have made me a better person . Something to share my life journey and develop my new exciting journey as a Guitar Geek
Tony, I would like to see devote a show to guitars made in Japan. And talk about the factories that are still up and running and the quality and the craftsmanship that the Japanese put into their instruments. I’m still playing the very first guitar that I purchased. It’s a Terada custom made one of a kind. It was a salesman sample. It is a Martin copy and I cannot find a Martin Guitar that my guitar is not equal to or better sounding.The only serial number that is marked inside is an “H” on the head stock is 3 letters “HTM” I’ve been trying for years to find out more about my guitar. I have had it since 1978 I bought it at the music box in North Kansas City Missouri. It listed for $1400 I paid 800. I had it two weeks and the guitar developed 2 cracks in the top. I was devastated but I took a back and they fixed them. Over the years I’ve had more cracks,it’s just one of those things. I was told by my luthier that the top what’s thinner than most. He told me that was the reason why it also sounds so good. If I knew how to to send you a Picture I would. It’s very unique. And it was made in Japan.
How do you define “vintage” as opposed to used?
First, I enjoy your teachings. With that said, I “dabble at playing”. My Vintage guitar I inherited from my father. He got as a gift for his 14th birthday. was bought from a pawnshop. Dad is now 87 and can still strum a few cords. I started playing when I was 16, on this Guitar. I’m now 62. Dad played for a few gigs in high school and church. I played for myself and a few girl friends and now a little bit in church.
I had a luthier friend look at it, His eyes bulged out when saw it was a banner head Gibson, I had him make the repairs. He took his time. 6 months later when it came back to me. I started to play it, tears came to my eyes. And, a song came out that I had not played in a long time. The tone is unique to it’s self. I have couple of Epiphones. there is not much that comperes to the richness of this, my favorite to be treasured for the rest of my life. I wish I could send a picture.
A snippet from one of his Emails to me.
“This is something special to own!!! Plus it was your father’s from WW2.
The serial number is 2060 which is a tough number to trace. Gibson was always a bit messy with their serial numbers. From what I gather this is a 1943 LG-2 Model. Called a banner head due to the logo. A classic WW2 guitar. I have seen these selling for as much as $8,000.00.
Yours has some problems common to this guitar, but probably worth $4-5 K easy.”
I really enjoyed this story!
I bought a Gibson J45 for $180 in the 70s because it has a narrow neck that fits my short fingers. I played it until I lent it out for a couple years and lost my picking memory. Fast forward a couple of decades– my son who takes it out of the case when he’s here told me to get it restrung. When I went to pick it up, the entire staff came out and thanked me for the privilege of working on this instrument. Covid lockdown was in full swing. I ran across TAC online and, with time on my hands and a wonderful guitar that deserves to be played, I started your lessons.
In the 1970’s, I rescued a 1968 Yamaha Red Label FG-230 12-string (made in Japan) from a garbage can. We have had many great years together. Age has caught up with us both, the guitar needing a fret job, nut and bridge, and a neck reset. Local luthier wants $2K to make playable. Been on the fence between rehab, or new guitar. Truthfully, I have not yet found another affordable 12-string with the base-end throaty-ness.
Hello from Chicago. TAC member here, just wondering. Have you ever done an Acoustic show (or part of one) on fanned frets? Benefits? how do they effect playing and the instrument? Should they be a consideration when buying a new guitar?
Love new guitars and am building some now. (The new guitar smell ) I know how you feel about Tacoma but for an inexpensive vintage ,these have a great sound for what I paid. I have 2-DM 10s and 2-DM9s. One of the 10s you can watch the top move as you play the guitar.
Enjoy your show when I have time to watch.
Tony, Love this episode. I have been a “dual guitar geek person” for a long time. After spending a lot of time trying to find the perfect new guitar, and having some success, I longed for a vintage guitar, but…………. Then, by a fluke chance I ran into a vintage Martin that knocked my socks off. So I went for it. A Martin 1930 00-21. I did the due diligence and dug into the history. It had a pedigree which I was happy to know.
So, vintage or new(er). My vote is for vintage IF it is available. This is why. Musical beauty, musical history (important) musical sound/tone (like no new, maybe no other), and because my neighbors stick their head over the fence and ask, “what you got there?” I know this is not available for everyone…..but maybe.
Thank you for all you do for us, and I can’t wait to hear of the new addition.
Being a relatively new guitarist I would lean to new as the fear factor of destroying a vintage guitar still scares me a little. I picked up a new Martin recently and I will say that I am quite fond of the beautiful aroma when I open the case. The wood smell is so relaxing. It beats the heck out of the new car smell but doesn’t quite match puppy breath 🙂 I am keeping my eyes open for an older guitar but for now I am very content just two guitars (at least that is what I am telling myself because my wife said so).
I enjoyed this discussion. and found myself agreeing with nearly everything you said in favor of the vintage option. I do not own any vintage instruments, but I was lucky enough to acquire a well-used and cared-for 10-year old Collings CJ a few years ago. The sound is terrific and I consider it vintage for my purposes. The good news is that a few cosmetic problems brought the price into a range about half of a new instrument. I would urge guitar geeks without the budget for a pre-war Martin to haunt their favorite guitar shop to check out every decent used guitar that shows up. You never know when a special instrument will appear.
Because it needed a guitar geek home, a friend gave me a vintage guitar that was a custom build, most likely Chicago area, pre-1920s. It has no label but all the features of a 1905 Stella. I asked local musician Armand Lenchek to play a few songs on it as is and we were both impressed with it’s tone and volume. It needs about $1500 in repairs but the investment will give me a guitar that is wonderful to play now and an instrument preserved for its next 100 years of life. I think about the life its lived and the stories tucked away in this instrument. To me, it’s the difference between restoring a 100 year old, quality built bungalow versus new construction …character that comes with age.
While not exactly vintage, I have gravitated to used if for no other reason than they are usually more affordable. The one that I let get away – which would probably be considered vintage, was a 1957 000-18 that I bought personally from George Gruhn in Nashville in 1973, when he had his first small shop on 4th street. A number of years later I wanted a bigger sound, so I found a used HD35 (late 70s I think) in a shop in Berkeley, Great guitar, but when it needed a neck reset, a luthier offered to swap it for an ’87 D-35 a some cash, which seemed like a wise move, because the newer guitar has an adjustable truss rod, hopefully avoiding future resets (and has so far). My go to for Bluegrass and jamming because of the big tone. But I sold the 000-18 to help pay for the first HD-35, which I now deeply regret, I also have a ’65 Gibson SG electric – purchased used about 1967 when I was 16 – the first one I grab when the house is on fire, so to speak, since it’s been with me for over 50 years. Missing the small body Martin, I went on a search a couple of years ago, and bought my first ‘new’ guitar, probably since the Kay archtop I first learned on when I was 14. Why? For one thing, I wanted built in electronics to make it easy for Open Mike nights. And I just didn’t find a used guitar I liked better than this OM-28 Retro – the combo of new (Fishman Aura Electronics), performance slim neck and old style, with classic tuners, and clover neck inlays. When I take it out – I have had people comment they are amazed there is so much sound coming out of a small body. So – you go with what seems best at the time. But if a nice pre war Martin comes along and I can afford it, well …
I would almost unanimously prefer a new acoustic guitar than a vintage guitar. in the end, a vintage guitar is a used guitar,
I would not be able to ascertain its quality as opposed to a new guitar which has explicit features.