Ben is a professional freelance writer and an occasional bar musician. When he’s not writing for The Huffington Post or Investopedia he can be found jamming out on his 1960 Reissue Burgundy Mist Strat, which he insists is maroon and not pink.
Without further ado, here’s Ben!
The next time you pick up your grandfather’s old Gibson, take a minute to check it out on the Internet before you start jamming out to “Smoke on the Water.” There’s a chance that the old axe could be worth twice its weight in gold.
America’s fascination with the guitar has spawned a generation of collectors who are willing to pay top dollar to get their hands on some of the rarest instruments ever produced. Consequently, anyone who happens to own one of these vintage production guitars could be sitting on a small fortune – without even knowing it. So before you start strumming away on the old six-string, check out this list to make sure you’re not actually abusing your retirement fund.
- The Original John D’Angelico New Yorker. John D’Angelico and his apprentice, James D’Acquisto, are considered by many collectors to be two of the greatest luthiers that ever lived. From the turn of the century up through the late 1960s, the two produced a number of archtop guitars under the D’Angelico brand that were unparalleled in quality and tone. Their flagship model was the New Yorker, which was modeled after the popular Gibson ES-125.To get your hands on a new D’Angelico New Yorker these days, you’ll need to go see the folks at GTRStore.com. The high-end boutique recently revived the brand and is offering the axes exclusively through its website. However, a number of the original New Yorker models are still floating around and if you’re lucky enough to own even a late-model edition, then you’re sitting on a treasure worth at least $35,000.
- The Monterey Pop Stratocaster. In 1967, Jimi Hendrix played a show at the Monterey Pop Music Festival using a red-and-white custom-painted Fender Stratocaster. During his encore, he set the guitar on firein what would become one of his most iconic moments. In 1997, to celebrate Monterey Pop’s 40th anniversary, the Fender Custom Shop commissioned artist Pamelina H. to hand-paint 210 reproductions of Hendrix’s hearts-and-swirls guitar.These custom-shop reproductions are now arguably the most-desired Fender production models in existence. A “Monterey Pop Strat,” as it’s known, is nearly impossible to find on sale, and when one does go up for auction it fetches well over $20,000. Not bad for a guitar that’s only 15 years old.
- The Original Martin D-45 Acoustic.Martin guitars are widely regarded as some of the finest acoustic instruments money can buy. Introduced in 1933, the D-45 was the company’s first true luxury model. Loaded with pearl and made of the finest spruce the company could find, the large, booming Dreadnought was priced at a level only celebrity musicians like Gene Autry could afford. As a result, only 91 guitars were made before Martin halted production for the war effort in 1942. As you can guess, the rarity and quality of the original D-45 model has made this guitar something of a holy grail for acoustic collectors.Each of the 25 authentic D-45s produced in 1942 retails for around $60,000. The earlier models are worth a lot more. For instance, Skinner Auctions sold a 1941 model last year for $219,000. At that rate of appreciation, selling one of the original 1930s D-45s would probably earn you enough to retire on.
- The Gibson Moderne. As far as guitar collecting goes, the original Gibson Moderne is the ultimate treasure. It is El Dorado and Atlantis combined. There have been entire books written about it, and some collectors have even offered a million-dollar reward simply for confirming its existence. The story goes as follows.Produced for the 1957 National Association of Music Merchants show, the Moderne was supposed to be introduced as part of a trio of futuristic Gibson models alongside the Flying V and the Explorer (then called the Futura). But what actually happened to the guitar remains the collecting world’s biggest mystery. Some sources claim the shark-fin-shaped guitar was presented at the convention but was so poorly received that Gibson scrapped the limited-production run on the spot. Others say the only production model was stolen before it ever left the factory.
Regardless of what really happened to the original model(s) of the Moderne, the only thing anyone can say for sure is this: the first person to find and authenticate one will make a fortune far beyond their wildest dreams. Considering the fanfare and legend surrounding the instrument, even $5,000,000 seems to be a conservative estimate.
The most valuable treasures are always found in the most unlikeliest of places, so if you or someone you know has a few old guitars lying around, you should take a few minutes to look them up online. Most instruments probably won’t be worth anything, but there’s a slight chance that you might actually be strumming a gold mine. And even if you have no intention of selling your beloved hand-me-down guitar, just think how great it would feel to learn that you were the owner of a valuable piece of music history. Whether you picked up that cool vintage axe at a garage sale or found it in Grandpa’s basement, now’s a great time to figure out what exactly it is.