Everyone has a dream guitar, right? I’d like to believe that nearly every guitar player that I’ve ever known, regardless of skill level or passion, has at least one guitar that they would absolutely love to own. Some of us–ok, maybe a lot of us–have at least a few on that list. From my experiences this “dream guitar” list is often broken down into two specific categories: guitars we can afford, and guitars that we cannot afford unless we hit the lottery.
Some guys just collect “dream” guitars. These dudes usually have several guitars that have made it to the top of their hit list.
Collectors tend to seek out guitars for numerous reasons, but rarity and popularity (investment value) of an instrument are what they're really looking for. That doesn’t mean that collectors aren’t buying guitars that they also enjoy playing, I’m sure that many of them do. Maybe the real difference between a guitar collector and a working musician is that collectors are able to purchase guitars from both lists.
The rest of us typically seek out guitars we can actually afford, while dreaming of many that we will probably never own. Check out Mike Slubowski’s extensive vintage guitar collection on YouTube and prepare to be blown away. There’s an entire catalog of videos filmed by Wildwood Guitars showcasing his exceptional collection. Mike also has a killer day job.
I am a weekend warrior. If you’re playing in a band, playing at church, gigging out or just jamming on the weekends, then you too are a weekend warrior, my friend. There’s no shame in that. I’d rather be a weekend warrior than a stay-at-home guitar player any day of the week.
The author in full-on weekend warrior mode.
Why is any of this important? Well, I only share that to say that I don’t have an endless amount of cash for “dream guitars.” However, somehow, some way, I’ve managed to wrangle up a couple of guitars that were on my dream list. Or maybe, it was the guitars that found me. You know, a wise man once said, “In life, there are no coincidences.” But first, let’s talk about some guitars that I would LOVE to own, but will probably never have the cash to acquire.
You know it, I know it, the very mystically-magical 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard “Burst” is quite possibly the most sought after guitar in the world. They are rare. They are mega expensive. They are exquisite. They are finely crafted, beautiful-sounding instruments of wow and wonder. They are also nothing more than a few pieces of wood glued together with a set of magnetic transducers wired up to a set of controls with some strings strung up to a set of tuners.
Ok, maybe they’re a little more than that, but in all seriousness, at the end of the day they are simply just an old guitar. In most cases an extremely well-made old guitar, but a guitar nonetheless.
These guitars were produced in relatively small numbers from 1958 to 1960, with examples from 1959 and 1960 being the most collectible. Honestly, I’d rather have a ‘58, but that’s just me. Take a minute to check out Mark Knopfler's 1958 Gibson Les Paul Standard, and you’ll see why. This would be THE guitar at the top of my dream list. And unless I somehow stumble upon a quarter of a million dollars, I’ll probably never own one. You’d actually need to have quite a bit more money in the bank than that. Realistically, if I had 250 thousand in the bank, I’d probably buy a house. So what you actually need is that kind of scratch just lying around with nothing better to do with it. That’s some serious dough, player.
A lot of the guys who made these guitars so collectible don’t even own them anymore. In 1967, a 1959 Gibson Les Paul could be bought fairly easily for just a few hundred dollars. In 1959, they retailed for $265 bucks. Talk about an investment!
So you can’t afford a 1959 Burst, or a ‘53 Blackguard Tele. That’s cool neither can I, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a certain number of really great guitars out there that you CAN afford.
Recently I picked up not one, but two “dream” guitars that just seemed to fall right out of the sky. They just happened to be there, and everything was right. I had to do a few deals, some selling, a little trading, but when it was all said and done I had acquired a guitar that I’ve been after for a very long time, and another guitar that I didn’t even know I wanted. Those guitar stories are for part 2 of this series. I will be showing them off in great detail and telling you how they found me and why I wanted them and what makes them a “dream” guitar for me personally.
There are still a lot of guitars out there that are reasonably attainable. A 1959 Gibson Les Paul Junior with a single P90 and a double cutaway can be found in the 4-to-5-thousand-dollar price range. That is still a big chunk of change but worth every penny when you get your hands on one. Vintage Fender Jaguars and Jazzmasters aren’t a terribly expensive guitar either. There’s also a TON of guitars from the 70s and 80s that are weird, wild, and extremely cool with their own unique look and sound. I personally love the Fender Bullet Series of guitars from the early 80s.
Once you figure out what you like, the fun begins. And if you have to work hard and save up for a dream guitar, that only makes it sound that much sweeter.To be continued in Part 2 next month.
Parker Gispert of The Whigs with his Les Paul Jr
Contributed by Desmond Smith. Wishing you all the best my fellow gear nerds. Stay tuned for more from me, desmachine and be sure to follow me on Instagram and Twitter @desmachine.
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