<em>Vintage Guitar</em> magazine has released a list of the 10 most valuable production-model electric and acoustic guitars. Using data accumulated in the research for <em>The Official Vintage Guitar Price Guide 2011</em>, the list includes only guitars that were offered in manufacturer product lines – <em>not</em> custom-made and/or celebrity-owned instruments.
"Guitars are an American pop-culture icon," said Alan Greenwood, publisher of both the magazine and the <em>Price Guide</em>. "Through the years, certain guitars have, thanks in part to players, songs, and the laws of supply and demand, become exceedingly valuable to collectors.
"There are few collectibles as cool as guitars," Greenwood added. "They’re functional, tactile art that inspires players and music fans alike."
The 10 most valuable guitars are:
<strong>1) The 1936-’39 Martin D-45 ($320,000 to $400,000)</strong> Vintage Martin dreadnoughts are considered the pinnacle of steel-string acoustics, and those given the Style 45 dress – Brazilian-rosewood back and sides, ivory-bound body and neck, and fancy fretboard inlays – were priced beyond the reach of all but a few Depression-era players. While the D-45 stands as the most valuable, Martin 000-45 (pronounced "triple oh") and OM-45 models from the ’30s are also highly soughtafter.
<strong>2) The 1958-’60 Gibson Les Paul Standard ($300,000 to $375,000)</strong> Though Gibson tried to make a splash in the market by giving its Les Paul model a fancy maple top and sunburst finish, the guitar failed to truly catch on. Its status changed dramatically, though, with the 1966 release of <em>John Mayall’s Blues Breakers featuring Eric Clapton</em>. Then Michael Bloomfield started playing one, which further influenced top-tier guitarists of the late ’60s; the list of players who picked up a "’Burst" afterward includes names like Page, Allman, Kossoff, Gibbons, and Beck. Today, it’s not only the preeminent collectible solidbody, but some would say the reason solidbodies are collectible, period.
<strong>3) The 1958-’59 Gibson Explorer ($250,000 to $310,000)</strong> Part of an attempt to market "modernistic" guitars in the burgeoning "space age," when it hit stores the Explorer got little attention from buyers. Orders were scarce, so production numbers stayed very low. Eric Clapton played one in the ’70s, and since then, collectors have become fond of the color and sound of its body, made of African limba – which Gibson re-named "Korina" for the sake of marketing.
<strong>4) The 1958-’59 Gibson Flying V ($200,000 to $250,000)</strong> Another of Gibson’s "modernistic" Korina-bodied guitars, it was offered for only two years (1959 and ’60). Its unusual V-shaped body was eye-catching, but again, not popular. So, only 98 were made. It was most famously used by blues legend Albert King. Reintroduced in the ’70s with a more traditional mahogany body, it then became popular amongst rock players.
<strong>5) The 1931-’36 Martin D-28 ($140,000 to $170,000)</strong> Though not as fancy as the D-45, its $100 price tag still put it mostly out of reach in the midst of the Great Depression. Thus, production stayed low.
<strong>6) The 1938-’42 Gibson Super Jumbo/SJ-200 ($90,000 to $120,000)</strong> Gibson’s answer to Martin’s D line, it was larger, showier with its sunburst finish and "moustache" bridge, and wound up in the hands of many a big-screen singing cowboy.
<strong>7) The ’57 Gibson Les Paul model ($86,000 to $106,000)</strong> Gibson’s original Les Paul, the "goldtop" was refined through the early/mid ’50s until it peaked in ’57, when it was used to launch the company’s new "humbucking" pickups.
<strong>8) D’Aquisto archtops ($75,000 to $100,000)</strong> Luthier James D’Aquisto (d. 1995) apprenticed under the famed John D’Angelico. D’Aquisto mostly built to order, and his rarest models bring a premium.
<strong>9) 1950 Fender Broadcaster ($68,000 to $86,000)</strong> Leo Fender’s first Spanish-style guitar was also the first to incorporate a "bolt-on" neck, which lent well to mass-production. Its single-cutaway design is simple, and its workingman’s appeal never waned. Known today as the Telecaster, it’s one of the "big three" collectible electrics, along with the Fender Stratocaster and Gibson Les Paul.
<strong>10) 1957-’60 Gibson Les Paul Custom ($66,000 to $81,000)</strong> The fanciest version of the original Les Paul, it was given a black finish (Les’ first preference!), binding on its body, neck, and headstock, gold-colored hardware, and block inlays on its fretboard.