Do you remember all the dinks, scratches and dents that you have accumulated on your vintage or relic guitar? The statement “You must be able to remember all the dents and scratches that have accumulated through the years of playing for it to be considered a true vintage guitar” always pops up at any forum or discussion on relic guitars.
What really makes it a vintage though? Is it good wood? The age of the guitar? The year the guitar was made and by who; in which it was a ‘good’ year? Does it need to be played by a famous musician? Or does it just need to be played a long time and have a lot of gig marks? If time is a factor, how long does it take for a guitar to become a vintage?10 years? 20 years?
In my opinion, there are three conditions that make it a vintage instrument.We will run through the three things in the following paragraphs.
Firstly, it has to be a famous brand. Like Fender or Gibson. If a famous, influential musician played that model, people will demand it. Better still if you can get the same model which was made in the same year as the famous musician’s guitar. Better still if it is the same color. Unless it is a modern musician you are following, the more in-depth and detailed you go, the less chance of finding a similar guitar that influential musician used. Some influential musicians are Eric Clapton, SRV and Hendrix who used some of the world’s most recognizable guitars.
Secondly, age and demand. It generally has to be older than 25 years. 1950 to 1965 were the years that Fender built its best and most highly demanded guitars. Aging takes its toll on any guitar; even if it is not played and kept in a ‘closet’ it will age. The color becomes less vibrant and you don’t get that out-of-the-shop feel anymore. When you pick it up, you can ‘feel’ the difference. That is a true vintage.
Thirdly, it must be the original Fender guitar that came out of the factory. It is not a vintage if a major part was changed like the neck, body and pickups. If a part was changed, the owner must always make sure that the part that was changed is kept along with the guitar and if it was ever sold, must be sold with the guitar.
Fender now duplicates their guitars using an assembly line. This makes all the guitars the same and eliminates the condition that it has to be in high demand; i.e. that it was built with only a limited number. Although Fender got the idea that by creating the relic guitar, it may create a demand in 20 years time for a unique, relic-ed but absolutely new guitar; I’m not sold on the idea that it’ll work. Time will tell, I guess.