Vintage Guitar Values: From Gibson Les Paul to Fender Stratocaster

Legendary vintage guitars

If you are a guitarist, no one needs to convince you of how valuable vintage guitars are. Vintage guitars are more than just highly sought-after musical artifacts — they often perform better, sound better, have a stronger or more unique construction, and have several legendary guitarists endorsing their magnificence.

If you aren’t a guitarist, none of that matters. But what does matter — and what may surprise you — is that rare vintage guitars can sell for anything from thousands of dollars to millions of dollars! And while not every vintage guitar will fetch you a price that makes you a millionaire, there is no doubt that they are solid investments that carry high value.

Whether you are an avid vintage guitar collector looking to purchase, a keen seller or simply interested in the history of guitars, join us for this epic unveiling of legendary vintage guitars, from Gibson Les Paul models to Fender Stratocasters and beyond. Explore the history and value of vintage guitars!

Vintage Electric Guitars

Vintage electric guitars are some of the most valuable musical instruments and some of the most expensive pieces of rock memorabilia. Apart from the tone and performance some of these guitars boast, they are also historical pieces — some have cultural significance, while others revolutionized musical eras.

1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard

Electric guitarists and music enthusiasts worldwide often consider the 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard, also called a “Burst,” the best electric guitar ever made. While most Les Paul guitars are made from mahogany and maple, the 1959 Les Paul Standard’s solid body was carved from century-old Honduran mahogany and Eastern maple tops that resonate beautifully. To complement this, the neck was made using the same old mahogany, and the fretboard was crafted from rare Brazilian rosewood.

Every inch in the guitar’s design — from the bridge anchor studs to the contours and the pickups — was made with careful attention to detail, using high-quality components for the best sound and performance.

Apart from being a work of art, guitarists love it. Some of the world’s most talented musicians prefer the 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard:

  • Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin)
  • Keith Richards (Rolling Stones)
  • Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top)
  • Duane Allman (Allman Brothers Band)
  • Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac)
  • Joe Perry (Aerosmith)

Gibson estimates they sold around 643 of the 1959 Les Paul Standards, but only over 150 sales have been verified. Today, an original 1959 Les Paul’s value starts at a minimum of around $250,000 to $350,000. Metallica’s guitarist Kirk Hammet’s 1959 Les Paul — previously owned by Peter Green and Gary Moore — is valued at $2 million!

And the 1959 guitar is not the only valuable item from Gibson’s history. Gibson is currently offering a $59,000 reward to uncover missing shipping ledgers from 1959 to 1960. The ledgers are of great value to Gibson since they document all the products the company shipped during that era — including the coveted Les Pauls. Even though the ledgers have been missing for decades, they are a vital part of Gibson’s history and identity, and those ledgers would be able to authenticate purchase claims.

1962 Fender Stratocaster

A graphic showing the materials in a 1962 Fender Stratocaster

The only people who disagree with the 1959 Les Paul being the greatest guitar of all time are those who crown the 1962 Fender Stratocaster as the best guitar ever built. But even if the debate on which guitar is better is never resolved, one thing is certain — the Fender Stratocaster is one of the world’s most popular and best-selling guitars.

Talk to anyone in the guitar world, and the first thing they will note about Fender Strats is its iconic sound. Another reason players put the Strat on a pedestal is because of the guitar’s versatility. The guitar’s founder, Leo Fender — an American inventor — did not actually play guitar. But he did have a knack for listening to what guitar players needed and wanted. The genius design of the guitar, including its double-cutaway body, was so irresistible to guitarists that it revolutionized the era’s music. Top musicians from various genres, from jazz and blues to good old rock ‘n’ roll and heavy metal, have played the legendary instrument.

The guitar’s body is made from alder, the neck from maple and the fretboard from either maple or rosewood. Some of the best and most iconic guitarists in the world played Stratocasters, including Jimi Hendrix, Yngwie Mamsteen, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend. John Frusciante, the lead guitarist of the popular rock band the Red Hot Chili Peppers, is famously associated with his 1962 Burst Stratocaster. Blues guitarist Eric Gales of The Eric Gales Band plays and records using several Strats, including a 1962 Fender Stratocaster.

Today, a 1962 Fender Stratocaster’s value starts at around $32,500.

1958 Gibson Flying V

After noting the success of Fender’s guitars, Gibson launched their ultra-modern Flying V design. The typically traditional luthiers knew that they needed to create a one-of-a-kind look that would find its place in musical history.

The company’s desire to innovate and offer new modern electric guitars was successful in the long run. However, the guitars did not sell well. The line was discontinued in 1959, and only 98 Flying V guitars had been manufactured by then. Despite not being a bestseller, the Flying V is one of the most easily recognizable and coolest vintage guitars.

It has always been pretty standard to make premium guitars out of mahogany, but Gibson also flipped the script here and opted to use Limba, a hardwood from West Africa, for the Flying V’s body and neck. Gibson also coined their own United States trade name for the wood — Korina.

Because the 1958 Gibson Flying Vs are one of the rarest vintage guitars out there, only a handful of notable musicians are known to have played original Korina Flying Vs. Among them are Dave Davies of The KinksMick Mars of Motley Crue and the blues guitarist Albert King. However, plenty of famous guitarists have Gibson Custom Shop Flying Vs, including Mick Box of Uriah Heep, Richie Faulkner from Judas Priest, Lenny Kravitz and, of course, Jimi Hendrix.

Today, an original 1958 Gibson Flying V’s value starts at $250,000.

1958 Gibson Explorer

Much like the Flying V, the 1958 Gibson Explorer did not sell well. It had an even more limited release than the Flying V, too — only 19 were shipped in 1958, and only three were shipped the year after. However, it should be noted that more prototypes were made using leftover parts a few years later! The guitars from the original run were also made from Korina wood, like the Flying V. And just like the Flying V, despite its lack of success during production, it went on to become one of the most sought-after rare vintage guitars and now has incredible value. A listing in a London music store values their original 1958 Korina Explorer at $1.1 million!

Though the modern design was not popular during its original release, changes in culture and music led to a revolution in guitars, with Ibanez releasing their copy of the Explorer. Famous musicians and bands like Kiss took the replica and quickly took off in popular rock music.

Following this renewed interest in the Explorer, Gibson re-released the Explorer — and subsequently sued Ibanez — and the original 1958 Gibson Explorer’s value became quite high. With this resurgence in the unique design, even Eric Clapton was drawn to the guitar and used it on several recordings.

1955-1959 Gretsch White Falcon

Another dream item for enthusiastic vintage guitar collectors is the 1959 Gretsch White Falcon. Surprisingly, Gretsch never intended to release the Gretsch White Falcon. With its larger-than-life, elaborately decorative look, it was intended merely as a showpiece that would capture attention and draw people in. You could say that the ploy for attention worked a bit too well — the once-off demonstration guitar was so popular that Gretsch produced and started selling the guitar in 1955.

Some experts speculate that fewer than 300 White Falcons were produced from 1955 to 1959, making them relatively rare and worth a minimum of $29,000. Neil Young, Stephen Stills and John Frusciante are among some popular guitarists who have played a Gretsch White Falcon.

1960 Gibson ES-335

The 1960 Gibson ES-335 has been in continuous production since 1958 — that in itself is a rarity for many other vintage Gibson guitars. Still, the models Gibson produced between 1958 and 1960 are quite valuable.

A 1960 Gibson ES-335

The iconic design features a double cutaway, semi-hollow body, which allows for the open tone of a hollow-body guitar while simultaneously minimizing feedback. The pure quality of the sound you can enjoy playing this guitar ranks it among one of the most sought-after Gibsons for those who buy vintage guitars. The guitar also boasts a beautiful maple body and a rosewood fingerboard. To top it off, the guitar is produced with three different finishes — cherry, natural and sunburst.

There are several aspects experts look at to determine the value of a vintage 1960 Gibson ES-335, including:

  • The exact year it was made.
  • The color and finish.
  • The tailpiece.
  • The overall condition.

The ES-335 boasts a string of notable players, including BB King, Eric Clapton and Noel Gallagher from OasisSome listings price a vintage 1960 Gibson ES-335 in good condition at $64,000.

1957 Fender Telecaster

Before the epic Stratocaster was released, the equally revolutionary Telecaster was born. Leo Fender was on a mission to produce the best electric guitars, starting with the Esquire — a solid-body, single-pickup electric guitar that produced large sound with less feedback and the Broadcaster — a double-pickup version that was later renamed the Telecaster.

A 1957 Fender Telecaster

1957 Telecasters have an Alderwood body and a one-piece maple neck. The standard finish for this model of Telecaster is Blond. Original Telecasters go for anywhere from a few thousand dollars to over $100,000, depending on their condition and history. Some of the factors affecting the value include:

  • The serial number.
  • Whether any modifications or replacements were made to the guitar.
  • If the guitar is in working order.
  • The color.
  • Whether it has its original pickups and case.
  • Whether you have the original receipt, paperwork and accessories.

Famous Telecaster guitarists include Bruce Springsteen, Keith Richards, Prince, Jimmy Page, Billy Joe Armstrong and Muddy Waters.

1956 Fender Precision Bass

Fender’s Precision bass was introduced in 1951. The electric bass guitar was produced using a solid ash body and features beautiful black contours that lend to its distinctive vintage Fender guitar look. While it may not be one of the most well-known vintage guitars out there, the Precision Bass certainly has a rich and iconic history. Bill Black, who played in Elvis Presley’s original trio, had a Precision Bass that he played during that time. If you have one of these Fenders, the best way to determine its value is through a professional 1956 Precision Bass appraisal.

1952 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop

The 1952 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop looks and sounds like a dream. Les Paul guitars are widely recognizable, and the Goldtop is even more so thanks to its stunning golden finish and warm tone. The Goldtop has a mahogany body and neck, a maple top and a rosewood fretboard.

Neil Young, Jimmy Page and Pete Townshend have all sported a Gibson Les Paul Goldtop. Today, the 1952 Les Paul Goldtop’s value is at least around $30,000.

Vintage Acoustic Guitars

When most people think of vintage guitars, their minds automatically go to electric guitars. But vintage acoustic guitars are just as valuable — and in some cases, even more so. Though not vintage or fully acoustic, The Martin D-18E acoustic-electric guitar that Kurt Cobain played sold for a whopping $6,010,000! Here is a look at some vintage acoustic guitars and their value.

1960s Martin D-28

Martins are typically considered the crowning gem of the acoustic guitar world, making vintage Martin guitars a real investment. Famous Martin players include Chris Cornell, Shawn Mendes, Brooke Ligertwood, John Mayer and David Crosby.

Martin originally made the D-28s using Brazillian rosewood but later swapped that out for Indian Rosewood, which keeps a warm, vintage sound. The neck is mahogany, and the fretboard and bridge are rosewood. The 1960s Marin D-28 guitars are valued at as much as $20,000, making them some of the most expensive vintage Martin guitars for sale.

1952 Gibson J-45

Vintage 1952 Gibson J-45s are collectible acoustic guitars that have a beautiful mellow tone and an iconic Gibson look. The guitar is made from mahogany and rosewood. The instrument was and is beloved by several notable musicians, from Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley to Buddy Holly and Bruce Springsteen.

The price for a 1952 Gibson J-45 starts at around $13,000 and goes all the way up to $19,000.

Buy and Sell Vintage Guitars at The Vault Jewelry And Loan

We know a thing or two about the thriving vintage guitar market. At The Vault Jewelry And Loan, you can find vintage guitars near you, find vintage acoustic guitars for sale and sell your vintage guitars.

In our Virginia pawn shops, you can find everything you need to enjoy making music, including vintage guitars and amplifiers from top brands. We pride ourselves on our expertise in evaluating worth and setting fair prices so you know you can score valuable vintage pieces at reasonable prices.

Visit one of our stores today or complete our contact form to enquire about our collection of guitars.

A man calls about selling his vintage guitar

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