The "What Is Vintage?" Thread

Discussion in 'Vintage Les Pauls' started by FrankiePRS, Jun 15, 2007.

  1. FrankiePRS

    FrankiePRS V.I.P. Member V.I.P. Member

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    This is an interesting topic. Like I've said, I started out half-joking, but now I'm curious about it. I forgot how important that label is to some people, and I see it has legs, so I thought I'd start a new thread.

    In my experience, it has often seemed that for many collectors, vintage means "something old enough that you can't afford it, but I have 4 of them". Fender has Pre-CBS (1965 and older), Gibson has Pre-Norlin (1969 and older), PRS has Pre-Factory (1994 and older) and (much more importantly) First-Year (1985/1986). But none of these really relate to the term "Vintage", do they? Since this is the Les Paul board (yes, I said 'the' - i don't count private clubs as 'boards'), let's discuss the term, and see how we define it.

    For starters, any word is a "signifier". It means what the users agree it means. The signified is the object it alludes to. As an example, "Cow" is a signifier. A large animal that says 'moo' is the signified. (And GuitarDean's 1979 prom date, I'm afraid :)).

    I started by looking in several dictionaries for the accepted meaning of the word, and discovered that as it relates to wine, it is a word with positive connotation; in other words, a vintage wine is a good wine, not just an old one. That alone has problematic ramifications when applied to old guitars, so before we start trying to relate the original term to our area of interest, let's understand that it's not the same thing.

    So okay... I pulled out my Oxford Shorter, and looked at the origins of the word "vintage". That wasn't really much help either - I won't bore you with the details, but it wasn't.

    So what we're left with is a discussion about what the the word has come to mean to us, the users, as it applies to old guitars. Maybe specifically Gibsons? I don't know, but I find the topic fascinating.

    I always thought that vintage should apply to a rolling age-point, either 20 or 25 years old, and I've seen a lot of dealers and collectors who agree with that. I've enjoyed watching many of my guitars achieve 'vintage' status in my mind, as I myself do the same :).

    But now it seems that for some people, no matter how old they get, they will never earn that label of distinction. Opinions?
     
  2. mapleflame

    mapleflame Senior Member

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    ONly in Cars. Fender is about 69-71 before the three bolt. The best Fenders are Pre 66.
     
  3. 58burst

    58burst Senior Member

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    Sounds to me like you're using vintage as being somewhat equivalent to "antique", refering to age alone.
    I would think vintage, as I guess is done with wines, refers to looking at things in accordance with when they were made. ie 90's vintage guitars, norlin vintage guitars, 2000 vintage, 50's vintage, etc.

    The more snobby use of vintage to mean old (and good) seems like a misappropriation of the idea to me-
     
  4. johnreardon

    johnreardon Senior Member

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    I try to distinguish between those guitars that have achieved high collectibility values, such as the Fenders & Gibsons from the late 50s/early 60s and guitars from other manufacturers that are around 20+ years.

    IMO, the older stuff from the likes of PRS will never, in general, achieve the interest and therefore high values that the Fenders & Gibsons do. This is not to say that they won't be some sort of an investment, it's just not the same investment, or as Frankie puts it, label of distinction.

    So yes vintage is misused and I'm in the camp that it should refer to mainly pre-70 stuff and not a rolling age of 20-25 years. In fact, for Fender, I would say pre-CBS (66). Other stuff should perhaps just be called 'old'. Those in the know, will understand what a 1986 PRS means in realation to the life of that company.
     
  5. Big Mike

    Big Mike V.I.P. Member V.I.P. Member

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    I think vintage is over used.

    Sometimes jus tbecause it's old, doesn't mean it's good.
     
  6. johnreardon

    johnreardon Senior Member

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    Yes Mike, but aren't you assuming that 'vintage' implies good?

    To me, the use of the word 'vintage, with regard to musical stuff, such as guitars & amps, is just attaching a 'collectibility' factor to the items in question. Of course being vintage doesn't mean it's good. I'm a firm believer that, in general, new stuff is way better than the old stuff I started with. Yes, there are exceptions, but not many IMO.
     
  7. LoKi

    LoKi V.I.P. Member

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    I personally feel that 25 years is a good starting point. Its a quarter of a century, and sure, nowadays people don't think of 25 years as a long time.. but not even 50 years ago the average expected life span of a human being was a little more than double that.

    Just my 2cents for all its worth. There is no 'this is better than that' because not only is 'better' subjective, its also a blanket statement. I have played old guitars that were DOGS, and I wouldn't even give a jar of spit to own, so to blanket an entire era based on the personal playing experience of a handful of guitars... well thats just silly.

    People out there who own a single instrument in any of these said 'magical' eras will swear to you they are all the best thing since sliced bread. That doesn't mean its true, it just means that they like the one they have... and having one doesn't make them an expert or authority.

    I think, as far as defining the word itself, and how we use it... we should set it from an age standpoint, not a particular quality, which is again subjective.

    What do you think? Just a suggestion.
     
  8. Darkburst

    Darkburst Senior Member

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    With Les Pauls the general consensus is "vintage" is between 52 and 68 from what I've read. Anything else in the 70's or early 80's is just "old". Since I don't own any vintage instruments or even anything made pre 2003 I could give a shit about labels. It seems the only people who care are those with guitars from the 70's who want to be part of the "vintage club". Just my observations!
     
  9. FrankiePRS

    FrankiePRS V.I.P. Member V.I.P. Member

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    I think it's more often people who are already in this imaginary 'club' and don't want any new members. :) Idgaf either - it's interesting to see what others are thinking though...
     
  10. lexluthier

    lexluthier V.I.P. Member V.I.P. Member

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    Go to a big guitar show. Seems like if it is used, it is 'vintage' now. LOL
    Probably because all the really cool true vintage stuff has dried up. Now I'm supposed to get excited and pay retarded money for Melody Makers and late 70's Strats because dealers can't find the good stuff anymore. No thanks.
     
  11. TomGuitar

    TomGuitar Member

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    It has no real value if all you do is define it by how many years old it is. I don't use the term for that reason. I prefer to think in terms of eras. The Gibson Golden Era - early 50's-64. For Fender, pre-CBS. For Martin, pre-WWII.

    This does not mean that there weren't great guitars from other eras, but it is a handier way to differentiate things than simply saying "vintage."
     
  12. FrankiePRS

    FrankiePRS V.I.P. Member V.I.P. Member

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    I think it's completely valid to group things by era like that, but doesn't that open the door to use "vintage" as a much more general term that signifies a certain age?
     
  13. TomGuitar

    TomGuitar Member

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    Of course, but it still has no real meaning. Your other thread about "Don't tell me it ain't Vintage" leads me to believe that you feel the term adds some cachet to your instrument. All I'm saying is that since we will all never agree on what the term means, it has no value. That's why I find the various eras to be a) more descriptive, and b) more valuable, and c) less inflammatory - all they do is designate a time period. Vintage is too fraught with other connotations besides time.
     
  14. FrankiePRS

    FrankiePRS V.I.P. Member V.I.P. Member

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    We're in agreement on most of this...

    My point in saying "don't tell me it ain't vintage" was that when I went to post pics of that guitar, I looked at the different sections, and it seemed to fit much better in the "Vintage" section than lumped in with 2003 Standards, ya know?

    The "Squawk Box" section says it's for "Discussion of new and vintage amplifiers". So amplifiers break down into 2 general categories - newer and vintage, but guitars don't?

    Cachet, schmachet... I'd call the 1971 Les Paul 'vintage' whether it was mine or someone else's, simply as a descriptor. And I do, and will continue to do so, not because I think it assigns more worth to the instrument, but because I personally think it's accurate. Norlin-era Lesters will always be the black sheep I guess - many Les Paul Guys would much rather own a newer Lester than a dreaded pancake body, but that in and of itself carries a certain 'cachet' for me I suppose.

    I totally agree with your claim that era-specific designations are far more accurate. When I said "don't tell me it ain't vintage", it was intended to be tongue-in-cheek -- I thought most members would agree that it is. I quickly realized that wasn't the case, which I find both intriguing and mildy amusing. Words are fun. :thumb:
     
  15. hedzeppelin

    hedzeppelin V.I.P. Member V.I.P. Member

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    The term "vintage", I think, has a lot to do with marketing. After all, it has created a whole market. We even have "Vintage Guitar" magazine.
    So, for the unknowinging, "vintage" simply means "old". I'm not sure how you classify it, but usually 20-25 years makes a guitar "vintage".
    Most of us here realize that's a bunch of hype, but not everyone is privy to that.
    It all goes back to the law of supply and demand. The supply of "vintage" guitars is minimal, and the demand is substantial, thereby inflating the price.

    Back in the 60's and 70's, I don't remember hearing the term "vintage guitars". In fact, we always wanted the new stuff, because we thought that it was probably better. So, I got rid of that old Sears Silvertone amp (which is worth some bucks today), and got a Solid State Standel amp. Who knew??
    And, until Mike Bloomfield, most people played Fenders. So, Bloomfield played a Les Paul, Jimmy Page heard Bloomfield and then he wanted one, so he gets one from Joe Walsh. Of course, the Les Paul was out of production from 1961 - 1968 (correct me on the years, if you will)...So, then what?
    Norlin takes over Gibson and brings the Les Paul line back, since Jimmy Page is using one at the time. Jimmy Page was using a ...1959 (or was it 1958?) Standard....So, if he's using an "older" guitar, then "older" must be better!
    Hence, everyone wants a pre-Norlin Les Paul (analogous to the pre-CBS Strat).
     
  16. idlewild south

    idlewild south V.I.P. Member V.I.P. Member

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    You need to play a few gems;then you'll know.:wave:
     
  17. TomGuitar

    TomGuitar Member

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    Frankie, we do pretty much agree. One of the reasons I said "less inflammatory" is exactly what you have noticed. There are plenty of folks to whom including your LP under the "vintage" umbrella would be fightin' words. :shock:
     
  18. Rock Johnson

    Rock Johnson Senior Member

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    When talking about 'old' guitars, put it in perspective. Kids graduating high school this year were born in 1989 or 1990. Many of them don't remember Bill Clinton as President. Nirvana's always been 'old' music. A guitar from the late 70s or early 80s is the same age, relative to them, as a guitar from the late 60s was for me.

    The kids will determine what the vintage market is in ten, twenty years. Unless Dirk Zeff unloads all his bursts at one time and the Japanese unload theres, the burst era gibbies and pre-cbs Fenders will *always* be out of reach for the kids. They'll be buying the snot outta PRS, Gibson CAH, American Fenders and LOTS of ESP's - cuz that's what THEIR heroes played.
     
  19. 95jplp

    95jplp Member

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    Defining the term "vintage" reminds me of what Justice Thurgood Marshall said about pornography - "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it". I also think that the term is overused. Old doesn't equate to vintage. I think a guitar is vintage if it meets the following criteria:
    1. Age (25+ years)
    2. Historically significant (impact on music)
    3. Appreciates in value (greater than rate of inflation)
    4. Refinishing it would be considered a crime
     
  20. TomGuitar

    TomGuitar Member

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    I agree with your sentiment 95jplp, but you have the source wrong.

    It was not Justice Marshall but Justice Potter Stewart in JACOBELLIS v. OHIO, 378 U.S. 184 (1964), who wrote, referring to pornography..."I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it..."

    This has been paraphrased over the years to be the quote you cite. But it should be attributed to Mr. Stewart.
     

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