1. Educate yourself and buy from a reputable dealer
You should always do your research about the guitar before buying. I can’t over emphasize the importance of this. When you have done your research, you can then ask the right questions from a reputable dealer. Another important point is that you will realise the subtle differences in specs between one particular year’s model versus another. Going to a reputable dealer is very important if you want to mitigate your risks. It also makes a lot of sense as you are not able to personally inspect and test the guitar and you will need someone with an established reputation whom you can trust to help reduce your risks. Talk to the seller or email him, ask questions, requests for photos and videos and check out buyers’ reviews of the seller. There is no foolproof way, but you can certainly help yourself to mitigate your risks.
2. Beware of counterfeits, modifications and major repairs.
Like all luxury items, there will be fake ones in the market especialy for some of those most sought after models. Buyers should be aware of this and also be on the look out for instruments which have been modified, repaired, or have structural or cosmetic defects which will require expensive and time consuming restoration. Look out for things like cracked neck, refinish, new tuners, changed pickups. They can drive a guitar’s value down. Make sure the neck is good and playable.
3. Know what is a reasonable price to pay
One good and quick way to find out what would be a reasonable price to pay is to go to Gbase. This is where most legitimate U.S. dealers list their stock. You should be able to see what the going price for a given instrument is and use this as a base to negotiate a good price with the seller. Another great source is VintageAndRare.
4. Understand that rarity does not make it a great instrument.
While some of the most sought after and expensive instruments are extremely rare, it should be noted that unlike vintage coins or postage stamps, rarity alone is not necessarily a desirable feature. Guitar manufacturers were driven by commercial concerns and so when they found a design which appealed to their customers they did not limit production to just one or two. The makes and models which are the most sought-after have been produced in sufficient quantity and used by enough well-known musicians that they have achieved a well deserved reputation. At the end of the day, the instruments which are the most sought by vintage guitar collectors and subsequently bring the highest prices, are inherently very fine musical instruments.
5. Do your homework
I cannot over emphasize the importance of this. There are many vintage guitars out there. Obviously, not all are collector’s grade, and because they are old guitars, every guitar will in a sense be unique. You will need to do your research and know what to look out for before purchasing.
6. Buy brands that collectors love
Fender and Gibson are heritage brands. They are bound to rise in value. Rickenbackers (played by the Beatles, Byrds and Tom Petty) are good bargain because even the some of the rarest ones often sell for under $8,000. They are great American-made guitars. Gretsch is another great American-made guitar played by many notable artists (Steven Stills, Neil Young, Pete Townshend, George Harrison). They are generally less expensive than Fender and Gibson and are very collectible. Some good Epiphone guitars are also worth considering. My advice to collectors is to stay with American-made guitars. They will appreciate and they are great guitars, craft wise.
7. Beware eBay.
There is a lot of frenzy bidding in eBay. Many of these guitars are not 100 percent original and many would need some form of fixing and adjustments. If you are considering buying, make sure you are very knowledgeable about the guitar and are satisfied with all the answers to your questions from the seller.