I have to admit, it would be cool to own one. But I would probably be too scared to play it! In any case, it’s a surety that a year from now they will appreciate in price, regardless of what the selling price is now. There is a small but active group of very well-heeled guitar collectors (some of whom are professional musicians like Steve Stills, Elvis Costello, Vince Gill and others) who think nothing of dropping huge money on rare and collectable guitars. Good for them, I guess. OK, I’m jealous!
I’ve also read recently that guitars make with Madagascar rosewood bodies will most likely begin rapidly appreciating in value due to the recent ban on importing this wood. “Madrose” as its known in guitar circles very much resembles the storied Brazilian rosewood, which has been banned for use in guitar making for many years. This has resulted in guitars such as any pre-1970 Martin rosewood model bringing astronomical prices on the used market.
There’s no denying that “Braz” and “Madrose” guitars are beautiful (usually) but do they sound better than those made from readily available East Indian rosewood? That is a question that has been debated for decades and probably will be a continuing subject of lively discussion on the various forums by guitar geeks. My personal opinion (watch as Gene ducks under his desk) is…. Maybe. There are just way too many variables. In almost every case, an older guitar by a reputable maker made with some type of rosewood will improve with age. But other factors include bracing, finish, and bridge plate contribute to the sound quality. For example, the small maple bridge plate on older Martins vs. the large rosewood plate found on many newer ones probably allows the top to vibrate more freely, hence better sustain and resonance.
One of the best sounding Martin D-28s I ever played was an early 1960s model that lived a life of sad abuse, or some might say, passionate use! It belonged to a bar owner in Newport, Rhode Island who had no qualms about leaving it leaning against a wall on the small stage in his bar, or sometimes lying on the dock outside the bar (!) for anyone to play. Of course, back in those days an old guitar was just an old guitar, even if it was a Martin. The poor thing showed multiple gouges, scratches and cracks here and there. But the sound. Oh my goodness. Loud, resonant, and with sustain that just wouldn’t quit, even with strings that were beginning to rust. In spite of its condition, these days that guitar would easily bring $5000 or probably more. When brand new, it sold for a bit less that $400.
On the other hand, I’ve played a few similar vintage Martins that were complete dogs. And a couple were in pristine condition. Those instruments are surely worth close to twice what that poor beater D-28 is worth, assuming it didn’t totally fall apart. But hey, they’re Brazilian rosewood! Go figure.
Not long ago I owned a limited edition, almost new Martin D-42. Made of Madrose, with an Italian Spruce top and gorgeous details, it sounded quite wonderful with a subtly complex tone. It was a Martin Custom Shop model, limited to 25 pieces. I sold it as I just couldn’t justify tying up so much money in a guitar that I’d be too nervous to take to gigs and risk damage. In my world, no matter how nice, a guitar has to earn its keep. So off it went and I was sad the day the UPS truck took it away. I’ll bet that D-42 will sound amazing in a few years. But I have no complaints about the Martin M-36 and Gibson J-15 I use on gigs now and while I would hate to see them get damaged I don’t keep looking over my shoulder at the stage when I’m on break!
We all have a few guitars we’d like to get back. As Frank sang, “Regrets, I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention.” That’s the way I look at the guitars that I’ve owned, played, or had the opportunity to buy. Or as a guy on one of the guitar forums once wrote: Guitars are like buses in the city. If you miss one, you can be sure another one will come along in fifteen minutes!
I just hope the lucky people who end up with those Guthrie Gibsons actually play them!
Peace & good music,