Whether you are looking to sell your old Fender guitar or ensure the price of one you wish to buy, knowing how a Fender guitar changes its value over time is essential. In this article, I go over all the frequent questions on this topic and describe how you can evaluate the value of your Fender guitar.
Like all things, guitars become old, and some end up with a broken neck, whereas others end up for sale on a website like Reverb or eBay. And if you go on such websites and compare the price of old, vintage guitar models with their original cost, you’ll often find a considerable variation.
Some guitars are sold cheaper than the actual price, whereas others are way more expensive than before. The price increase can even go into triple digits! But what exactly causes this increase in value? Well, let’s find out.
Do Fender Guitars Appreciate In Value?
Most Fender guitars depreciate quickly after purchase, but the guitar becomes a rare, esteemed piece after decades, resulting in appreciation. However, the guitar’s condition determines how much it appreciates in value. For example, a well-maintained vintage guitar is sure to appreciate well.
Furthermore, even if a vintage guitar isn’t in mint condition, people sometimes look for replacement parts. So, if your guitar with a broken neck happens to have the original pickups that work perfectly, the pickups alone could appreciate in value.
Similarly, if your guitar uses material like rosewood that is now restricted by the government, you could sell the guitar part alone for a high price.
Do Fender Guitars Hold Value?
Fender is one of the most renowned and trusted guitar brands in the world. Hence, Fender guitars hold their monetary value much steadier than lesser-known brands. Similarly, Fender guitar parts are readily accessible, which makes renewing a guitar fairly easy, which helps retain the value of the guitar.
Do Fender Strats increase in value?
A classic Fender Stratocaster increases in value over decades. However, the Fender Stratocaster lineup has many models and reissues. So, check the price and the series of your guitar when it was first introduced. If it’s an esteemed classic, it will increase in value if you have maintained it over time.
Are Fenders Guitars Overpriced Or Not?
Most Fender guitar models are priced appropriately according to their value and performance. American-built guitars tend to be expensive, but that’s expected due to the high labor cost. However, some guitars are undoubtedly overpriced because of a collaboration with an artist or another company.
Even in such situations, though, one might argue that the price is right if they idolize the artist. So, a guitar’s worth that you consider appropriate depends on the value you obtain out of it. This “value” is known as “utility” in economics, and it differs from person to person.
However, when you evaluate the utility that you obtain from a Fender guitar, you have to consider its physical features like the hardware, build quality, raw materials, etc., and its intangible properties like brand impact, comfort, and resell value.
How much is a used Fender guitar worth?
If you bought the guitar within a couple of years, a used Fender guitar is likely worth 10-30% less than its original price, assuming it’s in excellent condition. However, if it’s a high-end guitar with flawless craftsmanship from several decades ago, it could have a higher price than the original.
Calculating A Guitar’s Worth
In this section, I will describe the various factors that determine a guitar’s worth. These include physical parts as well as intangible qualities. For the physical or tangible characteristics, I will describe what causes the part to depreciate and what makes it appreciate so that you can determine its value. As you know, some parts age like fine wine, whereas others deteriorate.
1. Machine Heads & Bridge
The machine heads are the tuners at the headstock of a guitar, where you wind up the strings to tune and fix them in place. Conversely, the bridge is the part on the body of a guitar that holds the other end of the strings. Their value depends on how well they retain the tuning while playing and how effective they are when tuning.
While both machine heads and a bridge are made of hard metal for durability, there are a few cases when they depreciate with age. If they aren’t maintained well, you could have a buildup of dirt and rust. Similarly, some metals get grooves because of the constant tension caused by the strings. And tremolo bridges could have broken springs.
The only factor that could appreciate the value of these parts is the rarity.
Vintage guitars can have rare materials and beautiful, handcrafted parts. For example, a body made of Brazilian rosewood or a rare shape is near the top of the list of valued build. While shapes are mostly for esthetics, the material provides tone and character to the guitar’s sound. The easiest way to figure it out is by searching for the model number of your guitar and checking out an ad or description from its release.
Wood deteriorates with time. Without proper care, your guitar could collect humidity and even rot. Similarly, mishandling or accidents could result in scratches, cracks, discoloration, and broken parts. And regular use could have worn the frets or the nut. Such problems lower the value of a guitar considerably. Fortunately, an experienced luthier can help you repair up to a degree of damage.
As I’ve mentioned, rare materials and shapes help increase the value of a guitar. And if the guitar is in an immaculate condition, it helps appreciate the value even more.
The pickups are the electronics on the body of a guitar that captures the sound of the strings. They are generally magnetic coils, although there are guitars with piezo systems too. The latter is a transducer that captures mechanical vibrations of the strings and body of a guitar instead of magnetic Waves.
Besides physical damage, pickups can end up with frayed wires and damaged solder. On a related note, you might also find rust/grime on the pickups as well as wires and jack ports. These will result in the lack of sound from the output or noise and sputters. All of these are generally repairable without affecting the guitar’s original sound.
Genuine vintage pickups are prized for their use on hit records and albums by renowned artists. And if they are rare nowadays, that increases the value even more.
Indeed, the most critical part of any musical instrument is the sound. And handcrafted guitars tend to have a unique sound in every instance of the guitar because of human errors and material variation. So, if your guitar happens to have an exceptional, sought-after sound, it could appreciate the value a lot.
If you can’t judge it yourself, sharing the sound of your guitar with a luthier, fellow players on the internet, and your friends could help you know if the sound is attractive.
If a renowned artist or a hit album has used the same model of your guitar, it can multiply the guitar’s value by many folds. For example, despite the efforts of Gibson, the 1958 Les Paul Standard was failing to get much traction.
However, it all changed when John Mayall released Blues Breakers featuring Eric Clapton. Furthermore, it was favored by many acclaimed guitarists of the late 60s. Now, the price of that guitar is over $225,000.
Funnily enough, lawsuits between guitar manufacturers resulted in the guitars from such eras becoming prized collectibles. Following proceedings and accusations concerning design copyrights and so on, the companies stopped producing some guitar models altogether. And as time went by, the rarity brought up the value of such guitars.
So far, we’ve talked about the prices of guitars as ostensive numbers. However, economics goes much deeper than the face value price. In this section, I will go over inflation, a major factor that makes apparent appreciation in the prices of guitars.
Phenomena like growth in money supply and velocity or usage of money cause a progressive increase in the prices of commodities and services. This economic process is called inflation.
For instance, back in the 1970s, an ounce of gold cost somewhere around $100. Conversely, the gold price in 2022 is now north of $1,700 per ounce. You can see similar changes in rent, mortgage, food, fuel, etc., between any two periods.
So, it’s only natural that everything else, including guitars, also costs higher.
Suppose you bought a guitar in 1972 for $600. Due to mild wear and tear, the guitar loses $100 of its value. So, now, in 2022, you have a guitar worth $500 from 1972. However, if you take the inflation, around 3.88% annually, into account, the $500 from 1972 is now worth $3,350.87.
If you put the guitar up for sale at $1,000, it’s hardly an appreciation. Instead, it feels more like a futile attempt at compensating for inflation.
Fortunately, despite the dire insight about inflation, we do have something positive: change in technology. Every time a new technology is invented, the older alternative loses its value. You can see that happening with computers, phones, software plugins, etc.
Similarly, guitars also benefit from the change. Thanks to improved machinery, knowledge disclosure, and innovative electronics, the quality of guitars you find today is much higher than what you’d find a few decades ago in similar price ranges.
In a way, it is counteracting inflation by providing better guitars at a cheaper cost. For example, in my previous example about buying a $600 guitar in 1972, you were paying over $3,000 worth of 2022’s money.
Thanks to modern technological advancement, you can get a similar quality guitar for much less than $3,000.
Technology is also one of the reasons why a guitar from merely a decade ago doesn’t have as much value as a vintage one or even a modern one. It neither has a nostalgic value nor a physical rarity, resulting in severe depreciation rather than appreciation.
Hence, the price change between a truly vintage guitar’s face value price and the current selling price as a secondhand can become objectively profitable and comparable to appreciation.
However, knowing the reason behind the price change, whether it’s inflation or actual appreciation, will help you understand the true value of your guitar.
Guitars are probably the most traded musical instruments in any secondhand market. And Fender guitars take up a massive chunk of the market share. Furthermore, the Market Vintage Guitar Price (VGP) index shows a 1.90% increase in 2021 for Fender, with brands like Gibson, Gretsch, and Martin trailing behind.
Such data indicate that Fender guitars are arguably the most value-retaining guitars currently.
So, to answer the main question of this article, yes, Fender guitars undoubtedly appreciate in value. It does take time for a guitar to be classified “vintage,” but once it happens, Fender guitars are some of the most sought-after guitars globally. And with that, we reach the end of this article. I hope I was able to shed some light on the interesting world of guitars and the economy.
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K. M. Joshi is a multi-award-winning composer and sound designer, specializing in film, game, and TV audio. He enjoys making cinematic music, rock, blues, and electronica.