The quickest and simplest way to find vintage guitar prices is by use of a vintage guitar price guide. These books are effectively huge lists of vintage guitars, with a short description, and suggested values for these guitars in various conditions. There are two main guides, both of which publish new versions regularly. Vintage Guitar magazine prints a new book every year, whilst Blue Book guitar values only prints every few years. Both titles contain data for all of the big brands; finding vintage Gibson guitar values or vintage Fender guitar values is incredibly simple.
Both books are well researched, and full of useful information, though there is some difference between the two, both in terms of style and focus. The Official Vintage Guitar magazine price guide, by Alan Greenwood and Gil Hembree is strongly focused on vintage guitar sales. They cover a huge amount of vintage gear: guitars, basses, amplifiers, effects, lap steels, steels, ukuleles, mandolins, and banjos - all squeezed into (latest edition) 616 pages.
By contrast, Zachary R. Fjestad's Blue Book guitars price guides are available in two volumes - Blue Book of Electric Guitars and Blue Book Acoustic Guitars. These books are significantly longer than the Vintage Guitar magazine title, running in at 1408 and 896 pages respectively. There is less focus on vintage gear, although these guitars are naturally all covered, with many valuable newer instruments included. There is also some significant information on guitar grading too.
Vintage guitar pricing is not an exact science, and both of these books should be considered a point of view - certainly a well-researched point of view - but only a guide. It can be quite interesting to read both books side by side and compare quoted values. Certainly vintage guitar dealers, pawn shops and many part-time guitar sellers use both books when researching their own guitar prices. Read vintage guitar 'values' for a discussion on price variance within the vintage guitar market.
A vintage guitar value can go up or down, but generally not significantly over the course of two or three years. If you are a vintage guitar dealer you may want a new copy every year, but this is probably excessive for most people. Previous editions of these books are available at a reduced price, and are still very useful; however each edition contains updates with newer content added - it is not solely the prices that change.
Title: 2023 Official Vintage Guitar Magazine Price Guide
Price: typically around $35
Authors: Alan Greenwood, Gil Hembree
What we think: This really is the most concise book of vintage guitar values you can buy. At around $35 it is just superb value for money; and as it will give you the confidence to know what your guitar could fetch, so it can actually make you significantly more than just your money back. The authors have been researching vintage instrument prices for many years, and their findings are listed here, with suggested values for instruments in different conditions. Anyone planning on selling, or insuring an old guitar should look at this book.
Publishers notes: Knowledge and information are vital in the dynamic world of collectible guitars and gear, and no source provides it better than The Official Vintage Guitar Price Guide. With listings for more than 2,000 brands along with 1,100 photos and 215,000 copies sold, this book is the industry's hands-down leading source of pricing information on guitars, basses, amps, effects, lap steels, steels, and ukuleles all in one book!>> Click here to purchase from Amazon
Title: Blue Book of Electric Guitars
Price: typically around $30
Authors: Zachary R. Fjestad
What we think: A very comprehensive book covering a huge number of guitars: more than just a vintage guitar values price guide, this book has some great general information, with sections on guitar grading, and suggested prices for new guitars and basses, as well as older ones. A really essential book for anyone dealing in guitars of all ages. This title is not updated as often as the Vintage Guitar Magazine Price Guide above, but frankly, we don't see this as a problem.
Publishers notes: Make every dollar count with the new 15th Edition Blue Book of Electric Guitars! This edition boasts 1,400 pages including a revised color Photo Grading System. It also has guitar reference information and values on over 1,250 guitar manufacturers/distributors including Fender, Gibson, Paul Reed Smith, Ibanez, Gretsch, Epiphone, Washburn, B.C. Rich, Jackson, and Guild as well as many independent luthiers and custom builders. You'll be sure to make every dollar count when buying or selling with over 12,500 electric guitars listed!>> Click here to purchase from Amazon
Title: Blue Book of Acoustic Guitars
Price: typically around $30
Authors: Zachary R. Fjestad
What we think: Again, like the electric title above, the Blue Book of Acoustic Guitar values is a hugely in depth publication, with details and values for thousands of Acoustic models, both old and new.
Publishers notes: This edition boasts 900 pages of content, including a color Photo Grading System and guitar reference information and values on over 900 guitar manufacturers/distributors including Gibson, Martin, Ovation, Taylor, Alvarez, Epiphone, Takamine, Washburn, Gretsch, and Guild. Many independent luthiers and custom builders are also represented. You'll be sure to make every dollar count when buying or selling with over 8,000 acoustic guitars listed!>> Click here to purchase from Amazon
Of course, before you can look up a vintage guitar price in any of these guides, you will need to know what precise model you have - you'll also most likely need to know how old it is too, and have an idea of how it's condition might be graded (read condition is paramount). If you were hoping to find model details or guitar values by serial number, you are almost certainly out of luck. Most vintage guitar serial number systems were not developed to hold data beyond the order in which they were produced. You will need to refer to some form of vintage guitar field guide. Whilst the above books are helpful for setting nominal values, Gruhn's Guide to Vintage Guitars really is the Bible of vintage guitar identification. And frankly, it's a pretty enjoyable book just to flick though!
Title: Gruhn's Guide To Vintage Guitars Updated and Revised Third Edition
Authors: Walter Carter and George Gruhn
What we think: A really great little book with all the key features that identify American vintage guitars; Fender, Guild, Epiphone, Gibson etc - cleverly arranged into id checklists - you go through the list of features (solid body or hollow, number of pickups, switches, inlays, etc) until you find your guitar. A really great way of quickly finding out what a guitar is. Perfect for taking to yard sales, pawn shops and anywhere where there might be a vintage guitar bargain. A LOT of information in a very small package.
Publishers notes: Gruhn's Guide to Vintage Guitars is the most extensive and detailed list of specifications ever published for identifying, dating, and establishing the authenticity of an instrument. This new edition is enlarged and updated, making it once again the essential guide enabling collectors, dealers, players, and fans to determine the authenticity, rarity, and relative value of vintage acoustic and electric guitars...>> Click here to purchase from Amazon
Of course there are other ways to find a used guitar value than by using a vintage guitar price guide - a little research of your own can go a long way. Although these authors are clearly authorities in their field, valuation has always been subjective. The values suggested are certainly more applicable to vintage guitar dealerships in large American cities. Prices may not be appropriate for guitars for sale elsewhere. Although we strongly recommend all of the above books, we also strongly recommend doing your own research. Have a look at the tips we recommend to find free guitar values online.