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Vintage Gypsy Jazz Guitars as Investments

I was having a converstation with a fellow musician last night on the economic trends and future value of vintage instruments, mostly acoustic instruments like Pre-War Martins, early Gibsons,etc. The subject quickly turned to vintage Gypsy guitars. My friend is not only my bass player but is a luthier who was/is an avid collector of instruments and has had many clients pass through his shop with museum pieces that could easily put children through college more than once. On the subject of Gypsy guitars, it seems like 10-12 years or so ago Selmers could be had for maybe half of what they are going for now..Busatos and Favinos could be found for maybe the price of a low end Dupont. In our conversation, we both agreed that if one has the means, the vintage market (especially in a niche market like gypsy jazz) is maybe a place one should invest. I guess I'd like others to chime in with their take on vintage gypsy axes as investments...do you feel that in due time Busatos will fetch what Selmer are going for? Favinos possibly as well? In twenty years, what value do you think Selmers may hold? I know the economy is bad and guitar market may be slow, but the vintage market never seems like it haults completely. What are your thoughts?
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Comments

  • StringswingerStringswinger Santa Cruz and San Francisco, CA✭✭✭✭ 1993 Dupont MD-20
    Posts: 389
    Old Gibsons, Martins, Fenders, D'Angelicos, D'Aquistos, Strombergs and Selmers were all made (with the exception of D'Aquistos) in the era before the guitar became the worlds most popular instrument. There are few of these instruments extant and the materials they are made of is scarce. hence their high value.

    That said, much of the recent rise is due to phantom money being available as a result of asset bubbles. With the bursting bubbles there has been downward pressure on vintage prices (at the moment). Like well located real estate, I believe that good investment guitars will do well over the long haul. All of the guitars mentioned in the first sentence of this post should do well, though attention should be paid to particular models and condition when making such an investment. For example a totally refinished Selmer tenor guitar with no original hardware will not do as well (in the long term) as an all original 6 string Selmer D hole with an intact resonator.

    Favinos and Busatos? They are rare for certain, but honestly, outside of our little Gypsy jazz world, nobody has ever heard of these makers. I own a Favino, but I bought it for its sonic characteristics mainly and if it obtains value over time, that is a bonus. If I were looking to invest in guitars, Gypsy guitars would be low on my list.

    It is way easier to sell a flattop or solid body guitar than an archtop guitar. It is way easier to sell an archtop guitar than a Gypsy guitar.

    I'd say Favinos and Busatos are overpriced at the moment due to the Gypsy jazz "fad" (which I believe will fade over time). But that is just my opinion. I'd sell my Favino if it wasn't such a great guitar!

    If a guitar inspires you to play it and you can afford it, buy it!

    Cheers to all,

    Marc
    www.hotclubpacific.com
  • Swinger,
    Do you believe that Favinos and Busatos will stay at their going current rate or even drop in value in the future? I'd be inclinded to think that because they are so rare, they may appreciate. But then again, I see what you're saying about our "little gypsy jazz world". I think there will be a market for these instruments as long as there are serious players and musicians aware of the sonic/tonal achievements of these instruments. The average collector may not be prone to buy a vintage Favino over say a Gibson, D'Aquisto, what have you.
    Interesting thoughts!
  • Michael BauerMichael Bauer Chicago, ILProdigy Selmers, Busatos and more…oh my!
    Posts: 1,002
    I think that the current interest in gypsy jazz has certainly raised values, because it has raised demand. It may also have helped gain recognition and exposure for these guitars, which will help them retain value, but I think to the non-GJ world, we are all a little crazy to buy these guitars at the prices we pay. Most of them don't understand how you have to play these things to get them to sound good. Ever hear a Selmer played with a medium Fender pick with electric guitar picking strength? It's pitiful. That said, a guitarist from a fairly well known rock band here on the East Coast was at my house a few weeks ago and just flipped at how loud my Busato is, and how wonderful the tone was on another Busato I was babysitting. And the Selmer...well, even most flat top players have a certain reverence for a Selmer.

    Unless the economy collapses, I should think these guitars will hold or continue to increase, but as a fellow vintage GJ owner said to me the other night, "If you buy one of these guitars, you'd better be sure you really want it, because the odds are you are going to have it awhile." You can't just snap your fingers and sell these things; you have to wait for a buyer. GJ isn't a music where the players make big bucks, so the best vintage guitars are always going to be difficult for real players to buy. I suppose that helps slow the pace of inflation for the prices of these guitars.
    I've never been a guitar player, but I've played one on stage.
  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    Posts: 1,243
    "What he said"

    '-)

    Thanks Michael, for saving me from writing all that... pretty much word for word...
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,813
    With the bursting bubbles there has been downward pressure on vintage prices (at the moment).

    I'd say it's pretty clear to me that prices for vintage Selmer type guitars have been mostly unaffected by the recession, and in fact the Big Three (Selmer, Favino, and Busato) have all been selling for record prices all year. So there doesn't seem to be any backslide in prices whatsoever, in fact they seem to still be rising at a pretty fast rate. For example, just last year Jacques Favinos were going for $7K...$8K for a pristine one. Now you're looking at $9.5K for a good Jacques. Busatos have risen even faster...early 2008 a good Grand Modele Busato was about $8K. By the end of the year it was $10K, now it's $12K (one even went for $25K!). So if you invested in these guitars over the last two years you could have made as much as a 50% profit. Looks pretty good compared to the stock market these days! But you can get burned with guitars as well...
    All of the guitars mentioned in the first sentence of this post should do well, though attention should be paid to particular models and condition when making such an investment

    Yes, this is very important. Just because it says Favino, Selmer, or Busato on it doesn't mean it's worth very much. For example a Grand Modele Busato will go for $12K, but many of the numerous other variations may not even fetch half that. Same with Favino...it's really all about the Modele #10. That's the one people pay big money for....the other models are 30% less, often even less then that.

    So you really need to know what you're getting....the name alone isn't enough. There are really only a few models that are sought after.

    The exchange rate with the Euro is also a big factor....the market for these guitars is still centered in Europe, so a strong Euro/weak Dollar will cause the dollar prices to rise very fast. That is a big part of why these guitars are appreciating so fast right now. I think the trend from the late 90s till about 2006 or so was that a lot of vintage Favinos, Selmers, and a few Busatos were being brought into the US. The dollar was strong and there were a lot of buyers....now it's the reverse. So many of these instruments are getting repatriated...there are lots of buyers in Europe and the US prices seem cheap to them.

    'm
  • steven_eiresteven_eire Wicklow✭✭✭✭ Dupont MD50
    Posts: 172
    you can use the internet archive to look at how prices have changed over the last 10 years on gypsyguitars.com

    for example in 2000:
    http://web.archive.org/web/200106102315 ... index.html

    here's a link to the full archive, altough some of the links are broken:

    http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www ... uitars.com
  • It would be interesting to see what the prices are corrected for the drop in the USD. IMO it is sad to see instruments become really collectable as they usually end up in collections and not being played. Good for the musicians that owned them tho.

    C'est la vie.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • scotscot Virtuoso
    Posts: 513
    I think that because they are iconic and good sounding guitars, Selmers will continue to appreciate. Busato and Favino will appreciate too, because of their history and because they too are excellent sounding guitars - but probably not like a Selmer. That's good, it'll allow many of these guitars to remain in the hands of players.

    It's wrong to assume that many of these slightly expensive guitars wind up in collectors hands. Most vintage guitars today belong to people like me - working people who have been playing guitars for a long time and have bought sold and traded guitars over the years in order to finally wind up with a couple of real prizes. That's how I wound up with a Favino and a Dupont and a 1955 Gibson j-185. $7000 -$10000 isn't really that much money anyway, when you think in terms of modern adult hobbies. Compare that to buying a bass boat or motorcycle - in 30 years the boat will be an unpleasant memory and in the unlikely event that you you rode it much, the motorcycle will be long since worn out. But in 30 years, the guitar will be better than when you bought it, it'll be worth more, and you will have had 30 years of trouble free pleasure playing that guitar.

    And even if a fine guitar does go into a wealthy man's guitar collection, that's really not so bad either. Those guys are almost always generous with their prizes, like happened with those "Tone Poem" CDs. And the guitars get protected for the future, which IMO is also a good thing. There aren't that many guitar collectors after all, and when they need money, they sell those guitars. The entire Tsumura collection was sold off a few years ago - most Japanese collections got sold when their economy tanked in the late 80s. Guitars don't disappear, they just get moved around.

    Bottom line? Good guitars of all kinds typically increase in value. How much - well, that's where the risk comes in.

    My two cents...
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,813
    Jazzaferri wrote:
    It would be interesting to see what the prices are corrected for the drop in the USD.

    The drop in the dollar has had the opposite effect...it made the prices go up. Because the base currency for this market is the Euro. So a few years ago when it was $1.20 to the Euro a Favino may have cost 5000 Euro which was $6000. Even if the price in Europe didn't appreciate (although it has a lot), the same guitar at the same price is now $7750 (rate is about $1.55 to the Euro right now).
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,813
    scot wrote:

    And even if a fine guitar does go into a wealthy man's guitar collection, that's really not so bad either.

    I agree with Scot on this...there are really very few true "collectors." There seems to be a lot of angst directed at so called collectors who buy some of the pricier vintage stuff. Like Scot said, most of these people are pretty normal guys who just love vintage instruments. For a normal middle class person it's not a huge deal to have one $20K guitar...especially if you forgo some of the other accouterments of middle class living (expensive cars, houses, eating out, etc, etc.) And like Scot said, many have actually worked their way up to these pricier instruments by building up equity over time. Much of the time these guitars were paid for through the appreciation of other guitar investments.

    It's also worth mentioning that historically full time performers were the first ones to sell these vintage Selmers, Favinos, etc. Most of these old guitars fell into disrepair and became difficult to play. Players are generally pretty practical and just want something that sounds decent and plays easily. So instead of spending all the time and money to get an old Selmer/Busato/Favino restored, they'd rather sell it and just get something new. So often you hear this player vs. collector narrative were the "collectors" have somehow swindled the "players" out of all the good instruments. But it seems to me that the "players" were the first ones to abandon them, and with no regrets.

    It's the part time player/aficionado buyers who are actually the ones really taking care of these instruments: spending the time and money to get them restored and back into good playing condition. Once that's done most are still played, albeit not always in a professional capacity, but usually they are not just sitting in cases. I think this has happened more with archtops...but most owners of Selmers and the like that I know actually play them.

    'm
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