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Pricing of Gypsy Jazz guitars

PhilPhil Portland, ORModerator Anastasio

Who sets the price of GJ guitars? I've noticed a steady increase in prices of GJ guitars. Currently on this site there's a Berault and Holo for sale at $ 6,500; versus a Dupont MD 60 at $ 4,000 and a Park Elan at $4,500. Will the discerning player notice the difference in the guitars costing the additional $ 2,000 plus?



  • geese_comgeese_com Madison, WINew 503
    Posts: 415

    I guess the US market is setting the price. I have been noticing that the prices have been rising lately. The European prices are definitely not the same as in the US. I inquired about that Barault before Jean Barault sold it. The builders set a price and then dealers acquire them then list them at a mark up of probably around 15-20%. If people keep buying them at that price then that is the price that people will be listing them for.

    I have not played that many different GJ guitar. There are some great guitars for decent prices like Cyril Morin and Craig Bumgarner guitars. Just like in the world of electric guitars, you pay for the brand name (e.g. buying a Gibson Les Paul vs. a Heritage "Les Paul" although they are pretty much the same).

  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    edited February 19 Posts: 6,025

    @Phil the manufacturers set the prices but as @geese_com pointed out, the US prices are somewhat higher due to the additional transport, customs, and exchange rate costs.

    What I’ve always admired about the Gypsy guitar market is that it’s almost entirely sound based. You don’t see a lot of expensive, highly embellished “cream puff” art guitars like you do in other genres. Rather, the coveted flagship models tend to be instruments that have a track record of producing exceptional tone and projection. So, yes, the more expensive instruments almost always will sound better but there’s also personal aesthetics at play. For example, if you just don’t like the sound of Favinos, you’d probably like a $2K Dupont Nomade better than a $15K Favino Macias.

    A friend with an MBA once told me that small markets like Gypsy Jazz have very “compressed” price ranges (i.e. the difference between the least expensive and most expansive options are much narrower.) That certainly is the case with the Gypsy jazz market, as if you look at what’s available in the way of new Gypsy guitars, the least expensive Asian made instruments are under $1K and pretty well the most money you can possibly spend would be $9K for a Dupont Vieille Reserve (Stefan Hahl does make a few models more expensive than that, but they’re rare.) That’s really pretty incredible when you look at pretty much any other guitar market (classical, flatop, archtop, etc.) where the most prestigious, coveted instruments are usually $40K or higher. For less than the price of one flagship Benedetto or Kim Walker flatop, you could own examples from all the top contemporary Gypsy makers (i.e. Dupont, Barault, JP Favino, Holo, etc.)

    The vintage market is of course different, but even there if you compare what a Selmer goes for compared to a pre-war Martin or D’Angelico, the Selmer looks like a bargain.

    nomadgtrAzazzellMarkABill Da Costa WilliamsKlausUSWim Glenn
  • PhilPhil Portland, ORModerator Anastasio
    Posts: 704

    Thanks Michael for the interesting perspective and comparison with other guitars. Cheers Phil

  • Posts: 4,109

    As a businessman friend said regarding something else, it'll sell for what the market will bear. But given that these guitars are usually a work of a single person, prices are still reasonable. None of them is getting rich any time soon making a dozen or so guitars a year. They're highly skilled artisans and their hourly rate certainly doesn't reflect that once you deduct the material cost and shop supplies.

    Whether is there a difference that a player can appreciate between 4.5K and 6.5K guitar, sometimes yes and likely most of the time no. Guitar tone will vary between the instruments and what a player will hear is very subjective.

    Maybe not exactly the topic but attached is a really well written, balanced and insightful article by Ervin Somogyi (who's flattops will set you back 30-40K), his view on handmade vs factory

    MarkAWillieKlausUSBill Da Costa Williams
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • geese_comgeese_com Madison, WINew 503
    edited February 19 Posts: 415
  • ChrisMartinChrisMartin Shellharbour NSW Australia✭✭ Di Mauro x2, Petrarca, Genovesi, Burns, Kremona Zornitsa & Paul Beuscher resonator.
    edited February 19 Posts: 899

    Every luthier will have their own way of working and if, for example he/she is a one man band then they put their own value on their skills. That can never just be the cost of the wood plus, say 60 hours work. To be able to make a decent hand made guitar in 60 hours (60 is just a guess by the way, it may be 40, it may be 100) they have had to spend a lot of time in the past learning the skills. Like a doctor finally getting back what he invested in his medical student days, it is time to recuperate some of that investment in time. Some may have only one employee or partner, or some like Dupont might have a larger team, but in all cases they probably have put in a lot of hours training their staff up to their standards. These are the invisible costs. Yes, there are some who are turning out good quality hand made guitars in the $2k to $3k range; I don't know how they do it, but that seems a good deal for the customer. Others, at least once they have established a name can charge more and we know the public whether justified or not, will pay for a name or logo if it strokes their ego.

    If factory made the unit cost may be cheaper but there is still the need to recover the investment in machinery for mass production, so even before making a profit there are considerable overheads. Then some factories have managed to preserve some sort of perceived upmarket brand recognition and price their wares accordingly, others pitch for the economy end of the market. Both are right, it is up to the customer to decide if they want to pay a premium for a name.

    While there are valid reasons why hand-made should cost more than factory made, the differences between the various brands and names do not always reflect the price, or rather the price does not always dictate the quality.

  • dennisdennis Montreal, QuebecModerator
    Posts: 2,150

    I think another thing to consider regarding the prices of instruments would be the luthier's living expenses. I know some luthiers whose living expenses are rather low and they set their prices accordingly. The quality doesn't suffer because of the lower price.

    In one city, I know two luthiers: one of them has a number of kids and a mortgage and he prices his guitars accordingly. The other doesn't have kids, doesn't have a mortgage and has a rather simple vagabond-like lifestyle, and his guitars are priced significantly lower to the ire of the other luthier.

    I think it's the same with music lessons. Back in the day when I used to teach in Montreal, it was a super affordable city but wages were significantly lower. I used to charge maybe 25$ USD which was the average rate of guitar lessons in those days. When I went to NYC, someone asked if he could take a few lessons with me and he told me he didn't have a lot of money and could only afford 50$ USD, I think he wanted a two hour lesson... I was super shocked hahaha.

    With inflation, nowadays, i think the average rate for guitar lessons from the average experienced teacher 30-40$ USD which by many American / Canadian standards is still really low. In the neighbouring city of Toronto, lessons tend to start at 40$ USD.

    I'm in Taiwan right now, and a 30$USD guitar lesson is considered VERY expensive.

    Bill Da Costa Williams
  • KlausUSKlausUS AustriaNew Cholet Intuition, Cholet Quintessence, Gaffiero Original, AJL Q&P
    edited February 20 Posts: 60

    Many luthier have pretty similar prices around Europe. There are a lot of choices out there so prices are high but still reasonable. As mentioned those guys are small businesses and the market is worldwide but still a little niche and they put quite a lot of work in building the instruments.

    It is a lot of „word of mouth“. Joscho Stepahn and Diknu Schneeberger playing a Volkert had a huge impact which guitars are played in Germany/Austria. I mean it is insane how many have a Volkert, so Mr. Volkert increased prices significantly - a simple question of supply and demand. Anyways - I would not pay more than a certain price for a gypsy jazz guitar, as there are so many great options out there and some guitars are overpriced (imo).

    @Phil: As an hobby player I never felt a difference between a 2800 EUR (European Prices) handmade, luthier built guitar vs. a 6000 EUR luthier guitar. Every guitar feels and sound different but in this category they are all very good and it is up to the player to find the one that fits best. Joscho Stephan had Volkert to build him a cheaper one (wood choice,binding, tuner,…) and Joscho mentioned that he loves the cheap version for its sound as much as his other guitars.

    Bill Da Costa Williamsnomadgtr
  • PhilPhil Portland, ORModerator Anastasio
    edited February 20 Posts: 704

    Good discussion, thanks. Certainly, as a hobby player myself, having tried numerous GJ guitars, for my budget and guitar playing needs, I'd find it tough to justify going above the $ 3,500 price range. It's definitely very subjective. I appreciate the time, workmanship and artistry of many fine luthiers. From, DuPonts, to Gallatos to AJLs in that price range, all had sufficient GJ response and playability for my needs within a budget that was comfortable for me and also kept my wife happy!😎

    rudolfochristKlausUSBill Da Costa Williams
  • scotscot Virtuoso
    Posts: 613

    A high percentage of upper-end steel-string guitars, no matter the style, go to wealthy hobbyist musicians. Working pros don't need a guitar like a Somogyi, because most audiences for popular music pay zero attention to things like guitar tone. This is true even in our little world here. Wealthy amateurs may want a usable piece of art, or to be a "patron" to a craftsman. They may be allowed some input into the final design, to make it uniquely their own. There is exclusivity, too - I have visited many of the elite guitars shops in the USA and have never seen a Somogyi. There are all sorts of reasons why wealthy people buy these expensive guitars, which almost always are great sounding and playing guitars. Craftsmen like Somogyi all know this. It's a good thing, too, it keeps the builders working in a way that might permit them to eventually make more affordable guitars for the rest of us. Dupont, Taylor, etc did this I think.

    It is also the wealthy amateur who drives innovation in the guitar world. The busy pro wants what works, not some kind of expensive experiment, which there are usually some people willing to take a chance on. Scott Chinery's blue guitar experiment was an extreme example of this, but what a superb bunch of guitars came out of that risky venture.

    A final consideration - many of the most valuable steel-string guitars were made in factories and/or small workshops. I've owned and played many vintage Martin and Gibson guitars, and some of them sound and play so well it's just hard to believe. Even our sacred Selmers and Favinos came from small workshops and not the hands of one man.

    These upper-echelon guitars are affordable to most middle-income working people, too - a really nice guitar costs less than a motorcycle and way less than a bass boat...

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