The 1968 Fender Telecaster Un-wrapped.

Close up and personal ’68 Tele


Full view of the glorious ’68 Tele

I took a flyer on a 1968 maple necked Telecaster that was on ebay. It’s “all there” (including the original case) … nice vibe… pretty worn. Just a REAL relic in spades! There’s 50s-like neck wear on the nitro fingerboard. A very cool nicotine orange to yellow to white to blonde body. This was a somewhat unexpected purchase… I threw in a low $4500 offer and it was accepted! I received the guitar a couple of days ago, and I must say that this seller should have been a little more careful in his description. There were a few undisclosed issues. The neck pickup was wired out of phase and had a 2.5k DC resistance – indicating a potentially broken/shorted out pickup. The frets didn’t seem like the stated “original frets”…but that’s OK, the slightly larger than stock size wire and perfect condition just saved me a re-fret! I plugged in my “Bri approved” Weller WESD51 soldering station, reheated the neck pickup wires at the pickup… and low and behold, the pickup was fixed!

This guitar, despite my initial disappointment, turned out to be a great Tele! Plugged in, the 7.2k bridge pickup really rocks! Lots of metallic clang and twang, with plenty of output… just fabulous! A winner. The neck plays smoothly due to 45 years of love. The guitar weighs 7.3 lbs – nice and light. The 5.5k neck pickup sounds musical, but it doesn’t seem like the best match for the bridge pickup – a little weak. And it therefore doesn’t give us the best middle position sound either. I’m not opposed to reversible mods – so I took note of the this issue.

It’s interesting how after a while playing around with guitars you sometimes get an intuition about what changes might work, and I immediately thought of the Fralin wound Jim Weider “Big T” neck pickup. It’s got bigger magnets and a moderately low wind for a nice clear, but robust, punchy, and slightly dark tone (at least darker than all those other “tall” neck pickups like the Twisted Tele pickup that Fender makes). So the Big T went in the guitar and it’s “the magic”, the “Shiznitz”! I also replaced the severely corroded switch while I was at it. The ceramic .05mF disk cap was really “on / off”… no taper at all… so given the fact that I’d already done some (reversible) mods to the guitar, I threw in a paper and oil cap of the same value – one of those big, fat gold cylinders. I think they call it a “guitar cap” or something. Wow! Don’t let anyone tell you that all caps of the same value sound the same. The new cap had a very gradual tone roll off with numerous very musical tones built in – a whole rainbow of sounds!

So there you have it! I put ‘er all back together and I’ve been playing this great ‘ole Tele for the last day or so non-stop! Don’t let anyone tell you that great Fender guitars stopped in 1965 when Leo sold the company! This is one GREAT Tele! Compared to my favorite Tele (and I’ve compared my favorite, “keeper” to many others) – a lightweight knockoff Top Loader with a fatty neck – this ‘68 is at least it’s equal… maybe better. Mission accomplished.





“You Want How Much???!!!…”. Establishing Value 101

Here’s a nitty gritty topic for a proprietor of an on-line guitar store (like me) – ESTABLISHING VALUE! Since this is a Blog, I’ll just ramble a bit with the few thoughts that are rattling around in my brain, rather than trying to write a scientific paper on guitar value-ology! But I won’t lie to you, I have 20 odd years of establishing value in another business – so I have some background here. Let me say that the principles are the same whether you’re valuing a boat, a car, a house, or in our case, a guitar. For example, although “asking” prices have some small relevance in the equation, it’s really the price that something sells for that establishes value of a similar item, for the most part. That’s where the “Vintage Guitar Price Guide” gets its numbers. Then there’s Ebay “completed items” – quite useful and quite current. Plus there are lots of other less visible sources that one learns about over time for checking out “what’s sold for how much”. So we also ask: how long ago did that similar guitar sell? Was it in the current market? Was the guitar that sold identical to the one we are trying to appraise – or do we need to make value adjustments for different condition, features, or mods? Obviously, a guitar that is almost the same as the one we are trying to evaluate but sold 2 years ago may need a value adjustment for a different market. Hey, my pal Jeff P. offered me either a 1961 Strat or a 1958 Tele for $600 – “take your pick”, he said… but that was 1979… so we must adjust value for the time. By the way, I took the Tele! And no, I don’t still have it!  Also, some sales are made under duress, so we typically take a few comparable sales and knock out the highest and lowest… we’re looking for a cluster of prices for similar instruments. Sometimes, especially with modded or unique guitars, it’s really hard to find close comparable instruments that have sold. So there is some voodoo involved – it’s not all science! You kind of have to get a feel for what might affect value and by how many $$$ in the real world.

OK … find one like this! A Strat with 3 Firebird pickups.

Of course, it’s natural for us to feel that what WE have is worth a whole lot of cabbage… but what we want to buy… well, not worth so much. In my little on-line business I tend to just roll with people’s opinions of the respective values, or at least I hear them out, and sometimes I even just do trades for the fun of it – or because I want to change my inventory around (you know, keep the website fresh) – knowing full well that my customer’s opinion of the value of his/her stuff is inflated! That’s the price I pay ’cause I am a geetar junkie! Of course, sometimes reason prevails and I just don’t do the deal… or I only do it if we can get to realistic values – ones where I can make some money – so that someday I can call this a “business” rather than a “hobby”. My problem isn’t figuring out the values… it’s letting my compulsive, guitar-addicted self rule my business self!!! THAT is my problem! Sometimes I really go off the rails e.g. my recent purchase of what I call my “double cut nightmare” – an acquisition (ostensibly for the store) based on impulse and passion that is sure to ultimately end up in the red, that is, once it’s been marketed and moved along!!! But don’t get any ideas! 🙂 , I’m working on getting tough as nails!!! I practice in the mirror, you know! 🙂 To be fitting, I think it appropriate that I post some “guitar porn” pics of a few odd-ball guitars that are tough to pin a value on… Hey, Bo Diddley… we’ll start there.

A bass made by Tom Holmes for Bo Diddley in the 70s and sold after Bo’s passing – I owned this for a while.

Here’s the case that Bo cleverly customized with his own artwork… THE MAN! You betcha!

A 1961 Gibson ES-335 Dot Neck that’s been re-necked using the old fingerboard, truss rod, and binding.

Howard Leese’ (of Heart & Bad Company) ’96 rare Gold Sparkle CU22 – featured on Bad Company Live at Wembley – and soon to be for sale at Blue Hugh Music



Replica or “Lawsuit” Guitars

I suppose the hottest thing in the world of guitar forgeries (maybe that’s too criminal a word) are the Gibson Les Paul replicas. Jeeze, you can pay a ton of money for them – Max Les Pauls come to mind – and they seem to fill a niche that, for example, Gibson hasn’t been able to fill (although I might argue that they are getting closer – but will the 2 piece “lam” fingerboard terminate all that?).

Anyway, one might assume that the guitar companies “victimized” by such practices have the moral high ground, but I would argue that it’s all about following the money trail. Case in point: Slash’s main “Les Paul” in the early days was in fact a replica made by luthier Kris Derrig (it’s OK – he’s dead). Do you think the big “G” cobbled together a “cease and desist” order? … Sorry… Didn’t happen. Slash sold millions of guitars for them by being the poster boy for Les Pauls in a time when they weren’t enjoying alot of popularity! But if you’re a small builder, and you want to build a few “‘bursts”, you probably fear the cease and desist letter from the mighty “G”. Hey, the El Presidente at G is a LAWYER by trade. We all remember when G sued PRS for their single cut because we were all going to run out and buy PRS Singlecuts – thinking that they were really Les Pauls! Well, PRS did even have to stop building Singlecuts for a while – until they were vindicated. This lawsuit was NOT good for guitar players! But then, as I said, the boss at Gibson was a lawyer… and have you ever heard him play guitar? I have. Nuff said!!!

It’s interesting that at one point a judge ruled that it’s the headstock shape that determines the individuality of a guitar. That’s why companies can copy, say, a Fender Stratocaster down to the last detail – as long as the headstock is different! Good news for Suhr and Anderson.

There are rumours that many of the Gibson guitars built for Billy Gibbons were actually built by John Bolin (who we know does build many of Gibbons’ guitars) – even ones with Gibson logos. Would Gibson care? Don’t think so. It sells Gibson guitars. I believe that some of Billy’s Gretsch guitars have been built by Bolin (hey gang, the guitar that graces my website banner is a REAL Gretsch Billy Bo aka: Jupiter Thunderbird – just re-fretted, Bigsby added, Powertrons changed to FilterTrons by TV Jones and masterfully pinstriped by Dave Connery of Toronto’s Connery’s Custom Paint – the only guy I know who blasts Hendrix in the shop while he paints!) But I digress…

So if you’re a small builder building high quality replicas who do you fear more? … Blue Oyster Cult’s “Reaper” or the Cease and Desist Order? I’ve heard rumours, but I’ve never actually seen such an order. I remember a few years back when I got a magnificent Strat body that had been painted as an exact replica of Clapton’s Crash “Over The Rainbow” Strat. I put Fender parts on it and bought a superb Fender Custom Shop maple neck off ebay (for a lot of money!). It was a great axe! When I went to sell it on ebay, they pulled it off. Jeeze, this is a real Fender, I thought. There were rumours that Fender was scrutinizing ebay at that time. I put it back on and tried to explain my position by email. They kicked me off ebay for 2 weeks. Hey, WHO”S THE CLIENT, I thought? Me! I pay the ebay fee… I’m the client… who’s got the $$$??? Well, the Big “F” probably has more than I do! Nuff said