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Increased Popularity Of Guitars

Author:Susan Eberman

Just as guitars can provide thousands of enduring sounds, they have also resounded with a myriad of images that are indelible in American culture.

From the Civil War through Desert Storm, they have provided American military troops with a touch of home and some much needed recreation. The image of a cowboy strumming his guitar around a campfire echoes through the history of the Old West. Protesters have put their causes to music, accompanied by this versatile instrument.

During the 1920s and 1930s ukuleles and banjos were very popular in America and the guitar began rising in popularity. Many of the country's first guitar stars were rhythm players who had replaced banjo players in dance bands and orchestras. Soon guitars were as essential as wide brimmed hats for groups of singing cowboys. Most of them played a flat-top guitar with round holes. This arched top f-hole guitar was well suited for this type of entertainment because it had the ability to cut through the sounds made by large numbers of horn players. With the rapid growth of radio entertainment in the 1940s guitars became a prominent player in jazz, blues, country, and rock.

During the postwar economic boom in America of the 1950s traditional. guitars were drowned out by the sound of fancy electric guitars. And by the late 1950s, in the era of Sputnik and Corvettes, it was expected that guitar companies would also be radical in their designs. During the 1960s television allowed fans to watch their favorite entertainers. Musicians then clamored to own a guitar similar to the one used by their favorite performer. The 1970s could be called the "copycat" era because technology now easily allowed mass production. By the 1980s guitar building made significant progress and the quality in all areas continues to be greatly improved.

Although they had earned in American history, guitars didn't become highly desirable collectibles until the 1980s- That's when musicians who remembered with glowing pride the first guitar they owned let this fondness kindle a collection. Guitars associated with the performances of favorite performers, such as the Fender Stratocaster that Jimi Hendrix played at Woodstock, also became hot collectibles.

Despite the increased popularity of guitars, it is not too late for a musician without a huge wallet to become a collector-The first word in collecting guitars is STUDY. Learning about the history of American guitars is a like a journey on a crooked path; with effort it can be followed. The business records of many instrument companies are vague and researching their histories is not easy. It takes a lot of knowledge to know about the mergers and acquisitions of instrument companies as well as the career moves of some of the industry leaders. Options such as hardware and color changes that were added and deleted over the years distinguish a truly valuable instrument from a run-of-the-mill example. Knowledge of these changes is necessary in order to tell if a valuable guitar contains only original parts, or if it has had pieces changed or altered. Alas, it is especially important to learn about guitars that are highly prized by collectors so unmarked reproductions can be avoided. Since the vast in majority of collectors are musicians and not just investors, this journey becomes a labor of love.

As with any other collectible category, there is no "right" or 'wrong' way to collect. Your wallet and your interests should be the determining factors as to what types of guitars to include in your collection. Some collect examples from one company, and this can be a well established company with a strong following of collectors or an off-brand currently available at low prices. Others look for representative instruments from a certain historical period. Unusually shaped guitars can make an interesting collection. Some like go-withs such as ukuleles or lap steels while others seek out paper items such as catalogs and ads. The best idea is to collect what you like that's within your budget Many collectors in all categories feel its better to have a few good examples than lots of lesser value items. Whatever you desire, it has never been easier to locate guitars. The Internet is an 'international marketplace and there are also guitar shops and guitar shows in all regions of the country. (Current issues of Vintage Guitar Magazine provide the details.)

As your collection grows, its important to safeguard your investment. Check your homeowners policy and make sure your guitars are properly insured. Store your collection in an area where they will not experience drastic changes in temperature or humidity. Make sure your guitars are away from a water source in case of a broken water pipe or flooded basement. Play instruments in your collection regularly. After all, they were made to be enjoyed and this is the real reason for having any collection.

Collecting an instrument that played a vital role in American society during the twentieth century can be a great way to start the new millennium on a good note.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: The Official Vintage Guitar Price Guide (6th Edition) by Alan Greenwood, Vintage Guitar Books, 1998, Vintage Guitar Magazine. Both the price guide and magazine can be ordered from Vintage Guitar, Inc. P. 0. Box 7301, Bismarck, ND 58507 701-255-1197 www.vintageguitar.com

Tips For The Guitar Collector

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