Writer, journalist, musician, entrepreneur, Walter Carter is one of the most influential figures in the history of vintage guitars with his books and his store, frequented by the most famous names in American music.
Question: Please give your best definition of what a “vintage guitar” is to you.
Answer: I think of “vintage” as any older guitar that has some extra value in addition to its basic value as a used instrument. For example, a Les Paul Standard made in the 1980s or later has a value as a used instrument that is slightly less than the cost of a new Les Paul. When you go back to the 1970s, that same Les Paul begins to have a value that is higher than a new model. That’s where “vintage” begins. It’s not a specific time period, not 25 years or 40 years. It varies from model to model.
Q: When did you buy your very first “vintage” guitar? Which one was it?
A: In 1987 I had just started working for Gruhn Guitars and a 1953 Martin 00-17 came in. I was new to the vintage guitar world and had never seen one. And I had never heard tone as beautiful as the sound that came out of that all-mahogany guitar. It was priced at $700 but it needed a neckset. I told Gruhn if he would do the neckset I would pay the $700. It became my main guitar for the next 20 or 30 years.
Q: When did you realize that those “old guitars” had something special?