If you regularly play a new guitar, you’re going to get — what I call — “Dings and Dangs” and that means bumps, scratches and bruises that always and inevitably break your heart.  Nobody appreciates new damage to a guitar — even cosmetic — because your baby is sullied and broken forever by everyday life.

For that reason of careful guitar ownership, I am fascinated by the “New Old Stock” movement in the guitar industry where brand new, beautiful, guitars are purposefully “aged” at the factory — beaten up, really — so they can be sold as “Road Worn” or “Vintage Original Spec” or “Murphy Aged” guitars when they’re actually just brand new replicas.

You pay a price for this “vintage” vibe — that isn’t actually vintage at all — my David Gilmour Black Strat, in pristine condition, was $800.00USD cheaper than the same guitar “vintage-ized” and beaten up as if David himself had played it for 30 years.  I do not understand the premium on guitars that are purposefully destroyed and downgraded in functionality and playability.  I wiped off the “vintage” finish on my Les Paul Vintage Original Spec.

Here’s how one online guitar website makes its sales pitch for the super-beat-up Telecaster you see modeled in this article — all for a $5,000.00USD price tag:

This particular guitar is based on the Vintage 1951 Nocaster / 1952 Telecaster, but built to modified early 50s Tele specs with a very special hand-distressed, Heavy Relic finish package to replicate decades of road worn wear and tear! It was also built with a Custom Shop Twisted Tele pickup in the neck position for more clarity- almost a Strat-like vibe in that position. The modern Tele wiring is also a more practical choice for tonal versatility.

The Fender Custom Shop Master Vintage Player Series Strats and Teles may look and feel like actual vintage guitars, but they play like a dream. Easier chording, faster leads and no fretting out when you go for the big bends thanks to the 1&11/16″ nut width, flatter 9.5″ fingerboard radius and 6105 fret wire. Adjustments are a breeze too! The Truss Rod is accessible from the headstock, so you no longer have to remove the neck for a tweak.

I understand the want for an “old guitar” — a true 1952 Telecaster can cost you tens of thousands of dollars, so getting one for five thousand dollars is “bargain” — except, of course, that the new guitar really isn’t an old guitar even though it looks like one.

Why do people want to pay so much for a new guitar that is beat up to make it look old? Is it to fool others into thinking they’re rich and that they can afford a classic guitar? Do these buyers think they’re getting the ancient mojo of a old wood guitar in a new materials bundle?

I realize these new, beat-up, guitars can create a sense of nostalgia and age — I just don’t think it makes sense to pay a lot of money for the guitar factory to pre-age your guitar by beating the sound out of it long before its virgin wood ever reaches your detrimental fingertips and unavoidable dings and incidental dangs.

7 Comments

  1. It is so stoooopid to spend money for a new guitar to be beaten up looking.

    That said , way way in my mis-spent youth , there was one strat that was really worn from use . It sounded magic , But , s-hit for brains turned his nose up at it because of the worn look . sighhh .

    1. I can understand why some people would want a beat-up guitar — even one beat up at the factory — they want to try to experience that vintage vibe. I wouldn’t mind playing one, but I certainly wouldn’t pay a premium for someone to destroy my guitar from the jump.

  2. I just don’t get it. Maybe I’m just getting old (I’m 58), but when I’m in the market for a used or even vintage guitar I look for one in the best condition I can afford. It shows it was well taken care of. Rather than spend $5,000 on a road worn I’d buy a standard reissue for less and then take my electric grinder to it.

    1. I don’t get it, either, George. I think people want to play a $750k ’59 Les Paul, but they don’t have the money, so the next best thing is to pay $10k for a “Murphy Aged ’59 RI” and try to at least look the part. The sad thing about these fake-age guitars is that they aren’t played into that deconstructed state over 50 years. They’re instead smashed with hammers and put in steam rooms to create rust and Dremel tools are used to make “fingernail scratches” on the fingerboard. It’s all theatre — but no drama, just all show.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.