Reverb's 2016 Vintage Guitar and Bass Index

Closing out our series of year-end sales retrospectives, we're going to take a good hard look at the Reverb vintage guitar and bass market in 2016. Unlike our previous installments where we've focused on sales for individual pedal, amp, and synth models, today we're going to examine the market on a broad brand basis.

Here's how we're going to approach this enormous subject:

Below you'll find charts for the top 25 vintage brands sorted by total number of 2016 sales on Reverb divided into separate sections for electric guitars, acoustic guitars, and bass guitars.

Think of this as an index of the market for these instruments categories.

Within each section you'll see the average order amount per sale by dollar, as well as stats for how much of the Reverb vintage market for each category the brand claims. For reference, we've also included the same numbers from 2015 to show relative increases and decreases in market prices over a two year span.

Below this main index, you'll see data for the most popular individual brands by decade. These smaller charts rank the most popular makes with the average price paid for instruments made in the given year span. The intent here is to illustrate the most popular brands from each period which should reflect both the volume of guitars produced at that time as well as their popularity with modern players and collectors.

A few notes on methodology:

  • The data below is taken directly from Reverb's internal database and is limited to sales on our site. While this should be a fairly consistent reflection of the general vintage market, it may differ based on the buying habits and tastes of our specific user-base.

  • For our purposes today, we're defining vintage as any instrument made before 1985. There's an age-old debate about what truly defines "vintage" in a guitar context, but we'll save that for another post.

  • The numbers below do not control for various price outliers. The occasional $200k '59 Les Paul Standard sale, for instance, is averaged with beat-up guitars full of unoriginal parts and broken headstocks. Undoubtedly, this method impacts the dollar averages for each brand. This is especially prevalent for brands lower on the list with a lower total number of transactions. Our assumption is that these outliers will average out on a relative basis between different brands.

  • When examining the changes in average price from 2015 to 2016, keep in mind that the exact composition of the sales dictating these numbers may have shifted, so the change may not always indicate an overall price change as it does a change in the types of guitars that are selling.

Alright, now that we've gotten the technical details out of the way, it's time to dive into the numbers. There's a lot of info presented here, and while I'll offer a few of my own observations along the way, the main goal with a data dump of this size is to give everyone the opportunity to explore the numbers and glean some insights of their own. Let us know what you come up with in the comments.

Electric Guitars


Electric Guitars

Brand 2016 Avg. Sale Price 2015 Avg. Sale Price Sale Price Change 2016 Vintage Market Share 2015 Vintage Market Share
Gibson $2,477 $2,396 3.3% 22.7% 23.9%
Fender $2,089 $1,912 8.5% 18.2% 18.9%
Ibanez $769 $813 -5.7% 4.8% 4.3%
Harmony $573 $623 -8.8% 3.0% 4.0%
Silvertone $598 $610 -2.1% 2.5% 2.5%
Peavey $408 $399 2.2% 2.4% 2.3%
Teisco $341 $383 -12.4% 2.4% 2.5%
Gretsch $1,571 $1,617 -3.0% 2.4% 2.4%
Epiphone $1,301 $1,133 13.0% 2.3% 1.9%
Guild $1,325 $1,143 13.8% 2.1% 2.6%
Greco $682 $763 -11.9% 1.6% 1.4%
Rickenbacker $1,976 $1,653 16.3% 1.5% 1.6%
Aria $436 $480 -10.1% 1.3% 1.2%
Kay $540 $488 9.7% 1.3% 1.4%
Yamaha $757 $713 5.9% 1.2% 1.0%
Supro $570 $558 2.2% 1.2% 1.2%
Kramer $628 $679 -8.2% 1.1% 1.0%
Univox $505 $456 9.7% 1.0% 1.0%
Hagstrom $739 $683 7.6% 0.9% 0.7%
Danelectro $929 $756 18.6% 0.8% 1.1%
Squier $309 $327 -6.0% 0.8% 0.7%
Electra $544 $515 5.4% 0.7% 0.5%
Ovation $730 $718 1.6% 0.7% 0.6%
Tokai $744 $781 -4.9% 0.7% 0.7%
Airline $740 $973 -31.5% 0.7% 0.6%

Top 10 Electric Brands by Average Sale Value of Decade of Item

1950s

Brand Avg. Sale Price
Fender $3,845
Gibson $3,301
Gretsch $2,116
Epiphone $2,085
Guild $1,498
Danelectro $1,371
Harmony $824
Kay $806
Silvertone $647
Supro $628

1960s

Brand Avg. Sale Price
Gibson $3,459
Fender $2,819
Gretsch $1,714
Epiphone $1,647
Guild $1,565
Hagstrom $678
Silvertone $589
Harmony $534
Kay $473
Teisco $353

1970s

Brand Avg. Sale Price
Gibson $1,910
Fender $1,674
Gretsch $1,220
Guild $1,179
Ibanez $910
Yamaha $835
Greco $645
Electra $642
Aria $531
Univox $528

1980s

Brand Avg. Sale Price
Gibson $1,744
G&L $1,011
Fender $866
Ibanez $756
Yamaha $709
Charvel $586
Kramer $562
Peavey $389
Aria $388
Squier $300

Takeaways

  • Overall, most major brands gained some ground on pricing, with many second-tier brands like Greco and Silvertone falling in value.

  • Somewhat surprisingly, Gibson topped Fender as the overall best-selling vintage electric guitar brand. There are many possible explanations for this. For one, Gibson has historically offered a wider range of guitar types than Fender with more hollow bodies and even lower-end models like the Melody Maker. And – while I have no specific data to back this up – anecdotally, it seems that there are more devoted Gibson-only collectors who buy multiple guitars in a year.

  • Vintage Airlines dropped in value this year. Part of this could be due to less interest in Jack White, whose use of Airlines drove prices up a number of years back. Additionally, Eastwood's reissues of these distinct red instruments may be attracting buyers who would have otherwise gone with an original.

  • While not listed here due to comparatively low overall sales volume, Wandre, Alembic, and Travis Bean rank as the highest-priced vintage guitar brands due to a lack of any lower-end models to bring down the average (this excludes a few custom brands where only one or two guitars sold over the year). The average Wandre sale in 2016 was $6,170.

  • The inclusion of Peavey on the list is entirely due to defining the upper range of "vintage" as 1985. Affordable Peavey T-series guitars from the late '70s and early '80s have been extremely popular on Reverb the past few years.

Acoustic Guitars


Acoustic Guitars

Brand 2016 Avg. Sale Price 2015 Avg. Sale Price Sale Price Change 2016 Vintage Market Share 2015 Vintage Market Share
Gibson $1,519 $1,384 8.9% 20.6% 23.4%
Martin $2,324 $2,624 -12.9% 12.1% 13.3%
Guild $941 $893 5.0% 6.9% 9.1%
Harmony $391 $346 11.4% 6.3% 6.8%
Epiphone $1,027 $828 19.4% 4.0% 3.4%
Takamine $466 $477 -2.4% 3.8% 2.6%
Yamaha $343 $327 4.7% 3.5% 3.7%
Ovation $540 $498 7.6% 3.4% 2.3%
Kay $349 $312 10.6% 3.2% 2.3%
Alvarez $519 $477 8.2% 2.5% 2.7%
Silvertone $269 $220 18.3% 2.1% 2.2%
National $1,754 $2,266 -29.2% 1.7% 0.9%
Fender $485 $429 11.6% 1.3% 1.3%
Framus $313 $525 -67.7% 1.3% 1.0%
Stella $293 $362 -23.5% 1.1% 0.8%
Ibanez $432 $375 13.2% 1.0% 0.6%
Dobro $1,207 $931 22.9% 1.0% 0.9%
Gretsch $639 $624 2.4% 0.8% 0.8%
Kalamazoo $1,043 $851 18.4% 0.7% 0.8%
Eko $326 $281 13.7% 0.6% 0.4%
Sigma $278 $396 -42.6% 0.6% 0.8%
Aria $340 $264 22.3% 0.6% 0.9%
Regal $514 $457 11.0% 0.6% 1.0%
Airline $393 $326 17.1% 0.5% 0.4%
Giannini $458 $594 -29.9% 0.5% 0.3%

Top 10 Acoustic Brands by Average Sale Value of Decade of Item

1950s

Brand Avg. Sale Price
Martin $2,727
Gibson $1,901
Epiphone $1,136
National $1,074
Gretsch $794
Harmony $359
Maccaferri $338
Kay $328
Silvertone $298
Stella $226

1960s

Brand Avg. Sale Price
Martin $2,401
Epiphone $1,320
Gibson $1,242
Guild $868
Fender $449
Harmony $387
Yamaha $374
Kay $277
Framus $273
Silvertone $217

1970s

Brand Avg. Sale Price
Martin $1,512
Guild $971
Gibson $941
Harmony $556
Ovation $473
Epiphone $434
Takamine $427
Ibanez $411
Alvarez $341
Yamaha $303

1980s

Brand Avg. Sale Price
Taylor $1,364
Martin $1,330
Gibson $1,136
Guild $930
Ovation $651
Alvarez $598
Takamine $538
Yamaha $424
Ibanez $374
Fender $255

Takeaways

  • Vintage Gibson acoustics outsold Martins, though they still carry a noticeably lower average price-tag. Chalk this up to the many lower-end Gibson acoustic models – like the B-15 and F-25 – as well as a whole crop of '70s Gibson acoustics that collectors roundly dismiss. Comparatively, vintage Martin guitars all score relatively high marks on the price and quality scale with even the hit-or-miss '70s models selling for prices similar to modern used equivalents.

  • Epiphone acoustic climbed a bit this year both in terms of price and popularity. It's possible that more players have learned that '60s Epiphones — which were built in Gibson's Kalamazoo factory — are essentially the same as many corollary Gibson models.

  • Harmony and Silvertone both increased in price on the acoustic chart this year, though decreased on the electric guitar index. It could be that the popularity of their electric instruments has already peaked, yet still has some room to grow for acoustic players.

Bass Guitars


Bass Guitars

Brand 2016 Avg. Sale Price 2015 Avg. Sale Price Sale Price Change 2016 Vintage Market Share 2015 Vintage Market Share
Fender $1,696 $1,569 7.5% 27.3% 27.7%
Gibson $1,215 $1,194 1.7% 11.3% 11.6%
Peavey $441 $437 0.8% 5.5% 6.0%
Rickenbacker $2,130 $1,784 16.2% 4.4% 5.3%
Ibanez $552 $531 3.8% 3.4% 3.2%
Kramer $703 $644 8.5% 2.1% 2.0%
Aria $512 $486 5.0% 2.1% 2.2%
Guild $954 $1,033 -8.4% 2.1% 2.2%
Vox $877 $896 -2.1% 1.9% 1.2%
Hofner $1,494 $1,149 23.1% 1.8% 1.6%
G&L $857 $834 2.7% 1.8% 1.5%
Teisco $348 $350 -0.8% 1.7% 2.4%
Yamaha $488 $551 -12.7% 1.6% 0.7%
Epiphone $775 $973 -25.6% 1.6% 2.4%
Ampeg $1,696 $1,213 28.5% 1.5% 1.1%
Univox $434 $496 -14.3% 1.5% 1.6%
Greco $621 $812 -30.7% 1.3% 0.7%
Hagstrom $740 $631 14.8% 1.3% 1.6%
Danelectro $765 $610 20.2% 1.3% 0.6%
Harmony $816 $692 15.2% 1.2% 1.6%
Kay $622 $884 -42.2% 1.0% 1.3%
Music Man $1,648 $1,770 -7.4% 1.0% 1.0%
Squier $414 $370 10.6% 0.8% 0.3%
Ovation $960 $708 26.2% 0.7% 1.1%
Hondo $360 $365 -1.2% 0.7% 0.5%

Top 10 Bass Brands by Average Sale Value of Decade of Item

1960s

Brand Avg. Sale Price
Fender $2,981
Ampeg $2,046
Hofner $1,607
Gibson $1,396
Epiphone $1,126
Harmony $965
Vox $877
Danelectro $637
Hagstrom $632
Teisco $367

1970s

Brand Avg. Sale Price
Rickenbacker $2,042
Music Man $1,686
Fender $1,302
Gibson $1,157
Guild $909
Greco $626
Ibanez $615
Peavey $470
Univox $446
Epiphone $436

1980s

Brand Avg. Sale Price
Rickenbacker $1,378
Gibson $1,013
G&L $842
Fender $823
Kramer $656
Yamaha $507
Ibanez $485
Aria $472
Peavey $427
Squier $386

Takeaways

  • Overall, vintage bass brands gained more ground on an average price basis than acoustic or electric guitar brands this year.

  • As always, Fender dominated the vintage guitar market this year. As you can see in the decade charts, this dominance is mostly due to the continued popularity of Fender basses from the '60s.

  • Music Man ranked relatively low on the list given the StingRay's absolutely iconic status. Music Man didn't ship any basses until 1976, which gives the brand a limited vintage window relative to Rickenbacker and Fender.

  • Note: we did not include a price chart for the 1950s for basses as the sales volume is very low. Suffice to say that a majority of '50s basses sold on Reverb were Fenders.


Top Vintage Guitar Brand Prices Over Time

For the final graph of this post, we're looking at the combined average prices for nine of the top brands across combined bass, electric, and acoustic categories. This graph shows the average price by brand for instruments produced between 1950 and 1985 in five year increments.

Takeaways

  • Prices on eight of the nine brands on the list decreased for guitars made in the early '70s compared to the late '60s. This period is considered a low point of American guitar production, as brands began cutting more corners to contend with increased international competition. The only charted brand to gain pricing ground in this period is Ibanez, which is a Japanese maker.

  • Average Gibson prices for 2016 sales on Reverb actually went up for early '60s instruments compared to those from the late '50s. Of course, the highest-end late '50s Gibsons are worth far more than their '60s counterparts, yet these instruments sell so infrequently that they do not impact the average as much.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the vintage guitar market stayed much the same between 2015 and 2016 with prices increasing slightly. Average prices for vintage basses rose more than electric and acoustic, but only by a small margin.

This continued status quo has been the story of the vintage market for the past several years following a major dive and correction in the aftermath the 2008 financial crisis. It's a trend that follows many collectible markets.

While plenty of fads come and go, vintage instruments are ultimately luxury goods, and larger economic forces dictate prices and velocity more than any internal whims of interest or popularity. Additionally, trends like bright red Airlines or Japanese lawsuit guitars are usually too niche to displace the major players like Fender and Gibson. That said, any major longer term changes will be the result of larger demographic and economic shifts rather than collector taste.

Will the baby boomers who made the vintage market in the '90s continue to prop up demand for Fender, Gibson and Rickenbacker? Will a new generation of players with potentially softened purchasing power be able to maintain prices on blue chip guitars as the old guard leaves the scene? Will an even younger generation of musicians care about vintage guitars at all?

It's tough to predict. But as long as Reverb is part of it, we'll be here to take stock and publish our observations.

There is, of course, much more to write and analyze than we have space for above, but I'll be keeping an eye on the comments of this article and will try to answer any questions that come up.

Thanks for reading and thanks to all of our users for another awesome year for vintage guitar buying and selling on Reverb.

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