The Search Is On: Vintage Gretsch Electrics

If you're in the market for a vintage Gretsch, you'd do well to narrow down your search. Having begun as a manufacturer of banjos, drums, and more in the 1880s—with mandolins and guitars soon following—the company has had numerous eras. Big-bodied, 18-inch Orchestra archtops, Electromatic lap steels, and early electric Spanish guitars, on through the golden era of the 1950s and '60s.

It is in this period that the company became a top contender against Fender and Gibson for supremacy in the booming electric guitar market, and where it's worth focusing the majority of your vintage Gretsch search.

In this article, we'll show you how to use your Reverb Feed, along with searches, filters, and product pages to help you navigate the vintage Gretsch market—and make Reverb work for you in your search.

Gretsch's First Electric Heyday

Musician-inventor Jimmie Webster played a leading role at Gretsch in the '50s. Like Leo Fender, Les Paul, or Gibson's Ted McCarty, Webster helped push the design of electric guitars in bold new directions.

In 1951, Gretsch.com writes, "Webster led a successful, three-day promotional show for music dealers and professional musicians at New York’s Park Sheraton Hotel," demonstrating the company's new, modern electrics: the single-cutaway Electromatic and Electro II. This was the beginning of the era of hollowbody electrics that made Gretsch's name. Let's mark this as the beginning year of our search.

1956 Gretsch 6129 Silver Jet Silver Sparkle with Bigsby
1956 Gretsch 6129 Silver Jet Silver Sparkle with Bigsby. Photo by Gear Guru.

Fast-forward to 1967, and Gretsch's wildly successful decade-and-a-half of guitar-making is capped by the sale of the company to Baldwin. Like CBS' purchase of Fender or Norlin's purchase of Gibson, the post-Baldwin years of Gretsch were marked by change: new models, different production methods, and, ultimately, the move of Gretsch's factory from unionized New York to non-union Arkansas.

Because of this, much of the big money collector market for Gretsch focuses on the mid-'50s up until the Baldwin takeover. However, just as desirable guitars and new models came out of CBS-era Fender and Norlin-era Gibson, Gretsch continued to make wonderful instruments up through the '70s—even when faced with factory fires, management changes, and other challenges. The '80s were particularly scattered until the Gretsch family took control of the company once again and returned it to its former glory.

So, when looking for vintage Gretsches, you can limit your search to just the eras you're interested in.

Option 1: Pre-Baldwin Electrics

  • Search Reverb for "Gretsch"
  • Filter to the Electric Guitars category
  • Filter the maximum year to 1967
  • Click the "Follow This Search" button (or just click this link) to add this filtered search to your Feed
  • ​​

Option 2: Gretsch's Golden Era

  • Search Reverb for "Gretsch"
  • Filter to the Electric Guitars category
  • Filter the minimum year to 1951, maximum year to 1967
  • Click the "Follow This Search" button (or just click this link) to add this filtered search to your Feed
  • ​​

Option 3: All Baldwin-Era Electrics

  • Search Reverb for "Gretsch"
  • Filter to the Electric Guitars category
  • Filter the minimum year to 1967, maximum year to 1985
  • Click the "Follow This Search" button (or just click this link) to add this filtered search to your Feed
  • ​​

By adding any of these or similar searches to your Feed, you can easily keep up-to-date with all of the newly added vintage Gretsches listed on Reverb. Because well-priced vintage inventory sells quickly, this is one of the best ways to make sure you're aware of the best deals on vintage gear—before another buyer beats you to it.

Model Highlights

Adding a filtered search to your Feed can lead to a wide range of results. This is great if you don't want to miss anything, or if you want to be surprised to see models or variants you may have never heard of before. But if you know exactly what you want, you can also add specific models to your Feed with narrower searches or from Reverb's product pages.

Let's take a look at some particularly interesting models to use as examples.

1950s and '60s Country Clubs

1955 Gretsch Country Club 6196 Vintage Guitar Cadillac Green

First introduced as the Electro II in 1951, the Country Club was an early statement piece from Gretsch as it sought to impress and overwhelm its competition. You can learn a lot about the company just by studying the changes to this model over time.

While natural and sunburst models were common across the industry, Gretsch's DuPont finish options matched those of flashy automobiles, none more so than the Cadillac Green (seen above). From 1954, you can find the DeArmond DynaSonic single-coil pickups, which would be changed for Filter'Trons when those humbuckers were introduced in '58.

Other innovations that come and go throughout the Country Club's life: the Melita Synchro-Sonic bridge, the first that offered individual intonation of strings, and Gretsch's Project-O-Sonic stereo output option, which split the bass and treble strings so that you could send to two separate amplifiers.

Because there are so many variants of the Country Club during these years, try adding a filtered search so that you see them all: search "Gretsch Country Club," filter to the 1950s and 1960s, and then click "Follow This Search" to add it to your Feed.

Duo Jet (1953–56)

Gretsch 6128 Duo Jet

Gretsch's semi-hollowbody answer to the Fender Telecaster and Gibson Les Paul solidbodies, the Duo Jet had a drum wrap top that was unlike anything else released at its time. But the Duo Jet too went through many changes over the years (single-cutaway to double, DynaSonics to Filter'Trons, finish options that bore new model names like the Silver Jet, Jet Firebird, and Western-themed Round Up).

Let's say you're interested in the very first models. Adding them to your Feed is as easy as visiting our Gretsch 6128 Duo Jet 1953–1956 product page and clicking the "Follow This Product" button.

'60s Country Gentlemen

1965 Gretsch Country Gentleman

When Gretsch first hitched its wagon to Chet Atkins' star, it was with the Chet Atkins 6120, introduced in 1954 with a kitschy Western motif that was soon dropped.

In late 1957, Gretsch created a premium Chet Atkins signature model: the Country Gentleman. While Chet was plenty famous himself, the '60s saw a boom in production thanks to an unofficial endorser. After George Harrison donned a Country Gentleman on The Beatles' February 1964 Ed Sullivan Show, demand for the models reached a fever pitch.

With plentiful vintage pickings throughout the decade, search for "Gretsch Country Gentleman," filter to electric guitars and 1960s, and follow the search. In the coming days and weeks, you'll see a fairly steady stream of newly listed '60s Country Gents on your Feed.

Astro-Jets

Gretsch Astro-Jet 6126

While Fender and Gibson had world-changing successes with their solidbody guitars, Gretsch's attempts never really caught on in the same way. Even their instruments that looked like solidbodies were often semi-hollow or chambered, like the so-called Chet Atkins Solid Body.

That said, Gretsch did make some legitimately solid guitars during its first electric golden era, including the Corvettes from '61 to '78, 1963's Princess, and the Astro-Jet—an oddity for Gretsch in more ways than one.

Only available from '64 to '67, the Astro-Jet sports a strange asymmetrical body reminiscent of a Gibson SG. An amoebic headstock has four tuning pegs on one side and two on the other, while the chrome plating on Super'Tron pickups and vibrato tailpiece complete the Space Age vibe.

Not particularly popular then or now, the Astro-Jet is a rarity these days, in that it's a Gretsch from the company's golden era you can find for a relatively affordable price. Head to our Gretsch Astro-Jet product page and click "Follow This Product" to add it to your Feed.

'70s White Falcons

1974 Gretsch 7595 White Falcon Stereo

Unveiled in 1954 and launched in 1955, the Gretsch White Falcon was one of the most high-grade production-run guitars to hit the guitar market. As regular Reverb contributor Tony Bacon writes in his 2017 book Electric Guitars Design and Invention: "The new Falcon's list price was $600 (about $5,500 in today's money). The next highest in the Gretsch line was a $400 Country Club."

Today, these original White Falcons have only appreciated in value further, with '50s and '60s White Falcons going for many thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, depending on year and condition.

While still expensive, it's possible to find White Falcons from the Baldwin era of the '70s for more reachable prices on the vintage market. Like '70s Fenders or Gibsons, there is still a lot to love about the instruments, even if they don't command the same attention from collectors.

What's particularly cool about White Falcons in the '70s are the sheer amount gadgetry you can find on them. You can find them with and without stereo outputs, curved tubular vibrato arms, and Gretsch's ill-fated Floating Sound Units (aka Tuning Fork Bridge)—an additional piece of metal mounted behind the bridge meant to add sustain.

Catch the breadth of '70s White Falcons by searching Reverb for "Gretsch White Falcon," filtering results to the 1970s, and clicking the "Follow This Search" button.


Regardless of what particular era or model you're interested in, the tips above will allow you to find what you're looking for—and make Reverb work for you in the process. By adding searches or products to your Feed, newly listed items that match will automatically appear in your Feed. And if you elect to get a Daily Feed email, they'll be waiting for you in your inbox too. Happy hunting!

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