Video: 10 Excellent Vintage Guitars Under $1,000

Vintage guitars have character. Decades of play-time, studio use, and road-wear gives them mojo that newer guitars just don’t have. From our modern vantage point, many have a retro look with funky colors, wacky shapes, and worn finishes.

We all dream of owning iconic holy-grail vintage instruments like a 1959 Gibson Les Paul or a Pre-CBS Fender, but the vintage market for those top-tier instruments has far out-priced most of us. Thankfully, there’s more to vintage guitars than just their playability and high-status reputations in rock 'n' roll history.

At the same time that Fender and Gibson were making the first Les Pauls, Strats, and Teles, other instrument manufacturers such as Harmony, Silvertone, and Kay were making their own guitars that were designed for mass scale. You could find many of them in Sears Department stores. Today, you can find many of them here on Reverb for under $1,000.

Even though they may not match the quality level or legendary status of old Fenders and Gibsons, they have a feel and legacy of a vintage instrument.


Harmony Bobkat

Introduced as the Silhouette in 1963, Harmony renamed the model the Bobkat in 1968. They were sold through Sears starting at $65, and their distinct offset body made them a cheaper alternative to Fender's Jazzmaster, which sold for about $350.

The Bobkat comes in several models. The single-pickup H14, the two-pickup H15, and the premium H19 featuring an advanced vibrato.

If you were willing to pay an extra 10 bucks, the H14V and H15V models came with a whammy bar (or the nearly identical H17, which features a gloss finish and slightly different neck). All models use high-output DeArmond Gold Foil pickups and have a rosewood fretboard.

The guitar regained popularity when St. Vincent started touring with an H15V a few years back.

For extra groovy colors, check out the Color Kat versions of the guitar, which come in vintage colors like Candy Apple Red. You can usually find these on Reverb for between $600 and $1,200 depending on the model and condition.


Peavey T-60

Hartley Peavey was determined to create an instrument for "the needs of the working musician" that would be sold at a "fair and reasonable price." With Peavey's first guitar model released in 1978, the T-60, he nailed that goal.

This guitar is all about offering a wide range of tones with a somewhat eccentric circuit board. The T-60 was ahead of its time with coil-splitting: Keep the tone knob below seven, and you’ll hear a single-coil pickup. Roll the tone knob up to 10, and you’ll switch to a humbucker.

The guitar also features an out-of-phase switch. These USA-made guitars have acquired a cult following for the range of sounds they can get, but you can still find them on Reverb for about $600.


Univox Hi-Flier

The Univox Hi-Flier is the sound of punk rock, with a reverse offset body shape. The guitar was modeled after the relatively pricey Mosrite Ventures, aiming to make an equally cool guitar more affordable.

The Hi-Flier was made in Japan starting in 1968 and went through four variations of production models. Phase 1 and Phase 2 guitars feature two P90 pickups. The Phase 2 model has smaller fret markers, a three-way toggle switch replacing a rocker switch, and a plain white pickguard. Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth famously played a Phase 2 guitar.

The significant changes to the Hi-Flier Phase 3 guitars change attracted players like Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain: in 1974, the P90 pickups were swapped out for two humbuckers, making a drastic change to the guitar’s tone with a higher output level. Phase 4 Hi-Fliers keep the humbuckers and have a traditional bridge instead of a vibrato-style bridge.

Kurt Cobain is rumored to have used Hi-Fliers exclusively on Nirvana's debut studio album Bleach. And perhaps the greatest endorsement of the guitar: Cobain also loved to destroy them.

While some of these Hi-Fliers command higher prices, you can still snag a deal and find others for sub-$1,000.


Kay Vanguard II

Kay’s goal with the Vanguard II was to bring a cheap guitar to the masses. Some models are equipped with pancake pickups, while others have red foils, and you can find them in single, double, and triple pickup configurations. But all of them share the same cool, quasi-symmetrical body, with a double-cutaway at the 18th fret.


Silvertone 1457/1448/1449

If you’re looking to snag a vintage guitar and a vintage amp for under $1,000, a few offerings from Silvertone can set you up with both.

In the mid-'50s, most Silvertones were produced by Danelectro and sold at Sears stores at budget-friendly prices. A few of their popular models—the 1457, 1448, and 1449—came bundled with a case that was outfitted with a built-in five-watt tube amplifier with an eight-inch speaker.

While you can still find many of them on Reverb, be sure to read the listing carefully and check that the case’s amp is in proper working condition if you plan on using it. If you don’t care much for the amp, you can probably score an even better deal on the guitar alone.


Danelectro Convertible

The Danelectro Convertible is a thinline hollowbody acoustic-electric with a single low-output lipstick tube pickup in the soundhole. The guitar was built with affordability as a top priority and traded costly wood for a masonite body, which is typical of Danelectros from this period.

The hollowbody construction allows the guitar to function as both an electric and an acoustic guitar, hence the "convertible" name—and a two-for-one deal. These vintage guitars are popular on Reverb and typically list starting at $750.


Gibson Marauder

Gibson partnered with pickup and guitar designer Bill Lawrence to create the Gibson Marauder. The guitar has a bolt-on neck, which brought costs down so that the company could compete with Fender’s Stratocaster and Telecaster.

With a Les Paul-shaped body and a Flying V series headstock, the design riffs on Gibson's signature aesthetics. Still, the guitar wasn’t a hit and was only produced for a few short years, from 1975 to 1979.

Today, the Marauder is an excellent opportunity to own an offbeat, vintage Gibson guitar for under $1,000. The higher-end Marauder Custom may run you over $1,000, but is still cheaper than other vintage Gibsons. Paul Stanley from Kiss also kept a few around—just to smash them on stage.


Ovation Breadwinner

The Ovation Breadwinner is unlike any guitar on this list. Made by acoustic guitar makers, the Breadwinner was the company's attempt to break into the electric guitar market.

The body shape is designed to resemble an axe, and its ergonomic design allows for easy access to the upper frets. It also features active electronics and was played by Peter Tosh and Kiss' Ace Frehley.

If you’re into offbeat guitar body shapes, the Breadwinner is a quirky one to consider.


Epiphone ET-270

This double-cutaway guitar was made in Japan at the Matsumoku factory from 1969 to 1975. While most Epiphones had humbucker pickups, the ET-270 has two single-coil pickups and a Strat-like body shape.

These guitars were made in a cherry burst finish and are easy to find on Reverb, selling between $600 and $1000. The guitar is also famous for being played by Kurt Cobain, who had a thing for cheap guitars.


Kapa Continental

The Kapa Continental—as well as it's precursor, the Kapa Challenger—is a stylish offset guitar from the '60s that has flown under the radar.

The guitars were made in the USA—Maryland, to be exact—but include European parts, like Hofner-made pickups. The continental has a master volume and two tone knobs, as well as two pickup-selector switches. It also features a Jazzmaster-/Jaguar-style bridge and comes in a 12-string version. You can find Kapa Cotinentals on Reverb starting at $675.


It's important to note: Our list is not exhaustive, and you can find more affordable vintage guitars. Set your Reverb search filters—say, max year 1980, max price $1,000—and explore on your own.


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