You Be The Judge, Trash or Treasure
by Daniel Brooks
Let’s hear it for the obscure guitars. We’ve all seen them. Those rare, humble instruments that spend years collecting dust in pawn shops and thrift shops, those garage sale discoveries with the unfamiliar brand on their headstocks, and body designs that might be thought of as, well, quirky. Guitars laden with experimental pickups and hardware, and switching that is nothing short of esoteric. Many of these are obscure for a reason. Time, cheap materials, badly designed components, and careless construction have rendered them barely playable, and probably not worth a new set of strings.
But hidden amongst the trash, there are underappreciated treasures just waiting to be discovered for which it is worth keeping one’s eyes and ears open. For one reason or another, there were quite a few quality instruments that never found their audience, at least not while they were in production. A lot of musicians learned to play on guitars like these, and it seems to be the common story of many a music legend to remember fondly some little known model that served as their first instrument. There are a few well-known artists who still perform with their first guitars, or seek out those high-quality obscurities to bring something good and different to the studio and the stage.
So, how do you know if that curiosity behind the counter is trash or treasure? Well, ultimately, the best way to select any instrument is to pick it up and play it. If it sounds good and feels good, then it’s certainly worth the thrift store price. Who knows? It might even be collectable. Your other best option is to go online and ask around. No matter how obscure the guitar, there is almost certainly someone who has owned and played one just like it. We have discovered a few, presented here for your consideration. Please tell us what you think.
The Teisco “Sharkfin” sold from 1966 to 1970 as the K4L in Japan but was listed in different catalogs in the U.S.as the ET-460 or the Super Deluxe. Sears carried the same guitar under the Silvertone brand.
The Goya P24, and its sibling the P46, differ only in number of pickups and the number of combinations available through the push button pickup selectors. Sliding Tone and Volume controls meant there were no knobs. Made in Sweden by Hagstrom, these solidbody guitars appeared in 1958 and continued until 1966, when Goya farmed out their manufacture to Italy’s EKO Company. A vintage Goya P24 in good condition can fetch over $2,000.
Guild S-200 Thunderbird
The very rare, very unique Guild S-200 Thunderbird was one of Muddy Waters’ favorites. Made only for a few years in the mid 1960s, the Thunderbird had sliding switches, a one-of-a-kind body design, its own unique tremolo and bridge, a built-in stand and a bright assertive tone.
The Yamaha SG5 was made in Japan from 1966 to 1971. It is another very rare guitar with an original design, an asymmetrical body, 3 single coil pickups, and a bright clear tone perfect for surf music.