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Gruhn's Guide to Vintage Guitars 2nd Edition (Softcover) Paperback – June 1, 1999

3.5 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Authors George Gruhn and Walter Carter are no strangers to fretted instruments: Gruhn runs one of the best vintage instrument stores in the country, and Carter was Gibson's company historian for several years in the 1990s. In the second edition to Gruhn's Guide to Vintage Guitars, the pair have created a useful resource for any lover of fine guitars, banjos, or basses. Though not a price guide, the book will enable collectors to identify the date, stock ingredients, wood, and evolution of their Fender, Martin, Gibson, Gretsch, or Mosrite axes, to name just a few. Many readers will probably want to complement this book with a separate price guide (The Official Vintage Guitar Magazine Price Guide is recommended), and it should be noted that many mass-market manufacturers (Kay, for instance) were left out. But with this book you'll at least know that the stock Epiphone Madrid you bought on the Internet is, in fact, truly stock. A great resource for lovers of collectable six-strings. --Jason Verlinde

From Library Journal

The market for vintage American guitars, basses, amplifiers, banjos, ukuleles, and other fretted instruments has exploded in the last decade. This updated and expanded second edition of Gruhn's Guide is more than double the size of its first edition (1992) and is superior in breadth, depth, and timeliness. The guide is organized by manufacturer and type of instrument. Every model is described in detail, with introduction date, body shape and size, woods, pickups (where applicable), bindings, inlays, and finish. All changes made from year to year are noted, ensuring the precise determination of model and originality. The book also provides serial number lists, identification charts, and over 100 photos of special features. While many books on individual instrument makers are available, this is the only guide that lists all makers and all their products while also offering comments about the collectibility of specific instruments. Highly recommended.AEric C. Shoaf, Brown Univ. Lib., Providence
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 582 pages
  • Publisher: Backbeat Books; 2 edition (June 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879304227
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879304225
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #505,874 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The 2nd edition of Gruhn's book is one of two books that every guitar collector will want to own. This edition is better than the first with 100 pages of new information. If you own the first edition and have been wondering if you should buy the second edition , buy it. I keep mine within reach of my bench. The second book I would recommend is "The Official Vintage Guitar Magazine Price Guide". Having these two books would make for a very educated consumer.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is not a price guide, but is extremely valuable for identifying used and vintage instruments.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While I believe this book is the "holy bible" of vintage guitar info, I truly wish it would help decipher the mysteries of Gibson's disordered serialization process of the early 70's. I was hoping this book would better decode more precise manufacture dates than the internet using facets like neck tenon lengths, pickup cavity routing shapes, neck woods, bridges used, Kalamazoo vs. Nashville differences, etc.

For example, the very first two instruments I tried to date with this book were two 1970's Gibson LP black beauties. The first is a beat-up frettless wonder, s/n 9xxxxx, mahogany neck with embossed pickups ( I know, I know, that makes it a 72.... Actually, no! It's an early 73. The books & net don't mention that "gold" emboessed covers lasted until early 73 when they finally ran out of them. Chrome and nickle embossed pup covers were only in 72, but gold was on higher end instruments that sold slower). While I'm positive the fretless wonder is an early 1973, the other all-original black beauty is slightly more of an enigma. It shows an older 8xxxxx USA s/n, pancake body with a maple neck, Schaller harmonica bridge with what looks like a rocker tenon (we're still in debate about the tenon).

Was the rocker tenon ONLY made in Nashville starting in 74? Exactly when was the SG's Schaller harmonica bridge used on the LP Customs? When exactly did LP Customs go from 1 pc. mahogany necks to 3 pc. maple? I wish this "bible" answered these questions as I don't trust the DATA highway as far as I can throw it.

Other than the Dimarzio SD in the lead position with its mini series/paralell switch and the removal of the rhy pup gold cover, it's stock. It has the exact same tenon style as the fretless wonder when looking into the rhy pup cavity.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Good but things are arranged within a manufacturer in a strange way. Guitars are listed first by style instead of year (for example, to find a 1988 Martin OM-28 it doesn't list all Martins by year first then size as most guitar lists do; instead the book begins listing by style. So you find the style 28 listed year 1 period in every combination and size, then on to the next year in all combinations and sizes, and so on. There may be a section of the book listing custom runs (not the 1 offs, but runs the maker did) but you'd have to search through each time period year by year again.

Trying to find a set of custom manufacturer runs or special sets of guitars is even more confusing. For example; Gibson may have run a Custom Series of J-45s with Rosewood back and sides in the 70s hypothetically. Finding the listing in any kind of alphabetical way by size, year, or characteristic (searching by J, or Rosewood, or Custom\special\limited\ ...) doesn't work. So you must plow through all of the 45s from year 1 and hope you stumble upon it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
George Gruhn has kept the vintage instrument market informed for years when it came to the better known brand names built by American companies. It has a ton of information on Gibson, Martin, Fender and a few others. If you're looking for the less expensive builders like Kay, Harmony, Regal, or Lyon & Healy, you'll have to go elsewhere. While the amount of information here is huge, you can't assume that everything is here. There are instruments that surface yearly that will at expand what we know about vintage instruments. This should be considered the encyclopedia. Use it as a starting point for your search. Serious students of the genre should own this book and remember to watch for the updates that George seems to put out every few years.
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Format: Paperback
There is no other book, to my knowledge, that does what George Gruhn does here.

First, let me say that I respect Mr. Gruhn's knowledge. There are probably few people in the United States with his encyclopedic knowledge of guitars. I have corresponded with him myself, and he was very helpful

But, I am disappointed in one aspect of the book. I own an 1897 model George Washburn guitar which was made in the nineteenth century by Lyon & Healy. It is a small bodied "Parlor Guitar," with Brazilian rosewood sides and back, spruce top, and ebony fingerboard and bridge. It has beautiful tone, and I love the instrument. It is almost as beautiful as when it was built, and because of the aging of the wood, I'm sure that it plays better.

In this book, Gruhn only briefly discusses Washburn's guitars, and the short reference is buried in the Gibson pages (which is very detailed), because in the late '20s, when the Tonk Brothers acquired the Washburn brand from Lyon & Healy, Gibson built a few of them between 1938-40.

George Washburn (someone has said that his last name was actually Lyon, hence Lyon & Healy) was an American guitar maker, and he built superlative guitars. I've heard that his closest competition at one time was Martin. To give him short-shrift in such a book as this, I find incomprehensible. It isn't as if Gruhn did not know about the guitars--he told me much of what I know about them.

But, perhaps I nitpick. This is a fine book. I recommend it to any guitar aficionado who is buying, selling or trading guitars--especially American-made guitars--or even one who simply wants to learn more about these wonderful instruments.

Joseph Pierre
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