Sunday, January 10, 2016

Five Lottery Guitars

You know the game, if you win the lottery what would you buy? For those of us with Gear Acquisition Syndrome often times it's that guitar we've been wanting to buy that's just out of reach but really we're talking lottery here, no hold barred, anything you want. And with Powerball nearing the billion mark someone asked me about my top 5 the other day which got me to thinking...

Zemaitis Pearl Front

Zemaitis- Tony Zemaitis may have been the first boutique builder in the electric guitar world. He had built guitars for Ron Wood, George Harrison, and Gilby Clark among others. He built his guitars completely by hand with an eye for detail. Originally all of these guitars were built only by Tony but after he retired in 2000 a Japanese company Greco got permission from his estate to carry on building Zemaitis guitars. I absolutely love the look of these guitars. The hand engraved metal fronts and the Pearl fronts are gorgeous and unique looking. Original Zemaitis guitars built by Tony easily hit $30-40,000. Most of them were owned by some big named players at some point and so the history of them plays into that as well. Greco versions of these guitars run in the $4-6,000 range.

PRS Dragon II

PRS Dragon II- A couple of years after I started playing guitar I walked into a large guitar shop in Orlando Fl to see one of these guitars behind the counter. It was a deep blue flamed guitar but what catches your eye is that amazing fretboard inlay. There have been a few different versions of the Dragon guitars built over the years but this one is my favorite. Only 100 were built of the Dragon II (only 50 of the first one) making it a collectors item forever. They don't turn up often either. Of course there is always the PRS Private Stock guitars but I would be on the look out for one of these.

'59 Gibson Les Paul- The 59 burst Les Paul is currently the most sought after guitar in the world.
Collectors Choice 
Jimmy Page, Joe Perry, Slash, Gary Moore, Billy Gibons... the list goes on, have all talked about the magic of these guitars. Only around 1700 were built and less than 700 have been accounted for. Gibson makes 59 reissues as well as Collectors Choices runs that are close copies of originals. Still for some people they are not close enough and so check out Historic Makeovers that pull apart R9's to get them even closer to the real thing. I've seen the painstaking process up close and the work they do is as extensive as it is impressive. Because real 59's have become worth so much some artist such as Joe Bonamassa have had Historic Makeovers make them guitars to take on the road. That's some high praise. Possibly the most famous of these guitars is Greenie.

Fiesta Red Custom Shop Relic
Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster - I might catch some flack for this but I really don't want a real 60s strat. The reason is that I've played some that are great but I've played some that are not, they are not consistent at all. I feel like the stuff coming out of the Fender Custom Shop is consistently better and there are a lot of boutique builders who have learned how to get that old school vibe but with a more reliable quality than buying an old strat. That said if I came across an old one that was magic of course I'd hop on it. But when it comes to strats I'd rather spec out a custom build with the features I want. My 96 MIJ strat is very close to everything I want in a strat. That said I might have Fender build me something similar to the pic on the left. Fiesta Red, Brazilian rosewood fretboard. But I'll beat up the finish myself.

USRG30 photo credit MAEGuitars
Ibanez USRG30 - The Ibanez USRG custom guitars in the late 90's were by far the best Ibanez guitars I've ever played. These guitars were built by Dave Bunker in the USA with a special tension free neck that feels unlike anything else. I played three of these guitars and the feel and sound is fantastic. When I came into a little bit of money a few years ago I searched for one but sadly only found a couple that were pretty beat up. Still prices on these are not crazy and can be found for under $1000 up to $3000. Even though my taste have moved away from superstrats in recent years I still want one.

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