Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thrift Store Find: Yamaha FG-160

This weekend I needed
to put some miles on my car...I just had some work done to pass my smog test and the computer was reset, causing me to need to put about 100 miles on it before going in for the retest. So I headed out to a a smaller town about 25 miles away and wandered into a thrift store. First thing I noticed was an acoustic guitar behind the counter. It was pretty beat up, scraped up, had a tuner and some bridge pins missing, about 10 inches of binding gone, only 3 strings and enough dirt and grime on it to hide what was once a decent guitar.

It was marked at $49.95, but then I noticed that everything was on sale for 50% off. I decided to take a chance. I needed a less expensive guitar to take camping with me and thought maybe, if I could just clean it up a bit and put some new strings on it, it might work.

I took the old strings off...they must have been original to the guitar because they practically disintegrated in my hand when I took them off. There was a dustball inside the guitar about the size of a golf ball. I started to just clean it off, but then I just kept going and ended up buffing and waxing the whole thing. As beat up and dented and scraped as it was, you could tell it just wanted to try to look nice again. Like an old stray dog after it's first bath in years. It still had the scrapes and dings, but underneath it all was a really nice guitar. I found an old tuner I had and screwed it in and found a couple of old bridge pins I had saved from some other old guitar.

I put a new set of Martin SP strings on it and tuned it up and guess what? It sounded fantastic.

Definitely the best $24.95 I have ever spent on music gear.

It's a Yamaha FG-160, made it Taiwan. I hopped online and started doing some research and determined it was made in 1983 [edit update: actually made in 1973] and the internet is full of people who just go on and on about how much they love their old Yamaha FG-160. I'm telling you, this thing sounds darn good. It will definitely be the best sounding campfire guitar around. I haven't had time to take any photos yet, but the one I have put here with this story was found on some Japanese website. I will post some of mine when I get the chance.

UPDATE March 2015: I have been playing this guitar regularly since I found it in 2009. I own other very nice and much more expensive guitars and this one just stands out. When I'm recording, this is the guitar I use...just sounds fantastic on recordings. Last night I found another FG-160 on Craigslist for a cheap price and I jumped on it. Going to buy it tonight from a guy who has owned it for over 30 years. Can't wait to see if it sounds as good as this first one. Do I need another guitar? No! Can I pass this one up? Just can't do it.


Velo said...

And i have a used tractor for sale

Hi jaimie,I love your blog !

Anonymous said...

I think you will find your FG-160 was made in 1973. They were made from 1971-1974, IIRC (after that the model was FG-160-1). Yamaha recycles serial numbers every 10 years.

I have a 1974 FG-160 that I paid $75 for a few years ago. I sounds fantastic for a 35 year old guitar.

G2 Greg said...

I bought my FG-160 in 1974 (Green Label) and it still sits next to my bed and is played regularly. I have taken it to many a campfire and jams over the years. I considered buying a D-28 Martin but when I played the two side by side, there was not that much difference. Certainly, not $2000 worth of difference. I own 7 other guitars and this is still my only 6 string acoustic... I love it that much (I have an old Dobro but I'm not counting that). I did change the saddle but other than that and some strings, the guitar is as I bought it. It's a little guitar gem that few know much about. Enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

A few years ago I gave my old FG160 to my daughter ... and got a good guitar tech (who couldn't quite believe it had a plywood top) to sort out the neck and the string height. A few days ago I put some new strings on it and this weekend I happen to have been playing it whilst kitten-sitting. Yeah, it really is a great guitar. There's a lovely dark tone to the low E and A strings that I just don't get with my newer and (much) more expensive CPX, even though I love the CPX to bits too.

Don't let it get away!

Anonymous said...

Love the old FGs... love your blog!

Anonymous said...

I have one, green label. Plays nice, looks good.

Anonymous said...

I just brought a black label one in a thrift store here in New Zealand for $5. Made in japan. Few knocks here and there but overall good condition. Best score this week.

TUtrumpet10 said...

I have had two of these; many people shy away from them as the action can get a bit high at the 12th fret. Personally I think people have gotten spoiled by Taylor style acoustics and don't realize what a bit a action can do for these old laminate boxes. They are usually playable in the first position where 90% of folks played BITD.Pay no more than $100 and slay $2500 Martins with your awesome cowboy chords..