Wednesday, December 16, 2009

1978 Fender Antigua Hardtail Stratocaster

Submitted by Michael Rose • Madison, NC

1984; I'm in college at Western Carolina University (Cullowhee NC, about an hour west of Asheville). I had been playing guitar since I was 13, but didn't get an electric until my third year of college. A Memphis Les Paul copy ... after a year of that, I was ready to get something better. I was a college student with limited funds. But I did work each summer, and during the Fall semester I had scored a job as a short-order cook three mornings a week at a restaurant right on campus.

In the spring semester I got a small tax refund check and was ready for a guitar upgrade. I planned to drive into Asheville on a weekend and hit all the music shops and pawn shops in one Saturday. If that panned out, I would go to Atlanta the next weekend and hit Rhythym City.

It was then that I learned about a student in my dorm who was in a bit of a predicament (we'll call him Mr. X). Mr. X missed a lot of classes and always seemed to be hanging out in his room...laying on his bed in his underwear...eating a large bag of Doritos, watching TV...and a record might be playing at the same time. Mr. X drank a lot too...not just on weekends. Mr. X had a baby pet squirrel that fell out of a tree. He kept it in his room for about a week but rolled over on it in his sleep and it died. Mr. X was a little overweight...and Mr. X was in trouble. BIG trouble. Mean people were looking for him...people he had purchased substances there was a large debt he couldn't pay, we're talking about a lot of money.

Mr. X was going to go away, but he needed some money.

So, Mr. X was selling everything in his room that wasn't bolted down. Including a '78 Antigua Stratocaster I had played several times when visiting. I knew nothing about guitar values, rarity, and the "Vintage" market (this was pre-Internet, after all). All I knew was that it was a Fender. Stratocaster. Maple neck. Hardtail, so it always stayed in tune. And, he had the original case.

Mr. X knew I played and told me the guitar was for sale. He said he was hoping to get $500 for it. I told him it was several years old and had a couple of scratches. He came down to $450. I could tell by his state of mind (and the state of his room) that he was desperate. I offered him $175 cash! He got upset, but didn't rise from the bed. He said it was way too low. I told him about my tax refund check and, that if he didn't sell me the guitar at that price, I was going to Asheville Saturday morning to buy one. And that was that. My best deal, ever.

I "grew up" on that guitar - it was inspiring to play a professional, American-made instrument. In a couple of years, boredom set in ... the folly of youth. As stated earlier, I didn't know anything about guitar values. I put a Strat-sized humbucker in the bridge position. Later, the neck started fretting out. Instead of getting a fret job done and keeping the original neck, I replaced the entire neck ... and the guitar shop kept the original neck. And then I traded the guitar in to the same shop for something of lesser value which I shall not name. A year later, I was in the same shop and saw my guitar on the wall. A Fender Stratocaster decal had been carefully placed on the headstock of the replacement neck. At least I knew that was creepy, and told all my friends to steer clear of that shop.

Because of the Internet, it's a lot easier to learn about guitar values today ... but it's a lot harder to find deals like I did. Whenever original Antigua Strats do pop up on ebay, Gbase, or Craigslist, they typically go for between $1800 and $3000.


Nimesh said...

Nice Post
Thanks for good stuff

Larry Lugz said...

Wow, cool story. I own a 78 antiqua strat, sitting in my garage. I bought it in 1984 for super cheap. I had a Les Paul Jr (81 a reissue of the 58) that had just gotten stolen. A buddy of mine had a line on a 76 SG that he had his sights on and needed $200 more to finalize the deal. I told him I'd buy his strat for 2 bills and he thought about it for a few minutes than agreed. I have had it ever since. I don't regularly play it, but over the years I have the good folks at the Fender Custom shop in Corona CA maintain and do tasteful upgrades to it. Seymour Duncan live wire humbucker, updated bridge and tuners, new antiqua pick guard, new single coil pickups, new frets, pots, jack, etc. They of course have given me all the original parts back in ziplock baggies. I have a few friends that work at fender who dialed me in at the custom shop (and let my middle school students tour the facility once a year)and I usually only have to tip the luthier(s) in the custom shop rather than paying commercial scale. I have had of few of the luthiers even offer me $2k for her, saying they could flip for $10k easily to a major player. I always turn it down as I rarely play it live, but enjoy messing around with it at home, in my class, or in the studio for isolated lead tracks. It's fun and nostalgic, like an old 50s era cruiser with upgraded extras.