Friday, December 16, 2011
As always, I am on the lookout for cool stuff at pawn shops, thrift stores, swap meets and anywhere else I happen to be poking around. I am not a diehard, every day junk picker, but if I see a good spot and I have time I will definitely pull in the parking lot and see what's lurking in the corner somewhere. Quite awhile back I posted a story about finding a seriously beat up vintage Yamaha FG-160 at a local thrift store for $25. After cleaning it up and fixing a few things, it turned out to be an amazing sounding guitar.
Well, fast forward to this past weekend and, after walking into a local pawn shop, the first thing I spied was an old Yamaha looking right at me...calling my name. I walked over and picked it up and, sure enough, it was another one from the early '70s. A very rare and very high quality Yamaha FG-450. I didn't really realize just how nice it was at first...I was too busy finding an employee to get a price. The lady informed me that it also came with it's very nice original hard case. We did a little haggling and eventually I walked out the door with my new baby. Maybe the best $130 I've spent on any musical item. Yep, that's right...only $130. A true bargain.
My original intention was to get it home, put some new strings on it, and sell it on Craigslist for a decent profit. However, after restringing and sitting around playing it for awhile, it became more and more obvious that this guitar wasn't going anywhere. What a beauty! The sound rivals any of the finer acoustics I own or have owned in the past. This just might be, dollar for dollar, the best guitar I've come across. I say dollar for dollar because I am lucky enough to own a really nice, expensive handmade acoustic that just can't be beat. But I paid dearly for that guitar and it will be with me 'til I'm a goner. But for the money, this FG-450 is one heck of a guitar.
I should add a few details here: this guitar features a spruce top with jacaranda back and sides with a mahogany neck, and has an ebony fretboard and bridge...all this according to the Japanese Yamaha instrument website. The site is mostly in Japanese but you can figure it out and find what you are looking for.
The great thing about these old Yamahas is that they really did a great job with the serial numbers and records. It was super easy to find out that this guitar was made on June 20th, 1972 at the famous Nippon Gakki factory in Japan and was the 350th guitar that the factory built that day. Love it. Try getting that accurate on most any other vintage guitar and you'll be out of luck.
Prior to finding that old FG-160, I had no idea that these old FG's have quite the cult following in the guitar world. I was at home with this FG-450 and thinking that there was no way I was going to sell, but making myself list it on Craigslist anyway just to gauge the interest. The first email I got about it was from an FG collector who let me know how rare this model is and how badly he wanted it...if only he had the extra cash. I'm glad he didn't because I probably would have ended up selling it for a little extra Christmas money and regretted it later. After a couple of other emails from interested folks I took the ad down, wrote back to them and told them I had changed my mind. This one is staying with me...at least for now. I have learned to never say never when it comes to guitars, but I have a feeling this one will be with me for awhile.
UPDATE: It is now a number of months later and I finally talked myself into getting serious about selling this guitar. Sometimes you just have to pay your unexpected taxes! I listed it back on Craigslist and, after a couple of times relisting the guitar I got an email from a great guy who was interested in finding a great guitar for his dad for a gift. We met up, he inspected the hell out of the guitar...from top to bottom, every single inch, giving me an education in the process. We made a deal and I think we were both very happy. He loved the beautiful sound this guitar makes and really appreciated the craftsmanship of this 40-year old instrument. He is in the Navy and headed out for a tour of duty in Afghanistan shortly, so I wish him the best and am honored to have met him. A real great guy. Hope your dad enjoys the guitar as much as I think he will.