I See More and More Gretsch Archtops

March 15, 2008

Nicolai Foss

… offered for sale, both on ebay and by the leading archtop traders.

Gretsch archtops have never been a favorite with jazz players, Mary Osborne, Freddie Greene, and Sal Salvador being the only major players (as far as I can recall at the moment) to have a Gretsch as their main instrument. The informative, but also intolerably snobbish Vintage Guitars Info argue that

Older Gretsch models (pre-1970) don’t tend to hold up to time as well as other makes. Older binding materials and glues tend to deterior with age. This can cause expensive repairs such as neck sets and binding replacement. Additionally, Gretsch electronics (pickups, switch/knob layout) is not as sonically sound or versatile as those of other makers during the same period.

I am far from sure this is correct. It is well known that, for example, older Epiphones have notorious problems with binding, necks and tailpieces. I wouldn’t say that older Gretsches in general hold less well up to time than Epis, although both may not hold up as well as Gibsons. I am also somewhat baffled by the statements about Gretsch electronics. Gretsch electronics is just different from say Gibson humbuckers or Epi New Yorker pickups.

Whatever all that is, I have noted that more and more old Gretsch archtops — notably early Synchromatics — are appearing on ebay and in the inventories of the archtop traders. They generally trade for rather small amounts of money, often in the neighbourhood of 1k USD. I submit that many of these guitars represent excellent value for money. Here is a stunning 1963 Clipper.

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