Star Guitars

This appeared in Pop Culture Collecting Magazine - December 1999

This month we’ll explore an area of collectibles that are considered the Holy Grail for some music collectors – guitars owned, used, and signed by music legends.

Corona, California is home not only to Pop Culture Collecting Magazine, but also the Fender Guitar custom shop. Many of the world’s most famous guitars have been made here.

Fender makes custom guitars for music’s biggest and brightest stars. They are known for their impeccable quality, unique sound and desirability. And, they are not cheap! Yet once a high-end custom guitar gets into the hands of a famous musician, its value can double, triple or simply go through the roof.

Some of the guitars have attained that “star status.” Take, for example, Marty Stuarts’s paisley Fender Stratocaster. The guitar, which sells for less than $2,000 new, was used by Marty in several concerts. Marty gave it to Odyssey Publications CEO Bill Miller as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago, and included a handwritten note with it. Bill refuses to put a value on the guitar since it was a gift and has sentimental value far beyond any monetary value he could place on it. But if the guitar, together with that note, was offered on the open market, it would undoubtedly be worth many times more than a non-celebrity model.

Legendary guitar maker C.F. Martin & Co. honored Stuart when it produced a Marty Stuart model acoustic guitar several years ago. The guitar was designed by Marty himself (who better than one of country music’s absolute best pickers?), who adorned it with inlaid mother of pearl dice, steerheads and his own facsimile signature on the neck.

Even without Marty actually having owned or played it, the guitar is highly collectable, and sells for $4,000 and up. Bill Miller was given one by Marty, who played it at the 1998 Academy of Country Music Awards show. Marty again wrote a note (a super-collector himself, he knows how important provenance is), outlining where and when he used it. This guitar would easily be worth $7,000-$10,000 if Bill were to put it on the market.

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