The Greatest Guitar Finds: Crazy For Coral

As you may well know, buying for our shop has given me some of my life’s most extraordinary tales and adventures. This story takes us back to the early 2010s in New Jersey with my former business partner, Richie, at We Buy Guitars. 

On November 30th, 2013, we received a call from our friend at a small guitar shop in New Jersey. Upon answering the phone, they told us they were with the original owner of a “guitar you just absolutely have to come and see.” We asked for more information, but he insisted that we come to see it in person. So, in true guitar hunter fashion, we arranged to get out there the following day to see it. We drove down and met a gentleman in his mid 60’s holding a Tweed Fender case in his hand, along with a little Fender Tweed Champ Amplifier, both virtually brand new in condition. You can imagine our initial reaction, I am sure. But when he opened up the case, our heads nearly exploded. What lay before us was a guitar and a custom color that we had never seen before.

While we immediately knew it was a 1956 Fender Esquire, the color had us stumped. It was a cross between rosy pink and salmon and was certainly not offered by Fender regularly. We proceeded to take the guitar apart to confirm its authenticity, and while we did, he told us how he came to have this guitar.

The original owner grew up playing an acoustic guitar, though by the time he was a teenager, he really wanted an electric guitar. For his birthday, his mom took him to their local New Jersey music store to buy an inexpensive, solid-body guitar. While looking at Fender Esquire options, this pink-toned one was on the shelf. The store owner explained to his mom that someone had custom ordered this guitar in this color, though when the guitar came in, the customer didn’t like it. He wound up breaking the deal and leaving the guitar behind at the music store. Due to this, they now had this piece in their inventory in a color that was relatively unpopular at the time due to its “feminine” nature. His mom proceeded to bargain with the store owner for $10 off of the asking price of the pink Esquire. The original owner was pretty upset about it at the time, he recalls. He didn’t want a pink guitar either! But lucky him…he wound up with one of the rarest Esquires we’ve seen to date! 

1956 Fender Esquire with the original owner moments before we purchased the guitar!

We purchased this one-of-a-kind Esquire that day along with the Champ Amplifier. We discovered that the color looked exactly like “Tahitian Coral”, an uber-rare color seen on a 1954 Stratocaster rumored to have been owned by Wanda Jackson. Coincidentally, we also have this Strat now, allowing for a side-by-side comparison of the two and we have to say, they look identical. The color is also very close to Ford’s 1954-1955 Cameo Coral (Ditzerler #70455). With 50s custom finishes it is always hard to say. What we will say is that this is one of the rarest colors we have ever seen on a vintage instrument. The finish is truly a custom color, made before Fender offered standardized custom finishes.

1954-1955 Ford Colors by Ditzler Automotive Finishes

We are very thankful that throughout our years of business, we have kept detailed buying records of every instrument that passed through our hands. Having gotten the chance to buy and sell this piece again, I would be remiss not to share this incredible story with you all. For more information on this guitar, please call us at 516.221.0563 today!

The Greatest Guitar Finds: A Jersey Turnpike Treasure

Buying and selling guitars has given me some of the most incredible experiences and stories I could imagine over the years. The story I am about to tell has always been one of my favorites to recount.

In 2007, I received a call from a gentleman who told me he had a 1954 Fender Stratocaster, the highly collectible and desirable first year for the model. My partner at the time, Richie, and I decided to meet him halfway at the exit 7A rest stop along the New Jersey Turnpike to inspect and hopefully purchase his guitar. He was heading out from western Pennsylvania, and we were coming from Long Island, NY. We planned to meet at 9:00 PM, but if you’ve ever traveled in this area, you’re likely familiar with how intense the traffic can get. By no surprise, it took both the seller and us quite a bit of extra time to get to our agreed-upon destination. We finally arrived at the rest stop close to 11:00 PM.

To our dismay, once we arrived, we realized the rest stop restaurant area was already closed for the night. So, there we stood, disassembling a genuine and original 1954 Stratocaster in the back of my Suburban. As if that wasn’t crazy enough, we followed up our authentication with a nerve-racking cash-counting experience in a dark parking lot. Frankly, I don’t recommend doing something like this anymore. However, back in the day, it was like the wild west! These were great times for buying, accompanied by even greater guitars. Believe it or not, buying original vintage guitars in the strangest of places from original owners was more common than you think.

We drove home with the 1954 Fender Stratocaster, original strings on it and all! We’re lucky enough to have it back in our showroom after over 16 years of it being in a private collection. As soon as I saw it, this story came flooding back to me! I hope you enjoy reading about this buying adventure as much as I enjoyed living it.

For more information on this guitar (for sale now), please call us at 516.221.0563.

The Greatest Guitar Finds: “O’ Canada”

In 2001, I purchased the greatest 1959 Gibson Les Paul that I have ever touched. I remember it like it was yesterday…the phone call that provided me with one of the best Bursts I would ever have in our store.

It starts with my friend Francis* and his girlfriend Danielle*, who lived in Montreal, Canada. Every so often, Francis would come up with a guitar for me and I would pay him a “finders fee”. Through these dealings, we had become fairly good friends and one day he called me and told me an unlikely, yet incredible story…

Francis and Danielle had been on the couch watching TV late one night when Francis fell asleep. Danielle flipped the channel and landed on  “Swap & Shop”, a local shopping program that offered various privately saleable items. This could include anything from cars to home furnishings and more. That night, a listing came up for a 1959 Les Paul with an asking price of $2,000, being sold by the original owner. She jumped up, immediately taking the phone number down, and woke Francis. He initially waved her off, certain that the guitar would be a reissue or have something wrong with it. Danielle insisted that he call to be sure. He blew it off, but in the morning she brought it up again. Francis gave in and called. Against all odds, on the other end of the phone was an older gentleman who had purchased the guitar new in 1959. Francis moved quickly: he got up, dressed, and left to meet the man immediately. Upon arriving, he was blown away to find that it was, in fact, a 1959 Les Paul…the “holy grail” of electric guitars.

1959 Gibson Les Paul Sunburst (Burst): “O’ Canada”

Since it was 2001, $2,000 was an unbelievable price for a guitar like this. Francis excitedly called me within a few short hours of his purchase and told me this whole story.  Francis told me that he would never get a deal like this again and wanted to sell me the guitar. He asked me, sight unseen if I would pay him $200,000 for this guitar ensuring me that it was one of the nicest Les Pauls he’d ever seen. He mentioned to me that this may be his only chance at a “home run” find and that this would help him send his kids to college. I said, “Well if it’s everything you say that it is, I would have no problem paying that to you.” I trusted him because if there’s one thing about Francis, he knew guitars!

I felt it was important to go see this guitar in person, so I booked a flight on Air Canada and arrived roughly 8 hours after our initial conversation. We went to his flat, and the moment I saw the guitar, I immediately knew it was well-played but perfectly original. To this day, the top is one of the greatest tops I’ve seen on a Burst. It’s got multiple layers of deep flame and it’s faded to a beautiful honey burst. Upon inspecting the guitar and seeing that it was everything Francis said it would be, I paid him on the spot and flew the guitar back to New York with me that day. I had the guitar for a while before it went into the Songbirds collection. It resided there for years, though it hadn’t been displayed while the museum was open. 

When the Songbirds Museum closed, I was lucky enough to get this guitar back. I’ve had well over 100 Sunburst Les Pauls made between 1958-1960 in my life and let me tell you, this is THE one. If I was still in the business of collecting guitars rather than selling them, this would be the one I would take to my grave..it is fantastic in every way. While “Bursts” are nearly always referred to as the “Holy Grail” of electric guitars, not every single one plays great, looks great, and sounds great. Like any other manufactured item, there are good ones and bad ones. This one happens to be the most exceptional one I have had the privilege of owning. While this Burst is on hold for a client, we are thrilled to have this story to share with you all.

For information on any of the Bursts in our inventory, call us at 516.221.0563!

* Names have been changed for privacy purposes.