Buying a gypsy vintage guitar:
There are different categories of gypsy guitars buyers:
1. Collectors. Some play, some don’t. Some who do not play sometimes do not bother about the sound. I was told that the person who bought Stochelo Rosenberg’s Selmer just lifted the lid of the guitar case, had a quick look and nodded OK. I won’t comment on that.
2. Clean freaks. They can be collectors or players. They want the whole nine yards. Superb condition, original parts, no repairs. Some pay attention to the sound quality. They demand provenance or confirmed expert’s opinion.
3. New guitars buyers. They apparently do not see a difference between vintage guitars or new ones, and they want new instruments, with labels. They could be tempted by vintage guitars, once they have the chance of playing a couple of good ones.
4. Players, fans of the vintage vibe and sound. What differentiates them is their budget, the kind of instrument they like best, and how much they are paying attention to a great vintage tone. Some demand volume and projection, some want extra dry sound, some have a specific tone in mind. I know a couple of them who would not buy anything else than a Busato. That’s who I am. I had dozens of superb guitars, new and vintage, I loved them and some cost me well above 10,000$. But I never ever had one, which could beat a Busato.
My buying experience:
Well! I bought 75 gypsy vintage guitars between April and November 2012, mostly from France, and I am more than happy to share my experience with gypsy guitar fans. I have already bought 12 more guitars in January 2013, so this year will be a good year for fans.
These are the main guitars I bought. A lot of them are shown on this Website. Most are sold, some are still for sale and some are kept in my own collection:
• One superb Selmer, from the 500 series, like Django’s.
• Four Favinos (1963, 1978, 1979, and also Tchan Tchou’s own Favino).
• Eight Busatos with labels or losange plate (1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s. Three grand models, one moyen model, one D hole, one oblong hole, two special model).
• One 13 frets oblong hole Busato without provenance.
• Three Sonoras, made by Busato.
• One Symphonia, made by Busato.
• Two Paris Musical, made by Busato
• One Beuscher, made by Busato.
• One 2002 Dupont MD50 which was sold as fast as I could, given that: 1) there is a demand for Dupont on the second hand market. 2) I would not comment on the supposed quality of these Dupont, even if many friends said mine was the best they played.
• Three Di Mauro Saint Louis Blues (1952, 1953 and one transitional from Antoine to his son Joseph). These are the best guitars that Antoine produced. They are Selmer inspired guitars, with 14 frets to the body and oval hole. Superb tone, very powerful.
• Four Di Mauro Boogie Woogie. These are 12 frets with D Hole. All have a superb bark and are the best bang for the buck.
• Three Di Mauro Django model. They are 12 frets with a round sound hole. Similar sound quality to the Boogie Woogie.
• One 1945 Di Mauro. Superb guitar, which started its life in 1930 with Mario Maccaferri, was destroyed and rebuilt later by Antoine.
• Two Joseph Di Mauro the elder, the brother of Antoine.
• Two F-
• Four 14 frets D Hole Castelluccia. In the pantheon of gypsy jazz guitars, Castelluccia come next to Busatos and Busato Related guitars. I fully agree.
• One Bucolo.
• One superb Siro Burgassi
• Ten Busato Related Guitar, all from the same family. Huge sound, superb and affordable guitars. If you can buy a 17,000$ Busato, buy it. You can get three Busato Related Guitars for the same price, meaning three times the pleasure.
• Three Anastasio.
• The rest are 1950’s luthier’s guitars from Mirecourt.
• I also bought two Busatos, one grand model, which belonged to Neil Anderson, and one moyen model from The Fellowship Of Acoustics.
The different sources to buy vintage guitars from:
1. Brokers. There are a handful of these brokers in the world. Three in the US, four if we count Gypsyguitarfans, and a couple from Europe. When buying from them the seller has to bear an additional cost (20% with most, 5% and less from Gypsyguitarfans). However it is a very trustable and safe source. They know what they are selling, and the guitars are perfectly set up, with great playability. You have a trial period during which you can return the instrument for a full refund.
2. Specialized sources from Europe. Gypsyguitarfans have developed a network of reliable brokers who supply us with first grade instruments, which all sound good. We demand exceptionally good sounding instruments from our sources. These guitars are sold by us and are renovated if necessary and setup by a highly experienced luthier, Martin Tremblay.
3. Luthiers in Europe. Most are trustable. I dealt a couple of times with the one who renovated Selmer 607, and it has been a painful and costly experience. I bought three guitars from this person and I lost big every time as he misrepresents what he sells and does not fulfil his promises. Hi name is Beranger Griot. Beware with this luthier!
The guitars were great and their potential was superb but all of them needed considerable additional investment for renovations and setup, carefully hidden as on each occasion the guitars were misrepresented. As I function with a model which works as with an insurance, I did not lose money overall on the 75 guitars I bought, simply because I was lucky to pay for the extra cost with some good profit on a handful of instruments, so at the end I am even and had to chance to select some superb guitars for my own collection. If someone wants to buy one guitar only, the risk is high. He will either win or lose big.
4. European Ebay (bad) or local Internet ads sellers (even worse). If you like skating on thin ice, play in the casinos and bungee jump with a worn rope, try these sources. This is where misrepresentation is at its maximum. They either do not know what they are really selling or hide it carefully. More than often also they are difficult to trade with, even if you speak fluently the language. I am French and I have headaches most of the time. You will have to spend hours on the phone. Also, they have the bad habit of shipping without a guitar case in a weak corrugated box. One guitar broken amongst the dozen I bought this way, and huge luthiers cost to renovated the instruments.
5. I dealt many times with Gypsy people and they are just wonderful. Great trustable people. I dealt with Reinhardts, Wintersteins, Weiss, for example, and they turn out to be 100% trustable. Do not forget. Gypsy people are very religious and they have a high sense of ethics. I got some superb sounding instruments from them and, as they were playing it professionally, they needed only a light set up and no costly renovation.
Surprises when buying, and important precautions:
1. Ask for the action at the 12th fret and also the height of the bridge. If the height of the bridge is less than half an inch, the guitar will probably have a weak projection and you risk paying for a neck reset (500$ plus).
2. Ask for a couple of pictures of the neck angle, and also a picture of the neck relief. If relief is too large, heating of the neck is useless. The only solution is to install a Twoway truss rod (500$ cost)
3. I ask for a couple of video clips to check the sound and also tap tones of the top and the back. A muted tap tone cannot mean a good guitar. Also badly repaired cracks will dampen the tap tones of the top (every inch of crack cost 25$ to repair, and often buyers ask a large discount to buy a guitar with cracks).
4. Ask for pictures of frets over the fret board. A refretting operation costs between 300 and 600$. I like to use Dunlop 6105 frets and also make a 12 inches radius on the vintage guitars. This gives a superb ease of playing.
5. Ask what is the wood used for the fret board. Most Parisian luthiers used tinted pear wood and you will have to replace the fret board with ebony preferably (rosewood is nice but heavy).
6. Check the top pictures to see if it is sinking, deflected by how much (normal to a certain point) or collapsed (center section below the sides). Some great guitars only need an additional brace, but stay away from a sunken or collapsed top. Do not be afraid by some moderate deflection.
So, the risk of having to pay a high cost is more dramatic with less expensive guitars. If you buy a vintage Busato which needs renovation, from a source in Europe, and you have to pay 1500$ or more (neck reset, change of fret board, re-