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Guitar Guru

Oldies identified: Epiphone, Ibanez, Fender, Eros, Radiotone, Hofner, Rickenbacker, Excetro and Fasan.

SUDDENLY a firecracker goes off (time of the year) and Uncle Paul Day, known as Guitar Guru to polite Making Music readers, steps through the dry ice to present an enthralling set of answers to your ever-trickier questions. But don't think for a minute you can catch out Oh Knowledgeable One. Over to you, Mr D.

Simon Holehouse (Baldock, Herts):
"Everyone tells me my yellow sunburst Epiphone was made by Gibson. I bought it for £175 in 1977, and I've heard that it's a rare early 60s Epiphone Olympic worth £350. I've put on a Seymour Duncan Quarter Pounder pickup, Schaller machines and Badass bridge. Any info?"

Gordon Brown (Musselburgh, East Lothian):
"I recently acquired a wine red body and neck of an Ibanez Flying V; it has no serial number and was completely stripped of parts. The main identifier is the script-style 'Ibanez' engraved on the truss-rod cover, and an engraved brass plate. Can you tell me its age and price-when-new?"

P Bradley (Brierley Hill, West Midlands):
"I have a Fender Precision bass Elite with a gun metal finish and serial number E314544. Can you tell me the date it was despatched, how many were made, and where I can get two strap-locking clips?"

Tim Driscoll (Trehams, South Wales):
"When I started guitar I bought an Eros Les Paul copy, a great guitar even though cheap. Could you tell me when it was made, how much it would have cost new and how many were made? I've only ever seen one other, used by the Damned."

Danny Diggle (Liverpool):
"I bought a Radiotone acoustic for £50 from a junk stall. The man who glued the neck back on said it was made in the 1930s. Could you add to this? Serial number is 3714 and there's a stamp saying 'Foreign make Czechoslovakia'. It's an arch top f-hole type, sunburst-ish finish, something like a Gibson ES150 without pickup. It sounds and plays wonderfully."

Terry Baker (Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent):
"I have a Hofner Committee semi, serial number 1564. It's really nice: birdseye maple back and sides, spruce top, ebony fingerboard, plays like a dream. The body is big, 18½in deep, similar to Gibson's Super 400. Could you tell me where to get a case to fit, year of manufacture and current value?"

MJ Whitehead (Hayes, Middlesex):
"My Rickenbacker bass, serial number DC291 is a 4001 type, I think. Any information?"

P Beresford (Norwich):
"Can you tell me if my Sixties Rickenbacker copy, a Teisco Excetro Harley model, serial number 1667, in generally good nick, is worth anything? And when it was made?"

David Durrant (Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk):
"I bought a secondhand guitar called a Fasan. I've been told that the guitar was made in the 1960s because of the controls and the coax socket originally fitted. Can you tell me any more?"

D Readman (Burnley, Lancs):
"I have a Selmer amp serial number 19T/1950. In issue 3 you said that the Supersound amp had beaten Vox or Selmer into UK amp production by at least a year. Does my serial number mean the date? It has a built-in vibrato and three inputs, and I think it's called either a Truvoice or Stadium. It's grey-ish in colour, has a white cover and a gold-plated 'Selmer'. The speaker is an Audion 60."

Peter Nottingham (Deddington, Oxford):
"Could you tell me the date of production and value of my Vox AC30, serial number 6D19B. The covering is brown/fawn, speakers are Celestions, it has built-in spring reverb, and treble and bass switches are on the back (maybe not original). I got it for £20. Is it worth more?"

"The Gibson company bought Epiphone in 1957, transferred all its manufacturing to their Kalamazoo factory, and produced a range of models approximately corresponding to Gibson equivalents. Mr Holehouse's Epiphone Olympic was the parallel model to the Gibson Melody Maker, and was offered in single and twin pickup models, the earlier models being virtually identical to the Melody Maker. Without more info I can't date this one more accurately than 1959-1965. They're not much sought after, but are good, basic, playable guitars. Collectors would shudder at your mods, especially the machines which would have meant irreversible modification of the headstock. It's the usual player vs collector dilemma, to mod or not to mod? Do you want to play it or look at it? The Olympic would be worth around £200 if in original, fine condition, but as it is would be around £150 maximum (approximately in inverse proportion to the cost of the mods involved!).

"Ibanez Flying V copies appeared here around 1974, such models being offered by numerous Japanese makers around that time as the original was enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Ibanez issued a version complete with commemorative plaque approximating the reissues put out by Gibson as a limited edition. Original price was about £175; present value is around £100 maximum.

"Elite series Precision basses were launched by Fender in 1983, and I'd say yours is not later than 1984. At least you have one of the final US-made basses before Fender was 'Eastemised'. The Elites came complete with Schaller-made Straploks, but it sounds like you didn't get yours — maybe the previous owner decided to hang on to them? They're available as add-ons, so you should be able to get them through most dealers. The two extra button parts you end up with should be ideal for a spare bass.

"The early 1970s saw a sudden upsurge in the popularity of the Gibson Les Paul, and the Japanese were not slow in following this up with assorted copies of the model of widely differing quality and authenticity. Such copies were imported in vast numbers during the decade and many bore the Eros brand name which was an in-house marque of UK importers Rosetti. I've no idea of production quantities — let's just say 'lots'. In 1977 prices ranged from around £80 to £120.

"A guitar-making colleague recently turned up a Radiotone instrument, too, for which he paid the more realistic princely sum of £15 — his also required the neck re-setting. Czech quality has never been that hot. Radiotone models were part of a glut of guitars imported from Germany and Czechoslovakia in the 1930s and 1950s — so Mr Diggle's could be more recent. My speciality is electric instruments really, so I'd suggest you contact a specialist in acoustic instruments such as Ivor Mairants in central London.

"I need more info to date a Hofner accurately as the serial number is little help. I would guess Mr Baker's to be from early to mid 1960s as this was the boom time for imports of Hofners into this country from West Germany. Such big Hofners are currently quite fashionable and prices have risen as a result. Realistically, an excellent condition all-original Committee should sell for around £100, but current market prices put it between £250-300. What price fashion? A case for any full-bodied electric-acoustic seems to be increasingly hard to come by these days, and the old Hofners present more problems than most. Perhaps someone reading has a suggestion.

"Mr Whitehead's Rickenbacker 4001 can be dated, like all Rickys, by using the first letter of the serial number — D equals 1964. The single pickup 4000 bass appeared in the late 1950s and underwent various styling changes in the early 1960s plus the addition of the two-pickup 4001 model. The dot position markers, all-plastic control knobs and early Kluson machines are all typical of these earlier versions, from the same era as the one once favoured by Paul McCartney — though his was a leftie.

"Teisco copies appeared over here in the late 1960s, but weren't imported in such large numbers as, say, the Shaftesbury range of Ricky copies. I would date Mr Beresford's from about 1968, a time when many Japanese makers were cashing in on the popularity of the real thing courtesy of the Beatles and the Byrds. The 12-string is more popular just now, so a Shaftesbury copy of this can go for around £100, while the six-string model still languishes in the £50 area as does the Teisco version. I suggest you pray for a Jam revival.

"Fasan solids display marked similarities to models produced in West Germany by the Klira company in the early 1960s, particularly in body styling. The control layout of two rotary selectors plus master volume is also very typical of West German makers of that time (as on various Framus, Klira and Voss guitars). The vinyl covering possibly obscures a body made of the finest low-grade plywood — a common manufacturing material of the time. Value of an old guitar is nearly always dictated by 'collectability', not antiquity or rarity. In this case the make and model are virtually unknown and the collector appeal is therefore limited. Only a fanatic like your beloved Guitar Guru would appreciate its true worth in terms of character and history. In realistic terms it therefore falls into the £50 category shared by so many of these elderly cheapos. I think it's great, and I'd love to have it — so if you ever think of parting with it...

"The serial number of Mr Readman's old Selmer combo doesn't indicate the date — would that life were so easy. 1950 is far too early for the model you describe. All the earlier Selmer amps and related products were designated Truvoice — the three-input combo was indeed the Stadium model, complete with tremolo circuit. I know this model well as I used to have one back in those dim, distant years. You say yours is in grey (two-tone and vinyl, like mine, I assume) and this dates it around 1963.

"Again I'd point out that my speciality is electric guitars — not amps. But from Mr Nottingham's description I would say his AC30 is an early one — indicated by the brown covering (also look out for gilt vent covers, leather handles and brown grille cloth). The reverb was an option, which explains the controls being mounted on the rear panel and the similarly mounted treble/bass boost controls. These extra options date it around 1963. Older examples are in demand by players after the definitive AC30 sound and at £20 you got a bargain. Average prices run around £150.

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That Was Then

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Gibson Melody Maker Six-String Electric

Making Music - Copyright: Track Record Publishing Ltd, Nexus Media Ltd.


Making Music - Nov 1986

Feature by Paul Day

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