Today's Prices Are Bargains *

*Well, with one exception

I've been reading so many complaints about the cost of "decent" amplifiers and guitars that I decided to do some research on the subject. See, I was playing these things years ago and I remember how expensive they were then; to my way of looking at things some of the stuff available today is a killer bargain. Guitars have always been expensive -- only recently have we seen the advent of the giggable $200 axe. Giggable, mind you, not necessarily collectible.

I grabbed my 1968 Fender catalog and plugged some prices from it into a table. I also did a run on the Strat, seeing it as a pretty representative piece over the years. I calculated the equivalent price in year 2000 money using figures available from Economic History Services, which you may want to use to check your own catalog prices. These are based on list prices, so actual in-store prices would have been somewhat lower, but in the early days you couldn't get the kinds of discounts you often can now, either. You can see the Strat's price starting to fall in the mid eighties.

I have also included some data for Gibson from 1966, Marshall from 1968, Ampeg from 1966 and Sunn from 1967.

What I see is that the boutique amp makers (including Fender's Custom Shop) are charging the same amount for a Twin that Fender was in 1968, while there were no true low-end amps (as far as price is concerned) as we think of them today. You can see that the new THD Univalve head is the same price as a 1968 Princeton Reverb, for instance...

(My thanks to James Shine for the Fender prices from 1950 and 1962.)

Now every time I see somebody diss Peavey, Crate, or Fender's line of low-end gear, here is what I think of:

Fender Amplifiers

Year

List Price

Equivalent 2000

Dual Showman w/2 JBL, no reverb

1968

950.00

4702.74

Twin Reverb (2 12 combo)

1968

499.50

2472.65

Bassman w/2 12 cabinet

1968

449.50

2225.14

Super Reverb (4 10 combo)

1968

429.50

2126.13

Pro Reverb (2 12 combo)

1968

399.50

1977.63

Vibrolux Reverb (2 10 combo)

1968

329.50

1631.11

Deluxe Reverb (1 12 combo)

1968

259.50

1284.59

Princeton Reverb

1968

189.50

938.07

Vibrochamp combo

1968

89.50

443.05

Champ combo

1968

69.50

344.04

Showman 15

1962

600.00

3413.22

Showman 12

1962

550.00

3128.79

Vibrasonic

1962

479.50

2727.73

Twin

1962

429.50

2443.30

Concert

1962

359.50

2045.09

Bassman

1962

379.00

2156.02

Super

1962

279.50

1589.99

Tremolux

1962

199.50

1134.90

Vibrolux

1962

199.50

1134.90

Deluxe

1962

149.50

850.46

Princeton

1962

99.50

566.03

Champ

1962

62.50

355.54

Pro

1950

199.50

1426.48

Super

1950

169.50

1211.98

Deluxe

1950

99.00

707.88

Princeton

1950

54.00

386.12

Champion

1950

49.95

357.16

Three popular amps in 2000 dollars (list)

Princeton

Deluxe

Bassman

1950 (Note: Bassman began in '52)

386.12 (54.00)

707.88 (99.00)

1318.73 (203.00) '52

1955

508.39 (79.00)

830.16 (129.00)

2181.57 (339.00)

1960

477.01 (82.00)

791.14 (136.00)

1972.04 (339.00)

1962

563.18 (99.00)

847.61 (149.00)

2156.01 (379.00)

1963

557.02 (99.00)

950.88 (169.00)

2188.71 (389.00)

Fender Guitars

Year

List Price

Equivalent 2000

Jaguar, sunburst

1968

389.50

1928.12

Jazzmaster, sunburst

1968

364.50

1804.37

Stratocaster, sunburst

1968

314.50

1556.85

Telecaster, blonde, rosewood

1968

229.50

1136.08

Telecaster, blonde, maple

1968

241.00

1193.01

Precision Bass, sunburst

1968

239.50

1185.59

Jazz Bass, sunburst

1968

289.50

1433.10

Stratocasters

Year

List Price

Equivalent 2000

Stratocaster, sunburst, 1954, maple

1954

249.50

1600.61

Stratocaster, sunburst, 1960, rosewood

1960

289.50

1684.09

Stratocaster, sunburst, 1968, rosewood

1968

314.50

1556.85

Stratocaster, sunburst, 1976, rosewood

1976

530.00

1603.86

Stratocaster, sunburst, 1980, rosewood

1980

745.00

1556.91

Stratocaster, sunburst, 1985, rosewood

1985

749.00

1198.64

Stratocaster, sunburst, 1988, rosewood

1988

899.99

1310.07

 

The one exception to the bargain idea is Gibson. I note that the list price on a Les Paul Custom is now $4799.00! (Today's money!) This may be the result of an Ivy League MBA and his MBA buddies taking the company over and running it strictly for bottom line purposes, in the process destroying its reputation among a fairly sizable part of its customers. It is interesting to note that Heritage guitars, which is staffed by ex-Gibson employees in the old Gibson plant in Kalamazoo, makes great instruments that are considerably less expensive than "real" Gibsons.

More information on this sad story.

(Note: Gibson did not make Les Pauls in 1966 - only SG's.) Let's take a look:

Gibson Guitars

Year

List Price

Equivalent 2000

Johnny Smith, sunburst, 2 pickups

1966

1025.00

5440.19

Tal Farlow, Viceroy Brown

1966

665.00

3529.49

Super 400 CES, sunburst

1966

1015.00

5387.11

ES-175D, sunburst, 2 pickups

1966

440.00

2335.40

ES-355TDC (no dots, trapeze tail)

1966

377.00

2000.93

SG Custom, white, 3 pickups

1966

470.00

2494.52

SG Standard, cherry, 2 pickups

1966

317.00

1682.48

SG Special, cherry, 2 pickups

1966

235.00

1247.26

Here is some information on Marshall. Yikes! I bought my first Marshall new in about 1970; man, that was a lot of money! Retail on a 100 watt full stack in 1968 was $8712.45 in 2000 dollars. This information is from their 1968 catalog and price list. Also check out noted heavy riffer Roy Orbison over there next to Jimi. (And who is that at the piano, anyway?) [Ten dollars from a descending duck for Paul Anderson who said the secret word: Gary Booker of Procul Harum.]

Marshall Amps

Year

List Price

Equivalent 2000

1959 100 watt lead amp head

1968

680.00

3366.17

1987 50 watt lead amp head

1968

350.00

1732.59

1982 Angled front 4 12 cabinet (Celestions)

1968

540.00

2673.14

1960 Angled front 4 12 cabinet (Goodmans)

1968

470.00

2326.62

1990 Angled front 8 10 cab (I had one; ouch!)

1968

470.00

2326.72

1962 50 watt 2 12 combo

1968

600.00

2970.15

Ampeg

Ampeg amps were roughly comparable to Fenders in price. The amps made under that name today are not really related to the ones listed here; Ampeg and Crate are both subsidiaries of a larger company which acquired the Ampeg name.

My Ampeg catalog is from 1966. How many other amps can you think of that had an input for accordion?

The number in the name indicates the speaker size.

 

From the entry for the Reverbrocket 2:

The full-on position of the tremolo intensity control produces a series of pulses which, depending upon speed setting, approximate the typical pattern of a mandolin or banjo, or the repeat percussive effect often heard on organ.

From the Jet:

In the words of many a satisfied (and gratified) user, the Jet is a swinging little amplifier.

Ampeg Amps

Year

List Price

Equivalent 2000

B-18-X Portaflex bass, 50 w rms

1966

699.50

3712.60

B-18-N Portaflex bass, 50 w rms

1966

549.50

2916.47

B-12-XT Portaflex bass, 2 12" spk., 50 w rms

1966

529.50

2810.32

B-15-N Portaflex bass, 25 w rms

1966

369.50

1961.12

SB-12 Portaflex bass, 22 w rms

1966

199.50

1058.85

GS-15-R Gemini 6 , reverb, 30 w rms

1966

299.50

1589.60

GS-12-R Reverbrocket 2, 18 w rms

1966

199.50

1058.85

GS-12 Rocket 2, 18 w rms

1966

159.50

846.55

J-12 Jet, 15 w rms

1966

109.50

581.17

Sunn was a big presence in Oregon where I grew up. Bands like the Wailers and the Sonics from Seattle used them and they were loud, loud, loud. My Sunn was an old pre-Sonic 1 (made before that's what they were called) and its controls were on the top of the amp, like a tweed Fender. It was loud, but it was also heavy, heavy, heavy. Those JBL's really add up!

 

Currently, Fender owns the Sunn name so any new Sunns you see are really Fenders.

Sunn Amps

Year

List Price

Equivalent 2000

100S/200S 2 15 JBL (140's or 130 & LE100S)

1967

995.00

5135.39

Sonic II, 2 15 JBL D130F

1967

925.00

4774.11

Sonic I, 1 15 JBL D130F

1967

655.00

3380.59

Solarus, 2 12 Sunn speakers

1967

495.00

2554.79

Sonaro, 1 15 Sunn bass speaker

1967

435.00

2245.12

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