Vintage—An Examination of Semantics

My son repairs and (occasionally) sells guitars and other stringed instruments. A while back, I purchased a “vintage” Harmony archtop guitar from Ebay. I only look at the “vintage—pre 1980s” section on Ebay, because most modern guitars are made of laminated something. He prefers the ones made of solid woods, and the older, the better. When my son rebuilt the guitar, he replaced the cracked pick guard with a new one that he had made, and he added new tuners, a new bridge, and a pick up system, so the guitar could be plugged into an amp. No doubt someone will enjoy it, but that is not the point of my little story.

After he finished it, I took it out to the deck to take a couple of photos, which I put on the local Craigslist, and I labeled it a “Vintage Archtop with a Pickup.” So, a day later, he gets an email from “Joe Joe” who says the guitar is no doubt a nice player, but it is an old, rebuilt guitar, but not a vintage guitar. And, a la Archie Bunker, he said “look it up.” As an English major, I was just a bit peeved.

The term “vintage” stems from winemaking. (Don’t cha love that pun?) A wine is said to be of a certain vintage, based on age and quality. That word is typically a noun. The term vintage, used as an adjective, can also mean old, and if you don’t believe me, look at Merriam Webster online.

To give him credit, Joe Joe (isn’t that a cookie at Trader Joe’s?) was right; there are collectors of vintage instruments who strive to get items from some rather undefined “golden era” and these items should have no modifications. Such instruments do exist, for a price. I think the term collectable would serve better than vintage, but, really, isn’t this just semantics?

Anyway, my son has this nifty guitar for sale, whether it be vintage, old, nice, rebuilt, or some other term.Image

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2 comments on “Vintage—An Examination of Semantics

  1. I balk at terms like “vintage” when I see them on eBay and other collectibles sites because its meaning is a slippery slope. Yes, it does have a “golden era” of whatever flavor to it, though my idea of golden era isn’t going to be the same as my daughter’s or people 20 years older than I am.

    Malcolm

  2. Hi Malcolm, glad you stopped by.

    I know what you mean about eBay junk. However, my view of vintage is ever changing, because I am aging! So, I guess I’d rather be vintage than old.

    And, I rather doubt we’d get much interest in advertising an “old” guitar, which is what Joe Joe seemed to suggest.

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