The Folk Trail - Acoustic Guitars at Auction

Ahead of the Vintage and Rare Guitars and fretted instruments auction on 4 October, Guitars and Folk Instruments Specialist Dr. David MacGregor explores the rising market trend for unique acoustic guitars.

The market for fretted ‘folk’ instruments, such as guitars, banjos, ukuleles and mandolins, is seeing the same trend for rising prices as that of rare electric instruments with one key difference.

‘While there will always be collectors seeking the finest grade instruments, we are increasingly seeing players returning to the market to buy. This is increasingly due to the market being defined by an emphasis on specialist and unique instruments and ones that have a particularly unique history.’ –Dr. David MacGregor

Buyers are increasingly looking for authenticity and a stripped down, ‘back to basics’ approach exemplified by a return to acoustic instruments.

‘As long as the instrument is in good structural condition, bidders are happy to pay increasingly higher prices for pieces that have good, honest play wear.’ – Dr. David MacGregor

Unlike the electric guitar market where mass producers were quick to jump at the chance to own artificially worn ‘reliced’ instruments; acoustic guitar manufacturers have been less keen to embrace this approach and thus older instruments in good condition that look and sound authentic and with wear continue to attract attention at auction.

‘We are now seeing some remarkable examples of rare and more unique acoustic guitars and other fretted “folk” instruments from the mid Twentieth century and even earlier. What is more surprising is the number of more esoteric or specialist instruments that are being offered; and this area of the musical instrument auction sector is attracting greater attention from a much broader cross section of potential bidders.’ – Dr David MacGregor


David puts this trend down to established musicians and weekend enthusiasts preferring to ‘go acoustic’ and then searching for unique pieces from the past that also look the part. A particularly interesting example of the more specialist rare vintage fretted Americana sold at Chiswick Auctions in June, 2017. This 1931 National 4 string Triolian Tenor Guitar with original Polychrome finish and Hawaiian sunset painted on the back, shown above, realised £1,159.00 (including Buyer’s Premium.)

‘Many people think this is a ukulele because of the four strings and thinner neck but this is in fact a completely different type of guitar designed to produce a unique sound. Once guitarists latch on to this being a totally different sounding guitar and take note of the 80 plus years of authentic aging and wear it has picked up in its life, it becomes something they want to own. It’s like being part of a tradition, owning a piece of history and being able to play a guitar that sounds like very few others. This is an appealing combination for any guitarist looking to stand out.’ Dr. David MacGregor

Entries are currently invited for the forthcoming auction in October. Please Dr. David MacGregor with images for a complimentary valuation: