Vintage Guitars/Vintage & Modern Guitars - Buying, selling and collecting fine
Digger talks to Phil at Vintage
and Modern Guitars and Phil's
Vintage Guitars about his love
of vintage guitars and this business founded on the demand
for authentic and original classic guitars.
Can you please tell us about your background and that of the
My background - my sisterís a classical musician and
she went down to Wells Cathedral School and I followed her. I
soon gave up (laughs) when I discovered the guitar and The
Beatles, I guess. I was always a bit behind and looking
backwards rather than looking forward.
Yes, you sound a bit young to remember The Beatles first time
Definitely. I suppose I went down in about í76.
I can think of a couple of musicians who are famous for having
a violin bowing technique on a guitar. Jimmy Page and Eddie
Phillips from The Creation, who was said to have invented it.
Biff Bang Pow and Making Time and so on.
Thatís where the similarity ends really and I made the jump,
much to everybodyís disgust. Iíve always looked backwards
ten years so. In the eighties I was looking at bands like
Little Feet and that kind of stuff.
I liked The Stranglers but I didnít really get into it at
the time and appreciated it more later. More now than I did
then Ė I can see it all now.
It was a breath of fresh air.
Yes, genius when you look at it now.
Where did Philís Vintage Guitars come from?
Just like a lot of people I started by collecting. I have done
for years. I was working in London, doing hotel repairs and
A proper job?!
A proper job, employing people and the rest of it. And spare
bits of cash I had, I put into old and vintage guitars. As you
naturally do, I was selling and buying and it just snowballed
from there really.
Now itís obviously a full-time thing?
Now itís just gone bananas really. Since the recession hit
ands the building industry was hit, yet again. I always said
that if there was another one I was going to try and get out.
I havenít got out because Iím running two companies now
but it just got to the point where I needed to supplement our
income. So I decided to give it a whirl. And so we opened our
store last December. Although a lot of people will know
ĎPhilís Vintageí we operate now under Vintage and Modern
Weíve got a shop in Thame, Oxfordshire and itís doing very
Do you get a lot of passing trade with people visiting the
physical store as well?
Itís starting to pick up now. Weíre advertising
Youíve got quite a few well-off people around there and a
lot of musicians live in that neck of the woods.
Phil: Itís a good area. Robin Gibb lives in the village
and weíve had a few faces in.
Oh, not literally Faces! (Both laugh) Kenney Jones is
running something to do with polo down there and he also does
events Ė I know because someone I know is having a
retro-themed wedding at his venue.
Joe Brownís round the corner Ė it would be great if he
turned up. Iíve had his next door neighbour in. Itís quite
exciting and people come from all around London. I play
finger-style Ė like Chet Atkins and jerry Reed. I love big arch top
guitars and thereís not many doing them so we get
some serious players come round. We jam in the store and
itís really cool.
You should jam with Spikeís All Stars. They have gigs
where musicians just turn up, famous and not so famous, and
they jam and play to audience. The best thing was that when I
saw them last December they did about thirty guitar intros
back-to-back, iconic intros from the best of rock music from
the last few decades. It was great to hear them played, one
after the other, and also to be able to name them. Each one
brings back so many memories. I think they have released a
recording of that too... What gives you the most pleasure
from the business?
Funnily enough, performing is one of the least desirable
things. I love playing and I love guitars and from quite a few
sources Iíve heard that the last thing you want to do is try
and be a rock star. (Laughs) It just doesnít work and there
are too many failed guitarists trying to run guitar shops.
Itís a business at the end of the day and you have to make
So youíve taken that on board?
I have. You have to.
Why is there such interest in authentic vintage musical
instruments? Youngsters seem to be getting into this in a big
I heard this recently Ė I was trying to get a guitar for
a guy in America and (laughs) he said in that American way
ďMoney I can always get, but thereís a limit of fine
vintage guitars.Ē Thatís the truth.
Are people investing in these?
From how far are these people coming?
Anywhere. All over. Worldwide.
I heard that eastern Europe was also getting to be a big
Yes, Iíve got a businessman at the moment from there
whoís interested in one of my guitars.
What are the biggest and best sellers?
Most of my top stuff goes abroad. Itís a really weird
market at the moment and some things are cheaper here than
they are in the States. You have to be very careful.
One of my jukebox clients was saying that he gets lots of
enquiries from America but it then proves too expensive to
ship there. Maybe thatís not such an issue for guitars to
ship back there?
I have shipped back to America. It is bizarre to sell back
to them. Itís like anything Ė you get what anybody is
willing to pay for it at that time. Whatever youíre
interested in then if youíre willing to pay for it.
And there are so many influences on values. The credit
crunch - and who could have seen the Japanese disasters coming
or the flare-ups in the middle-east? Theyíll have a massive
Yes, massive. After the earthquake it was like tumbleweed
town for two weeks. It really was.
Youíve got a good close relationship with the big names
Itís kick-started in the last few months, because you
become more credible when you have a bricks and mortar store.
Thereís a lot of people doing it on The Internet and you can
be quite successful but you canít do it properly. You do
need an accountable front.
interesting. Some people are telling me theyíre
going away from a shop front because of all the overheads and
There is that but they probably had a store to start with
so theyíve become established and have got their base,
havenít they? Even so I think people do prefer it.
Weíre getting a bit lazy with shopping on The Internet
but when it comes to a big decision like that you need to be
able to see, hear, touch and even smell the guitar.
Weíll take it down to wherever people want us to go.
Iíve taken them down to the south of France Ė itís
cheaper than posting it basically. Once Iíve insured it you
might as well get a day flight down there, open it with the
client and everybodyís happy.
Have you done any guitars for Eric Stewart? Heís big into
Phil: Not yet.
I like that confidence Ė not yet!
(Laughs) Iíve got stock turning over every day. A nice
1960 Strat turned up last week and itís lovely.
Have you got the issue where some owners have done their
own DIY and modifications on their guitars rendering them a
fraction of the potential value?
Yes. Thatís the case with this sixties Strat. Itís a
long time for a guitar and theyíve only become desirable
since the early eighties. Before that they were just old
guitars that people wanted to replace with a new one. So it
snowballed from there.
Itís a shame we couldnít have bought a lot of them up
back then - and phones and jukeboxes!
A time machine would be handy. You do jukeboxes donít
Digger: We have a lot on our website. A lot of dealers.
Something Iíve always wanted.
Itís nice to have a jukebox that has all the music that
inspired you on it.
Iíd like one in the shop actually.
Okay Iíll sort something out for you on price if you
like. Are the youngsters knowledgeable about these guitars? I
guess they know more than you Ė often they have really done
The internet is a double edged sword. People
can become quite easily mis-informed which can be a nightmare
for dealers. A bit like self-health diagnosis on The Internet
and demanding pills from your GP! It's like - hang on a
But sometimes the information is copied from unreliable
sources and you see it plastered all over The Net.
Yes. Exactly. Another thing looking at instruments- when
looking at high-end guitars, you need to know what youíre
looking at. You can look at endless photographs or read
endless piffle on The Internet but I think the only way you
really get used to it is by handling them. And seeing many
examples before you actually know what youíve got in your
hands. The real deal.
Thatís what youíve got. Youíve got that expertise.
Iím not saying I can know everything, Iím careful with
what I take on. But I'm starting to get there. I do have a
strong interest in 50's Gretsch guitars in particular.
Youíre well on your way to your 10,000 hours which then makes
you an expert.
Yes. There are so many different guitars Ė like this L5 that
weíve got is one of only thirty- one in the world and Iím
probably only ever going to see one from that year. Thatís
what Iím getting at Ė youíre more likely to see a lot of
1960's Strats, after all, there's more now than in 1960! It gets
harder at some ends of the business.
Did you see the programme about Les Paul? What a genius.
Yes. He was a clever chap.
Were you into Joe Meekís stuff?
He was a bit of a kiddie, wasnít he?
Scary by all accounts and lots of hissy fits. Bobby Graham,
his session drummer, was the drummer for Joe Brown, who
you mentioned earlier on. When they were having hits with The
Bruvvers with songs like A Picture of You. Bobby was
moonlighting for another band one time and Joe was in the
audience (Phil laughs) and went ballistic when he saw him
playing for another band. He stood up and shouted at him from
Phil: Thatís what I like about the shop, actually. You get a
lot of people who were there in the day and the stories that
they tell. In the end you have to pull away because thereís
people in the shop but itís great to hear what they come out
with. It must have been such an exciting time in the sixties.
Denmark Street, The Blue Angel, The Ace Cafť, The 100
Club, The Bag Ďo nails Ė I was just a kid and only three
when the sixties started so I was born ten years too late
I was born in í63 and my first music was synthesisers and
the eighties. I had a band.
Have you got any band photos for us?
I had a lovely b and w from the newspaper.
I want to see the funny hair. (Laughs) What about the
The business has morphed into Vintage and Modern... which is
I thought to survive in this very competitive market place is
to do the modern equivalent of the vintage examples. I love
Gretsch guitars, and the modern Gretsch guitar is probably one
of the best made production guitars in the world right now.
better than back in the day! I do Eastwood guitars
- they cover all
the old Supros, Airlines and MosritesÖall the quirky stuff.
We of course have the USA Fender dealership plus lots of other
independent brands like Reverend guitars which are just
amazing value. We also do Cornell amplifiers... again
I like the independents.
So youíre covering both options?
Yes, because Phiís Vintage is quite high up in Google and I
donít want to lose that so Iíve just linked them together
really. And because we have the shop it doesnít matter
really. And the two are one and the same.
So more of the same, keeping up with fashions and
technology and duck and dive when we have major things
happening in the world?
Yes, and trying to make a living really.
Thanks Phil for letting us know more about Vintage guitars
and your business.
Phil's Vintage Guitars has now
found a home In Thame Oxfordshire. We have a Fender dealership
and have tried to provide a new stock catalogue with a
ďvintageĒ flavour. We also have a Reverend guitar
dealership and have just secured a James Trussart dealership
which we are really excited about! Other suspects from
Eastwood, Airline, Danelectro, Indie, Burny, Guild, Simon and
Patrick, Crafter and many others. We also stock Cornell
amplifiers along with Fender, Hiwatt and Orange
Tel: 01844 261447