Help me navigate the world of autographed guitars
December 9, 2020 4:52 PM   Subscribe

I am researching the options available for celebrity autographed guitars. I am gathering that CharityBuzz is legit, as I've seen artists recently promoting their signed instruments for charity on this site. What about Prestige Gifts out of Las Vegas? Seems like a pure for-profit enterprise - with some questionable authenticity...

For example, did Donovan really sign a cheap Strat knock-off? Did Carole King sign this pink guitar?

I'm assuming Prestige Gifts gets these via legit charity auctions and then marks them up for re-sale?

Are there other sites I should consider? Just looking and learning at this point.
posted by Ike_Arumba to Media & Arts (6 answers total)
Best answer: I know that there are people who will find out where celebrities are and approach them to get them to sign various things, including guitars. I see them pop up on my local craigslist occasionally, and they're invariably crappy guitars, and always labeled as "Fender Style" or "Strat style" or whatever. The story usually involves the seller seeing the band at a free summertime concert and approaching them for an autograph. So yeah, Donovan and Carole King probably did sign those crappy guitars.

Those ones a Prestige Gifts seems very questionable. They have a guitar "signed" by Billie Holiday. It seems very unlikely that someone would have approached Billie Holiday before she died in 1959, with a guitar, of all things, from a brand that didn't exist until 1960.

The audience for these certainly isn't musicians (because not only are the guitars generally super low end, it would also be really cheesy to be on stage with a guitar signed by a musician you like), and I also don't think the audience is educated fans (because the instruments are rarely even close to what the artist actually plays (I've never seen Tom Morello play a telecaster (let alone a Squier Telecaster)), because I assume they want some level of authenticity (like a guitar that was actually used by the artist or at least the exact same model).

So, I think the market for these is a very specific type of fan who likes the sizzle more than the steak. That doesn't, mean you can't make money from it you can figure out who these people are.
posted by jonathanhughes at 7:02 PM on December 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Seconding jonathanhughes that people (& charities) will often use fairly crappy guitars just as a way to collect autographs, so if you're hoping to get an amazing guitar actually played by a celebrity musician, this isn't the way to go.

AFAIK when it comes to signed anything the history and provenance and certificates & proof of authenticity are key, although these can all be faked, so some ability to independently verify them is useful.

That Prestige Gifts site looks sketchy to me - too much enthusiastic hard sell and overblown assurances that they're the real deal. And the authentication service they use does not seem to be one that most collectible brokers seem to use. And I get that preferred site names aren't always available or that a business might shift focus, but "gr8t"? That sounds like a place that sells cheap trinkets and costume jewelry, not $10k autographed guitars. So I dunno.

You could take a poke around, which is basically ebay for musicians. They don't have a ton of autographed stuff, but they've got good return/refund/conflict policies, you're usually dealing with individuals you can actually get in touch with or established stores & sellers, and there's even a chance you could buy an instrument direct from an actual celebrity musician or their estate - quite a few have used Reverb to dump excess gear and/or raise money for charity.

I've never seen Tom Morello play a telecaster

Umm. . . Up close with the 'Arm The Homeless' guitar and 'Sendero Luminoso' Tele that have been on every classic Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave riff
posted by soundguy99 at 7:48 PM on December 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

Well, well, well. Shows you how much I know about RATM!
posted by jonathanhughes at 7:52 PM on December 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have a friend that collects high end guitars. Many are guitars played by famous musicians during tours or during the making of an album. We are talking about 6 figures guitars. Authentication is the key. He has a Jerry Garcia guitar. He actually flew Jerry's guitar tech, (Parrish) to come confirm the guitar was authentic. He will buy from reputable auction houses like Sotheby's and does a lot of private transactions. There are certain musicians that signed a lot of guitars especially ones they did not play. It is like a pro athlete signing an unworn jersey.

I do not know either of the sights mentioned, but they could be legit. Why are you looking? Are you planning on bidding on one or buying one? If so, what is your reason for doing that? Investment? Just a cool thing to hang on your basement wall? Part of a restaurant's motif? If it is for investment purposes, I would do a lot of research on the artist, the type of insturment they played, see if there are a lot of signed guitars on the market. Some sign for charity events. Some sign for the money. Hey, Bob Dylan just sold his frigging catalogue. No reason a celebrity could not have sold their own autographs. Find out if they are high volume autographers.

Fwiw, I was gifted about 15 years ago a signed Eddie Van Halen guitar. He signed his own model. I doubt he ever played it. It is a nice guitar and sounds good on it own. The gifter purchased it at a charity auction. I have confirmed the signature is legit. He signed a few. Not sure how many, but a week after his death I saw a listing on the internet for pretty much the same guitar and signature location as the one I have. It was going for $5,500. The guitar without his signature is probably worth 70% of that. My point is if you are looking to buy it to both get a cool guitar and donate to charity, figure out how much you can afford to donate to the charity and bid that for the guitar. If you are looking to buy it for its appreciation value, that is a lot of risk to take.
posted by AugustWest at 8:32 PM on December 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Prestige Gifts seems questionable to me. I noticed they had a wooden-necked Kramer electric dating from at least late 1981 signed by John Lennon, who died in 1980, and a Squier Telecaster (a brand launched in 1982) signed by Bob Marley, who died in 1981.
posted by zombiedance at 8:52 PM on December 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks all. @AugustWest - I am interested solely because I have a spot on the wall in my basement where a signed guitar would look cool and would be a conversation piece. I think in the end if I knew my $$ we’re going to charity I’d feel best about it so I’ll probably continue to browse CharityBuzz since I am reasonably sure the money would go to a good cause.
posted by Ike_Arumba at 3:24 AM on December 10, 2020

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