Relic, aged and distressed guitars

Personally, I just don’t get it – you pay for someone at the factory to beat up your guitar, so it looks like you have been playing it since you left kindergarten…a new guitar that is ‘made’ to look worn, old, tatty and played-in.

Stratocaster and Telecaster Relic guitars

Amazingly you can buy your favourite guitar as lightly aged/distressed – featuring a couple of dings/scratches and a bit of paint chipping, or heavy aged/distressed one that makes it look like it was run over by a truck – not much paint on it, discoloured/rusty hardware, cracked lacquer, scratches and dings aplenty.

And yes, you pay a (sometimes very large) premium for this.

Do it yourself

You can even age or relic your own guitar with parts and guidance readily available from companies such as North West Guitars and Charles Guitars – bodies, necks, hardware, electrics, finishes can all be bought ready ‘aged’.

Les Paul Relic guitar body and neck

How this came about I have no idea. Some clever marketeer must have come up with the wheeze to flog a few knackered guitars they had lying around in the workshop; I can’t believe that a musician would ask for it to be made for them. But they do and it is very popular.

It seems it all started with Fender back in 1995 when they showed off a few relic guitars at the NAMM show – the rest, as you know is history. 

Custom Makers

Nowadays, the big boys – Fender, Gibson, Suhr, Charvel and Gretsch for example – do this in their Custom Shops so you can decide, and pay, for the degree of ageing you want.

But there are quite a few custom/boutique makers also, such as Seth Baccus and Atkin, who produce relic guitars, aimed at showing the scars of plenty of gigs and plenty of wear. You can even get a relic bass from Sandberg.

If you can’t afford Custom Shop prices don’t worry, at the lower price points Vintage and EKO have a few relic models, or you could build your own (see above).

It seems that the acoustic market has been spared most of this, although you can get some guitars with an ‘aged’ finish and antique looking tuners.

The Classics

Black Stratocaster relic guitar

We all hanker (apparently) after a 50’s or 60’s original guitar, which by now I guess would look a little played in and worn. But as these are hard to find and very expensive, players opt for the ‘played in’ look of relic guitars, giving the illusion that they have had it for years and it’s got some gig pedigree.

Now, I love guitars but, for me, they have to look clean and pristine even if they are played every day and gigged. Dinging or scratching a guitar causes me angst and gives me nightmares. As you can tell, I am not their target market!

If I brought home a really knackered looking guitar, no doubt costing a few thousand, my other half would not be impressed and question my sanity!

So, are you on the side of ageing or not?

Gibson Murphy Lab Collection
Fender Custom Shop

North West Guitars
Charles Guitars
Golden Era Guitars
Fraser Guitars 

Links to other pages

Signature Guitars
Electric Guitars