Guitars have always been a non-essential luxury item and have always been priced as such. In this article we will take a look at the prices of Fender and Gibson guitars back in the 50s and compare them to today’s prices, adjusting for inflation [all prices listed are in US Dollars…] to finally answer the question, are guitars getting too expensive?
For the sake of continuity, I’ll try to stick with guitar models that have remained somewhat consistent through the years, obviously there were some years where alterations occurred in Fender’s CBS years and Gibson’s Norlin Era, for example.
These are the prices that you would have paid in 1951 for a Fender solid-body guitar:
- Broadcaster – $169.95 (Plus $39.95 for a case)
- Telecaster – $189.50 (Plus $39.95 for a case)
Here are the prices for the 1954 Gibson lineup:
- Les Paul Custom (pickups: P-90 bridge, Alnico V “staple” neck, Tune-o-matic bridge and stop tailpiece) – $325
- Les Paul Model (goldtop, P-90s, wraparound bridge/tailpiece) – $225
- Les Paul Special (2 P-90s, wraparound bridge/tailpiece, translucent “limed” yellow finish)
- Les Paul Junior (single cutaway, 1 P-90 mounted close to the wraparound bridge/tailpiece) – $99.50
Gibson bumped up the price a bit each year throughout the Norlin Era, beginning in 1970 all the way up through 1983.
- Les Paul Custom in 1970 – $595 + $80 for a case
- Les Paul Custom in 1980 – $949 while the most expensive guitar in the catalog in 1980 was the Flying V II [$1299 case included] and the L-5 S [$1249 + 119.50 for a case].
By contrast, today, a 2023 Gibson Les Paul Custom costs $4999 [case included].
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