Guitars That Got Away

1963 Fender Stratocaster

A 100% Original L Series Stratocaster

A Rare find in this day and age

Back in 2004 I heard about this ‘Salmon Pink’ Stratocaster that was available at Trumps Music store in North Sydney that was for sale for around AUD$15,000, which seemed awfully cheap at a time when custom colour Strats were selling for around the AUD$30,000 mark. So I went to take a look at it and when I opened the case, I was hit with that classic ‘old guitar’ smell.

If you have collected old Fender guitars for any length of time, it is a smell you get to know well, and even seek it out as part of your evaluation process to determine if the guitar is real or fake as you simply cannot fake that smell. This guitar had that smell in spades! Everything about this guitar screamed original, not a single part had ever been changed, and as far as I could tell, it had never even been pulled apart.

So, I was really keen to buy it and simply flip it for more cash as I was in need of the cash at the time. But why wasn’t anyone else jumping at this guitar when it was so cheap? That to this day remains a mystery, but I was being cheeky and offered AUD$13,500 for the guitar, which was accepted by the owner of the guitar much to my surprise, so I arranged for pick up the next day, after collecting a bank cheque on the way.

As I walked into the store, and proceeded to take one last look at the guitar, to be sure of what in my heart I knew was a genuine 1963 Strat, out of the corner of my eye I saw one of Sydney’s big guitar buyers standing behind me just hoping I walked away. Much to his distress, I didn’t. I handed over the cheque and left with one of the great buys of my life.

Serial Number: L05776

Neck Date: 2 MAR 63B

Body Date: Unknown

It is pretty obvious that this was not a mint collectors piece, this was a players guitar and as we all know, players guitars are players guitars because they are the best. The neck has some nice wear on the back making for a smooth neck feel. Belt buckle marks were very prominent on the body, which sadly was missing the spring cover. Still, with all of that, this was a AUD$30,000 guitar!

When I got the guitar home, I did what anybody else would have done, and that was to pull it apart to confirm everything I thought about this guitar. I was right, no one had ever pulled this thing apart before me, which was extraordinary. The guitar was proven to be 100% original and the accumulated dust around the bridge, along with the difficulty of getting the neck off, and how ‘stuck’ to the body the neck plate was, all confirmed that.

Having confirmed the authenticity of the guitar I took it straight to a big vintage guitar store in Sydney (who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty) to consign it and make a killing…or so I thought. They confirmed it was a AUD$30,000 guitar and had it on their website for that amount. Weeks went by, and it was removed from the website as it was sold. Then came the months of waiting to get paid (that should tell you where it was consigned!).

After three months I was searching the web for other guitars to buy, and came across this very guitar, for sale in the USA, and I still had not been paid for it! The store owner eventually confessed that he had used my consigned guitar as payment for a shipment of guitars from the USA and was waiting to sell a few of those guitars to make payment to me. Now this is totally illegal of course, but as we had been ‘friends’ for many years, he gave me a Victoria Amplifier as compensation and to apologise. After another month or two I did get my $30k, but it certainly soured our friendship and highlighted what was to come for this store.

Along with the 1956 Stratocaster I had ‘discovered’ in the back of a garage in Ashfield many years prior, this was the most original guitar I had ever owned. It was a truly great guitar as clearly many players had known before my ownership, and sad I did not keep it to be honest, but I was not in that frame of mind at the time, and I am sure it is sitting in someone’s collection in the USA right now and not being played at all. Oh well…

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