Guitar Adventures

California Guitar

Santa Barbara, Circa 1981-1982

Vintage Guitar Heaven

On this visit to the USA in the early 1980s, I was determined to visit one of the most famous vintage guitar stores of the time, California Guitar in Santa Barbara, California.

California Guitar was owned by Frank Lucido, and this Santa Barbara based store was on my wish list for some time. I could not believe it as I finally entered this vintage guitar heaven.

All of the ‘good stuff’ was up on a mezzanine level above the main store. All of the vintage guitars were on stands on the floor, about 5-6 guitars deep.

The hang tags on the guitars that are visible, will make you cry, as I did at the time as I went there with no money in hand to purchase anything. It was both a joyous day, and a sad one.

At this stage in my guitar collecting I had never seen so many amazing guitars in one place, and a lot of what was on offer were pristine examples of early Fender guitars. 

Vintage Pricing

So above you see a 1954 Fender Stratocaster in pretty good condition, it is a player yes, but it is only US$2,000. A ridiculous bargain by today’s standards.

To the right, is a 1951 Fender Telecaster for US$2,299. Again this guitar has been played, but is in otherwise superb condition.

In the background, on the far right side, is a 1961 Fender Telecaster with a rosewood fingerboard, and blonde finish, it is only US$1,099! It has a beautiful tiger striped neck and headstock too.

Below is a 1965 Fender Stratocaster in sunburst finish (behind the main one at the front left) which is very minty condition, for US$1,500.

Looking at the hang tags on some of these guitars you would think anyone who left this store and did not buy anything would have to be mad. But remember, this was the early 1980s and US$2,000 was still a lot of money.

Want a mint 1957 Stratocaster?

The 1957 Fender Stratocaster in the image below, on the far right side of the left image, is in absolute MINT condition, and had a price tag of only US$2,500! The beautiful bound body Esquire next to it, a mere US$1,500. To the far left of those two magnificent guitars, is a lightly used, all original 1955 Fender Stratocaster for only US$2,200.

I left California Guitar somewhat depressed as my lack of funds at the time did not allow me to purchase anything. It was a golden opportunity to grab some magnificent guitars that would today, be worth a small fortune. But hey, hindsight is a wonderful thing…