Many of us who have collected guitars over the years certainly have an endless array of stories of the great ones captured and “the big ones that got away” for sure, but I think that some of mine really take the cake! One thing is for sure, that the expression “they’re still out there” certainly still holds true, even in today’s Ebay and “Antiques Road Show”-driven world! I have still come across some gems, even recently, at country auctions and even in junk shops, so you just never know what you’ll find. Certainly, a lot is driven by the fact that in tough times such as these, people are willing to part with more things, and at cheaper prices.
Back in the days of my great “Pawn Shop finds”, and other conquests, it was even hard then to get up the money if I saw something for $100 that I knew I had to have. There used to be this wonderful music store that I would pass on the way home from High School on the city bus every day that I would get off the bus for almost every day! There were literally walls and walls of incredible guitars there, and it seemed that I would leave a ten dollar deposit on something new there each day in the hope that my Dad would be able to come through with the rest of the money for me. I recall that the last guitar I left a deposit for was a beautiful Gibson ES-355, in mono, that must have been around a 1959 model. Being a huge B.B. nut at that time, I was so sold on wanting a guitar just like his famous “Lucille!” Of course, I never got that guitar, and I still somehow feel there’s a void in my collection to this day that could only be filled if I can get one of those cool 355s!
The biggest one that got away though has to be the original ’58 Flying V that walked into the store I lived over one day in lower Manhattan. It was already around 1981 or so, and the value and scarcity of guitars such as these had been firmly established. Yet, the folks in this little music store hadn’t a clue about this, and really blew it big time! Apparently, according to what they told me, earlier that day, a police officer walked in with an original, unplayed 1958 Korina Flying V. I said “so did you buy it?” and they said, “oh no, Arlen, the guy wanted $800 for it!” As my anxiety continued to grow, I said “well surely you got his phone number!” And they said no ... At this, I went crazy ... I tried to call every police precinct in the tri-state area to somehow find this “needle in a haystack”, but obviously, to no avail. Later that year, about 8 months later, to be exact, a collector friend happened to say to me, “hey, did you hear about the cop with the 1958 Flying V who is at $9000 and rising?” I then proceeded to tell this sickening story for one of the hundreds of times I’ve had to tell it since! The last time this guitar changed hands, I think it was for around $200,000!
It still makes me physically ill to think of what was let go that day, and how foolish the guys were in that music store. There’s one guy I still know from those days, and I always give him a hard time about this disaster whenever I get a chance! Don’t let this happen to you ... and always keep your eyes peeled and your ear to the ground for those great finds. They are still out there!