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So How Much Were Selmers Originally Worth?

ElliotElliot Madison, WisconsinNew
edited February 2006 in History Posts: 551
I'm curious - How much did a Selmer cost when they first came out? And what was the value of the franc at this time?


  • Teddy DupontTeddy Dupont Deity
    Posts: 1,186
    Elliot wrote:
    I'm curious - How much did a Selmer cost when they first came out? And what was the value of the franc at this time?
    They cost arround £15-20 in the UK in the thirties. They certainly did not have much intrinsic value to Django as he was forever losing, breaking or giving them away. However, he did have the advantage of being able to pop round to the Selmer factory and picking the one he liked best after trying them all.
  • nwilkinsnwilkins New
    Posts: 431
    that much money in 1935 would be just about 900 UK pounds today. If you're wondering why they're slightly more than that and you'll never be able to buy one, just thank a certain US dealer for almost singlehandedly raising the prices to astronomical porportions :)
  • its not the dealer that causes the prices to go up... its obviously the buyers who are willing to pay that much. if his prices were too high then he wouldn't sell the guitars.
    Jon Austen, Portland, OR
    playing since 1997
  • ElliotElliot Madison, WisconsinNew
    Posts: 551
    Very nice...that wouldn't be Jacques, would it?

    I could just imagine the ad - "Still has spit stain and slight dent from when Django exclaimed 'Que merde' and threw it on the floor."

    A steal at $12,500
  • Posts: 101
    ...and keep in mind that there aren't but a fraction of the Selmer guitars left.

    while Jacque's prices are a little high, you have to balance that with the fact he's going overseas and hunting these down, dealing with customs, etc.

    you can't simply go (even on eBay) and buy a vintage Selmer - for any price - most of the time.

    if there's anyone to blame, it's the people why buy up killer playable guitars and then don't play them!

    I heard some crazy story about the Busch beer heir cornering the market on a particular kind of vintage Gibson archtop, and the guy doesn't play, that stuff annoys the hell out of me.
  • yeah, here in Oregon I attended a swing dance recently at a coffe shop in the suburbs and there was an old guy (around 90 years old) playing an actual Stradivarius violin...

    i was happy to see that thing still being played... and it was loud! I wonder how much that would be worth?
    Jon Austen, Portland, OR
    playing since 1997
  • nwilkinsnwilkins New
    Posts: 431
    hey I know putting prices up makes good business sense if people are willing to pay that, and everyone has to make a living. I'm not saying it's evil, but still the rise in price of Selmers (and soon/now Busatos) can be attributed to one dealer specializing in these guitars who effectively sets the market price. And the trickle down effects are huge - suddenly people see the guitars they are selling for $5000 going for $15000 elsewhere and they up their asking prices, which in turn drives up the market and reinforces the "value". Of course any dealer's ability to do this is limited by demand, but unfortunately there are lots of people out there willing to pay any price for a rare guitar and, as others have pointed out, most of those kind of people don't play them!!!!! It is the great irony that (outside of those who become famous) generally better musicians lack the resources (because they make crappy musician livings) to buy the world's better guitars :(
  • ElliotElliot Madison, WisconsinNew
    Posts: 551
    There are many violins created over the last hundred years with labels that say Stradivarius by the way...

    By extension, the higher prices for the good guitars then create "price points" for inferior products to take up the space. The same thing happened to the Stratocaster. Even simple things like tubes of paint start becoming rife with stearate fillers, artist's brushes that are totally nonfunctional because they have no shape or flagged ends.
  • trumbologytrumbology San FranciscoNew
    Posts: 124
    Elliot wrote:
    There are many violins created over the last hundred years with labels that say Stradivarius by the way...

    I think more violins than not manufactured between 1850 and 1950 had labels where the word Stradivarius was the most prominent word on the label--at least that what I remember from my few months working in a stringed-instrument shop.

    If there is a silver lining to market prices on Selmers, it's that luthiers have cropped up to meet that demand--and create the next batch of guitars that will someday be deemed vintage prizes and go for astronomical sums. And the circle will continue...

    Rich folk who buy only for bragging rights or investment value--yes, it's a little sad that the instruments are retired and become objet d'arts. But hey--guitar enthusiasts in 500 years will have some examples of the originals to look at because they aren't being beat up on gigs right now.

    Maybe technology will come to our rescue and allow us to artifically age wood in a way that mimics what's happened to vintage instruments. They won't have the 'mojo' of a vintage instrument, yada yada, so the player will just have to create that mojo by making great music.

  • scotscot Virtuoso
    Posts: 552
    Things of strong intrinsic and cultural value always go up in price and there is nothing to be done about it. Old cars, old motorcycles, old stereo equipment, even old LPs are often worth hundreds of times their original cost. I agree with Neil H - it's just as well that many of these old guitars are in the hands of "collectors". They are protected for the future that way. Most collectors are good guys and are happy to loan their priceless guitars to artists to record or perform with. I think the "dog in the manger" attitude is pretty rare.

    I personally know many blue-collar men who have modest collections of 3-5 quality "collector" guitars because they've been playing for a long time and as they were able they bought and sold guitars until they had the guitars they wanted. That's how most guitarists get that dream guitar - it takes time.

    Selmer guitars are still a good value, and in real terms, they are quite affordable to any responsible middle-income working man who wants one bad enough. I am a basically a factory worker and far from wealthy - yet I easily could borrow enough to buy one. It does not cost any more than a nice motorcycle and far less than a boat or an RV, and is a much better investment. I just don't want one bad enough to do it.

    More than once in the past I borrowed money or worked many shifts of overtime to buy a guitar. To expect that you could have something like a Selmer or any other iconic guitar like this with out having to put forth some real effort or take some kind of risk if you aren't wealthy - I don't want to hear it. And most top-notch players in this style DO have Selmers, if they want them.

    Of all the guitars to be priced out of reasonable range, the Selmer is the most obvious for it. After all, it is the primary icon for a growing cult of fanatics, who find mojo in even a facsimile of the Selmer.

    What I find most interesting about the "icon" guitars is how most of them - the pre-war D-28, the '58 Les Paul, the Selmer, the early Tele or Strat - are all factory made guitars, not made by the solitary luthier, but by factory workers who needed jobs. From this it follows that a factory is the best place to build a guitar...

    The attachment is from the magazine Djangology, the winter 1986 issue. Read'em and weep!

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