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Vintage guitar collectors group connects owners with buyers

Greg Preston, talked with Ramona Rush, about some of her guitars, including a 1960 Martin,  as guitar owners looking to get the value of their old instruments or sell them as the International Vintage Guitar Collectors Association visited the Doubletree Guest Suites on Thursday January  7, 2011 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Greg Preston, talked with Ramona Rush, about some of her guitars, including a 1960 Martin, as guitar owners looking to get the value of their old instruments or sell them as the International Vintage Guitar Collectors Association visited the Doubletree Guest Suites on Thursday January 7, 2011 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff

The International Vintage Guitar Collectors Association suspected that one of the major hubs of bluegrass music would produce lots of acoustic instruments, but in its first three days, the association has seen more electrics.

Representatives of the group are in Lexington through Saturday to evaluate instruments that residents bring in.

"We date 'em and grade 'em and put them into a database that has 10,000 collectors on it," sales manager Richard Clark said.

The process takes just minutes, he said, as collectors immediately respond with bids.

"We always want to see everyone leave with a check," he said.

The quest for checks brought people who eagerly cleaned out closets.

Ramona Rush of Lexington was heading to her car to find two more instruments as staffers evaluated the first one she brought — a 1960 Martin guitar.

She had bought it from one of her students at the University of Florida about 40 years ago.

"If I knew where the student was, I would give it back to him," she said. "He sold it to me because he needed money."

Mark Atkins of Lexington saw the group's trip to town as an opportunity to unload an Italian 12-string Vox that he quit playing around 1972.

Noting he earned a profit on the deal, he said: "I told him in there I traded a guitar for a wife, but it was worth it."

The buyers for the instruments come from everywhere.

"We have a guy in Scotland who's on from the time we open in the Great Britain time zone to the time we close in the California time zone," Clark said. "He buys a lot of our stuff. He doesn't know how to play anything; he just buys it as an investor."

The association is a subsidiary of a company that has other organizations just like it for everything from pocket watches to toys. The company's instrument teams do about 200 shows annually, Clark said. Collectors pay a finder's fee to the group as part of the purchase.

One of the rarest finds in the group's first three days at the DoubleTree Guest Suites on Richmond Road was a Selmer Mark VI saxophone brought in by a couple looking to get rid of it.

"When we told them the price ($4,500), their eyes got almost as round as silver dollars," Clark said.

The biggest price so far, though, went for a 1957 Fender Stratocaster that a collector bought for $17,000.

People have brought in speakers and mixers, autoharps and even some kazoos.

"We see everything," Clark said.

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