When you collect vintage guitars and see an instrument that catches your eye, it can be easy to be so focused on the idea of adding it to your collection that you don't thoroughly assess it. Shopping for vintage instruments is fun, but you always want to investigate the condition of a guitar before you take it home. One of the biggest threats to an instrument is a broken headstock, and when an instrument is several decades old — and especially if it's been played a lot — there's a real risk that it's experienced this break. Here are some signs to watch for.
A luthier can repair a guitar's broken headstock, and while the instrument will play just fine, the guitar won't have as much value as an instrument that never suffered this break. When you're handling a vintage guitar that you're thinking about buying, look carefully at its headstock. If it's been broken and repaired, you'll almost certainly see a line at the base of the headstock. If no line is visible, run your hands gently up and down the wood in this area to see if you can feel a small imperfection that suggests a past break.
While many guitar owners will have their broken headstocks repaired, some will choose to have this part replaced instead. This is another thing that you'll need to watch for when you're shopping for a vintage instrument. Look at the neck of the guitar versus its body to assess whether they seem to match. As a guitar collector, you likely have an in-depth knowledge of how these instruments look. For example, if the neck and headstock are darker than the wood on the rest of the body, it could suggest that the headstock isn't original.
It's possible to come across a scenario in which the neck of the guitar seems too good to be true. For example, if it's a 60-year-old instrument but its condition makes it appear as though it's only a year or two old, this should raise some red flags. While it certainly may be true that the instrument was properly cared for, not used for gigging, and owned by a single player, resulting in a very new appearance, these situations are rare for older instruments. This is especially unusual if the body of the guitar shows some age-appropriate wear, but the neck appears to be significantly newer.
If none of these issues are present when you shop, you can be confident in the integrity of the headstock. Contact a company like Cowboy Surfer to learn more about vintage guitar collections.