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Richard Gere’s guitar collection, that was auctioned at Christie’s (in New York on October 11), raised an important question at the dark and dusty guitar stores across Pakistan: What makes a guitar expensive?

Well different folks might prefer different strokes, but there are generally a few factors that come into consideration:

Brand. Guitar brands such as Gibson, CF Martin and Washburn are considered top of the line. They are known to use the best materials and finishing.

Wood. The grain (lines in the wood), strain (its provenance), knots (circular imperfections), and holes (small cavities that cause sound to resonate) are some of the specifics that buyers fuss over when judging a guitar’s worth. Maple, ebony and rosewood are most common, while Brazilian rosewood and alder are more expensive. Considering that a guitar can be made from a dozen types of wood, the combinations are endless.

Craftsmanship. It’s all in the detail and you can see this upon closer examination. If the wood is smooth all over, this is indicative of high-grit sandpaper used before the paint job; if the neck fits the body perfectly it means care has been taken to size the parts properly; if the perimeter of the guitar (its margins) has intricate detailing, then the craftsman took his time to add character to the guitar.

Rarity. Despite newer styles, a lot of the pros prefer old-style guitars such as the 1964 Gibson SG and the 1931 CF Martin D-28. Both are rare and therefore more expensive guitars.

Celebrity story. The fact that a celebrity used a guitar undoubtedly adds to its value. Take, for instance, Eric Clapton’s Fender Stratocaster that he called Blackie; in 1994, it sold for just under one million dollars. The 1967 Stratocaster that Jimi Hendrix played with his teeth at Woodstock in 1969  is worth two million dollars. The one he torched at Monterey in 1967 went for $240,000 at a recent auction!

— Shayan Shakeel

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on September 18, 2011.