Sunday, February 19, 2017

SoCal 2017 Vintage Guitar Shows, NAMM, and Action Figures

AGC's "man on the street" attended the Winter NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA.  The show was astounding, to say the least.  It was filled with 4 floors of new gear and the players and makers of them.  Star-studded players and makers of them that is.  Rudy Sarzo, Vinny Appice, Floyd Rose, Seymour Duncan, Stu Hamm, Stevie Wonder, and even Sinbad are just a few names seen making the rounds. There will be more posts on the NAMM 2017 soon.


For now, let's focus on the Vintage Guitar Show that took place just around the corner and one unique vendor.

One morning while eating breakfast by the hotel in Costa Mesa AGC's MOTS saw a sign for the California World Guitar Show taking place not too far away.  So off he went for another adventure.

It took place in typical Fairgrounds exhibit hall.  There were Car Shows and Gun Shows in the other halls.  Everything seemed pretty unassuming at first until the Fair was entered.


Right off the bat the first vendor to focus on was Joe Bonamassa and his Nerdville collection.  Just a regular guy signing a few autographs and peddling some gear.  50's Strats, 50's Les Pauls, and lots of Tweeds were at hand in fine condition. In all, it was the stunning high-end stuff Nerdville is known for.

The other aisles were filled with Amazing vintage pedals, amps, and guitars from various periods.


A vendor that stood out was Action Figure Studios of Santa Barbara. They had a few oddball guitars in impeccable condition.  Like a German Horugel and a few others that looked to be vintage but were not.  They were part of their own collection and branded with the name DOGU.

DOGU has an impressive vintage look.  Some models fall into the standard Tele, Strat, and LP style. Although, they seem to be modded or molded into unique versions of with the additions of PU configurations and the such.


The unique models like the KNOT FOR EVERYONE, THE STEVES, and THE FRETLESS are the most impressive. Each includes Gold Foil Pickups and Jaguar tremolos mounted on unique Surf Shapes made of quality wood.   Each guitar looks to be a unique piece of art and masterfully built.

Why stop at guitars? Action Figure Studios has amps too.  One that stood out is called IT'S ALL IN THE HANDS.  It looks to be part Hi-Fi, part T-Bird, and part Mid-Century Thrift Shop score.  A true testament/homage to 50's and 60's Surf Culture and Folk Art Assemblage.



amp name:  It’s All in the Hands
serial number:      NA
date completed:  2016 
style: all tube custom (head only)
cabinet material: solid, finger-jointed poplar 
upholstery: custom, recycled fabrics
grille cloth: perforated metal
wattage: 30
Initial preamp:      two 12AX7
     The Preamp section features the great Frenzel                   
     FM-DP1 'hot rod' preamp with two separate input
     channels for US and British tones, and a             
     classic three-band tone stack. Bright pull 
     switches are on the gain controls, and a deep
     switch on the bass, with a single overall 
     Master level control. Powered by two 12AX7
     tubes, custom changes to the Cathode follower
     stage make for clean, smooth and crunchy 
     output tones, and the variable line level out 
     jack gives 'bedroom' to club volume levels. 
Phase inverter:      12AX7
Output tubes:       new Tung-Sol 6V6
     The Custom built Power amp section is modeled 
     after Blackface Fender Deluxe AA763 circuitry, 
     with a vintage RCA 5Y3 rectifier, but using a 
     12AX7 as the phase inverter on a custom made 
Rectifier:              vintage RCA 5Y3

controls:     2 channel (“Marshall” and “Fender” voiced)
                            volume (each channel) treble, middle, bass, 
                            master volume, line out volume
effects:     n/a
speakers:      n/a – head unit only
dimensions:      20" wide x 9 1/4" tall x 9 1/4" deep
weight:      25 lbs
electronics, preamp, design, construction, and testing by Frenzel modifications by Terry Bower
power section design, construction, and testing by Terry Bower


If you are in the SoCal area look up them up.  If you'd like to endorse their products just get in touch (I'll take a guitar please). Who knows if you have what it takes?  Either way, this is a fine company to keep an eye on and they also do custom builds.

 Diffuser City is the scene

Catalog Brands and the Regal Alternative

If you have been collecting vintage guitars for a while, you might know this drill.  You buy some, you sell some.  Some are easier to resell than others.  The "others" almost always have a pain in the backside story that goes along with it.  Particularly, when it comes to a fine Harmony or Silvertone.

 uh huh  One for the Gipper 

Some collectors know the back story behind the Catalog Brands.  They know how they play.  they know the intonation is just a little off on most. They also, know that they just might have to put a few buck into them to get them tweaked to right comfort level.  That is all part of the love of the instruments.  Usually, Garage Rockers, Rock-a-Billy bands and Lo-Fi-ers fall into the demographic.

Collector Database

 Hi how are you?  See his gear here

However, as these guitars become more popular with the Americana/Folk/Indie/Uke bands connoisseurship develops into another arena.  The guitars look cool and are somewhat still inexpensive and mark an easy target for a quick fix of hipness.


For those who know the backstory of the oddball Catalog Brands there usually isn't an issue.  For those who do not know the backstory, there usually is.  For those who learned to play on a PRS or even the popular Millennial Epiphone that is.  The usual complaints are that the guitars are hard to play and tune and that they sound awful.  There is almost always a Luthier involved that gives a quote of $1000 to rebuild the item.  Between you and I, I think the Luthiers quote that just to scare them away.

A few things to tell a potential buyer of a vintage Silvertone or Harmony:
  • If you are a fan of PRS do not apply.
  • If you are looking for a cheap vintage guitar, go to a shop and test one.
  • If you can't tweak the guitar to your specs, do not apply.
  • If you are knit picky do not apply.
  • If you want to send this to your Luthier to set up like a PRS.  They probably won't want to deal with you.  So again, do not apply.
  • If you understand and love the Catalog Brand era guitars and like the oddball intonation and looks.  Please apply. 

Waterloo Guitars a Regal Alternative

For those who may have a knit picky issue with the vintage market have other options.  AGC's man on the street recently stumbled upon Waterloo Guitars out of Austin, TX at NAMM 2017.  They make very high-quality versions and copies of Silvertone, Regal, and Stella acoustic guitars.

 Return to Waterloo

A quick chat with a salesman stated that the above issues with the negative sides of the vintage market are the model of the company.  As well as, the love of the vintage instruments.   The results are quite stunning.

Each model has a very convincing painted finish just like the vintage items.  The weight and build of the guitar are right on as well.  Beyond that, they actually are easy to play and sound good.  However, this does not come without a cost.  It seems each model runs about $2000.  Not an issue if you are used to that kind of price tag on your PRS or Martin.


On the other hand, for those who may be a little put off by the price tag.  A restoration of a vintage instrument is still an option.  As well as, testing an instrument in person at a vintage shop or just knowing your stuff.  All of which come with a price of time, wisdom, and the thrill of the hunt.

 buy it now

 Diffuser City

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