Boomers Are Driving Vintage Guitar Sales in Japan, Report Says

Prices are soaring up to 50% from one month to the next.

The prices for some vintage guitars have doubled in Japan since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, with increases that were previously seen over 5 or 10 years now reported in short time spans, as instruments can cost 50% more from one month to the next.

Nikkei Asia reported that even with the worst of the pandemic behind us, the pace for getting vintage instruments isn’t slowing down, with many people seeing the models as potential investments.

Defining a vintage guitar as an axe from 1969 or earlier, the brands with the most sought-out instruments are Gibson and Martin, with collectors searching for rare woods used as raw material in the design.

A 1950 Gibson J-45 akin to the models played by Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan has an estimated value of 1.4 million yen, or $9800, which means a 40% increase since 2021, and almost 100% since 2019.

On another hand, a 1960 Martin D-28, favored by Johnny Cash, is now worth 1.6 million yen, marking a 20% increase from 2021 and 30% from 2019.

Government data reported that around 190,000 guitars, both acoustic and electric, were sold in Japan last year, marking a 15% increase from the previous year.

And while the vast majority still choose beginner models, there’s a growing interest in the vintage market, especially among 40-year-olds and older.

Naoko Kuga from the NLI Research Institute goes one step further to say that most collectors are previous guitar owners who are approaching or are even past retirement age:

“When people approach their retirement years, they tend to seek fulfillment beyond work, and with the increase of disposable time during COVID, demand for vintage guitars has grown as an indoor pastime.”

And while the effect has been most notable in the Japanese market, it’s not exclusive to the country, as similar spikes have been seen in the US, with the sudden increase in price being attributed to the fact that these models can’t be manufactured anymore.

In Japan, it’s also reported that fewer people are selling their old guitars, instead keeping them as potential assets that might age into an investment.

That being said, the Japanese collectors might be switching passions soon, as the decrease in the value of the yen and the increase in costs for international airfreight transport might put a chokehold on the market.

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