Charvel Value: Dollars and $ense
Having the incredible pleasure and luck to have acquired such a large collection of Charvel guitars, the most frequently asked questions I hear are:
a) what are my favorites?
b) what is the highest $$ I have ever paid for a single Charvel guitar
Both questions remind me of my youth when I asked my friends these exact same questions upon seeing their Fender and Gibson guitar collections. In fact my first question was, why do you need more than one guitar, lol!! Hey, I was a mere kid trying to understand how EVH played "Eruption" and did not have full blown G.A.S (guitar acquistion syndrome) at that age. Belive it or not there was a time when I believed that the number of guitars any player could ever need/want was 3, a good electric, a back up and an acoustic!!! I quickly out grew that philosophy shortly after paying for my brand new Les Paul Standard, guitar number 3 in my collection and realized that my G.A.S was stronger than ever. More Gibsons quickly followed until the mid 90's when I discovered Charvel guitars. Needless to say, my world has never been the same after being bitten by the Charvel bug.
Lets start with my views on $$, price and value within Charvel land. This is a very subjective topic and the only real rules when it comes to value and money are a) supply and demand and b) it is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Having said that I will base this discussion on what I was comfortable paying for some of my Charvels back in the mid 90's compared with today.
Upon arriving on the Charvel scene in the mid-late 90's I was hell bent on grabbing as many Charvels as I could because I loved them so much. At that time, I was strictly looking for Charvels with graphics and as a result passed on some great plain janes (solid colors). If I only had a time machine! Back in the mid 90's, Charvels with pointy head necks (Jackson style headstock) and Kahler tremolos were selling in the $550ish range for solid colors and $650 - 700 for those with graphics. In fact you could routinely find cool pointies on ebay for $550 - 700. It amazed me that such awesome playing and sounding guitars were priced so low. Based on the workmanship, playability and how comfortable these pointy style Charvel necks felt in my hands, I thought that I was getting an excellent bang for my buck and as a result didn't care when bidding on ebay sometimes would go over the "typical" going price of $700. In fact to ensure that I was not going to be outbid, I often threw in a top bid of some $1.6k (at least double the average going rate). For the record, most of the pointy Charvels with Kahler trems that I acquired via ebay (at that time) were priced at $850 - 1k or so, some lower, some higher and I don't think I was ever outbidded. The prices for these Charvels (pointy style neck with a Kahler trem) has not increased that much over the past 5 or 6 years (in my opinion). Typical price in 2004 is $1.1k BUT unlike the mid 90's when I first started there are now many more people interested in these guitars. This increase interest has resulted in more bidders and hence higher bid amounts are required to close the deal. The end result is that the market value quickly gets inflated because of the limited supply and probably more importantly because of the high demand. Occassionally prices will go even higher if the interested parties get caught up in a bidding frenzy. Hell me and another collector recently drove the price of a Charvel Star w/added Floyd to over $2.6k on ebay. Why, because of again supply and demand - 2 people wanted one guitar (it had the cool Versatel stripe graphic). I was outbidded and for the second time lost my chance to acquire this Charvel. Ironically, I had the deal wrapped up (and the guitar paid for) a few years earlier when the seller first offered her up sell. Back then I had wrapped the deal up off line for $1500 shipped. His reserve at that time was a mere $600!!!
Charvel guitars equipped with a vintage trem (V-trem) always drew more attention and hence commanded more $$ from Charvel enthusaists than their Kahler equipped brethren. The average price back in the mid 90's was $850 or so, some $200 or $300 more than the going rate for Kahler equipped Charvels with pointy necks. Because the v-trem equipped pointy neck Charvels are my all time FAVES, I immediately started paying $1200 - 1400 for the super clean ones. I love the look and sound of these brass v-trems and consequently will always pay more. Some people were initially puzzled to why I would offer more than the going $850 average price. Again I didn't want to risk losing out for the sake of $200 - 300 so I would offer what I was comfortable paying. The bottom line was that I felt these Charvels were worth (I was into Gibsons and Fenders before my Charvel addiction) my offer of $1200 and thought (and still do) that these guitars were an excellent bang for the buck compared to other brand names. Besides I am not good with money, lol but I can honestly say I have NEVER regretted over paying for any Charvel. Why - because I love them and I think they are cooler than shit. Today, prices for clean Charvels with v-trem and pointy necks (especially Charvels having factory graphics) have really increased in value. Recently, some of my maximum bids in excess of $2k failed to win the auction. In my opinion, V-trem Charvels were and still are more desirable among enthuasists and when one shows up for sell there is always multiple interested parties. From what I have observed, Charvels with factory equipped Floyd Rose trems draw the largest interest (highest bidding) followed by v-trems and finally Kahler equipped Charvels.
Strat Heads..I will pick up the story to when I finally acquired 100% legit examples. Like everyone, you learn by getting F'd in the ass and the first 3 Strat head Charvels I bought were all fakes, mutts or GMW refins. Be VERY CAREFUL...there are many, many, many fakes, mutts and parts Strat head Charvels floating around out there. Unfortunately, these fakes often take advantage of some unsuspecting Charvel fan. There are many horror stories out there but that is a topic for another day.
I purchased my first 100% legit strat head (blueburst, one hum, v-trem and matching painted headstock (thanks Gary at Very Cool Guitars)) for $1600 and my next one 10 days later for $1350. Average price back then was $1500 and up with most being priced in the $1500 - 1800 range. Fast forward a mere 4 or 5 years and the price for a clean, all original Charvel Strat Head has sky rocketed!!!! Most seem to start at $2.2k and most are hitting $4 and $5K. Yes I have paid over $5k for several of mine. Why because believe it or not that is the price it took for people to sell them. Some were not for sell at any price. In fact, I have offered more than $5k for some Charvels only to be told by the owner that the Charvel in question is not for sell. For many Charvel fans, a 1 hum, Strat Head Charvel with factory graphic is the Holy Grail, the ultimate Charvel guitar.
The prices for clean factory original Charvels with Strat shaped headstock necks (Strat heads) have gotten semi crazy...easily most will hit $3k MINIMUM these days and top prices are over $5k and climbing. This is especially true for examples which also feature factory graphics. While these prices appear HIGH, especially noting the small niche market (the number of us Charvel fanitics is not even a drop in the bucket when compared with the number of Fender, Martin or Gibson collectors/enthusaists), one merely has to surf ebay to see first hand the demand, interest and big $$ Charvel Strat heads command.
From a pure $$ side I believe that Kahler equipped pointies are still the best bang for the buck and the prices have been somewhat stable. V-trem pointies have increased by about 20% and Strat Heads have increased by 500 or more %. In fact most highly collectible Strat Heads are sold without the general public even knowing or hearing about them.
So what are my favorite Charvel guitars and does it reflect their cost?
My "Top 5" Charvel list may surprise people as playability (feel, vibe, comfort) is very important to me and weighs heavily in my ranking process. Here is my current Top 5:
1. White w/red splatter: 1 hum, kahler, pointy
2. Parts Camo Monster: 1 hum, kahler, pointy with my $15 paint job
3. tie between RedRum and my Gibson Head neck Bullseye star
5. purple w/cream splatter factory floyd 2 hum, pointy
In general, I prefer the feel of pointy necks over Strat Head necks but am comfortable playing either style. I do find myself playing pointies more than my Strat heads but I try and play them all. Recently my Gibson head style necks are quickly becoming my faves. Tremolo type does not matter that much to me. Personally, I think Kahlers are cool (and have gotten a bad rap) but if I had to choose only one trem it would be a v-trem. I am lucky enough to have many examples of each style of tremolo within my collection and I play them all. If major whammy abuse is required a Floyd Rose wins hands down but for general playing and light tremolo work, v-trems are the ticket and to my ears sound better. Again I am comfortable playing either trem type and my desire to acquire a particular Charvel is not influenced by what trem type is on the guitar. It will however have an effect on the value I place on said guitar.
Most I paid for a single Charvel guitar:
1. black/yellow EVH Strat Head $5.5k
2. black/white Bulls Eye Strat Head $5k
3. black/gold Bulls Eye Gibson Head Star $3.9k
4. Marilyn Monroe pointy $3.5k
5. Explorer, 3 pku, kahler pointy $3.3k
Honorable mention: a deal that never materialized. I offered $7k for an early serialized 21 fret HRF Strat Head. I was told it was not for sell even for $7k.
From the examples above, you can see that $$ and desirability are not necessarily the same. I immediately fell in love with the Marilyn Monroe Charvel after seeing pictures of her. I spent nearly 3 years offering stupid money (especially back then) before finally closing the deal. Some will say that is stupid/crazy money for a pointy neck Charvel but thats the price it took to get the owner to sell her. No regrets and I still love that Charvel!
Why do Charvel enthusaists get so excited about EVERY Charvel guitar?
What adds to the excitement and lust of Charvel guitars is that Charvel Manufacturing was truly a custom shop. The guitars produced was limited only by a customers imagination which resulted in many, many, many one-off and very UNIQUE Charvel guitars. One would be hard pressed to find two identical Charvels (each one was different) which greatly contrasts guitars by other manufactures such as Gibson and Fender. Couple this uniqueness with the fact that the total number of Charvels produced was a mere ~5000 and that there were detailed factory logs kept for each build; you will start to understand the allure that Charvel guitars offers to players, collectors and enthusaists. To others these guitars represent a time when Heavy Metal was King and many of our heros used Charvel guitars. The biggest draw however, has nothing to do with looks, $$ or uniqueness but rather how AWESOME these guitars play and sound.
Finally my Top 5 list of Charvels I still like to own (G.A.S never ends):
1. HRF Strat Head...I have been searching for few years now
2. EVH Strat Head 21 fretter (love 21 fret necks)
3. Big Mouth graphic pointy or Strat head
4. Flying V, 1 hum V-trem, pointy neck or Gibson V neck
5. Tie between a Strat Head w/3 single coils TITE layout and a Tele head
    Charvel telly
Of course there are many more waiting to be added to the above "Want List", lol...I love them all.
Anyway just my editorial for today..hope you enjoyed it..stay tuned for more topics.
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