Tax time is just over the horizon, and for some, that means copping a fat tax return to splurge on a new vintage guitar. Whether you've got your heart set on a pristine '60s Fender or you're chasing a weird old Japanese model from their manufacturing heyday, there's plenty of awesome stores around Australia to check out. Here's ten of our favourite destinations to buy vintage and rare gear around the country.
Guitar Emporium - Melbourne, VIC
If you’re on the hunt for an authentic vintage model in Melbourne and have got plenty of cash handy, the Guitar Emporium should be able to sort you out with something special. For the better part of 30 years, Guitar Emporium has been the number one destination for vintage purists and avid collectors, with the Port Melbourne shop’s walls being decked out with some absolutely stunning models over the years. From custom coloured Fender Jazzmasters and Jaguars to mint-grade ‘50s Gretsch and Gibsons and even a handful of quirky Japanese oddities, Guitar Emporium has got all bases covered.
Premier Guitars - Sydney, NSW
Founded by former session guru John Spence of The Fargone Beauties, Premier Guitars (not to be confused with the magazine Premier Guitar) is certainly one of Sydney’s finest vintage establishments. Spence has bought and sold a huge array of vintage instruments to some of Australia’s biggest names, and even though he’s only available by appointment, you can see what’s on offer from his constantly updated website. Many of the models listed currently look like killer players grade vintage instruments, so if it’s always been your dream to rock an original ‘60s P-Bass at a funk/soul gig, be sure to check out Premier Guitars.
Vintage Electric Guitars - Perth, WA
Okay, so an online vintage guitar shop might not be as tantalising as walking into a shopfront full of beaten-up old guitars, but hear me out: Vintage Electric Guitars has one of the most impressive inventories of any Australian store of its kind. Visit their website, and you’ll find more L-Series Fenders than you can poke a stick at, plus a number of early ‘40s Gibson acoustics, an authentic 1951 Telecaster, custom ‘70s Les Pauls and an ever-rotating ensemble of modern day custom shop models. Of course, the great majority of the guitars sold here are matched with price tags that few of us can justify shelling out on, but I know where I’d be if I ever lucked out on the lotto.
Twang Central - Adelaide, SA
For all the South Australian shredders, Twang Central is a hot pick for sourcing both players and collectors grade guitars. Based out of a two storey 19th century saddlery in the Adelaide CBD, the store is a long-running passion project of Terry O’Riley and Ian Stehlik, who co-produced a number of shows dedicated to vintage guitars in the ‘90s, and features everything from beginner models all the way up to $55,000 Fender Stratocasters. They’ve got an excellent range of vintage acoustic guitars in stock, so if gentle strumming and fingerpicking is more your forte, consider their store a necessity.
Tym Guitars - Brisbane, QLD
We covered them briefly last week when chatting about overdrive pedals, but Tym Guitars certainly deserve another shout for their wonderful vintage inventory. This Fortitude Valley based endeavour is chock full of some of the coolest Japanese guitars you’re ever likely to see, ranging from Yamaha, Fernandes and Greco ‘lawsuit era’ copies to some of the more whacky models from Guyatone, Teisco and Mosrite. If you’re new to the world of vintage guitars, you’ll probably be starting off with one of these old brands, and there’s few stores in the country with more authority on older Japanese guitars than the team at Tym.
Topshelf Instruments - Hobart, TAS
I can’t imagine Tasmania’s got much in the way of dedicated vintage stores, but Topshelf Instruments is definitely worth checking out. Based on Collins Street in Hobart, Topshelf tends to feature a range of high-end custom shop models from recent times, as well as a handful of quirky older brands, local builds and high-end Japanese Squier and Fender models. Even if you’re not too keen to trek across the ditch to get there, they’ve got a pretty solid website for you to peruse, and their social media game is always crisp as hell.
Sunburst Music - Sydney, NSW
Based in the seaside Sydney suburb of Coogee, Sunburst Music has long been considered a go-to for international heavyweight guitarists, with the store’s website touting famous fans such as Keith Richards, Lenny Kravtiz, Mark Knopfler, Angus Young, Rory Gallagher and Gary Clark Jr. to name a few. Most of the models on offer here are aimed towards those with a significant amount of coin, but if you’ve got the cheese to spend on an illustrious ‘50s Gibson hollowbody or a genuine ’62 Telecaster, you’ll find yourself in safe hands with Sunburst Music.
String Switch Noise - Brisbane, QLD
String Switch Noise made a name for themselves by getting onto Facebook Marketplace ahead of the curve, and have since amassed a legion of loyal social media followers who cling to their newsfeeds for each update from the store’s owner, Brent May. It’s a model that obviously paid off, with May also operating a physical store where buyers can come in and play on whatever model may be in stock at the time. String Switch Noise tend to stock a wide range of high-quality Japanese builds from the ‘70s and ‘80s including Aria, Fender Japan, Greco and Tokai, and often stock some cool US Fender offset models from the late ‘70s at a pretty reasonable price. One to keep your eyes for next time you’re scrolling your newsfeed.
Found Sound - Melbourne, VIC
Possibly Australia’s most famous music boutique right now, Found Sound is literally the guitar store of your wildest dreams. Hidden down a Carlton laneway (very Melbourne) with a mural painted by Benny Montero on their exterior wall (even more Melbourne), Found Sound is home to some of the coolest vintage guitars, basses, synthesisers, pedals and amplifiers in the country, and also stock a wide range of sweet modular gear, accessories and new items. They might not specialise in one field, but it’s apparent from the get-go that Found Sound is all about appealing to those working in multiple disciplines looking for well-priced vintage gear with a vibe unlike any other. Plus, if there’s nothing that catches your eye there (although we highly doubt it), you can walk right around the corner to check out...
Music Swop Shop - Melbourne, VIC
Ahh, good old Swoppy. A longstanding institution of Melbourne’s music gear scene, Music Swop Shop is a huge store that specialises in used and vintage instruments - many of which have surely seen Swoppy’s walls more than once in their lifetime. Operating on consignment, Music Swop Shop will stock almost anything, and their shopfront is spilling over with weird gear, be it crusty outboard units, old amplifiers, beaten up pedals and vintage Japanese guitars of all kinds. Their website is updated daily with all their latest wares to make sure you’re on top of everything, and you’d be hard-pressed to walk in and not fall in love with something to take home - and even if it doesn’t work out, you can always take it back and sell it straight back to them. The circle of life continues!
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