A Certified Guitar Appraisal is not just a one page document with a value on it. It is a report written only after thoroughly inspecting the guitar and gathering information about the guitar builder, the guitar, and the market in which it is normally sold. Additionally, the appraisal is based on actual comparable sales similar to a Real Estate Appraisal. The appraiser should have information on three to four other sales from three to four sources in order to set an accurate value. One blue colored book is not enough to accurately appraise the value of your guitar, nor is an online Web site with one click estimates a value after you input a serial number. A Certified Guitar Appraisal has many sections of information.

Why should you seek an appraisal from a Certified Appraiser? The IRS made a new ruling that for Donations, Estate Settlement, and Marriage Dissolution you must have a Certified Appraisal. Now many insurance companies are following the same requirements. The IRS can fine an appraiser for over or under valuing a guitar. There is accountability. Certified Appraisers cannot give “ball park figures”, we have to be accurate.

Many people just want to know what their guitar is worth to be able to sell it. If you have a vintage or very unusual guitar or a guitar that has a celebrity history and want to sell it or insure it, then it is advised that you have the guitar authenticated and appraised by a Certified Appraiser.

This article will explore what is typically included within a Certified Guitar Appraisal.

Type of Value

We need to decide what is the point of the appraisal, and then decide what type of value we must use. For most, the two main values is either Fair Market Value or Replacement Value Comparable. Fair Market Value is used when someone wants to sell or donate their guitar. Replacement Value Comparable is the value used when you want to have your guitar insured or file an insurance claim. Replacement Value Comparable usually produces the higher estimate.

Literal Description – Identification and Classification

In guitar appraisal, the next thing to do is to identify the guitar. This may seem simple but we need to decide what type of guitar it is. In the USA, there are many types of guitars: Classical Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Solidbody Electric guitar, Archtop guitar, Lap steel guitar, Resonator guitar, and 12-string Electric guitar. This also applies to bass guitars

Size of Body

The size of the guitar body would be the next feature that has to be listed such as Dreadnaught, Parlor, thinline, Grand, and Concert.

Manufacturer Brand and Country of Origin

There are hundreds of manufactures. The top three in the world are Fender, Gibson, and Martin. There are many other top guitar builders such as Rickenbacker, BC Rich, Gretsch, and Guild. The manufacture could have a lower line manufactured in another country. This needs to be stated. As a Certified Appraiser, I would have to write about who the manufacture is and what their ranking is within the music products industry. I am required to do the same with the specific model of the guitar.


Next would come the model name or model number. Some manufactures have both a number and a name. Clients will tell me they have a Fender Stratocaster Electric guitar. Stratocaster is the model; however there are over 175 variation models of the Stratocaster model. With each year, small improvements or changes were made. This is also true with Telecasterelectric guitars and Gibson Les Paul electric guitar models. Color can also add or take away from the value.


Features of guitars can be shaping of the body, materials used, how many pickups they have, where are the placement of the knobs, the width of the fingerboard or the shaping of the fingerboard, the types of frets, the type of tuners, and bridge.

The Year it was Manufactured

In regards to year of manufacturer, many will say, “just go by the serial number”. Many guitar builders started without any serial numbers. Some serial numbers are sequential while others are a code. Some of the codes tell me year, month, day, and production number.

A manufacture might make a special run of guitars. They may give those a separate serial number system. The serial number might reflect which plant it was manufactured. Serial numbers can be duplicated many times within the same company. I have a Gibson 335 electric guitar with a serial number that is listed in four different years. Besides the serial number, you have to look at the features of the guitar. Consider this: on December 31 of every year, the manufacture does not throw out all parts and start with new parts on January 1.

Known Modifications and Identifying Marks

In appraising a vintage guitar it is important to list known modifications as it can greatly affect value. We also list identifying marks in case someone scratched off the serial number.


The report should have photos taken by the appraiser to show its condition on the effective date of the appraisal. The client’s photos are not used because the photo could have been taken 10 years prior. An old photo might not show a bowed neck.

Other Elements

Other elements of a Certified Guitar Appraisal will include a bibliography of where this information was gathered; a condition graph explaining what that appraiser means by “Good Condition”. The report might also have a glossary of terms so a judge, an attorney, or insurance adjuster, who is not familiar with the details of a guitar, can understand the report. The client’s information must be kept confidential. The appraisal reports should state where the appraiser gathered the information and include the appraiser’s credentials showing their experience with guitars and formal education in appraisal studies.

You now know the basics of what kind of information is included in a Certified Guitar Appraisal Report. If you were smart enough to have purchased a good quality guitar, then be smart enough to protect it by having it insured and having a Certified Appraisal performed to establish an accurate value.

If you have inherited a guitar or plan to leave your guitar collection to a family member or friend, then you should know what the value of each guitar is worth. Certified Guitar Appraisals can be costly; you are going to pay for the knowledge, experience and education of a Certified Appraiser. However, you will receive a report that is accurate and will hold up in a court of law.

Source by Rebecca Apodaca