Field Segment: Rickenbacker
HOST: The electric guitar has dominated the sound of American popular music for several generations. We're at the Rickenbacker guitar headquarters to check out some examples from this California company's private museum. HOST: There are about 200 instruments in this room, but it all starts when we go right back to the beginning with this odd-shaped banjo-looking instrument called the frying pan. Tell me about that.
Well, it might look like a banjo, but it's actually one of the first electric guitars and also the first solid-body electric guitar. In 1931, Adolph Rickenbacker and George Beauchamp formed a partnership to build electric guitars exclusively. The acoustic guitar is great, but if you're trying to play a solo and the rest of the band consists of trumpets and saxophones, let alone a piano and a drum kit, you're lost. You can't hear a note. By using an electromagnetic pickup, they were able to boost the volume so you could play a solo that would be just as loud as the loudest trumpeter. The pickup is called a horseshoe magnet pickup. You take two horseshoe magnets and put them end-to-end and the strings pass through that. That's the electromagnetic field, and that's how it's made louder. The 1931 prototype shown here is made of wood. The production models were made of cast aluminum, and that's how they got the nickname "the frying pan." It's a Hawaiian guitar. Most of the early Rickenbacker electric guitars were used for playing Hawaiian music. They're called lap steels because they're played with a steel bar. As far as we know, they probably made at least a thousand of them before the Second World War. HOST: What would you say the value would be?
One in really good condition would sell from between $3,000 and $3,500 in a retail shop. There are still lap steel players that swear by them and consider them to have the best tone. All these years later, that's what they want. HOST: So now we jump up a couple decades. Rickenbacker's still doing great innovations and they have a guitar at this point that becomes an industry standard. Tell me about that.
In 1964, an early version of the 12-string shown here was given to George Harrison shortly before the Beatles recorded A Hard Day's Night. And he also used that guitar in the film Hard Day's Night. (opening chord plays) That's the most recognizable opening chord in the history of rock 'n' roll. Electric guitarists all over the world were scrambling like crazy to figure out, "What is that guitar? How do I get that sound?" And the list of guitarists that were influenced by Harrison's use of the Rickenbacker 360/12 in the movie reads like a "who's who" in rock 'n' roll: Pete Townshend of The Who, Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane, Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys, and especially Roger McGuinn of The Byrds. That's the jingling, whining sound that you hear in "Turn, Turn, Turn." & Turn, turn, turn, turn... & This is a 1965 Rickenbacker 360/12. It's virtually identical to the one that George Harrison used in the Beatles' 1966 U.S. tour. And if you wanted to have one of the those... HOST: And I do.
Well, it's going to take more than $20,000 if you're buying one in a vintage guitar retail shop. HOST: Well, it has been great learning about all these fabulous guitars and the birth of electric guitars all from you. I appreciate it.
Executive producer Marsha Bemko shares her tips for getting the most out of ANTIQUES ROADSHOW.
Value can change: The value of an item is dependent upon many things, including the condition of the object itself, trends in the market for that kind of object, and the location where the item will be sold. These are just some of the reasons why the answer to the question "What's it worth?" is so often "It depends."
Note the date: Take note of the date the appraisal was recorded. This information appears in the upper left corner of the page, with the label "Appraised On." Values change over time according to market forces, so the current value of the item could be higher, lower, or the same as when our expert first appraised it.
Context is key: Listen carefully. Most of our experts will give appraisal values in context. For example, you'll often hear them say what an item is worth "at auction," or "retail," or "for insurance purposes" (replacement value). Retail prices are different from wholesale prices. Often an auctioneer will talk about what she knows best: the auction market. A shop owner will usually talk about what he knows best: the retail price he'd place on the object in his shop. And though there are no hard and fast rules, an object's auction price can often be half its retail value; yet for other objects, an auction price could be higher than retail. As a rule, however, retail and insurance/replacement values are about the same.
Verbal approximations: The values given by the experts on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW are considered "verbal approximations of value." Technically, an "appraisal" is a legal document, generally for insurance purposes, written by a qualified expert and paid for by the owner of the item. An appraisal usually involves an extensive amount of research to establish authenticity, provenance, composition, method of construction, and other important attributes of a particular object.
Opinion of value: As with all appraisals, the verbal approximations of value given at ROADSHOW events are our experts' opinions formed from their knowledge of antiques and collectibles, market trends, and other factors. Although our valuations are based on research and experience, opinions can, and sometimes do, vary among experts.
Appraiser affiliations: Finally, the affiliation of the appraiser may have changed since the appraisal was recorded. To see current contact information for an appraiser in the ROADSHOW Archive, click on the link below the appraiser's picture. Our Appraiser Index also contains a complete list of active ROADSHOW appraisers and their contact details and biographies.