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  1. #1

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    I'm thinking there might be a Collings LC East Side archtop (or maybe a custom Heritage) in my future. Anyone here owned or played a Collings archtop? Please comment. Thank you.


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  3. #2

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    I talked to their rep last September at the Mannheim Guitar Summit. Samples hard to get over the pond, with demand exceeding output. Gorgeous guitars, but no archtop displayed. The same at NAMM. I understood that only a handful of these are made per year, due to the time and labor cost involved. And, with approx. 100 employees, this is a sizable operation, not a Master Luthier's workshop. Good luck!

  4. #3

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    I'm fortunate to own a Collings Eastside LC, an I-35LC, and a 290. They are outstanding instruments in every way. I bought the Eastside and the I-35LC used and sight-unseen - Collings are so consistently well-made I was comfortable doing so.

    Whether the Eastside is for you depends on what you're looking for. If you want an ES-175 for example, it's not that - the Eastside has a more acoustic voice despite being a laminate, and it doesn't have the ES-175 thunk.

    The Eastside is an articulate, balanced, top tier instrument. While it certainly isn't an inexpensive instrument, in my opinion, it's a bargain for what it is.

  5. #4

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    Since Bill Collings left us, Collings Guitars has turned into a boutique maker and not in the good sense of the word. I feel that the present Collings Guitars makes beautiful objects that happen to be guitars, not guitars any longer. If you admire craftsmanship, objects that are well-made, enjoy pride of ownership like a well-made watch or fountain pen, Collings is the Rolex and Montblanc of guitarmaking. $20 000 for an AT-00 archtop based on an econobox archtop. It is a Wagyu hamburger with Gorgonzola. Collings Guitars guitars are the lawyer-doctor-banker guitars. Other than Julian Lage, which bread and butter food on the board musician can afford to have one?

    A few years ago, circa 2012 to 2014, Collings Guitars were still affordable. In 2012, the Eastside LC had a list price of $4860. Then came the Eastside LC Deluxe and it was $650 more with a maple neck. I saw used ones, the standard ones, selling for $3200, ca 2015. I had a bead on a used City Limits Jazz with Broken Glass Inlays for $5500, and a used Eastside LC for $4000. Now, they are asking $8000 for a used CLJ. Asking is merely wishful pricing.

    Today, the price has exploded. $6850 for a laminated box. Edit: Sorry, it is $7225. And Collings Guitars does not allow discounts today, not even 10%. All guitars are sold at full list. No wriggle room. I really do admire the visual design of the entire Collings range. I love the Eastside LC and the Eastside Jazz LC. But as person who watches my money I look around to see what else is out there.

    First up, Steve Holst custom laminate: $3200. Steve presses his own plates. And it is bespoke.
    Second, éminence grise Roger Borys, B120: $5000/$5500. Roger presses his own plates. Nearly bespoke.
    Third, Ned Whittemore: $3450/$3750. Ned gets his plates from Roger.
    Fourth, Westville Aruba: $3900.
    Fifth, Sadowsky Jim Hall: $5500 in the USA; ahem, try Japan. Found used in the USA for between $2450 (albeit long ago ca 2010-2011 on ebay with a Bare Knuckles Stormy Monday or Mule) and $3600.

    In terms of tone and playing, any of these is the equivalent of the Collings Eastside LC. OK, the Roger Borys B120 at $5000 is $1850/$2225 cheaper. It may be $5500 today but still $1350/$1725 lower in price.

    I guess I am saying that I don't consider the Collings Eastside LC good value for money. $6850 (edit: $7225) is crazy money for a laminate. Only Linda Manzer commands over $10 000 for a laminate but she is Linda Manzer. If you must have a Collings Eastside LC then price does not matter because it is what it is. If you are looking for a good laminate archtop of the same ilk I feel there are far better options for the money. Quality does not have to cost so much.

    I recommend Holst and Whittemore as value for money. Sadowsky JH and Borys B120 as known quantities. But if you must have a Collings, then Collings away.

    Just something to get the juices flowing, the mouth spuming while we are observing "social distancing".

    All in my absolutely useless humble opinion.

  6. #5

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    Jabs, you always have a way with words, and although sometimes stinging, in many ways spot on. Cheers.

  7. #6

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    when i was in austin this past summer, i went to austin vintage and asked how collings has changed since the passing of mr. collings.

    they said the prices have gone up to pay the workers more.

    if i was in that kinda income bracket, i'd have no problem paying more for the craftpersonship of something like a collings.

    i paid more for my red wing made in america boots knowing that they were, indeed, made in america. i'd love to treat myself to a made in texas collings some day knowing the artisans making the guitars were making good money.

    i love my made in america martin and bedell and hope that the folk making them are making a living wage. i am proud that my almost 200 staff of my company make more than double the minimum wage. and i ain't making a killing off of their labor btw. i'm in mental health, so none of us are rich.

    hope that's not too political. i also love my made in japan and made in canada and made in china and made in indonesia guitars and equipment, but if an instrument speaks to me, it speaks to me. but i'd be happy to pay more knowing the more is going to the right people.

  8. #7

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    You are in good position, consumerduck, and I am happy for you. Buying with a social conscience that workers be paid fair wages is an admirable trait.

    In other words, Collings Guitars prices its guitars to allow its craftsperdaughters and craftspersons to take home a fair decent wage, and if the average guitar player who makes a living playing guitar fulltime cannot afford a Collings guitar then find another job that does allow him or her to afford to buy a Collings guitar.

    Collings Guitars is a business and owes no guitar player the obligation that its guitars be affordable to the average gigging fulltime player. To be fair, Collings is not alone in this; Gibson, PRS, Martin, Taylor, et alia are businesses, too. But when its guitars are priced out of the consideration of players who play them to make a living, then who is Collings Guitars making guitars for? The well-heeled non-professional?

    Where is the social conscience for professional players? Choose another line of work? Steve Holst, Ned Whittemore, Roger Borys are Americans. By buying from them you are also supporting fair wages for the American craftspersapientorganism.

    I write from the angle of someone who hangs out with fulltime players. Holst, Whittemore and even Borys make guitars that the average player could countenance buying and playing. Much as the players would want to support the American craftspersentientblob they have to support themselves first. I don't think Collings Guitars gives discounts to any average professional. So, yes, from a player's angle how we spend our money is of the utmost importance. We don't really have the luxury of being concerned that the Collings Guitars craftspertooluser be fairly paid because nobody is ensuring that we be fairly paid.

    The only people who can afford a $7225 Collings laminate archtop today are the non-professionals. In other words, boutique. When you are a fulltime guitar player you have to see what else is out there for the money. It is about supporting yourself.

    Even at $5000, I would not call a Borys B120 eminently affordable...not until I saw the price tag for a present day Collings Eastside LC.

    I love Collings Guitars guitars but I cannot conscionably recommend them as good value today to anyone but the Collings Guitars fan or the well-heeled non-professional. I pitched in to help the GoFundMe for Mr. Pat Martino. That had me shaking. Even he wouldn't be able to afford a Collings Guitars laminate archtop today. Who are they making guitars for when fulltime guitarists can't afford them? Not in my crowd. Maybe I ought to find another crowd.

    Getting off my soapbox now.
    Last edited by Jabberwocky; 03-28-2020 at 09:59 AM.

  9. #8

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    I haven't played a Collings archtop, but I played a bunch of Collings flat-tops (and a handful of Waterloo's) & an I-35 a while back.

    My take is that Collings build quality is very very high. The flat-tops sounded very resonant, however the necks were quirky -- many of them with fretboards more like a fat classical. Each neck was different and I didn't love any of them. So I didn't buy one.

    The Waterloo's were cute, but sounded like cardboard -- expensive cardboard for sure !

    The I-35 was certainly nice enough, but it did not resolve my quest for a great 335.
    I never did find a great 335. But my ES-175 eventually took care of that.

    Mind you, I wouldn't mind a new Collings, but I would have to try it out in person.

  10. #9

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    Nothing but praise for the quality of all Collings guitars. That said, as far as value it depends what you are buying it for? If you are not concerned with name recognition or resale value,I would look elsewhere.

    Campellone, Nickerson,Elferink, etc. are much better value for the $$. Especially in the used market.

  11. #10

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    I have a new custom Holst coming next week. I had him make it like a D'Aquisto laminate. He will build anything you want, any way you want. $3300.00 new

  12. #11

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    I've only played a couple of Collings flattops. If their archies are of the same quality they must be simply amazing.

  13. #12

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    There is a superb looking City Limits Jazz at the Chicago Music Exchange. Flawless, gorgeous inlays, easy to play and a great sound. I get the same kind of playability and sound with my $1.5-2K guitars. So do I want to pay another $8K for the rest ? I might want to (beauty is priceless), but I won't

  14. #13

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    You could make the same argument about Collings that people make about Gibson in that they seem to retain their value. Even more so for Collings. And in the case of Collings, they are actually consistent and top shelf quality.

    We likely won't see more archtop models from Collings which is a pity. Imagine the ROI they are currently getting cranking out simple planks of wood. And I do hope their employees see some of that as that will keep the quality at current levels.

  15. #14

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    It would be interesting to know how many “New” Collings Eastside’s are actually selling. Most new ones on Reverb have the “listed time” turned off- the others have been listed around a year. I’m seeing this same situation with “new” Benedetto Bravos piling up in Bobs Boutique. Both of these models are laminates over 6k- with dot fingerboard inlays on the Collings and none on the Bravo. Additionally, neither of these builds are managed/ supervised by their original founders, one of whom is deceased and the other retired.

    According to owners of these brands - the quality is excellent and resale is respectable. But it appears that “ New” selling throughput / inventory turns are dismal.

    I’m usually attracted to higher end instruments , but I just can’t seem to pull the trigger on a “new” one of these.....maybe Jabs has some validity in his market analysis.

    Recently - I contacted Benedetto guitars to see what kind of offers they were accepting on Bravo’s - and the best they could offer was free shipping .....which just seemed inadequate considering their burgeoning inventory.

    As some have suggested- there are many quality built alternative laminates which may provide a better value - and this is not meant to disrespect either Benedetto or Collings owners - it’s just market reality.

  16. #15

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    I think it's a good move on their part. They make great guitars but they've been too expensive for most working musicians for as long as I've been aware of them. They've always been out of my price range. Once they committed to selling almost exclusively to wealthy buyers, why not get the highest price possible. They have limited production so their only path to higher revenue is higher prices.

  17. #16

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    I could be mistaken, but they also seem to be doing more runs with upcharge options like aged finishes, deluxe appointments, Throbak pickups, etc.

    Skip the options and you’re in the same ballpark as big company custom shops and many one-man shops.

    It would be cool if they did an electric in their Waterloo line, like a raw Junior or Wilshire.

  18. #17

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    I don't about Collins guitars other than his traditional archtops. They were fantastic and I assume even when Bill was not doing the work only overseeing the operation they were still killer guitars but expensive. No matter what anyone does at this point I would hold off on all guitar purchases and buying unless a real deal comes along. Right now the country is in a place where guitars matter very little to most expect a few of us crazy folks. Jabs has some good points but unless one is flush with cash and not problems don't do a thing.

  19. #18

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    I have a 2016 Collings Eastside Jazz Deluxe with all the trimmings (except not with a maple neck). edit: Price was $5,600 and I remember thinking that I got a pretty good deal at the time because it seemed that their annual price increases were already underway and so there were some non-Deluxe's out there selling for the same price or in some cases even higher.

    Expensive for sure, but I will say that it's as good as pretty much any other guitar out there. I've owned laminates by Holst and Andersen. Each of those guitars offered something special, don't get me wrong, but so does the Collings (which while smaller and thinner is still louder acoustically for one thing). I'm expecting my Trenier laminate (to be received later this year) will be "better" but that was $7,500 and if you order now it would be $10K - and there was only a batch of 4 which filled up very quickly.

    In my experience Collings is a cut above Sadowsky...which is reasonable given Collings guitars are more expensive.

    So while I really like my Collings and felt I actually got pretty decent value in my transaction, at their new prices...especially if the annual increases keep up...then I concur that the value proposition is no longer as clear.

    Fantastic guitars though.
    Last edited by coolvinny; 03-30-2020 at 01:00 PM.

  20. #19
    Well, this has been a bit of an eye opener. Collings discontinuing production of their archtops? And there are way more luthiers of archtops than I had any idea of. Most of them reasonably priced. Names like Whittemore, Holst, Borys and others mentioned above. I was looking at Gibson and Heritage archtops on and I would still love to own an ES175 or Tal Farlow. But I have a Bourgeois Brazilian dreadnaught that needs to be sold before I can look at anything. It was a $10,000 guitar that I think I purchased for around $8500. The Brazilian rosewood is about a $4000 to $5000 upgrade. Anyway, I have a lot more options to consider than I first realized. From what I've seen so far, it sounds like I should be able to pick up a decent archtop (even custom made) for $3000 to $6000. Is that reasonably accurate? I hope it is as $6000 is pretty much my upper limit.

  21. #20

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    Just to clarify, has anyone seen a formal announcement regarding discontinuing models? I can’t imagine Collings would discontinue their Eastside, Eastside Jazz, semi’s, etc.

    I could maybe see the carved top AT models, which were super-rare anyways, but they’re still listed on their site.

    You have a LOT to choose from within that budget.

    Campellone is another to consider in that range.

  22. #21

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    One of the best guitars I've ever played was a small bodied Collings flattop. I have no idea if it required Bill Collings' personal touch, or if the archtops can match it. But for me, it was the ONE THAT GOT AWAY.

    Are they too expensive? I think D'Angelico guitars were in the $300 range in the late 1930's? I think you could rent a decent apartment in NYC for about $50/month at the time, so that would be six month's rent. Today a decent apartment in NYC rents for about $4,500. So this guitar would be the equivalent of $27,000 in today's money. I am deliberately comparing it to rent because rent is one of the few things that cannot be undercut or outsourced by China. Usual "inflation calculators" only look at a basked of consumer goods as if housing, education, and healthcare didn't exist. That always undercuts true inflation.

    I hate how expensive things are, but I think we have had our perspective distorted by Chinese production of goods. To support an artisan who only makes less than 30 guitars a year, they are going to be expensive. Collings is not D'Angelico, and they are produced in much higher numbers than 30 a year, but I don't think anyone there is getting rich by today's standards.

  23. #22

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    Just wanna say I have a Holst carved top laminate back, I'll take it anyday most likely over any collings. Can't beat Holst for value for money.

  24. #23

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    Chapeau, Wocky, you were able to insult my use of non-gender use of craftmanship.

    i know a woman who plays violin for a regional symphony that has sat in with my band for a few shows. based on your hyperbole-based reasoning, because her violin from the 1700s is very expensive (way more that a new colllings), you say that she should sell toilet paper on the black market or have the last name that means something or sell stocks and bonds in this economy rather than be able to pay for her violin (her tool) through her art that she studied in university to play.

    working musician? the band big thief has two guitarist that both play collings archtops (although semi-hollow). they are working musicians. bill frisell is also a working musician that is somehow able to play a collings archtop(again a semi-hollow).

    heck, even the working musician billy gibbons is able to afford a 1959 gibson les paul. how is that possible? a working musician?!?!?

    i have an uncle that drives 18 wheelers that wasn't able to afford and own his rig until he paid it off. maybe, with your logic, he should have sold computers at best buy or gone into finance until he could afford his peterbuilt.

    a "working guitarist" doesn't need a rolls royce to deliver passengers from point a to point b.

    george gruhn says that if it weren't for collectors, there would be no stratavarious violins around today. symogyi. manser. so many craft folk that are at the epitome of their craft wouldn't be around if it weren't for well-heeled client spending exorbitant amounts of money keeping the industry alive.

    i've never played or seen a collings solid carved archtop, but when i see them on line, i think, "wow if i were rich...."

    for a regular "working musician" luckily, guitar jazz does not require that kind of buy in to preform at the pinnacle or the art. i'm a native born louisianian and when i hear my home grown music, it could be authentically played on an aria or an epiphone or a godin.

    if it required a symphonic-quality basson, it might be a different situation.

    luckily, we are into jazz and guitar and that is a mardi-gras esthetic where everyone is invited and everyone can participate. if you want to participate with a collings or an epiphone or a loar or an eastman or a squire, so be it. welcome to the party and play some good music.

  25. #24

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    I know a few pros who have Collings. It does happen!

    No one buys new though.... pros generally buy used unless they want something made for them.

    re string players.... my friend put it this way (he’s a violinist and owns just two violins)

    ‘Buying a violin is like buying a house. It’s a huge decision and extremely stressful. Guitarists on the other hand get to be collectors...’

    it made me think that some great players appear to have one hand crafted guitar that they become identified with. Think of Bernstein’s Zeidler, Pasqaule’s Trenier and so on. So that’s more like being an orchestral string player I suppose.

    OTOH, Jim Mullen’s Aria Pro, Nir Felder’s Mexican Strat.... the right guitar need not be expensive...

  26. #25

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    I used to visit the Colling's shop decades ago. Should have bought one. Or two.

  27. #26

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    I play epiphones

  28. #27

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    I quite like the AT16. I figure it can’t be that pricey right? It hasn’t got a pickup.

    Collings AT-16 | Archtop Guitar

    I suppose I could always go for one of those Waterloo budget models :-)

  29. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    I quite like the AT16. I figure it can’t be that pricey right? It hasn’t got a pickup.

    Collings AT-16 | Archtop Guitar

    I suppose I could always go for one of those Waterloo budget models :-)

    Last price I saw on a new AT was around $20,000. Can't remember where I saw that? But I about choked.

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by jumpnblues
    Last price I saw on a new AT was around $20,000. Can't remember where I saw that? But I about choked.
    Except you can’t actually buy them so the price may as well be infinite.

  31. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Except you can’t actually buy them so the price may as well be infinite.

    Valid point.

  32. #31

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    I am fortunate enough to own a Collings City Limits Jazz, ordered in 2015 and delivered in June of 2017. I was recently back in the shop where I purchased it and mentioned the rather obvious increase in prices to the shop owner. He told me that Collings is struggling to pay a wage that will allow their employees to continue to live in Austin.

    I know Austin is a target area for people wanting to leave California and that has driven up the prices. I did some checking and found the following:

    According to GoBankingRates, Austin ranks second in terms of the biggest percentage increase in its "cost to live comfortably" index among 50 cities studied, yet the highest in terms of actual dollars required. Let's not sugarcoat it with euphemisms any further: The study finds that the cost to live "comfortably" in Austin skyrocketed 33.92 percent from 2017 to 2018 — a year-over-year increase of $18,532.

    That is a lot of pressure on the company and the employees who want to remain in Austin. Could the same type of pressure contributed to Gibson leaving Kalamazoo for Nashville?

    Note: Found an ‘83 AT-17 on Reverb for $19k, been listed for 5 months.
    Last edited by Betz; 04-03-2020 at 03:04 AM. Reason: Add some found for sale

  33. #32
    From what I've been hearing lately Nashville is the new Los Angeles. I guess it's undergoing unprecedented growth.

  34. #33

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    Speaking of flat- vs archtops, has it ever been determined on this forum which is less costly to build ? For example, if you built an L-7 and D-18 ( 24 ? ) and placed them side by side, and offered them for sale - - which would cost more to produce, take longer, require more man hours, etc etc ?

    Sorry if this has been answered here.....

  35. #34

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    An archtop due to carving among other things.

  36. #35

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    Quote Originally Posted by deacon Mark
    An archtop due to carving among other things.
    By a mile. Many miles.

  37. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jabberwocky
    All in my absolutely useless humble opinion.
    Humble, maybe not Useless, definitely not. Tnx for the detailed post.

  38. #37

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    Missed this somehow!!! I want a Collins I-35LC with Throbaks SO BAD..... The P90 version is good too, but the HB version... wow...