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Does a sunburst finish add to the price of a guitar?
I think they do but don't quote me on that. Hopefully one of the luthiers that lurk here will chime in, but they're pretty busy since there's a big event at Healdsburg right around the corner. I know it's an upcharge on some of the pricier Larriv
Yea, generally speaking a sunburst will retain a slightly higher appeal to collectors down the road. Many people pass on the sunburst upgrade when buying new because of the extra cost that doesn't get them a better sound. And, most don't like the look over a naturally finished soundboard. I'm that way. That translates to fewer sunburst guitars getting purchased, essentially making them rarer.
On popular mass-production models (Epiphone, Gibson, Martin) people currently see no price change for the 'burst.
It's when you get to the high-end, small lutherers that you may see a significant price increase.
It started during years when wood was required for the war effort and scarce. Important manufacturers like Gibson and Martin accepted some blemished wood and put sunbursts on them to cover "happy mistakes."
These guitars found today in good condtion are often worth many, many thousand dollars. And to think it was all about covering up eyesores.
The Gibson J-50 is in natural, but its specs are the exact same as the J-45. You can most always find vintage models of a J-50 for a lower price than the J-45 because people want that 'burst and will pay more for it. The J-50 is just as good a guitar, but people want that 'burst. (THE J-50 MAY BE EVEN BETTER!)
If I could get a new Santa Cruz Vintage Jumbo, yeah, I'd get as much of their 'burst treatment as I could. They are sooooo excellent.
So the answer is yes. Two identical models can differ in price because one is sunburst. The high-quality small-production guys usually don't throw it in for free for reason we all understand. Sunburst is often worth every penny on new models.
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Ditto telenate. I depends on the brand. Some cheap brands burst just to add some curb appeal but in the case of overseas guitars that extra labor might only mean a few measly dollars. On the other hand ordering a fine American brand costs more for that same labor. Just bursting the top is one thing but having to paint the top, sides, back and the neck is a whole other level of labor and risk if you make a mistake. US brands like Gibson base a lot of their sales on their curb appeal so their bursts sell a lot of guitars and it's really a standard feature for them and built into the price. Extra labor on the burst means cutting corners in other ways to them, IMO. Brands like Santa Cruz and others do charge an upcharge for a custom sunburst 300-500 dollars but some of their models like the VS have sunburst built into the price. Plus they do a much nicer burst and a MUCH thinner and better finish with more depth. The bottom line in my opinion is that a Sunburst is not used to hide faulty wood, which is somewhat of an urban myth these days, and it takes a lot more labor to do it right. That becomes very obvious when you compare a burst on a nice brand vs the typical burst on a cheap guitar. In my opinion a burst has nothing to do with resale value or collectability except that bursts do have curb appeal. It's simply a personal preference. Some people just hate them and some love them. There are also some mild shaded bursts that seem to make everyone happy.
I just began a run of custom guitars with the company I work for and we are just eating the extra expense of it all. But trust me much more time and labor to do the bursts right and someone is paying for that. In our case we just make a few less dollars profit and have a really pretty guitar. If I sell more of these will have to raise the price at least a few hundred to offset the labor time.
Note that technically bursts have been around for hundreds of years on stringed instruments. Gibson began making them famous as early as the Lloyd Loar years and before. Then again in the 1930s with the AJ, Jumbos, J-35 etc. Then in the war years yes the burst got smaller and hid some war years woods but this is not the reason for bursts. It just came in handy for a few years. By the late 40s this just was not the case anymore and today you can see the grain of the woods all the way to the edge on a finer burst. It hides nothing.
Here's a custom I had made by Greven Guitars with a custom burst. Water based lacquer.
Here's another custom I had made in 2003 with 11 bursted areas. Even the sides of the headstock are bursted. This was done by Addam Stark one of the best in the business and also worked at Santa Cruz at the time. Nitro which is amazing for the results he got which looks almost hand rubbed.