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Picking a Vintage Fender Precision

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by insomniabass, Jan 5, 2014.

  1. insomniabass


    Nov 29, 2009
    I am yearning for a vintage Fender Precision, from the 1950's or 1960s. I have been window shopping on eBay and see that the 1950s are very expensive, so I am guessing it will have to be a 60s for me
    Here is my question: Are Fender Precisions like wines? I mean, are some years better than others? Is there a 'best year' for a 1960s Precision?
    Apart from year, what other features (neck, machines, tuners, etc.) are worth paying attention to in buying a vintage Precision?
  2. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    The purchase of Fender by CBS in 1965 is the benchmark of "best". Anything before that is going to be more expensive and generally thought of as higher quality. 1965 and 1966 are a mixed bag of features and pre/post sale parts. From 67 on is going to be less expensive and are often lumped in with 1970's instruments in terms of quality.

    Note that there are plenty of dud pre-CBS basses and great post-CBS ones. But most people would agree that the average quality started going down in the late 60's as CBS tried to maximize profits.
  3. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic and card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    P-basses changed less than Jazzes, IMHO, 1960-65 are the best. My favorite was a particular 1963. :eek:

    All that said, get a team-built custom shop relic used for 1/3 the price of a 1963. Sounds the same, looks the same, no high stakes gambling. BTW, the N. Dallas, TX GC has a '69 P for sale that I owned from 1998 to 2013. $2,900, which is what they gave me toward a CS early '60s Jazz Duotone relic. :cool:

    Attached Files:

  4. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    That's true. They didn't go nuts with block inlay, neck binding, etc on Precisions.
  5. Gougedeye

    Gougedeye Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2008
    Central Washington
  6. someparts


    Nov 22, 2010
    You have to have the bass in your hands to know. Pre-1972 is is the biggest difference to me...they started the open route in the body from the pickup to the controls around that time and some other little things...that's also when they started to vary in weight quite a bit in my experience.

    Other than that can you pay the pre-CBS price(pre '65) in is this an investment? If so look for a well playing original one. If not, look for a later one that does it for you. The 69-71 basses can be killer players if you find the right one...and I'd rather have an original one of those than a totally re-finned and re-fretted '66...but that's my taste.
  7. Gecko 5

    Gecko 5 Supporting Member

    I have a 65. LOVE IT!!!!
  8. pfox14


    Dec 22, 2013
    While 1965 is considered the official cut-off date for great Fender basses being the same year that CBS bought out Leo, many will agree that the quality of Fenders didn't start to really decline until the late 60s. You can certainly get a circa 1965-1968 P-bass for a lot less than a pre-CBS one. If I had the money, I would definitely want a pre-CBS Fender, but would settle for something a little later if I had a limited budget.
  9. Kevin aka Kebo

    Kevin aka Kebo Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2011
    Princeton NJ
    Owner - Kebo's Bass Works
    Read the article I wrote in my monthly column in Premier Guitar - you can get it on line.. I wrote up your entire question a few years back
  10. Kevin aka Kebo

    Kevin aka Kebo Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2011
    Princeton NJ
    Owner - Kebo's Bass Works
    Actually I have to differ with a few opinions.. Other than the control assembly, the Js had much less variance than P. Theres like 5 different neck profiles and different variations in pickups. Id buy a refin over a customshop.. As someone whos played 50s and 60s pbasses for 40 years, the cs just dont feel right
  11. SolarMan

    SolarMan Supporting Member

    Aug 2, 2011
    Marlborough, MA
    Get one of the AVRI's to your liking. Amazing instruments and vintage vibe all the way.
  12. I would go for a pre-CBS refinished as being the best value for money - not that different from a custom-shop.

    Or I would go for a 65-66 but without the inlays and paddle machine heads (that's a personal preference).

    Then I would go for an original pre-CBS, which is really upto 1964.

    I do like Brazilian Rosewood. So this means pre-CBS. However, it also depends on your budget.

    The new Precision shape occured in 1957. Between 1957 and 1959 some beautiful ash/maple basses were made. My personal preference is alder/rosewood, i.e. 60's, but dont forget these ash/maple beauties.

    As always you have to try them.

    I was looking for a pre-CBS Jazz and ended up buying a pre-CBS Precision; once I'd tried it I couldn't put it down.

  13. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic and card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    We could argue about this all day, but IMHO, it all depends on the time span under consideration. I too, have played and owned 50's and 60's P-basses since 1963. I didn't realize we were discussing refinished vintage basses as an option, so I would agree that if you find a great one for a good price, go for it. However, I find that most older basses are merely average, all original or not.

    Furthermore, we must all awaken to the fact that many, if not most "all original vintage" instruments are "parts basses" to some degree.

    Finally, IME, and IMHO, CS instruments can be found that blow away 99% of the older instruments. Nothing lasts forever, not even mojo. YMMV. :cool:
  14. Usually 1957-1964 are considered the best years but there are many great CBS (post 1965) era Fenders out there that are just as good...every bass is unique onto it itself.

    How to Buy a Vintage Fender Bass
  15. insomniabass


    Nov 29, 2009
    This has all been very helpful information, and thank all of you very much. What I have learned from this is: (1) there is nothing wrong with a relic/re-issue vintage, but.... I want an old one. Why? Because I want one (I am shallow!). (2) I also learned that if you are getting an old one, than maybe 1964 or older makes sense, and (3) it is best to buy one first hand, rather than sight-unseen over the internet. My problem is that I live in Augusta Georgia and the only big town within 4 hours is Atlanta. Anybody know any good vintage guitar stores within a days' drive of Augusta Georgia?
  16. Roscoe East

    Roscoe East

    Aug 22, 2011
    Just so I understand: The reason you guys are advocating a refinished instrument is because (I'm guessing here) it won't have an artificially inflated price as it would if it were "100% original", right?
  17. thejumpcat

    thejumpcat thejumpcat

    Sep 30, 2007
    Much depends on your budget. I had a CS 55 P for $1800. Very happy with it. A few weeks ago I played a vintage 55 at Chicago Music Exchange that was $17k. Like the prices, they weren't even close. If I had disposable income that would allow the vintage one...hell yes. How much can you spend?
  18. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic and card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    As concerns the finish, yes. The conventional wisdom is that refinished or just plain stripped vintage instruments take a 50% hit to their price as compared to instruments with original finish—even if that original finish is trashed and/or ugly. :D

    "100% original" is usually somewhat staged, i.e., the seller or the seller's agent has swapped out the odd part that has been found to be a later replacement. This includes bridges, pickups, pick-guards, tuners, neck-plates, pots, knobs, etc., even necks. :eyebrow:

    For every "parted out" vintage bass, several "100% originals" are born. Talk about cellular mitosis! :eek:
  19. Yes, that's right. Ebay usually has one or two of these available at any one time.

    You then have an option of leaving them as they are or refinishing with maybe a relic'd finish, so they at least look the part.

  20. I agree - there's just something different about old wood and naturally worn-in necks that new basses can't match, even the "relic" ones.