Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 40

THE COST
OF
PROTECTION
100 Years of Instrument Cases
M

BY GEORGE GRUHN
AND STAFF

odern guitars are almost always sold with a hard case or modestly
priced upgrade from a gig bag. However, this has not always been...
the case. ■ Prior to 1970, instruments were usually sold without a case, and
obtaining that protection was significantly more expensive - 20 to 25 percent of
the instrument's price - sometimes almost as much as a low-end instrument.
Prior to 1970, instruments were usually sold without a case, and obtaining that
protection was significantly more expensive
- 20 to 25 percent of the instrument's price
- sometimes almost as much as a low-end
instrument.
Today, cases typically account for six
percent or less of the cost. The difference
is due in part to increases in guitar prices
(even after adjustment for inflation) and
partially due to technological changes in
case construction.
In 1936, a Gibson Advanced Jumbo
retailed for $80; a #418 "red line" Faultless
hard case (with black Keratol covering and
plush interior) was available separately
for $15 (18.75 percent of the price of the

	

guitar) and a Challenge "soft" case was $6
(7.5 percent). The Gibson J-35 debuted in
'36 at $35, which meant adding the #418
Faultless increased the player's payout 42
percent. Even the Challenge case created a
17 percent jump in expenditure. Similarly,
Martin's D-28 had a retail price of $100 and
was offered with three choices for a case -
Style B for $9, Style C for $16.50, or the Style
D for $27. For less-expensive guitars like
Martin's 0-17 (priced at $30) the $25 cost of
a Style D case represented 83 percent of the
cost of the guitar. Even at $7.50, the Style B
case was expensive.
Until the 1970s, case construction was
dominated by American companies like
Geib, Lifton, Ess & Ess, Stone, Victoria,

VINTAGE GUITAR	

40	

February 2017

and G&G. Their best models had a woodlaminate frame, cover material like Keratol,
Airplane Cloth (tweed) or Tolex, and a padded flannel or silk lining. Though adaptable
in size or shape (prior to World War II, Geib
advertised made-to-order cases), they had
issues including weight and susceptibility to
water damage. Also, because their construction required woodworking, making them
required a trained labor pool.
In '68, Martin began offering its D-45
with a case made of injection-molded plastic
and a foam lining that had a tendency to
expand; leaving guitars in one for extended
periods often resulted in crush damage. In
1970, they redesigned the case, making it
from blue ABS plastic with a pseudo-leather
texture. Known as the 600 series, it had
a blue plush interior lining and a layer of
polyurethane foam under the lining. Built
by Alfred Freistat, Martin advertised the
case as "virtually uncrushable, with unified, lightweight thermal protection." They
were certainly more water-resistant and
lighter than their wooden predecessors, but
many came to dislike their appearance and
prominent logo, believing it caused them
more likely to be targeted by thieves. They
were also less resistant to impact, making
them susceptible to hinges and latches being
broken off or becoming semi-functional.
In '79, the Martin 600 cases retailed for
$105, and a style HD-28 to carry inside it
was $1,145 more. At only nine percent of the
guitar price, they represented a significant
decrease in relative cost.

Photos: William Ritter. Instrument courtesy of George Gruhn.

A 1960 Les Paul Standard in
a Geib four-latch case.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open

Contents
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - Cover
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - IFC
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 1
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 2
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 3
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Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - Contents
Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 9
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