The Vintage Guitar Price team are self-confessed geeks. We love looking for patterns and trends in our price database to identify interesting things, possibly the next guitar to add to our already sizeable collections, as we know many of our customers do.
We started to wonder what the all-time most popular guitar was. Sure we can tell you the most expensive, the ones that have increased most in price, etc; but what about sales volume?
Manufacturers rarely release explicit sales number for each of their models for competitive reasons. However, it got us thinking. As more-and-more consumers move their buying behaviour online, in many cases having guitars shipped across the country for free, we believed search trends would give away popularity of a guitar and the general state of the market.
There are already hundreds of “top 10” lists of the most popular guitars across the internet. We don’t doubt some of the Gibson Les Paul variations are up there as best-sellers, and we expect the same to be true of the iconic Fender Stratocaster too. However; are these models as popular as they once were?
We used the five manufacturers with the most guitar models listed in our price database and took to Google Trends to find out.
Guitar Search Trends
There are lots of worrying reports about the state of the guitar market. This chart would appear to lend some evidence to that, along with manufacturers financial reports.
In January 2004, Fender’s search point value (maximum value of 100) was 89. In September 2017 the search point value was 22 – a drop of almost 75%! The same trend is true across all manufacturers.
On another note, it would appear Fender still leads the way by interest in manufacturers. Interestingly, there are a few instances where Gibson became the most popular search term over Fender for a short time, although they are few-and-far-between.
Taking a closer look at Fender, the majority of searches come from the USA. The UK and Canada follow close behind by search interest.
Looking at popular search queries, the Fender Stratocaster dominates the results accounting for four out of the five top search queries since 2004 (I’ve definitely contributed my fair of searches to this total).
Like the Fender results, there are few surprises here. The company’s flagship model, the Les Paul, is far-and-away the most searched for guitar.
It would appear the largest guitar market, for Fender and Gibson anyway, is the United States – fitting as both Fender and Gibson still make many of their models USA.
For those that are unaware, Epiphone was Gibson’s main rival prior to them acquiring the company in 1957. The Gibson brand is now marketed as the premium of the two because their guitars are prodimantly made in the USA and of much higher quality when it comes to materials and construction. In contrast, Epiphone Les Paul’s are built overseas.
Many new players might opt for a Epiphone Les Paul over the Gibson equivalent costing at least hundreds of dollars more. However, the popularity of the Les Paul is clear to see, in related queries making up three of the top five top most searched terms related to Epiphone.
When looking at geographic distribution you can see the Philippines makes up the 5th spot by search interest (this place was held by Norway for Gibson), highlighting the premium vs. standard marketing (and pricing). We think it’s a great thing that Epiphone guitars are accessible to lower income markets.
Despite having the third highest number of models listed in our price database (at time of writing 1320) there doesn’t appear to be a particular favourite Martin model identified by search interest from the top 5 related queries. In fact, there isn’t one in the top 25 either.
Guild searches include the addition of interest from Thai and Japanese searchers not seen for any of the other manufacturers considered here. That said, again we see the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom making up the top 3 spots.
Explore the data yourself
All the data used here (and more) can be explored using Google Trends. Vintage Guitar Price customers can also compare these results with over 10,000 guitar price histories dating back to 2001.