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Is it or isn’t it? Huw Price tries to figure out if there’s a genuine 1957 Stratocaster lurking beneath this dodgy refinish or whether it’s just fool’s gold...


When I was a kid, vintage Stratocasters were invariably loaded with retrofit pickups and tuners, locking trems and brass hardware. You were far more likely to see dark brown varnish than a Fender factory finish but although they weren’t commonplace, you did see them about. Nowadays, hacked-up vintage Strats rarely surface, and I often wonder where they all ended up. It seems most likely that some have been restored and are being passed off as all-original, while others have been disassembled to sell off the parts.

1 The ’57 Strat aka Goldie (right) alongside a ’56 example provided by Vintage Guitar Boutique (

This gold Stratocaster is one of those ‘modified’ examples, and it was sold to a client as a 1957. Shortly after buying it, he sent it over to get a second opinion. To help out, Vintage Guitar Boutique kindly lent us a virtually bone stock ’56 example, and what follows is a step-by-step appraisal to determine the provenance of the guitar I’m calling Goldie.

First impressions

I’ll admit that my heart sank when I encountered Goldie in its non-original case, but then I noticed how light it is. The scales show a mere 7.1lbs, and even by vintage Strat standards that’s pretty featherweight. Acoustically, the tone is loud, unusually chimey, superbly defined and has the effortless ‘freed up’ quality of a thoroughbred.

This unplugged tone is absolutely what I’d associate with a really good vintage Strat. I’ve heard plenty of Custom Shop Fenders, JV reissues and even 80s Tokais that sound very similar; however, few – if any – sound as good as Goldie does through an amp. Although it doesn’t look like much, it certainly feels and sounds like the real deal.

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About Guitar Magazine

The February issue of Guitar & Bass magazine is available in print and digital forms from Friday 8 January. Join us as we take a trip to Guitar Town, tracing the history of the Nashville music scene and profiling a who’s who of the city’s galaxy of guitar stars. We go guitar shopping in Tennessee's neon-lit state capital and talk to two of the world’s leading fretted instrument experts, George Gruhn and Walter Carter, about the state of the vintage market today and we also stop by at the Gibson Custom Shop to see the company’s True Historic Les Pauls roll off the production line and find out what makes them the company’s best guitars since its golden era. Elsewhere in the mag, our DIY Workshop shows you how to ID a genuine 1950s Stratocaster, we talk guitar with Aerosmith legend Brad Whitford and we review a stack of great new gear from PRS, Dr Z, Orange, TC Electronic, Louis Electric, Fulltone, Hartke, Smorg Pedalboards, Pigtronix and more. If that’s not enough for you, how about the chance to win one of three PRS guitars for a year and become a roving reporter for G&B in the process? Buy the February issue of Guitar & Bass magazine in print and digital forms from Friday 8 January.