Natchez grocer enjoys ‘habit’ of collecting vintage guitars

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 12, 2001

Ask Del Loy about guitars and the Natchez grocer’s eyes begin to glimmer.

He leans forward with excitement as he talks about them. It’s obvious Loy loves guitars.

And he has for more than three decades, becoming one of the area’s only serious guitar collectors. While Loy’s current stable consists of about 10 vintage guitars, he’ll never forget his first guitar.

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&uot;When I was 15, my parents got me a little Silvertone guitar out of the Sears catalog, I think they paid $12 for it,&uot; the 48-year-old Loy says. &uot;I just played the heck out of it.&uot;

It was the 1960s and any respectable teenage player was looking up to bands like The Beatles and Cream, it wasn’t long before he was ready to move up to an electric guitar.

His parents obliged by giving him a 1968 Telestar for Christmas. At that point he was already in a garage band.

&uot;They made me promise not to play at dances, that was part of the deal,&uot; Loy said. &uot;That didn’t last, we were playing at a dance in a few weeks. It was different then, Rock ‘N’ Roll was so new, (adults) were scared of it.&uot;

After playing in a variety of bands growing up, and brief dreams of playing professionally in a band, &uot;reality&uot; set in.

He sold many of his early guitars, which would now be valuable, whenever he needed some money.

&uot;Back then a vintage guitar was a used guitar,&uot; he said.

Loy got married and had children, but the guitar bug was still in him.

It came to the surface in 1993, when he attended his first guitar show in Dallas.

&uot;That’s where I got the bug,&uot; he said. &uot;I bought a 1968 model. One thing led to another and I began buying and selling them.&uot;

And despite what you may think, Loy says, guitar collectors aren’t easy to categorize.

&uot;One thing neat about this is, people think it’s all a bunch of hippies, but there are all types of people who collect,&uot; he said.

What’s great, he says, is that as guitars have become more collectible, he’s managed to turn just enough profit to help keep his &uot;habit&uot; going.

&uot;I’ve got control over it so it can pay for itself,&uot; he said. Loy said he buys many of his guitars at guitar shows, but sells most of them on eBay, an online auction site.

His collection varies, but last week, it consisted of 10 vintage guitars and five vintage amplifiers.

&uot;I don’t get attached to them,&uot; he said. &uot;Some guys think ‘gosh, if I sell it, I’m losing something,’ but I just think ‘now I can go get some more.’&uot;

&uot;They are appreciable objects,&uot; he said. &uot;When I first started this, people only wanted to buy the mint stuff, and now the mint stuff is just not there any more.

&uot;Back when I started, there wasn’t such a thing as a collectible guitar. When I was 15, I just wanted something to play. If it had six strings on it and I could put my hands around it that was enough.&uot;

Loy said the Internet has put information about specific models and value in everyone’s hands.

&uot;It’s hard to fool people now,&uot; he said. &uot;Most people know what they have.&uot;

However, like any collector, Loy relishes one of his latest finds.

&uot;I was able to buy a 1970s Stratocaster in a pawn shop and was able to double my money on eBay,&uot; he said. &uot;I’m not going to tell you where because I wouldn’t want to embarrass them.&uot;

Loy said he may be a collector, but he also still loves to play.

&uot;Most of what I get is player grade,&uot; he said. &uot;You’ve also got the mint, unplayed ones, the kind you put in a vault behind glass.&uot;

He occasionally plays at his church, the Community Chapel Church of God, to the delight of the church’s young members.

&uot;The youth there are always like, ‘Where did you get that one? Is there no end,’&uot; he said. &uot;They’re always fascinated by them.&uot;

&uot;Guitar collecting reached its zenith about five years ago,&uot; Loy said.

While many models of guitars exist, Loy said he’s mostly interested in Gibsons.

&uot;I prefer late 1950s and early 1960s models,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s a combination of the craftsmanship, the type of electronics and the tone. The Gibson tone is more mellow. It’s like some guys like redheads and some like brunettes.&uot;

Through his collecting, Loy said he’s actually had a few brushes with fame. He’s met Billy Gibbons with ZZ Top, country singer Marty Stuart and &uot;all the guys&uot; with Lynyrd Skynyrd.

But his favorite guitarists remain Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton.

And one of his favorite guitars is a 1964 Gibson ES-335.

&uot;It’s the same kind Eric Clapton used when he played with the Yardbirds and with Cream,&uot; he said. &uot;I went to see him in New Orleans just to see him pull that out. But he never did.&uot;

For the foreseeable future, Loy thinks there’s not end to his guitar &uot;habit.&uot;

&uot;Collecting is a phenomenon that’s happening to Baby Boomers,&uot; Loy said. &uot;As we can afford things, we tend to buy things we couldn’t afford in our childhood.&uot;

Spoken by a 48-year-old man with the enthusiasm of a 15-year-old holding a $12 Sears guitar.