Pages 1-19 | Published online: 15 Nov 2016

The article seeks to explore why musicians’ instruments that were originally mass-produced, such as electric guitars, have gained the status of luxury items and highly collectible artifacts. Special attention is paid to individual instruments that have been previously owned by celebrities and/or rock musicians and to instruments that have been modeled after them. The research is contextualized within the cultural history of the electric guitar, especially with regard to the so-called “guitar hero” phenomenon, and to the way in which the high market value of vintage guitars and the increasing demand for them are being taken advantage of in contemporary instrument-making by the manufacture of replicas of celebrity-owned instruments. Theoretically, the work draws from anthropological and sociological concepts of magic, consumption, narration, and distinction in order to interpret the immaterial values attached to specific vintage electric guitars and the discursive practices used in transforming objects into fetishes. Empirically, the article draws from the contents of Guitar Aficionado magazine, as well as the discussion that this publication has raised on Internet sites, and the narratives used to construct the history of specific celebrity instruments.

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