To most people, owning the "genuine article" is the only thing that will suffice. As a guitar player, and one who appreciates classic "vintage" instruments, I can fully understand this point of view. I can't think of a single guitarist who wouldn't absolutely adore playing a real 50's Les Paul or Stratocaster. However, becoming the proud owner of a true vintage instrument does have its drawbacks.
First of all, there's the price of admission. The increasingly strong demand for vintage instruments has driven their prices through the roof and out of reach for most of us. Top quality, well taken care of original instruments from the 50's and 60's can approach the cost of a new car, or in some cases a small house!
Another problem facing vintage instruments is their questionable reliability. Although they were built to stand the test of time, a vintage instrument will almost always prove to be more delicate and fragile than a later, more modern version. This may not be of great importance to a guitar collector, but if you're planning to gig with a 50 year old, highly valued piece of guitar history, you may want to think again.
Fortunately there is an alternative for those of us who love vintage instruments, but find them either too too expensive or too impractical for our purposes. I am referring to the latest crop of vintage guitar replicas, or as they are better known, "reissues".
Both Gibson and Fender maintain separate production facilities known as "Custom Shops", were they produce replicas of our favorite oldies with great skill and care. These guitars are made of the finest woods, and are almost entirely built by hand using time honored techniques. The electronics are custom manufactured to be as true and faithful to the original instrument as is humanly possible.
The cost of these Custom Shop guitars are high when compared to their production line variants, but they are still far below the cost of the real thing. They come complete with a full warranty, the durability of a new instrument, and sparkling clean looks. I own several reissue guitars from both Gibson and Fender, and can truthfully say that I am very impressed with the quality and painstaking level of detail that these guitars possess. The use of high quality woods give them a tone which is a cut above the norm, and knowing that parts are readily available helps add some peace of mind.
When all things are considered, buying a reissue guitar is in most cases the next best thing to owning the original. Although nothing will ever replace the "vibe" and nostalgia associated with the real deal, the high cost and impracticality of a vintage instrument for everyday use, makes owning a reissue a very attractive alternative. Will a reissue ever sound like its well aged 50 year old counterpart? Probably not, but for us players with an appreciation for classic instruments, a Custom Shop reissue from the original manufacturer is very hard to beat.