Isaiah Evans handles some of the world’s most unique musical treasures. Photograph by Kevin Gaddis Jr.

Expert: Isaiah Evans

CONSIGNMENT DIRECTOR BELIEVES EVERY GUITAR IS SOMEBODY’S DREAM GUITAR

As a self-described “gearhead,” Isaiah Evans grew up playing with Hot Wheels. “They were all over the house!” he says. “I never kept any in the packages. Cars were meant to be driven, or in my case, played with.”

Today, as Heritage Auctions’ vintage guitar consignment director, Evans handles some of the world’s most unique musical treasures. And despite the fun nature of the category, there’s a lot to take seriously.

“With movie posters, coins and autographs,” he says, “it’s common for someone to have hundreds of pieces. But with guitars, a collector may only have five or 10 pieces. So when a consignor decides to sell a piece or an entire collection, that’s a big decision. These are their babies and they are trusting me to find them a new home.

“It’s a good day,” he says, “when I’ve earned that trust and matched those instruments with a proud new owner, because every guitar is somebody’s dream guitar.” 

As a kid, did you collect anything besides Hot Wheels?
I was a movie nut, so I collected movie posters. I remember going to the movie theater and asking for old posters. They looked at me like, “What does this kid want these for?” They were just going to throw them out, so they were glad to hand them over.

Do you still have those collections?
Sadly, the Hot Wheels did not survive my Dukes of Hazzard phase. The movie posters, on the other hand, did. I still have many pieces from those early days. Others I have sold through Heritage. I continue to collect movie paper even today. 

So where did vintage guitars come in?
I’m from a family of musicians. My grandfather was a guitar guy and I caught the bug from him. I still have his 1952 Fender Telecaster, a 1961 Gibson Les Paul Custom, a 1961 Fender Jazzmaster, a 1965 Fender Twin Reverb Amp and a few other pieces. 

When did you ‘officially’ start collecting guitars?
I bought my first vintage guitar when I was 15. It was a 1968 Harmony H15 Bob Kat that I picked up for $50, a lot of money to me back then. It’s worth $500 now. That doesn’t seem like a big number but that’s not a bad return on investment. I still play that guitar today. As for a more significant purchase, that happened when I got to college in 1994. I found a 1968 Fender Telecaster Custom in an old music shop in West Texas. It cost me a whopping $400. I sold that guitar last year for $10,000. 

When did you start working at Heritage Auctions?
In 2004, I was working for another auction house that specialized in online collectibles when I got a call from a college friend who was working at Heritage. It was my dream job, so I jumped at the opportunity. 

So it must be fun going to work every day handling these incredible guitars. What’s the most interesting piece you’ve ever held?
If I had to pick just one, I would choose the 1949 Bigsby Solid Body Electric Guitar. The work that Paul Bigsby was doing was way ahead of its time and inspired Leo Fender, Ted McCarty of Gibson and so many more. He only made around 22 solid body electric guitars and they are some of the rarest and most sought-after pieces in the world.

What trends do you see coming around the corner in vintage guitar collectibles?
Metal guitars … brands and models associated with hair bands and heavy metal music of the early ’80s. We’ve seen a sharp rise in the values of American-made B.C. Rich guitars from the late 1970s and early ’80s. The same goes for the American-built Dean ML and the V Standard. It makes sense. Many collectors are drawn to the items they wanted as a kid. The generation that was into that music has now come of age and those guitars have come of age with them.

Finally, what sets Heritage Auctions apart from other auction houses?
I love that every specialist on staff is a collector first. We can truly understand where our consigners and bidders are coming from. Like every collector, we’ve had to make tough decisions about buying and selling because we love this stuff, too!

ISAIAH EVANS can be reached at IsaiahE@HA.com.