Pawn shop scores: Gibson Marauder

I’d never thought I would ever be writing about both these subjects: 1. had never visited a pawn shop in my life, 2. didn’t have any real ambition of ever buying a Marauder, 3. pawn shops and guitars aren’t really the place to find quality guitars for not a lot of cash. Those days now seem long gone with the existence of the Internet and auction sites like eBay and Reverb.

There is a little backstory behind the Marauder and me, so I wasn’t being completely honest about not wanting to own one of these guitars. Maybe also rephrasing it slightly, it wasn’t that I wouldn’t want one but they suddenly were getting more expensive in the last few years. I mean I could still buy one, the price tag isn’t that ‘high’ in comparison to other vintage Gibsons, but they cost more than I would be willing to spend on a budget guitar from the 70s. A lot of people bash on Norlin-era Gibsons but the guitar hipsters who want sometime different are driving up the prices of these rare-ish oddball guitars. A term I read recently made me chuckle: the Silvertone syndrom, which boils down on people wanting some crappy/cheap vintage instrument just to be ‘different’, increasing demand and therefore prices. Although a victim of this ‘disease’ I wouldn’t call Marauders shit. Sure they’re budget guitars from that period but no way are we talking Teisco or Harmony quality, and I’m not even trying to hate on these brands either!

Before getting this guitar I’d only played one years ago, I believe several months after I started playing bass, maybe even before that. A local guitar shop had one for sale, a natural finished ’75 with a white pickguard IIRC. The price was way too high even by today’s prices, something like 1600 (!) euros. Their reasoning being it’s a Gibson and it’s vintage… so I immediately passed. Marauders and S-1’s aren’t that rare in the Netherlands, plenty have been imported at the time so that couldn’t be a reason behind their scandalous price. After that I kind of lost interest. I would see Marauders pop up on local auction sites but didn’t really care that much. Lately my interest was rekindled but after seeing what they were going for my hope of ever getting one for a decent price was slim. So I lost interest once again…

By complete coincidence I bumped into this Gibson. In the Netherlands there is a chain of pawn shops who advertise a lot on the Internet and also have an account on the Dutch ‘Craigslist’. I’d seen the guitar with a non-OHSC case advertised a couple of days earlier but no price was mentioned only bidding. This Marauder wasn’t in that good of a shape and it was sold at a pawn shop so I figured the price would be way to high anyway. Little over a day later the guitar was re-posted but this time with a price, being just under 300 euros. As you would imagine I immediately jumped at this opportunity! Luckily no one had come to pick it up yet so the next day I was at one of their shops right when they opened.

From the pictures I already knew the guitar wasn’t in great shape and not completely stock as well. My biggest concern was that the headstock had the infamous ‘kiss of death’, meaning it had snapped off at one point. Luckily the repair was done professionally as far as I could tell and it looked solid. Apart from the toggle switch and the truss rod cover everything else is original. The case was partly broken and heavy but my expectations were already low at that price point.

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How does she sound? The previous owner must have been a metal head or an idiot, because the strings were likely plucked from a baritone guitar! It sounded like I was playing a Bass VI on the lower strings. After restringing the guitar with a normal set of 10s she came right to life. The overall sound is very reminiscent of a Fender Telecaster Custom, which isn’t strange since Gibson borrowed a lot of elements from these guitars. The bridge pickup is Tele-esque but has more output to match the neck humbucker. The sound seems to have a natural compression and a very even output when bending thanks to the rail design of the pickup. The neck humbucker has a little more output than the single coil resulting in a volume bump when switching. In comparison to a normal Tele Custom the humbucker has more treble and bite. With both pickups you get a really nice combined tone with plenty of sparkly top end and low/mid end presence, ideal for use with modulation and/or overdrive. My only complaint is the weight, it’s quite heavy. I own basses which weigh much less.

After researching the serial number and shipping figures I found something really interesting. Vintage Gibson serial numbers aren’t the most useful when getting an accurate date, which they fixed by creating a standardized serial code in 1977. This particular Marauder dates to November of 1977. The shipping figures from that era (http://www.vintageguitarandbass.com/gibson/Marauder_2.php) show that just 80 Marauders were shipped in that year, with a total of only 9 natural finished guitars! 4 of which were natural satin, 5 unspecified. I don’t know if these shipping figures correspond exactly with the number of manufactured Marauders that year. It could be possible since my guitar has some overlapping features.

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The Marauders were (slightly) changed three times in their original production run. The first ones featured a rosewood fretboard, white pickguard, alder body and a three-way toggle pickup selector. In ’76/’77 the pickguard was changed to black, the switch replaced with a blend knob at the same location, the knobs and tuners were changed and the body was now made from maple. The headstock was also painted black and maple was now the only fretboard option. The final changes came in ’78. The blend knob was moved to in between the volume and tone pots, some Marauders now had a mahogany body, the pickup covers were changed to black and the pickguard was changed to the same pickguards used on Marauder Customs. Some of these features have some overlap. Especially the later ones when new colors were introduced sometimes had older hardware, likely Gibson was cleaning shop.

Mine has the maple fretboard but without the black headstock. You do see this combination but not a lot. All these guitars I have seen date to 1976. The serial number is also the older style version, being pressed into the finish instead of a sticker. I don’t think all this adds anything to the¬†collectability of this particular guitar but I found it interesting nonetheless.

All in all I’m quite happy with this new addition to the family. If you’ve never tried a Marauder and do come across one check them out! At least give them a chance, the tones you can get out of them are pretty unique. The purists will hate it, the hipsters will likely love the look, but I really like the sound.