Teisco was a brand of musical instruments manufactured in Japan from 1946 until 1969. The company produced beginner electric guitars, adding the “Teisco Del Ray” brand in 1964. Not well known for quality or playability, they are sought after for their sometimes bizarre designs and collector's fascination with classic kitsch.
Although Teisco guitars were cheaply made and inexpensive, they developed a strong collector following starting in the 1990s. Alternative and indie rock and blues guitarists with a propensity for odd instruments rediscovered Teisco guitars, which could be purchased at yard sales and pawn shops for well under $100. Kawai Musical Instruments, the owner of the Teisco name, recognized the trend and resurrected the brand in the early 90s with moderate success.
Teisco was unusual in that they manufactured models of their own design, as well as knock-off copies. It is the Teisco Del Ray original design guitars that attract collectors, as many other manufacturers produced knock-offs of equal or greater quality. Collector values for Teisco originals are largely set by market demand of specific models.
The unusual Teisco SD-4L of 1963, featured four pickups and eight switches, in addition to the standard volume, tone and pickup switches. This vinyl-clad, tremolo equipped guitar is among the most sought after for Teisco collectors, and can fetch $300-900.
Teisco May Queen
Teisco Del Ray “May Queen” of 1968 is another coveted model, with prices also in the $300 to $800 range. The semi-hollow oval shaped guitar featured two pickups, volume, tone and pickup selector switch with tremolo system.
The TRG-1 was an innovative guitar, with built in amplifier and speaker. Also sold under the “Kay” and “Silvertone” brands available through Sears, the TRG can fetch from $200 to $500. Jackson Brown used a TRG-1 for his 2002 tour, sans the built-in amplifier, which sparked new interest in this unique model.
The E-120 and ET-200 are commonly known as “Tulip” guitars. Compact and lightweight, these instruments are recognized for their distinctive tulip-shaped body and simple electronics. Tulips are collectible and plentiful, and can be found in the $50 to $150 range.
Teisco Spectrum 5
The obscure and rare Spectrum 5 model was a higher-end Teisco Del Ray. With a solid walnut body and hand-lacquered finish, the Spectrum 5 sported unusual electronics including three split-pickups, mono and stereo outputs, and color-coded pickup selector switches. Spectrum 5 guitars are at the top of the collector value scale, with examples in good condition going for $ 500 to well over $1000.
Teisco Buyers Beware
Bear in mind that most Teisco instruments were inexpensive beginner models, produced during a period when imported products were not quite up to modern standards. Many of these instruments have been modified or stripped of parts over the years, but with a strong following and used parts available through collector and auction sites, support and interest in Teisco Del Ray guitars is going strong.