Buy a guitar and help kids battle cancer

Posted 08 May 2010 in Guitar Heroics

There are a lot of fake vintage guitars in the market, but if you want to be certain of getting a real one, log on to the Roots of Rock Collection ( before it sells out. The collection, which originally consisted of more than 300 mint-state vintage guitars and amplifiers, appraised at US$4-million to US$4.5-million, belonged to Tony Melman, a former managing director at Onex Corp. and now chairman and CEO of Nevele Partners Inc. in Toronto. Mr. Melman donated his collection to the Toronto Community Foundation as a means of raising money to fight children’s cancer. All proceeds from sales of the guitars go to the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario, or POGO.

Mr. Melman’s daughter Vanessa contracted Hodgkin’s disease at 13 and was treated by Mark Greenberg, senior pediatric oncologist at the Hospital for Sick Children. Vanessa survived, grew up, got married and had a child of her own, a miracle that prompted Mr. Melman to want to give away something he really loved, his guitar collection, to support research into fighting children’s cancer.

“If I can help one family, it was worth it,” Mr. Melman said.

Mr. Melman had methodically assembled the collection over about six years, with the aim of paying tribute to the artists and guitar makers who gave birth to rock music. He insisted each instrument be in nearly mint condition and had each potential purchase inspected by luthier Doug Harrison to weed out refinished instruments and others that were not what they were purported to be.

“There were a couple of instances where people were trying to play games,” Mr. Melman said.

He aimed to collect each variant of each model, favouring those with natural wood finishes. He never planned to sell. Eventually, his basement music studio was jammed with 295 guitars hung from the ceiling on chrome hangers, sharing space with nearly 100 vintage amplifiers.

“You couldn’t move in there,” he said.

The first items from his collection began selling in December 2004, and about USD4,000,000 worth of guitars and amplifiers have been sold, with all proceeds going to POGO. Only 27 guitars and seven guitar amplifiers worth about USD300,000 remain, safely locked away in a vault at Love Music in Scarborough, Ont.

Among the guitars left to be bought are a Paul Reed Smith Dragon II for USD28,999, a 1981 Gibson Kalamazoo Award Model for USD27,999 and two Gibson Switchmasters for about USD25,000 each. A buyer in Monaco recently paid USD23,000 for a Harley-Davidson Stratocaster.

Since his decision to donate his collection, 50 to 60 modern guitars — and some vintages repurchased from the Roots of Rock collection — have crept back into Mr. Melman’s now roomy studio, although he no longer travels the world shopping for vintage guitars.

“I still love guitar playing, but as much as I love my music, I can’t do what I used to do.”


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