OHSC stands for “Original Hard Shell Case”, and means that the guitar comes with the original case that it was sold inside of, not a replacement or aftermarket product. This is especially important when you’re looking at vintage instruments that are sold as being as original and period-correct as possible.
It is a term used for guitars but it is also relevant for any other instrument like mandolins, clarinets, banjos, acoustic guitars and others. You usually see this abbreviation in used market listings and shops or online sites that deal in vintage and rare instruments like Vintage and Rare or Norman’s Rare Guitars.
A Brief Overview of Hard Shell Cases
Today, based on the model and price, some guitars manufacturers include a hard case in the price and others reserve it as an add-on purchase to keep the costs down. Clearly, it isn’t mandatory to buy a hardshell case. Most people prefer to get a soft case or gigbag, especially for cheaper instruments.
The hard case is popular among people who want additional safety for expensive instruments or professional musicians who need added protection on the road or when checking their guitar on a plane. Thus, when musicians sell these instruments in the used market, they may or may not have a hard case. However, not all hard cases are made equal. When it comes to a hard case, you have three possibilities:
Model Specific Hard Case:
This refers to a hard case for a particular instrument made by the same company that manufactured the instrument i.e. a Gibson Les Paul case for a Gibson Les Paul guitar.
You can get one for free if it is included in the original purchase. You can also buy it later when the need for it arises. For example, you can upgrade from a soft case to a Fender Standard Black Case after one year of owning a Fender guitar. This product is designed to fit a wide variety of right or left-handed strat / tele models that are manufactured by Fender. You can buy one for roughly two hundred dollars from any e-commerce platform or music store.
Generic / Aftermarket Hard Case:
This can be a generic hard case or flight case made for a particular instrument but not by the company/brand that makes the guitar. These cases are generic and more affordable.
For example, you can get a Gator Deluxe ABS Case for a Fender Stratocaster or Telecaster. These go for a hundred to three hundred dollars based on specs. They don’t add any significant value when you put up the products for sale in the used market.
The common problem with aftermarket products is that they try to be generic and cater to multiple guitar models. This causes the guitar to sit awkwardly in a case – sometimes the case is too big and sometimes the guitar won’t fit. In either ‘case’, this can damage the guitar during transportation, and case owners need to resort to DIY shenanigans of stuffing the shell with a cotton cloth or foam padding etc. to get the guitar to sit well.
OHSC – Original Hard Shell Case:
The OHSC implies that you have the period correct original case sold with the instrument at the time of purchase. The same manufacturer makes it specifically for that instrument model in that era/period. This ensures two things – a) that is will fit the instrument well, and b) it will retain a better resale value if it is a rare or vintage instrument.
Many hedonists, musicians and collectors are hungry to score a vintage and rare OHSC from the 60s. Many of these old cases used chipboards, leather and lining material on the inside. They don’t provide any real protection but hold value because they are in working condition and present the same aesthetic of a period-perfect product for collectors. Check out this 1963 Fender Precision Original Case with springs and leather. As you can see, they cost a pretty penny.
According to Vintage Guitar Price Guide 2015, an original 1959 Les Paul with ‘figured maple’ can go for $400,000 to $700,000. The original vintage 1955-1958 case itself can fetch a whopping $1,000 to $2,000.
Why is it important to have an OHSC?
If you’ve ever walked into one of those rare and vintage stores, you will see a wall full of 1950s Fenders and Gibsons with five-figure price tags. You see, in the vintage market, things like 100% original parts are highly valued by buyers and sellers. It is a tough crowd with deep pockets where nothing past 1970 is considered vintage enough, and everything before 1920 is generally considered too primitive.
An instrument collector is willing to dole out some serious dollar for a historic guitar that is in good condition with all original parts. Even musicians, at least the ones who can afford it, have a tendency to romanticize era-specific instruments from the past like pre-War instruments or a Fender from the 60s. The good stuff can range from $3000 to $30,000 based on how rare and revered the instrument is. In the picture, you can see a Fender Stratocaster Custom Shop H.L.E Gold ’57 RI that would be listed for approximately 4k dollars.
Let us a take a scenario where person A was selling a 1965 Gibson-335 with a soft case, person B was seeing the same guitar with a generic aftermarket case, person C is selling the same make/model with an OHSC. If the condition of the instruments were the same, Person C would receive the most offers and would be able to sell at the highest price.
Another example – you may see a listing of a vintage SG guitar sold with a “Hard Case” because the seller got an aftermarket Gator Flight Case that fits SG styled guitars but this is just a generic hardshell case, not an original. He cannot add OHSC to his listing. However, a Vintage Fender Tweed Electric Guitar Case from the 50s in very good condition can be worth four thousand dollars as a standalone product. It will add significant value to a listing of a vintage Fender guitar.
What difference does an OHSC make?
As stated above, an OHSC can add significant value to the selling price of a rare and vintage instrument. Another reason people prefer the original hard case is because it is made by the same company that manufactured the guitar. This means it has the ideal size and shape specifications, which assures the customer that the guitar model + hard case combo will be a snug fit.
Conversely, if you aren’t trying to sell your guitar to a collector or are not interested in listing it in the vintage market, there is no added advantage of having an OHSC. Furthermore, there is nothing that says you can’t list it without the OHSC. The only effect this will have is that you may not be able to get preference over other sellers who have the original hardshell case. And, you will have to settle for a lower asking price.
While the internet will troll you with an almost-convincing and seriously worded answer like “Ohio South Carolina” and “Occupational Health & Safety Course”, now you know better than to fall for such gags. Although we’d like to give a shout out the guy who came up with “Only Has Single Coils”.
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