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What's The Lifespan Of A Pickup?


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I'm in a position to buy some 2nd hand pickups. They've never been used, new old stock you might say. They're about 20 years old, which is quite a bit. Now I know that pickups 'age' and slowly loose output (and get more character according to some). Does the aging (rate) of a pickup depend on being played or not and should it be something I factor into my decision?

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Alnico magnets will age no matter what, but vibrations and the steel strings probably speed it up. If they're weak you can always re-magnetize them though.

I'd be somewhat worried about corrosion in the wires in a 20 year old pickup, especially if it's not potted.

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This is unfortunately part of the voodoo surrounding old pickups. Alnico magnets do loose some of the their strength but if they are not object to severe magnetic fields they will not loose their strength after a few hours of full magnetization. That is a fact. If in doubt, please try it. Everything else is just part of the gigantic myth surrounding the PAFs and all the other pickups of fame. However the magnetic field will change if the magnets are put into a strong magnetic field, say from a power tool like a electric drill (like EVH in that video from the late 80's or early 90's).

The fact that the pickups haven't been used only speaks for the pickups being in good shape. Corrosion is more prune to happen if the pickups have been used. Using them expose them to all types of nasty stuff, like sweat, alcohol, polishing compounds etc. All of this is likely to speed up the corrosion and if they have been kept in their original box they are most likely to be OK. If you need proof measure the DC resistance. any short in the coils is easily detected that way.

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