Random Musings: Getting Silly in Philly

I don’t get to a lot of guitar shows. Not because I don’t enjoy them because I do. I like driving too. Nothing like a road trip with some high volume singing along with the radio (or the ipod) to loosen up the rust and burn the carbon off the brain matter. I don’t go because I never seem to have any time. Between my real business (GTV, Inc.) and my little guitar business (Opporknockity Tunes Guitars), I barely have 5 minutes to spend with my wife of 26 years (with whom I still really like to spend time). Somehow, however, the stars aligned and off I went to the Fall Philly Show. I brought along the 59 ES 345 in red that I recently acquired to get a bit of a read on what the big dealers thought and if someone made me a big fat offer, then just maybe…The first thing I noticed when I walked in was how many men there were between the ages of, say, 52 and 62. What would you think 30%? 20%? I mean, we’re a big part of the population but who would have imagined that 80% of the people at the show were around my age (58). And male. Not a whole lot of girl watching to be done at a guitar show. Interestingly enough, I don’t think these guys (myself included) would spend any time looking at them. It seems a 50 year old guitar trumps a 22 year old hottie with this crowd. It occurred to me that someone should set up a prostate exam booth. Big bucks to be made here.  Where else are you going to find such a concentration of sedentary middle aged men? I saw a lot of other folks brought guitars with them to show off and, ultimately, sell. They were smart enough to know the trick of putting a description of what’s in the case on the outside of the case. I didn’t know that trick and so was asked about 150 times, “whaddya got there?”. It seems bringing an old brown Gibson case gets you a lot of attention. What was most interesting was the way the dealers reacted to the guitar. To set the stage, it’s a rare and beautiful guitar. I would be willing to bet that there wasn’t more than a dealer or two there who had ever seen a red 59 ES 345, let alone one in near mint condition. There were two very distinct reactions. The first, which came from the overwhelming majority of the dealers was “wow, what a gorgeous guitar” or “cool fiddle” or “great old axe” or something like that. Then they would ask if I was selling it and ask how much I wanted to get for it. The conventional wisdom is that a dealer, if he’s interested, should make you a reasonable wholesale offer and you negotiate from there-not ask “how much are you looking to get?”  Not one dealer did that. Not surprising, given the economy, everybody wants to make a score.  Most of the dealers felt my price was fair and made it clear that this is a tough time to sell a 345-especially a high dollar one which I agree is true. They were most appreciative that I shared it with them and all said they would love to have it. Then there was another type of dealer. These guys-and they were in the minority-were negotiating before the case was even opened. ” How much you want for it?” I would give them my price and they would make a face…”Gee, the handle on the case is a little frayed…Then-and this kills me-they open the case and immediately start telling you what’s wrong with the guitar. Now, to remind you, this is a 9.5-9.8 condition guitar but still, they were ready to nitpick. “Uh-oh, the tuner buttons are all shrunk…” And isn’t that the wrong Varitone ring? (which it isn’t)” “those frets sure could use a dressing…” I’m sure that if the tuner buttons weren’t shrunken the guy would have said “Uh-oh, the tuner buttons must be repros because they would be shrunken if it was a real 59.”  This only happened a couple of times but I closed the case and walked away without another word. I guess there are going to be a small number of douchebags in every large gathering. But the vast majority of the guitar show attendees were polite, gracious, appreciative and nice. I got a very nice offer from a Japanese buyer which I turned down. This guitar should stay here in the good old US of A where it was made, I think. And the offer was just a bit low. I didn’t bring a camera to the show and I wish I had because there were some very cool guitars there. I played a wonderful ’60 Les Paul ‘burst and a ’52 goldtop that was converted to a 57 that just sang. There was a 59 red 355 mono that I was coveting and a ’58 blonde 335 with enough holes to fill the Albert Hall. But my favorite of all-a bit overpriced at $8500 was a ’61 dot neck 335. What?!! a 61 dot neck for $8500?? Well, I wish I had a photo.  Apparently, the girlfriend of the previous owner was somewhat annoyed with something he had done. I don’t know-slept with her best friend? ate the last popsicle? spilled cereal on the couch? forgot to put down the toilet seat? Anyway, she was ticked off about something and took his guitar by the neck and bashed it against the corner of the kitchen counter in no less than 5 times-most of which were right at the center block so instead of the guitar smashing to bits which she must have figured it would do, it just has three or four long , deep, narrow dents in it. She did manage to get one hit in by the f-hole that did some real damage. But the neck was still perfectly intact and it played just fine. Maybe it was worth the $8500-after all, the finish was original, it had PAFs and there were no repairs. Most of the Ebay sellers would call that “never broken or repaired!! tone for days with some player wear!! Great mojo! “Mint condition for its age!!!”  and maybe “One owner!”  But for all it’s dents and cracks and splinters, I’ll bet it got more attention than that 20 year old blonde in the miniskirt that was smaller than some of the ties in my closet.

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