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Wholesale vs Retail

The Notorious Pelham Blue Trini. A very cool guitar bought on Ebay for a very low price.

You knew it was coming, didn’t you. You knew that when I transitioned from an aficionado to a dealer, I would do this. But please, don’t blame me. I don’t make the rules. “Supply and Demand” predates me by a few years. Let’s say you have an old ES-335 in the closet that belonged to your grandfather and it is now yours. You don’t play and, while it’s nice to have something of Grandpa’s around, it seems like it might be worth some serious money. So, you go online and try to figure out what it is you have. Then you go to Ebay and see what it’s worth. Then you try to sell it for the same price the people on Ebay are trying to get and you get no bites and you wonder why. The key is time. The other key is knowledge. If you’re in a hurry to sell and you want, essentially, to cash out of the guitar right now, then you will probably have to take a wholesale price. A dealer pays you a lower price than an end user simply because he will have to hold the guitar for however long it takes to find the right buyer. Take it from me, there are not a lot of folks out there who will pay $10,000 or more for an old guitar. The buyers in that price range tend to be extremely knowledgeable AND seem more likely to buy from a dealer. The guy who found the guitar in the closet is most likely not any sort of expert and will not be able to adequately describe the guitar in such a way as to instill confidence that the buyer is getting what he pays for. Most dealers will allow you at least 24 hours to decide if you got what you thought you were getting. Most Ebay sellers don’t. Another option if you find yourself in possession of an old, perhaps valuable guitar, is to take it to a dealer who sells vintage guitars. An honest dealer will tell you exactly what you have and, if interested, will make you an offer-and not ask “how much do you want for it?”  What the dealer shouldn’t do is start messing about with a soldering iron. Removing the pickup screws and flipping them over is fine but I had a guitar come to me from a dealer that had removed two virgin covers from the PAFs to see the bobbin color.  If  your local dealer does anything beyond loosening screws and looking at components, pick up your guitar and go.  If the dealer feels he can make a profit on your guitar, he will offer you less than the retail value. How much less? That often depends on how badly the dealer wants your guitar. But, and I can guarantee this, you will not get a retail price out of a dealer. You won’t get what the sellers are listing them for on Ebay (even though the ones listed at the stupidest high prices are from dealers). The true market is determined by the buyer. Look at the Ebay “sold” listings and you will get a reasonably good idea what your guitar is worth on the open market. Again, the dealer will probably pay you less.  The difference is the time value of money. If you want money now, then wholesale is probably your best bet. Go to an honest dealer and you will get an honest price. By all means, put it up on Ebay for a week or two and see if someone bites. But before you do, make sure you know what you have. I’ve seen way too many guitars go for ridiculously low prices because the buyer didn’t do his homework. The best example I can recall happened twice. Someone had a blue Trini Lopez. The “Blue Book” says its worth $3200 but the Blue Book doesn’t differentiate between the red ones and the blue ones because the blue ones are quite rare. So, you go and list your Blue Trini for $3200 and someone hits the Buy it Now and everybody walks away happy right? Right, but the guitar is still worth $10,000 (according to a well known appraiser).  If you’d gone to a dealer you probably would have gotten at least $7500 or more than double. The story doesn’t end here. There was another blue Trini that came up on  Ebay, this time in an auction format with no Buy it Now. That one sold for exactly $7500 which, to me, was a reasonable wholesale price.  So, don’t be a sucker. Do your homework and that doesn’t mean just check the Ebay listings for a guitar that looks like the ones you have. I’ve got a link to a serial number chart on this site and, while Gibson serial numbers are notoriously unreliable, it will at least give you some idea of a range of years. Fortunately the older the guitar, the more like the serial number is to be accurate and reliable. It wasn’t until around ’63 that it got really nuts at Gibson. If you have what you think might be a 50’s or 60’s ES-335, 345 or 355, send me a photo and I’ll get you started on your way to getting a reasonable price for your guitar.

5 Responses to “Wholesale vs Retail”

  1. jim tolcou says:

    Hi:
    I mwas wondering what the retail and wholesale price a of 2009 Gibson Les Paul Studio guitar might be. Thanks.

  2. OK Guitars says:

    I don’t deal in new guitars so I can’t help you with this. Not only that but I also don’t know much about any Les Pauls after 1969.

  3. OK Guitars says:

    I have no idea. This is a 335 site.

  4. john karros says:

    i own a 79′ es-335 pro in tobacco burst w/ dirty fingers pups….i wanna swap out the pups & the pots for a more ‘vintage’ sound…… any suggestions & will i ruin the original value of the instrument or improve it? thanks

  5. OK Guitars says:

    There isn’t much vintage value in a 79. Keep the old pickups, do a good desoldering job and you won’t affect the value at all for years to come unless 70’s 335 Pros shoot up in value-which I highly doubt. the idea is to enjoy the guitar now. A pair of 60’s T-tops would be a good call. Or for a little more vintage PAF thing, try either Throbaks, Sheptones, Duncan Antiquities or Rolphs. Jim Rolph and Jeff Shepard (Sheptone) are very good guys and will help you find the tone you’re looking for. I don’t know the guys at Throbaks but they make an awfully good pickup as does Seymour.

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