More Ebay Follies

A beauty right?. Sometimes, however, you have to look a little closer and call on your inner Sherlock Holmes. A little simple deductive reasoning goes a long way. Read on.

I used to to moan about poorly described-or misdescribed ES models on Ebay a lot. I thought I was performing a public service of sorts. You know, keep the nice folks from buying some piece of crap being sold as something it isn’t. Noble, right? Well, I don’t do it much any more because it was driving me a little nuts. As a dealer, I take a lot of pride in the accuracy (and completeness) of my descriptions. When I see another dealer miss the boat on a listing, it kind of bugs me. Individual sellers? Not so much-they aren’t expected to be experts and caveat emptor certainly applies. Anybody who buys a guitar sight unseen from an individual seller is taking a gamble-I do it all the time (so you don’t have to). But when a dealer gets it wrong-even if he offers you a return period, it rankles. I’m not talking about stuff that’s overpriced-there’s plenty of that and people asking “ambitious” prices is common and expected. Dealers too. It’s pretty easy to research the going rates for any vintage guitar. But, unless you’ve owned a lot of these or you memorize everything I’ve written, there are some small “tells” that you just might not notice. I don’t even notice them at first glance. Take the guitar in the photo up top. It looks stunning and I was interested right off the bat. I read through the description and was disappointed (especially at that price) to see that it had suffered a headstock crack and was repaired. The smart buyer takes that into consideration and moves on, which is what I did. But I went back this morning to look more closely just to see how good (or bad) the repair was. I buy “player” grade guitars all the time and maybe I could make a deal. Everything looked really excellent until I got to the photo of the headstock. The logo is very wrong. No dot in the “i” and the script looks wrong as well. The texture of the holly headstock doesn’t seem right either. Did the repair include a “new” headstock overlay? It doesn’t look like a reneck from what I can see at the tenon. Maybe it’s just a poor repaint of the face of the headstock. I can’t tell from the photos but I can tell that something isn’t right. At $15K, that should be disclosed. They do state that 

If I didn’t tell you, you’d never know.

Maybe not…if you’re blind. It’s not my intention to make the dealer look bad. It is, however, my intention to get them to pay more attention to the small details that make the difference between getting a great guitar at a fair price and getting a three legged dog for the same price. I miss stuff all the time when I’m in buying mode – remember the blonde ES-355 that turned out to have been renecked? I’m still kicking myself for that. When you’re buying from the widows and orphans, it’s not really fair to ask them to pull the pickups and evaluate the truss rod. But when you’re buying from a dealer, they are supposed to have done all the homework for you. Finally, if I list a guitar and you-as a dealer or an individual, see something I’ve missed, tell me. It will save me a lot of aggravation in the long run and I’ll respect you in the morning. Really.

This is the face of the headstock of the guitar at the top. What's wrong with this picture? I see at least 2 and maybe 3 things that tell me something is amiss.


10 Responses to “More Ebay Follies”

  1. Ollie Pickering says:

    The whole top carve of the headstock looks totally wonky, and off-centre. I enjoyed Ebay ES of the week. I find myself doing it now. Theres a well known london dealer trying to shift a ’63 335 at the moment for around $12,000. They make sure they mention the re-lacquered neck and missing pup covers but have somehow missed the very obvious Bigsby holes in the top. I don’t like to think they’re being dishonest but the only other reason is that they just don’t know. Which is even worse.

  2. RAB says:

    Yup, the Gibson inlay looks bogus for starters! As does the overlay. Maybe a spliced on headstock?

  3. Danny says:

    Just for the heck of it, I asked the seller about the headstock. Here’s his response:

    “As for the dot-less Gibson logo, I’ll let you in on a secret, but you have to promise never to tell anyone. The dot-less logo Gibsons are a special double secret series of guitars manufactured by a sworn group of trained masters in the underground bunkers of the Denver airport. Made with secret rare and now extinct wood and using ancient guarded assembly procedures, they are the absolute most valuable Gibsons ever made. This fact is only known by a select group found only in the deepest vintage circles. Thanks Paul”

  4. OK Guitars says:

    You can’t be serious.

  5. OK Guitars says:

    It looks like the paint was applied over mahogany rather than the usual holly veneer. I can’t be 100% certain of that but a guitar in that condition should have a headstock overlay that is perfectly smooth, showing no wood grain. The logo itself looks more than a little suspect, no doubt (even if it had the dot)

  6. Danny says:

    I totally agree. Just going by blink, it looks wrong. I was surprised by his response, of course. It’s an odd attitude to take, unless he was certain I wasn’t a potential buyer. Maybe even so.

  7. RAB says:

    Odd attitude for sure. Unfortunately many dealers are apparently happy to send out a guitar touting their 24 hour approval period and hope that the buyer won’t be astute enough to detect an instrument’s flaws. From the dealer’s perspective they are hoping the buyer doesn’t and they have made a final sale. If the buyer does send it back it is, almost exclusively, at their expense so the dealer has little to lose other than the instrument being absent from their inventory for a short period of time. There are those buyers who are intent on “buying” an instrument hoping to steal or swap parts but that is another story…

  8. Nelson Checkoway says:

    Right on with this cautionary tale, Charlie. I guess the first rule is to go with your gut reaction — if it doesn’t “feel” right — ir probably isn’t. It brings to mind the lead story in a great book about going with your gut: “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell. The Getty Museum spent a 7-figure boatload of money on an “ancient” Greek sculpture. Every expert said something didn’t feel right about it, but they ultimately authenticated it despite their unanimous negative gut reactions. Later it was found to be a few-decades-old fake. One expert said that the word that came to mind when first seeing the ancient statue was “fresh”. Shudda known betta!Ouch.

  9. OK Guitars says:

    The second rule is to ask me. Even if it isn’t one of mine, I’ll give you my honest assessment. I’m not infallible-the blonde ES-355 is a good example-but four eyes are better than two in any case.

  10. Nelson Checkoway says:

    Yes, and another reason to be wary of the “too good to be true” deals and stick with reputable dealers like you, is that there is still a lot of scamming on Ebay. Some years back, I almost lost a $6,000 deposit on a 50’s goldtop in a scam where someone pirated a dormant user name to demonstrate history and feedback. A tip – always look up the feedback and figure whether makes sense for the current sale. I’ve seen examples of vintage guitar bargains from sellers with hundreds of positive feedbacks — only to find they are all 4-plus year old sales of, say, doll clothing or hummel plates. RED FLAG! And it’s harder now, since Ebay doesn’t post the item title in the feedback for very long (but the notes from the buyers often hint at the items’ identity). Fortunately, I learned my lesson … and recovered the dough.

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