Snaring the Sucker

There is a 60 dot neck in red on Ebay for $79,900. It's a very rare guitar for sure. I didn't want to post a photo from the actual auction, so I posted one of my red 59. I sold this guitar for $35000 a year or so ago. The Ebay guitar is a 60 and not worth the same (or twice) what a much rarer 59 is worth. Don't be a sucker.

Back a few decades ago (the 80’s) there was a period when the Japanese were buying everything in sight. The houses, the Ferraris, the commercial real estate and the state of Hawaii. They paid huge premiums over the going rates probably because they could. At that point they were the bull goose loonies of the world economy (don’t get the reference? Read “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest). To quote Wikipedia–In the late 1980s, abnormalities within the Japanese economic system had fueled a speculative “Japanese asset price bubble” of massive scale by Japanese companies, banks and securities companies. The combination of exceptionally high land values and low interest rates briefly resulted in heightened liquidity in the market. That led to people jacking up prices on everything hoping to snare the Japanese investor with more money than he knew what to do with. That period ended in the early 90’s but the policy of asking stupid money for something in the hope of someone actually paying it is still alive. In the vintage guitar world there are still folks asking three, four or even five times the value of their vintage 335, 345 or 355. Most people strive for perhaps an extra 20 or 30% and expect to negotiate from there but when you start at the hugely inflated numbers that often show up on Ebay, you’ve gotta be thinking something else. Like snaring a sucker. The Japanese don’t overpay for guitars any more-I’ve sold plenty of them to Japanese buyers. The Russian billionaires haven’t discovered the great joy of American electric guitars yet and the Chinese could care even less. So who are the suckers? Well, if you ask me (and I knew you would), the sucker is the guy who thinks he’s going to find someone who will pay $80,000 for a 1960 ES-335 (even if it is red). Or┬áthe guy who thinks his guitar is worth tens of thousands more because it’s within 100 numbers from Clapton’s. I had a 64 that was shipped the same day as Claptons (23 numbers away) and the premium was zero. It sold for the same as any 64 in the same condition. It’s not there aren’t suckers out there. There will always be folks with more money than sense. My point is that you shouldn’t be one of them (nor should you expect one to show up and buy your guitar). Do your research, ask a ton of questions and be patient. And ask me. If you’re looking for a particular guitar from a particular year with particular features, I probably know where there is one. If you have a 335 to sell (and you really want to sell it) put it out there for a fair price. That’s what I do and it seems to work just fine. We all know the worst offenders are Ebay sellers but a lot of dealers do it too. Most people don’t really enjoy the negotiation process and forcing a buyer to negotiate a 20 or 30% discount just to get the guitar to retail really isn’t fair to the buyer. If you’re a seller, unless you’ve got years to sell your guitar at an inflated price, you’ll be disappointed. There are still suckers out there. They just don’t come along very often.

3 Responses to “Snaring the Sucker”

  1. RAB says:

    Charlie, yes, I’ve never understood the rationale of setting a completely unrealistic price on an vintage guitar unless the seller really doesn’t care about selling it. Why go to the trouble of listing the guitar? Or, as you note, hoping to snare an ignorant (in the true sense of the word) buyer. Given the proliferation of some pretty good information about vintage guitar values (even just doing some simple searches and price-averaging) you don’t have to be Einstein to get an approximate range of reasonable values. A more difficult issue is trying to assess the true value of an instrument that has been (knowingly or unknowingly) misrepresented. That is very challenging, even for those of us who know the value of an unoriginal or incorrect part…

  2. Tom says:

    Snaring the sucker…who’s who in the deal below..or is everyone happy with the result?. The photos tell a different story than the description.

  3. OK Guitars says:

    Hard to know who the sucker is in this case. First red flag-no feedback. That’s tough but I’ve gotten great bargains buying no feedback items-it just takes a little guts. Next, it’s a 61 and not a 60. Next, it’s got a few holes that don’t belong and it’s damaged around the jack. No PAF photos. There are bargains on Ebay to be sure but they are few and far between. There are way more scams than there are steals. Next-3 day auction. That”s another red flag to me. You don’t give the item enough time to be seen by enough potential buyers and that could say that the seller just wants to get his money and disappear. I never saw the listing while it was active. I would have asked for additional photos. Finally, a 61 with a sideways is a tough sell. Worth more than it went for but still not the guitar of anyones dreams.

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