Running with the Herd (Mentality)

One of my favorites ever "The Mexican". Here's a 65 with an original stoptail and all of the 64 features EXCEPT the narrow bevel truss. These can be a bargain if you can find one

Herd mentality scored this guitar for me. “El Mexicano” not to be confused with “El Kabong” (who remembers this guitar toting character?). Dirt cheap and nobody had the guts to pull the trigger. Feedback? We don’t need no stinking feedback.


Ebay is a very interesting place. In most cases, it represents the most true of all marketplaces in that it is a “free” market. “Free” in that if you don’t like the price, you don’t have to buy and “free” in that there are no set prices. But, in other ways, it is not free. It is restricted by human nature. The idea that if something looks “too good to be true” it probably is-is a good point. There are a lot of scammers on Ebay, listing items they don’t own, collecting money for them and disappearing. I know. It happened to me early on. Paypal “money back” has helped but the paranoia persists. But then there is something called the “herd mentality”. It’s pretty much what it sounds like. Potential buyer A sees a guitar he likes and then looks at what other buyers are doing (or not doing) and follows the “herd”. And yes, I have a good example. Guitars that are listed near or perhaps slightly below their actual value seem to be problem because the savvy bidders will hold off until near or at the end of the auction and grab it then. You see a lot of guitars sell with one bid-usually at the last minute. But there is something more lurking behind the public face of that auction. A potential buyer sees, say, a 64 Bigsby ES-335 listed for under $10000 (real example). He thinks that it’s a good deal but doesn’t want to get outbid, so he holds off. Buyer B thinks the same thing as does buyer C. Now you would think that all three buyers would come charging in at the end to try to snare this seemingly good deal but they don’t. By the way, there were nearly 100 “watchers”. Here’s my theory as to why this well priced guitar didn’t get a single bid.  Ebay buyers don’t buy expensive guitars every day and while many may feel that they are fairly knowledgeable, they seem to harbor some doubt as well (don’t we all?). As the auction progresses and nobody else bids, potential buyers get the notion that the other potential buyers know something they don’t. It could be related to the seller (scam or legit?) or the guitar itself (is that a reneck?). So, by everybody holding out, those same folks get cold feet and decide not to bid and a good deal goes unsold. I’ve seen it 50 times, at least.  The nagging feeling that the seller himself isn’t legit is a somewhat different phenomenon. A few years back I saw a stop tail 65 ES-335 (yes, they made stops in 65) being sold by a guy in Guadalajara, Mexico with no feedback. The photos looked legit and the price was $7500. It got no bids-I assume due to the lack of feedback and the location and who can blame them. I don’t generally buy guitars from Ebay but I will sometimes bottom fish after a listing I particularly like is completed without a sale.  Following the end of the auction, I emailed the seller, asked for his phone number and spoke to him about the guitar. It turns out he was a pro player in Mexico and had two guitars to sell and he described them carefully to me-playing one (very well, I might add) as he spoke to me on the phone. I bought it and it was a great deal and a great guitar.  The larger point here is that you have to trust your own knowledge if you are going to play on Ebay-or email me and ask what I think. A lot of you already do that and I’m happy to throw out my opinion with the usual disclaimer about bad photos and questionable sellers. I should also point out that close to 90% of the guitars I buy sight unseen (from dealers and from individuals) have some hidden or undisclosed issue. It can be as benign as a few changed saddles or it can be as drastic as an undisclosed headstock break. Perhaps 5% are exactly as described and another 5% are better than described-like when you get a pair of undisclosed double whites-then it’s Christmas morning. Finally, it isn’t because the sellers are dishonest (although some are), it’s usually because they just don’t know.

In case you don't get the reference at the top-noted guitar slinger "El Kabong". "Sorry I'm late, I had to tune my kabonger."

In case you don’t get the reference at the top-noted guitar slinger “El Kabong”. “Sorry I’m late, I had to tune my kabonger.”



9 Responses to “Running with the Herd (Mentality)”

  1. RAB says:

    Charlie, first, thanks for the trip down memory lane! Gee…I hadn’t thought about Quick Draw McGraw in decades! And what was the name of his little burro sidekick? Back to git-fiddles! I agree Ebay can exhibit some unusual purchaser (and seller) behavior! I’ve scored a few gems where it appeared there was interest but someone was unwilling to “pull the trigger”. Esnipe adds another interesting dynamic with bids won or lost by mere seconds!

  2. chuckNC says:

    I have seen another thing happen. With seconds left, two different bidders charge in with a very high bid. Way over market value. They both want the item badly and want to “make sure” they win it. One of them ends up saying “wow….I didn’t get it?” And the other says “ouch, I got it!”

  3. GrahamG says:

    Hi C – unsure if this works but a youtube taster of “El Kaboing” a lifelong favourite too


  4. cgelber says:

    At least someone else is old enough to remember El Kabong. I was getting worried I was the only one (and you’re still younger than I am). I didn’t know they had Quickdraw McGraw in the UK.

  5. cgelber says:

    I’ve seen that as well and then the high bidder bails out and the item comes back on a week later and either doesn’t sell or sells for much less.

  6. cgelber says:

    The sidekick was Baba Looey.

  7. RAB says:

    Go Baba Looey go!!

  8. Tom says:

    Hi Charlie,

    This mail is not specific to this current blog ..but here it is in hope of getting a response:

    I recently found a 67 burgundy 335 in a shop and swear it was the best I’ve ever played, from that period. Priced at $7500, I walked and later found out the owner had taken it off consignment after 8 months on the wall. My question is, ignoring the price on that particular guitar, what is the sensible discount for a”b”-stamped headstock marking vs a clean model iin excelllet condition..-10, 20, 30% etc?

    BTW, I’ve been waiting for you to address the 330s. Nice.


  9. cgelber says:

    There really isn’t a hard and fast rule for factory seconds. In most cases the flaw is usually some minor finish issue which, after 50 years or so, isn’t much of an issue at all. They are a little harder to sell but they command about the same price as one without the “2” designation. If I had to put a percentage discount on it, I’d say from 0% to 10% depending on the flaw (if you can find it). I don’t know of a factory second that has had a playability issue.

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