Cue the Scary Music (Again)


I found this on the internets. I wish I had some carving skills but I don't. I can do a couple of triangles for eyes and a pretty scary mouth but thats about it.

I found this on the internets. I wish I had some carving skills but I don’t. I can do a couple of triangles for eyes and a pretty scary mouth but thats about it.

Well, it’s almost Halloween so I feel kind of obligated to write something scary. You might think to yourself, what’s scary about buying and selling guitars but the truth is, it can be plenty scary. And not just what happens when the wife finds out that you spent $30,000 on yet another guitar (…but, dear, we’ll get it all back and more when I sell it…). Buying is a lot scarier than selling. The biggest downside of a sale is a guitar that comes back. Not very scary unless the buyer starts making accusations about how you misrepresented the guitar and how it isn’t really a Gibson but a Chinese copy built by children in a sweatshop in Guangdong. For the record, this never happened. The scary stuff is on the buy side. Anyone who has bought a guitar from Ebay or Craigslist knows what I mean. And it isn’t just the fear of getting scammed. Buying a guitar from a non guitarist such as the family of the last owner can be fraught with danger (and not Carlos Danger which might be the best Halloween costume this year-an Anthony Weiner mask and a cellphone?). So, what scares me when I buy a guitar that I’m not able to inspect in person and has no return policy? Plenty, which is why I don’t generally do that. Undisclosed cracks and refinishes are the big fear because they will cut your investment value in half no matter how good the rest of the guitar is. Make sure you ask the seller if the guitar has the original finish and no cracks or repairs using the Ebay question form. And pay using Paypal. That way, if the guitar shows up with a headstock crack, you can file a complaint ┬áthat the guitar wasn’t as advertised and try to get your money back. If you don’t ask, then it wasn’t misrepresented-it’s merely an error of omission. I know, it’s not fair but that’s how they see it. So ask. Paypal buyer protection works, you just have to prove the other party guilty which can be pretty nasty (the headstock was fine when I sent it or Fedex broke it or, worse, the buyer broke it on purpose just to get his money back). These things all can happen. Refinishes are a lot trickier and can result in some ugly confrontations like “…I’ve owned this guitar since 1971 and I guarantee it hasn’t been refinished…” except that there’s red paint inside the f-holes. This actually happened to me and if I had any guts at all I would name the seller but I won’t. Then there are the changed parts which you can almost count on. Fully 90% of the guitars I’ve gotten from Ebay or Craigslist have something changed and it shouldn’t surprise you because 50 years is a long time for anything to remain completely original. It’s usually a knob or the bridge or the nut or something benign like that so I don’t even bother making an issue of it. I’ve been sent photos of guitars by folks who want me to buy them that have been renecked, re-bound, oversprayed and replated. Generally, they aren’t trying to misrepresent the guitars-they just don’t know-this is pretty geeky stuff. Fortunately, I know what to look for and, if you’re a regular reader, so should you. That’s the whole point of the blog-to let you know the stuff that I’ve learned by owning so many of these (close to 300 now). So, pay attention and caveat emptor (buyer beware if you don’t speak Latin). Oh, and one last thing…if you’re the girlfriend and you’ve just gotten out of bed with the hunky boyfriend in the slasher movie, do NOT go out to the garage to get a beer out of the fridge for him. Tell him to get it himself.

One Response to “Cue the Scary Music (Again)”

  1. RAB says:

    Charlie, yes, buying a vintage guitar can be scary from both the dealer’s and purchaser’s perspective! You point out the pitfalls from the dealer’s viewpoint but being a buyer from a less than candid seller can also be a bad experience. I get the sense some less than upstanding dealers (and you are not included!) feel they can misrepresent or just plain not disclose an instrument’s deficiencies. Ideally, from their perspective, the buyer will not be astute enough to recognize the deficiencies (repairs, replaced parts, etc) and will keep the instrument without asking for a price adjustment. Worst case they will return it. Since the buyer is responsible for all shipping costs the dealer is out nothing (other than the hassle of packing/shipping the guitar). The purchaser is out the cost of the shipping (which can be substantial when airfreight is involved) and the incalculable pain of going from pleasant anticipation to disappointment when opening the case on “NGD” (new guitar day)

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