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Worth 1000 Pictures

Can you see the Schaller holes in this photo? OK, now you can because I mentioned it but if this was simply one of 20 or 30 photos and no mention was made of the filled holes, would you have seen them? Maybe. Maybe not.

“Didn’t you see the Schaller holes in the photo? It was clear as day…” Call me old school or maybe just old but I believe that the buyer deserves an accurate description of what he is buying. The customer may not always be right but the customer always has rights and that right is being stepped all over by an awful lot of sellers. Is it that folks have simply forgotten how to write? I don’t know, with texting and tweeting more prevalent than talking, I would have expected the art of writing to have had something of a resurgence. Nope. So, what’s the problem?

I bought a guitar recently and before I committed to it, I received more than thirty high res photographs but no detailed description of what the issues might have been. The dealer (yes, it was a dealer) shall remain nameless-it’s irrelevant-I have a good relationship with the dealer and I’m simply using what happened as a cautionary tale. So, don’t ask. It turns out the photos showed the guitar in a very good light. But they didn’t show me all the issues. The best example is a small repaired hole by the end of the neck where it appears a second pick guard had once lived. The seller knew it was there but in the photo, unless you already knew it was there, you would may not have seen it. And why would that be? Mostly because I wasn’t expecting it. The seller could have written in the description…”there’s a properly filled holed from a second pickguard…” Simple. Fair. Reasonable. That alone would not have kept me from buying the guitar-especially since it wasn’t very noticeable. But it was other stuff as well.

I have a real personal bug up my ass about reproduction parts not being disclosed. In a world where a correct short seam stop tailpiece can cost you close to $2000, I’m not real happy when I spend top dollar on a guitar only to get it and find out the tailpiece is a repro. It’s usually a good repro but still a repro. When I brought it up, the seller said…”the tailpiece was clearly in the photos…” Yes, it was but nobody can tell a good repro from a real one without seeing the bottom. The repros have gotten very accurate but not so I can’t tell. It’s even worse when I make a deal and get into my car and drive 150 miles to pick a guitar up and find out, when I get there, that the tailpiece was replaced. Generally, I get back ion my car and drive home without the guitar. It’s partially a matter of scale. I get plenty of guitars with the wrong (repro again) switch tip. Catalin switch tips are pretty easy to fake and a lot of the real ones get scavenged, usually by Les Paul owners who want to upgrade their R9 with real 50’s parts. But a catalin switch tip is a $200 part, not a $2000 part.

So, here’s what I’d like to see happen…When you are selling your guitar, write a description and mention every possible issue that a buyer might find upon inspection. If I hear …”it was in the photos…” again as an excuse for not disclosing an issue, I will simply return the guitar. By all means, put good clear photos in your ad-there’s nothing like a good photo to describe the condition but take 5 minutes a do a write up. It’s not going to take any more time than the last tweet you sent out about your dog.

Quick. Is that a legit stop tail or a repro? I can’t tell and neither can you. If I saw the under side of it, I’d probably be pretty sure it was real. Better still, write a description and tell me if it’s real or not. Don’t know? Then say you don’t know and we’ll deal with it.

8 Responses to “Worth 1000 Pictures”

  1. RAB says:

    Charlie, RIGHT ON comments! Clarity and honesty are all too rare these days in the vintage guitar business. You Charlie are one of the exceptions. I find your ads very clear and thorough. And it is especially sad and inexcusable when a veteran dealer “forgets” to disclose issues. I’ve mentioned that I stopped years ago from dealing with one very well-known dealer due to being burned by him several times with non-disclosed issues. Too bad, hes has nice inventory? One can only conclude his “business model” is to send out the guitar hoping a less knowledgeable buyer will miss the issues. If the buyer sends it he is out hundreds of dollars in premium shipping costs. The “funniest” example of non-disclosure was when I was helping our band’s bass player buy a supposedly issue-free ‘61 stack knob Jazz Bass. Upon opening the case I immediately saw it had a repaired headstock crack. Decent repair but very apparent. The NYC dealer’s response when I called him was infuriating…”I didn’t mention the headstock repair because it didn’t affect the playability of the instrument.” Perhaps true but it certainly affected the VALUE! Crazy, huh?

  2. Drew Morrison says:

    “So, here’s what I’d like to see happen…When you are selling your guitar, write a description and mention every possible issue that a buyer might find upon inspection.”

    That is precisely what should happen. One should not be economical with the truth but explicit and straight to the point. It’s the least one should expect if you are purchasing an expensive vintage instrument. A situation like this would have added gravity if there had been an alternative all original model available for purchase via another dealer.

  3. Nelson Checkoway says:

    Thanks for spotlighting my pet peeve: the seller who puts the burden on the buyer to identify every flaw too inconvenient to disclose by saying “please study photos for more information”! I’m also tired of the half-truths, assumptions and omissions that try to lure in an unknowledgeable buyer. I just looked at Reverb.com today and found these examples:

    “For Sale Is A Gibson ES335TD Walnut. The Date Range on the Appraisal is 1969 to 1972. Serial # 913305. Overall condition of this guitar is excellent. There is a slight separation between the neck and body. You cannot even get a business card underneath it. More pictures are available upon request.”

    In fact, the guitar has a full post 1969 volute. The number was in a range Gibson moronically repeated between 1968 and 1972 so the date range on the appraisal is as meaningful as “between 1958 and today”. And what’s with the “slight separation” that somehow passes the “business card test”??? The neck is separating. Flaw. Period.

    Then I found:

    “1969 Gibson ES-335 TD Excellent. Gorgeous Cherry, two Pat. # pickups with tone and sustain that is out of this world”

    Only $9,998 — a lot for a ’69. It must be the “excellent … tone and sustain that is out of this world” value and, for that sticker price, I would assume all original. But the photo says otherwise: “drilled for a stop tailpiece” Nice job, correct placement. But not original and good luck at half the price!

    Finally:

    “A light 8 Lbs.1 oz. original patent # pickups, Replaced items are stop tail piece installed in existing holes no drilling, so can be put back to original”

    This would only be true if “original” meant “an original 1969 after-market Larry Carlton Mod”. The “original” stop bushings are nearly halfway down toward the strap button. Maybe they were “originally” there when the seller bought the guitar–and maybe he truly believes that myth and is cluelessly happy to pass it along. But no dice.

    I’m sick, sick, sick of seeing this “wishiful thinking” advertising on the part of sellers trying to put lipstick on a pig. Unethical, unfair, and unwanted!!!

  4. Bernard says:

    I have come across this as well, specifically also from a long time dealer. He told me, on a recent transaction, that he would not comment on certain aspects of the guitar and that people can make their own mind up. As in Charlie’s case, I have a good, long standing relationship with this person. It still is bugging me.

    I believe that any seller would be best served by thoroughly researching the item he/she is selling. Many online sellers are lazy. In fact, it is possible that this trend is partly generated by online sales “gotchas”, such as an eBay buyer saying “seller did not disclose xyz.” Fine, maybe next time that seller says look at the pictures and decide whether you want this item.

    For me, the trend is going back to buying in person, for various reasons. The exception would be buying from the person who is willing to take the time to answer the phone and give an accurate in hand description with authority. Increasingly rare these days. Hats off to Charlie and people like him!

  5. Nelson Checkoway says:

    Bernard, you’re probably right about the “gotcha” factor. But there is a way for online sellers to deal with it: (1) Scrutinize what you are selling to identify and disclose all obvious and even suspected issues, (2) provide detailed photos, (3) disclaim that you have done your due diligence, (4) welcome the buyer to make you aware of other issues that they might suspect (6) and promise to update your listing if further issues bear out to be true. A buyer can’t ask for more than that.

  6. RAB says:

    Anyone else run into an outrageous incident such as I did below?

    The “funniest” example of non-disclosure was when I was helping our band’s bass player buy a supposedly issue-free ‘61 stack knob Jazz Bass. Upon opening the case I immediately saw it had a repaired headstock crack. Decent repair but very apparent. The NYC dealer’s response when I called him was infuriating…”I didn’t mention the headstock repair because it didn’t affect the playability of the instrument.” Perhaps true but it certainly affected the VALUE! Crazy, huh?

  7. RAB says:

    C’mon folks. Must be some hair-raising purchase stories you can share? Let’s hear ‘em!

  8. Tone Geek says:

    I honestly cannot see the holes, even knowing that they are there. I’m 25 and have good eye sight too. Crazy.

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