An Ebay Catch 22

ES-335 Number 1. Changed tuners, Non functioning "electronics". No reserve.

ES-335 number 2. All original, no issues of any kind. Reserve set at $10,000

I’m going to do something here which I don’t usually do. I’m going to compare 2 guitars that have recently been on Ebay. Both are ’64 ES-335’s and both were Bigsby equipped with the “custom made” plaque. The first one was listed without a reserve, the second with a reserve. ES-335 number 1 had changed tuners which weren’t disclosed in the auction and the listing mentioned that the “electronics” were not functioning. I emailed the seller and got no response to my question about the “electronics”. Not functioning could mean a loose wire or it could mean both pickups need rewinding. There was no mention of what parts were original or what had been modded. It was a very non descriptive listing. Those usually scare me a little.  The second 64 ES-335 was mine. I noted that it was 100% original and that it was completely functional. I called it a “no issue” guitar and I meant it. I didn’t do a long elaborate description since I didn’t think it needed one. It was, after all, a no issue guitar. The kind collectors want. Exactly as it left the factory some 46 years ago. To make a long story shorter, you would expect guitar number 2 to have sold for somewhat more than guitar number one given the fact that they were identical and number one had some potentially serious issues. Even if the “electronics” had been 100%, it still had changed tuners. A set of single line double ring tuners can set you back $400-$500. At the very least, you would have to go in and check all the connections and if you aren’t a do-it-yourself type, that could cost you another $200. That doesn’t take into consideration the possibility of changed pickups, open pickups, broken pickups, changed pots and any number of other possibilities that made this guitar (guitar number one) a little scary. On top of all that, guitar number one didn’t have it’s stop tail or studs included, or at least it wasn’t mentioned. Guitar number 2 had both. But, to be honest, I put in a bid on it even though I have one exactly like it. I bid it up to $8900 but it went for $9500 or so. Given that, what do you expect the same guitar with no issues to go for? Another thousand? Another $1500? maybe $2000″ Certainly $11,500 isn’t out of the question for a ’64 ES-335 with no issues. A non Bigsby version sold for $15,000 that same week. So, even using the 25% discount for a Bigsby version (which doesn’t quite apply to the “custom made” version since it also has a stop tail), the no issue guitar would have been expected to fetch $11,000.  OK, I’ve held this up long enough. Guitar number 2 topped out at around $8400. More than a thousand dollars less than the one with issues. Had I not put a reserve on it, someone would have gotten the bargain of the month. How is one to deal with a market that is so incredibly A: Inconsistent, B: Ignorant, C: Illiterate or D: All of the above.  There are a lot of smart, informed buyers out there and probably just as many who don’t take the time to read carefully (guilty of that myself) and perhaps a few that just don’t know any better. So ” D” all of the above looks like the answer. The inconsistency of the market is probably driven by extremely low demand. There’s a bad economy and people aren’t buying things like vintage guitars. You will likely kick yourself when the market turns back up for not taking advantage of this “buyers” market. It is entirely possible that the buyer of guitar number one felt that he got a good deal, hoping that there were no major issues with the “electronics” and was thus taken out of the bidding for guitar number 2. There aren’t that many buyers to begin with and the fact that the high bidder on number 2 was a dealers speaks volumes. It says, there are very few or no buyers at retail. That is why it’s a buyers market. That’s also why sometimes a reserve is unavoidable. But, at the same time, the reserve could be the reason more potential buyers didn’t bother bidding. Catch 22.

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