Pandemic Buying

Pandemic shmandemic. High end is selling. The low end is selling and in between is selling. This 60 burst went to Texas not too long ago. I’ve got another if you’re looking.

I thought that the pandemic was going to affect he vintage guitar market and I was right. But I thought the market would slow down and I was wrong. It hasn’t. I thought it might tank but I was afraid to say that (not that I have the clout to tank the guitar market-I don’t). What I didn’t think would happen was that folks would be buying guitars like there was no tomorrow (and maybe there is no tomorrow which would explain it). I am selling nearly twice as many guitars now as I was selling before the pandemic and social distancing began. I can’t say with any certainty why this is happening but I can certainly tell you what I see and what I think might be going on.

First, it’s everywhere, not just the USA. In the past two months I’ve sold guitars to folks in Taiwan, Ireland, England, Israel, Japan and Canada. So, what is selling? Well, everything. High end stuff is selling. Player grade stuff is selling, stuff I’ve had in my shop for two years or more is selling. Guitars that aren’t terribly popular are selling. I sold a Guild Thunderbird, an Epiphone Wilshire, an ES-175, a J-160E, a Gretsch 6120 along with the usual assortment of 335’s and 345’s ad 355’s. I even sold my personal Partscaster which I hardly ever played. But the usual high end stuff is selling too-a couple of 59 ES-345’s, a refinished 60 burst, a 58 335 and a 59 335. Tweed amps are going. Two Bassmans, a Super and a Deluxe since this thing began. I lowered some prices in anticipation of a weakened market but it hasn’t happened. Anybody know why?

I have theories. The most obvious is sheer boredom. Staying home, especially if you live in an apartment (which I don’t) must be suffocating. Nothing brightens up a dull existence like a “new” guitar. I get at least a hundred a year and it still feels like Christmas morning every time one arrives. Of course, you’re going to drive your family up the wall if you’re using all that spare time to practice your scales and learn some new licks and aren’t you all ready to kill each other as it is? No? OK. But there’s a limit to how much boredom can drive the market. You need money to feed the vintage habit and with so many folks out of work, you might think this is a bad time to be buying and selling guitars. Apparently not. That leads me to another theory. It’s the “I might die tomorrow, so I should get the things that will really make me happy now” theory. I like this theory because it transcends money and boredom. It also has no end. Just because a 59 335 makes you happy today doesn’t mean a 54 Telecaster won’t make you even happier tomorrow. And then there’s always the day after tomorrow to think about. Or maybe you just want to park your money somewhere other than the stock market. Let’s consider that.

The stock market has taken a hit and it is coming back strongly but with the long term economic effects of the pandemic still in the theoretical realm, who knows how long any perceived recovery is going to last. How long before the airline, entertainment, hospitality and restaurant industries will get back to something approaching normal? Opening states too early is showing some bad, bad results. See you in September? I think not. This thing is here until they can vaccinate about a zillion people. So, where do you put your money once you’ve lost faith in the stock market? Gold is way up so you’ve probably missed the boat on that one. Vintage automobiles? There’s no place to go (there’s a pandemic going on or haven’t you noticed?) and looking at your 54 MG in the garage has a limited appeal. Vintage guitars? At least you can sit and play your vintage guitar while it appreciates (or not) even if the wife and kids are ready to kill you for spending hours on end trying to be Jimmy Page in that little shoe box of an apartment you’re stuck in. How about real estate? Get a house with an outbuilding so you can play your guitar without raising the homicide rate in your town. Yeah. That’s the ticket.

Amps are flying out the door as well. I started this pandemic with 7 tweed Bassmans. I’m down to 5 (woe is me).

5 Responses to “Pandemic Buying”

  1. RAB says:

    Charlie, I agree in thinking boredom is a big factor. Nothing like a different guitar or amp to wet the “GAS” whistle! My “upgrade the Crafted in Japan” Tele Custom project has certainly been keeping me busy and entertained. All without breaking the bank and giving me one of the best sounding Telecaster guitars I’ve ever played! If I had tons of spare cash I’d be putting a big dent in OK Guitars inventory too! Stay safe y’all and, as Frank Zappa wisely intoned, “play yer git-tar!”

  2. RAB says:


  3. RAB says:

    All- any other Covid guitar or amp acquisitions or projects? We know there are! Let’s hear ‘em!!

  4. Nelson Checkoway says:

    HI Charlie – Congrats on the sales boom. I know it was a bummer to have to close up your bricks-and-mortar shop, so I’m happy for you that the pandemic has brought you a silver lining (or should we be vintage correct and call it an “all-nickel lining”). Always good to hear good news – best of luck!

  5. Arcturus says:

    There are several tiers of sellers. The highest ones are dealers who sell instruments that they own. They have the courage of their convictions, that they can sell what they buy for a profit. Next level are dealers who hold an item as a consignment. The third level is comprised of individual sellers who think they can get a good price, but usually can’t.
    Dealers are usually pretty smart, but there are some that misrepresent the condition of their gear. The private sellers are all over the map in terms of knowledge and honesty. In this massive swamp known as the guitar market, you have to know what is a good value, and what is a tulip craze. High priced tulips are bad for the market. There will be a retrace in prices, and I would hate to be hanging onto something that is overvalued by 30% or more.

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