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Interesting (and Funny) post on valuation of used Guitars........


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I worked in a "vintage" store and intake was incredibly frustrating. Vintage, of course, does not just mean old. We defined vintage as old with cachet!


Too often, people would come in expecting a retail value for the guitar they were selling. We would direct their attention to the reality that as a retailer it is was our position to purchase at wholesale prices - that meaning about 60% of expected resale value, and that resale value was roughly 80% of book value - In other words: We would be willing to pay around half the book value of the used instrument. They never understood this, ever.


My favourite story: Guy comes in with an all-mahogany (the top as well) Martin from the 50s. In our region, and at the time, this was a guitar that might fetch $700, but it had a replaced bridge and about 15 interior cleats keeping it together. So, now it is a $400 guitar - but the guy wanted $2000.


I showed him the guides and some online information (this was 1998, so not as useful as today's online information) to try to help him understand his situation. I offered to sell the guitar for him on eBay for a 20% commission, but explained that the biggest cash price I could give would be about $300.


He called me, my mother and all my relatives every name in the book and went home to post his guitar on eBay himself. With no reserve, no pictures, no previous selling record, and no HTML skills (which were sort of necessary to do well at eBay in those days) his guitar sold for $148 US - which was about $210 Canadian at the time. He refused to send the guitar to the buyer. He tried to demand more money after the sale.


So, he got suspended from eBay, then came into the store asking me to sell the guitar on eBay for him at the original offer of 20% commission, but he wanted a reserve of $1000 put on the guitar.


Ya, sure buddy, I'll get right on that.


True vintage items - old with cachet and more cachet - WERE a good investment for the person who bought them with their paper route money in 1956 and sold them in 1996. But for the rest of us, so-called investment pieces are indeed a real joke. Some of the guitars I have owned and still own book at absurd prices, but try to sell them for that!


Case in point: All original, 1935 Gibson Trojan - one of 39 documented to leave the factory, and the historically important forerunner of the AJ, the J-35 and later the J-45 -- you might say it is a prototype. The guitar has been featured in Acoustic Magazine (UK) and has full provenance including the original bill of sale. The approximate value of the guitar (no flame mails please, if you disagree then you just disagree) is $20,000 to $25,000 in Canadian funds - which today is roughly at par with the US dollar.


The Gibson museum owns two of the 39 that were made, so they aren't buying, and no dealer will buy the guitar for more than $10,000. The only alternatives to selling it to a dealer are to sell it on eBay (dicey for pieces at this price point - I know, because I have done it twice before) or through a community like our forum, Kijiji or Craiglist. Some dealers will sell the guitar for a 20% commission, but they won't lower their cut from that.


So, despite book values and insured values and all the other ways we have of suggesting these instruments are assets, it is much more reasonable to see the Trojan as a $15,000 guitar at best because that is what a seller is likely to get for it in terms of net cash. That fifteen grand is between 60 and 75 percent of the guitar's suggested value - and this, from my experience, is the REAL value of any collector piece.


There are exceptions to every rule. One day a guy walked into a local store here in Nova Scotia with a first-year flame top LP Junior and said: "I know this is worth about five grand, but if you cut me a cheque for it I will take $4000," thus costing himself about $40,000 -- but if he had known the real value of the guitar his actual net from selling it to a dealer likely would have been $23,500.


The real value of a guitar, in my opinion, is the value you get from owning, playing and enjoying it. What I love the most about owning some older pieces is making recordings of them with different players and learning to recognize the tonal characteristics and personalities of each instrument. I often listen to recordings and say "Oh, I bet that guy was playing a such and such," then checking to see if I was right. Usually, I am wrong, and that is why I remain interested in this process.


Above all, guitars have saved me from spending too much money on cars. Thanks, guitars.

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By the time I clicked the offer had been flagged for deletion.


What's anything worth?


Whatever somone is willing to pay you for it.


If they are quoting "as much as $25K," they could be using a single sale of a single

unit. One sale does not a market make. The buyer could have been thinking,

"My daddy had one just like that. He taught guitar lessons for years. Taught

me to play on it and it 'got away'." Or better still at an estate auction, "There's no

way my brother / sister is going to get Daddy's guitar. I'd rather have the guitar

than the $25K inheritance money.. so I'll spend it even though my brother/sister

will get the money.. I will have the guitar."


You're right ballcorner. It's 'worth' what the well informed, rational market will pay

for it. Waiting for that ignorant, irrational buyer with money burning a hole in his

pocket, is like hoping your Lotto ticket hits this week. Probably will never happen.

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