The Year in Review
Most of the Western world revolves around
a January to December calendar. Vintage
guitar dealers also have a unique calendar
– the buying year begins in January with
the Orlando Guitar Show and ends with the
granddaddy known as the Arlington Guitar
Show in late October.
So, I’m sitting on a plane returning from
Arlington reviewing the past year. My good
friend Tim Kummer probably summarized
2007 best when he said these words of
wisdom in Arlington, “Hey Kev, is it me or
did prices come down?” For the most part,
truer words have never been spoken in a
kinda sorta way. The vintage bass market
is everywhere from lukewarm to white hot.
Let’s start with the good news.
Feel the Heat
The bottom line is if you have a 4001 or
4005 Rickenbacker, a Gibson Thunderbird
from the ‘60s, a crazy rare colored Fender
bass or a spaghetti logo Precision, you are
in the white-hot, molten, thermonuclear
segment of the market in terms of desirability. Interesting additions to this list are EB2/
Rivoli and Embassy basses. The pricing
here is all over the
map, ranging from affordable to new car
money. These pieces are extremely desirable right now and pricing went up 20-25%
in the past year. If these pieces are properly
priced, they sell immediately and have a
short shelf life. No bargains are to be found
buying in this segment but you will be the
belle of the ball if you latch onto one of
these. The thing I like seeing here is that
there are no fringe or fad items; they are all
staples and because of that I expect this to
remain stable for the foreseeable future.
Do the Cha-Cha
There are products that have gained in
popularity and have had a slight rise in
value over the past year. Although not vintage, Rickenbacker 4003s are trading like
hot cakes. Black block Jazz basses, ‘70s
tortoise guard Fenders, A-neck Precisions
and Telecaster basses are selling and commanding a good price for a good piece.
MusicMan Stingrays and Sabres have also
made a comeback; seven to eight years
ago, these basses were gold and they
are now at a point where the price has
rebounded. There are also a few Gibsons in
this segment. Just about all EB and Ripper
series basses, along with the RD basses, are
now en vogue. Early G&Ls with the old style
headstock are making a surprising appearance, too. In some instances, this year’s
wholesale price was last year’s retail price.
The one thing I am really enjoying right
now is that this is probably the most robust
segment of the market. These pieces are
not cheap but they are within reach. The
folks buying this stuff are players and not
so much collectors, and the one thing I frequently hear is, “I just sold my multi-string
and am going back to a four-banger.” In my
opinion, this is the segment to watch. As it
grows, there will be a vacuum effect bringing other gear into this segment.
I Wish I Had a Crystal Ball
A few weeks back I was chatting with a big-
ticket dealer buddy of mine about the top
side of the market. He is an old timer in
both the guitar and real estate finan-
cial markets and in his opinion, the
top market is currently flat. He
explained to me that a lot of
guys who were into this seg-
ment of the market would hit
the home equity line, buy a piece, get sick
of it, sell it to pay back the line and pocket
a few sheckles in the process. The problem
is that the housing market is in a downturn
and it’s impacting the upper-tier of the collectibles market.
The other issue is that most players can’t
afford this type of gear. The market basically
outran the player’s wallet. The good news is
that many prices haven’t gone up recently
so there are a lot of top echelon pieces
available. Do not expect any steals, but
right now is a buyer’s market. A lot of folks
smarter than myself speculate that if the
Christmas economic variables are positive
the market will pick up. If not, as we get
closer to a new president, they expect the
big-ticket market to come back strong.
2007 was an interesting year. Gear in the
lower-midrange segment ($1500 – $5000)
was the big seller. Refins, ‘70s gear and
early ‘80s pieces were hot. Tbirds and old
Ricks became rare as hen’s teeth. Player
gear such as old G&Ls, ‘70s Gibsons and
reissue stuff – all priced between a grand
and $1500 – heated up. Bass dealers are
seeing a slide back to four string basses.
The low B crowd is still thriving, but the
multi-string set isn’t as popular as it once
was. Because of this, 2008 will find affordable, good, used, under $5000 items ruling
Of course, these are just opinions, not a
roadmap for the year ahead. This is what I’m
predicting for my business. Beginning in a
few months, I’m going to have a coast-to-coast dealer roundtable exploring this topic.
Thoughts? I’d love to hear them! Until then,
pass the stuffing and don’t forget the cannolis.
Kevin Borden has been a bass player since 1975, and is
currently President of Goodguysguitars.com.
Feel free to call him KeBo.
He can be reached at