The State of the Nation of Bassdom
Every year folks make a pilgrimage to stages without the hazy bar atmosphere.
Mecca. For me, the pilgrimage leads to the My favorite part of the show was 10 Under
Dallas International Guitar Festival. By com- 20. It featured ten bands with members
bining my recent touring experience and all under the age of 20. These young guns
time at the Guitar Festival, I have a good were great, but I didn’t go to Dallas to
impression of the vintage bass market. I see bands – I went to buy and sell vintage
knew something was going to be different basses. This year the buying field was quite
this year because dealers sometimes get honestly barren. I bought 85 percent less
a gut feeling about a show even before it than last year, but my sales were on mark
starts. Your gut is usually correct and this for expectations. A very good friend of mine
year was no exception. had an extremely high-end booth where a
1960 ‘burst was on display and priced to
lar parallel. I don’t think the bass market will
collapse. However, I do believe the market is
in a state of correction.
As we were about
to land at the DFW
Airport, the flight was
diverted from its scheduled landing pattern.
Only four minutes from
being on the ground,
our detour turned into
a five and half hour trip
due to tornados that
touched down near the
airport. As we flew past
some super cells on the
way to Oklahoma City, I
knew it was a bad omen
for the show.
Let’s face it; you do not need a $10,000
bass. You need food, shelter and clothing.
A lot of folks used their home equity lines
to finance their basses because bass market
value was outpacing the equity percentage.
We all know what happened with those
home equity lines. The value of high-end
basses outpaced working musicians and now
salaries are sinking in a
thinner market; hence the
lower prices. As player
gear went up, high-end
basses also went up. The
difference is that there are
more players than collec-
tors, and, while not cheap,
the $1200-5000 market is
still within reach of play-
ers. Furthermore, the bass
market has lagged behind
the six-string market in
terms of value. For those
reasons, I still believe
this is the safest market
segment, a segment that
will experience additional
Eventually, we got to
our destination, but The state of the market meant that many instruments went unpurchased at this year’s Dallas International Guitar Festival
instead of arriving at 8 p.m. as expected,
we showed up at the hotel at 1: 30 a.m.
Exhausted and shaken (but not stirred), we
attempted to go straight to our rooms. The
problem was you had to walk past the hotel
bar to get to the room elevators, and the
first cat we saw was none other than “The
Gilvis,” aka Gil Southworth. The omen would
be exorcized – the world, back on its axis.
move. When the guitar was still there at
noon on Friday, we looked at each other
and knew something was wrong. A year
prior, people would have been jumping over
each other to buy this guitar at the posted
price. Was it the event? Was it the market?
Let’s take a look at few possibilities.
The prior evening’s glaze wore off the minute I arrived the next morning, as the show
was quite emotionally sobering. I’ve been
attending guitar shows since 1989 and my
first trek to Dallas was sometime in the early
nineties. Back then, Dallas was blackguard
heaven; any instrument you desired was
there. When it was the Dallas Guitar Show
it was a musician’s event. A few years back
it became the Dallas International Guitar
Festival and it evolved into a concert/music
event, replacing the musician-driven vibe.
The Collectibles Market
When I’m not elbows deep in the guitar market, my other hobby is vintage American cars.
I stay on top of the market because I act as a
consultant for a major vintage guitar dealer
who has a nice dealership. A few months ago,
the main car collector magazine published this
quote, “The prices of the high-end items are
dropping while the prices of the lower-end,
pedigreed items are going up.”
Next month I’ll break out my crystal ball and
give a thorough market analysis. I will also
discuss guitar shows in general and where
I see them heading. The above information
is based upon my observations and my conversation with other dealers and collectors
who have their fingers on the pulse of this
ever-changing market. This is not a scientific
prediction on the future of the instrument
market, nor will our observations be true
of what other folks might be experiencing.
Please use this information as a tool and not
as gospel. Until next time, drop the gig bag
and bring the cannolis!
This is a strange but interesting phenomenon. The guitar market seems to be consistently six months behind the car market
in terms of trends, and six months later the
guitar market followed suit. Friends in other
collectable markets are experiencing a simi-
Kevin Borden has been a bass player since 1975, and is
currently President of Goodguysguitars.com.
Feel free to call him KeBo.
As a concert event, the fest was outstanding. For a minimal cover, you were able to
see artists from five feet away on terrific
He can be reached at