State of the Nation of Bassdom, Pt. 2
Last month I raised some questions on the realize the market correction, wholesale and
status of the vintage bass market that I’d retail prices will be all over the map. Look at
like to expand upon. I stated that I bought any electronic or hard copy sales media and
85 percent less gear at the 2008 Dallas you will see the proof.
International Guitar Festival than in 2007,
but my sales were static in 2008 from 2007,
and on mark for general expectations. This
sounds funny, yet it is true and simple to
explain. Let’s look at this in four parts: pricing, supply versus demand, show sales and
Previously, vintage basses generally increased
in price between 15-25 percent over a year’s
time. But in the past 12-18 months prices
have leveled off with no increase or decrease
in pricing over the 2006-2007 calendar years.
This pricing trend impacted a major sector
of the bass market. At recent shows neither
dealers nor the general public took this
into account and a lot of overpriced gear
went unsold. For example, there were three
identical 1978 black Jazz basses for sale at
the Dallas show, in exactly the same condition. The prices were tagged at $2395,
$2995 and $3295. Ironically, the $3295
bass was a walk-in that was trying to
be sold to dealers. The lower priced
piece moved because the higher priced
pieces were visible in the same locale
and made the sold item appear like
a small bargain. However, the lower
priced piece was dead on the market price; until folks
Supply vs. Demand
Right now supply is about even with
demand. A hot piece can make its own
price, but in general the best bass with the
best price gets sold. Presently the American
economy is very perplexing. A good friend
of mine is a noted economist; he said to me
point blank, “We are in a recession that no
one admits.” In the past, if the economy was
bad, vintage basses sold because of value
retention; if the economy was good, basses
sold because of escalation potential. Now
we find that bass sales are slow at the dealer
level as a whole.
Yes, there were a ton of folks in the room,
but it seemed everyone was there for the
music and no one was there for the gear.
At this “musician’s event” you had people
selling stun guns and foot massagers; there
was even a Guitar Hero booth. I understand
the concept “evolve or fade away,” but the
problem for me is a show 2000 miles from
home can cost me $4000 to attend. I think
the combination of an unclear economy and
the revised nature of the show impacted my
ratio. I bet as soon as the economy gets a
little more secure, the ratio will correct itself.
That said, even though U.S. sales are drag-
ging, European sales are on the rise and
compensating for sluggish U.S. sales, due to
the devaluation of the dollar. The
problem with selling basses
outside the U.S. is shipping
costs. The United States
Postal Service dropped the
size limits to 44”. A boxed up
vintage bass, in a case, is just too
long. This means basses must ship
via FedEx or UPS overseas. We’re now
talking $400-500 on shipping fees alone!
Shipping via USPS was about $150. So
what do you do?
Bottom line, I go to shows to do two things:
sell and buy gear. My money is no good if I
cannot reinvest my working capital back in
vintage basses. Selling was on mark, but buying at the Dallas show was abysmal. Back in
January I attended the Orlando Guitar Show
where I purchased nearly 50 pieces. The
Orlando show is maybe 1/5 the size of Dallas
and in Dallas I only purchased five basses. I
could not reinvest my money. The purchasing
problems were based on the lack of dealer-to-dealer bass inventory – the dealer inventory had limited or no ROI, and most importantly there was very little walk-in instrument
traffic. The attendance was huge but the
folks came in empty-handed. Was this year in
Dallas an anomaly? Are all shows changing?
Is the market changing? Personally, I believe
the walk-in volume was unusually low and
should correct itself. I still have faith in the
events and the expanded formats.
Earlier I stated my show sales were dead
on target in 2008 based upon 2007 statistics for Dallas and the same held true for
Orlando back in January. Here’s why: I set
up, clean and price each and every bass in
order to make a fair deal. The days of hiking
up vintage basses over market value and
waiting for the “guy who has to have it” are
over. The dealer across the aisle from me
in DFW had a few basses exactly like mine,
such as the black Jazz bass mentioned earlier. His tag was $600 higher than my tag
price and that alone was the best advertising. I sold about 18 seventies Fender
basses, and all were dealer-to-dealer at a
price that I would sell them for in the shop.
The very odd thing was that I only sold one
bass to the general public. My numbers
were dead on, but the sales ratio of dealer
to “civilian” sales was askew.
The times, they are a changing. I hope you
enjoyed the summary of my first quarter
show findings. Our next installment is a biggie – what is going on right now through the
next 12 to 24 months regarding pricing, and
my thoughts on where things are heading.
Until next time, drop the gig bag and bring
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