THE LOW END
You Write, I Respond:
Readers’ Thoughts, Part 2
Last month we introduced the market concerns from the perspective of the players and
collectors involved. This month we dive into
some of those issues and concerns.
Thoughts on Purchasing Vintage
or Used Basses
The world is small, and the bass community is
tight. Thoughts on purchasing were guarded
but consistent. Naturally, everyone is more
inclined to walk into a shop, try out a bass,
and then make a decision to plunk down
the cake. Or are they? In years past, this
would’ve been the most common answer.
More recently, by far the most common
response was that folks would buy a bass
sight unseen from a well-known community
member or a specialized vintage bass dealer
with a good reputation. Most forum guys are
players, and players know a great bass. The
other thing that came to my attention is that
forum guys have a bond, and I’ve been told
that you rarely, if ever, hear of one forum guy
sticking it to another. It does happen, but it’s
not as common as you might expect. You’re
only as good as your reputation—and it’s
very easy to find out who’s good and who’s
bad. The other frequent purchasing method
is buying from dealers who know basses
inside and out. There are dealers who know
every screw, and will give a return privilege
and a tryout period. The bottom line is that
most folks want to buy a bass from someone
who knows what they’re selling, and legal
recourse and consumer protection in the
event of an issue.
The aspect of purchasing concerns was critical to a large majority of readers—and the
response was overwhelmingly consistent.
The “thorn in the side” of buyers is buying
from retailers who, quite frankly, don’t know
an EBow from their elbow. Folks are getting
tired of buying “100% original” basses only
to find that this part was wrong, or that part
was changed. Folks are also getting very
tired of misrepresented items. A real sharp
vintage bass guy I know had a Gibson Ripper
presented to him by the “specialist” in a big
store. Only problem was it was a Grabber
with a Ripper truss rod cover that was being
marked and sold as a Ripper. When the faux
pas was brought to the attention of the store
“expert,” the customer (yours truly) was rudely
told he didn’t know what he was talking
about. It’s items like this that make you nuts.
A subscriber showed me a bass at the
Philadelphia trade show that was a refinished
‘60s Precision in a custom color. The only
problem was it was “implied” that it was an
original bass sold by a retailer—not a music
specific dealer—on an electronic auction. I
saw all the paperwork, the listing, the item
The bottom line is that most
folks want to buy a bass
from someone who knows
what they’re selling.
and the pending lawsuit, which was settled
immediately. I am hearing loads of stories
about players getting shafted by incorrectly
described, fraudulent or “optimistic” descriptions on electronically auctioned items. A
dealer buddy of mine bought a Gibson guitar
at auction only to have an Epiphone show up.
With an auction site it seems easy to determine the good sellers. The problem is that,
sometimes, good sellers don’t know any better, or attempt to play dumb, or try to pass
the “hot potato.” The Gibson and P-Bass referenced above were both from good sellers.
Electronic classified sites seem to have the
same problems, but more frequently. As one
reader put it, “it’s like having Frankenstein
show up as your mail order bride.” Bottom
line, pay with your credit card and make sure
it offers you protection, just in case.
Short Term Future
I asked what purchases folks were planning
to make between Thanksgiving and Tax
Time. Most are looking for the under $3500
nugget. Items mentioned were various ‘70s
basses, boutique basses, good generic player
basses, amps and recording gear. When
asked what they thought the vintage market
would do, about one-third said it was going
into the toilet. I think this is highly unlikely.
About one-third thought the market would
muddle through at or around the present
price point. I think this scenario is very likely.
The last one-third thought the market could
explode upwards if the economy tanks. This
is because folks want something to hold onto
instead of depreciating paper. Both scenarios
have happened in past bad economic cycles.
The Lowdown Wrap-up
In the summer of 2008, I ran a series on market projections from a dealer perspective. I
received more emails than I could have imagined. This series was a result of questions and
comments from you. What do I think? Let’s
put it this way: my business practices became
very conservative. Do I think the vintage market will tank? No. I do think prices will level
off and hover. I think the days of twenty percent escalation per year are over, either for a
long while or permanently. I think the under
$5000 price point will remain unscathed,
provided the gear is quality and appropriately priced. Most importantly, the Arlington
Guitar Show was nicely attended; there was
plenty of business to take care of. Even more
important, the Fall Philly Show was just total
kick-ass. It was heavily (and I mean heavily)
attended. Folks bought, sold and traded
across all price points. Dealer to dealer activity was heavy. This is all very positive. Bottom
line: I am optimistic. Until next time, drop the
gig bag and bring 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