SMG Tips: A Guitar Collector’s Two Best Friends

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THE BOOK ON GUITAR

Through the years I have bought and sold a number of guitars and plucked away on countless others in shops and at the homes of friends. Some of my purchases were practical and well thought out while others were impulse buys that I regretted and ended up reselling. As with many pursuits, experience breeds wisdom and as such I have found two tools I rely on when shopping for guitars: Craigslist and The Blue Book of Guitars (one for acoustic and one for electric).

eBay is generally the first online source people think of when considering used gear. It’s great for many purchases but when it comes to instruments I’ve never felt comfortable buying something I can’t hold in my hands and listen to first. Guitars are such personal items and each one is unique, even between similar makes and models from the same year.

SCORE DEALS ONLINE

With Craigslist you can get the same great deals, and often better deals as you’re not faced with outbidding other people and can negotiate with the owner. Sometimes you can even work a trade or partial trade. Most importantly, you get to try before you buy and judge the quality for yourself. There are times I’ve been able to knock the price down on a guitar because it had a small chip or some other minor defect and wasn’t truly “mint” as the owner claimed. There were other guitars that I was so excited to buy and had a wad of cash in my pocket, but when held and played, just didn’t sing to me as I expected. And there are guitars I bought impulsively, blind to a number of factors that should have prevented purchase. But again, Craigslist to the rescue as I turned around and resold them. It may take a while but with patience you can almost always find what you’re looking for and there’s almost always someone out there who is looking for what you’re trying to unload. Here’s another secret to finding killer deals on Craigslist (shhh….): Click on “Garage Sales” and type “guitar” in the search box. This is a more random way of finding guitars but generally people who are having garage sales just want to dump what they’ve got so the potential is high for finding real bargains.

A LITTLE EXPERIENCE GOES ALONG WAY

Unless you have a long history of dealing guitars, it’s nearly impossible to know what all the different 6-string options are worth. Makes, models, years, wood types, finishes, hardware…there are so many factors that determine a guitar’s value. This is where the Blue Book of Guitars comes in handy. There is a separate volume for both acoustic and electric. The cost of each could very well save you money towards your purchase of an instrument so they’re well worth it. I’ve found guitars online thinking, “Whoa – killer deal! I wonder what it’s really worth?”, only to find the value worth exactly what was being asked and not a deal at all. Every now and then I find deals that really are well above the asking price. With respect to the former example, the Blue Books can be used as a negotiating tool in letting the seller know you’re fully aware of what the guitar is worth and they should come down in price. These books are thick and have information on a number of brands and models both popular and rare.

Nothing beats the experience of buying and selling. Researching the Blue Books and following checklists will give you an objective reference for an instrument’s value, but for us collectors (or addicts, call us what you will), it’s the dating process that ultimately determines compatibility with an instrument.

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