Monday, June 17, 2013

Shrinking the Guitar Collection

So, during this period of unemployment I have taken the opportunity to turn some instruments into money.

Initially, I took three guitars down to Elderly Instruments in Lansing for appraisal and/or sale: a USA-made Peavey Limited, a T-60 with a maple fretboard, and a black Squier Venus. The T-60 is now on consignment, up for sale on their web site now. If you buy it, I should eventually get a check.

They did not want the Limited -- in the sense that they would only offer me a very small amount of store credit for it, and no cash at all. I realized when I read their evaluation that the tech had not noticed that it was a USA-made guitar -- made in the Peavey custom shop in Leakesville. He thought it was one of the Korean EXP models. When I pointed that out, they did offer me slightly more store credit -- but I think it was still under $100. And I just had to sigh. That instrument listed at perhaps $1,200, and sold for perhaps $900, and I bought it for something around $400. It was another example of an American manufacturer who employed American craftsmen undermining the perceived value of their instruments by, basically, selling authorized knock-offs. The Limited models are respectable guitars, but no one respects them. I have a few more but I will be trying to hold on to them if I can, in the hopes that maybe they will gain some vintage value like the T-60 did -- but mainly because I like the way they sound and the way they feel to play.

It was a similar situation with the Venus. They offered me a tiny store credit. I think it was under $75. Now that really is a guitar made overseas -- in Japan. It's not a great guitar, but it is an interesting design, of historic interest, and fun to play, with some nice tones. They just really just don't seem to want to deal with lower-end, less-vintage guitars. I guess that's understandable. But I didn't really like the way they dealt with me over the T-60. It left a bad taste in my mouth. To even put it up for consignment, they required me to pay for some work on it -- fret leveling and dressing, and setup. Since I had come all that way, I did this by trading them the Venus for enough store credit to pay them to do the setup. So it seems, essentially, as if I had to bribe them for the privilege of having them put it on consignment and (if it sells) collecting a percentage of the sale price.

I wish I hadn't given up the Venus like that, since I could have gotten a lot more for it elsewhere. It was just another case of how my expectations have been beaten down. I set up my own instruments, and the T-60 didn't really need fret work. Yes, it had some very slight wear, but the wide jumbo Peavey frets last a lot longer than vintage-profile frets, and they weren't badly notched anywhere, and it wasn't buzzing. They make the case that they want instruments in their showroom to reflect professional setup. I'd be a lot more convinced of that if their showroom wasn't loaded with crappy new Asian guitars with sharp fret ends poking out and bad setup. So I do hope you will buy my guitar from them, but I don't think I'll be taking Elderly any more used instruments to sell. If it doesn't sell, I'll have to go back down there to pick it up.

So that's one instrument gone, and one on consignment. I took the Limited to our local Guitar Center and got $200 in cash for it, which was not stellar -- I could have probably gotten more on eBay, but it takes a lot of time and effort to sell guitars on eBay, and I'm trying to spend my time on things more relevant to my job search.

Since then I've taken a few more guitars to Guitar Center. I sold my Vista-series Jagmaster. It wasn't my favorite of that series -- if I ever get another of the Japanese-made Jagmaster, I want one with the truss rod access at the headstock, so I don't have to remove the neck (even partially) to adjust it. I took one of my three Super-Sonics -- a silver one. I took them one of my other Venus guitars, one of two sunburst models. I took them my Steinberger Synapse five-string fretless bass. They bought all those. I also took them a "Music Yo" era Steinberger XQ-4 fretted bass, and they passed on that, saying it seemed like it had a truss rod issue. I will have to look into that. My son was playing that one, and if he tried to adjust the truss rod without asking me, I fear the worst -- it takes some practice to learn how much force you can use. If you've never done it, you should practice on a junker!

So my collection has shrunk by, let's see... Venus, Limited, Venus, Synapse, Jagmaster, Super-Sonic, and (if it sells) a T-60. That's six, maybe seven. The instruments I've got left tend to fall into two categories. There are a number of fixer-uppers. There's another Venus that needs some wiring work. There's another silver Super-Sonic that needs some wiring work as well. There's another T-60 that has a loose output jack. There is a broken Newburgh Steinberger bass that needs some bridge rebuild work -- probably several hundreds of dollars including shipping it off to New York. Should I bite the bullet and pay for repair work on instruments just so I can sell them? Then there are some that I really want to keep because of their quality or tone or rarity. I'm not sure how hard I should fight to hold on to them. What it comes down to is whether the money I could get for them is worth more than the value to me in having them around to play or re-sell later. Maybe it's time to only keep instruments that are really "pulling their weight" -- the ones I use to record with or play regularly.

We'll see how long this period of unemployment lasts. My priorities could change. I feel a little lighter for having gotten rid of six of them. The broken instruments feel like a bit of a mental burden as well -- projects I keep meaning to get to. Maybe it really would be best to get them back out there, fixed up, so that someone can play them. After all, that's what they are for.