Buying s/h guitars when the economy has tanked

offsideref

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Maybe I’m over-thinking this, or I’m getting soft in my old age, I don’t know. I have happily bought secondhand guitars in the past. The last one was a few years ago, an Epiphone EB3. It was a year old and was one third the price of a new one. As usual, I thought, I wonder if it was stolen. But, the s/h shop I go to is good at checking that sort of thing, and in addition (in case any encouragement was needed) I know the police go in every so often, make sure nothing untoward is going on. It’s a general s/h place, not specifically musical instruments. Also, the EB3 wasn’t set up very well - it’s A-OK now - and I wondered if the owner just couldn’t get on with it, for that sort of reason. Or - simplest answer - the owner needed the money.

Spool forward to today. The UK economy is not in good shape, we’re not alone in this, it’s the price of electricity and gas, fuel, food, interest rates, people having to work two jobs to get by, people out of work using food banks, people who are in work using food banks… It’s not great, and for most people, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Meanwhile, I’m lucky: I even have a bit of spare money at the moment. I’d like another guitar, something semi-hollow or hollow, ES-335 or 339 shaped, a Gretsch or a Gretsch lookalike, that kind of thing. Yes, I’ve wanted one for 45 years or so, it never made it to the top of the list of things to buy, and even today it would have to be s/h, not new.

You almost never see one hanging up in the s/h shops round here, but if you did…

But then I’m thinking, would I be capitalising on somebody else’s misfortune? I can’t see me willingly parting with a nice guitar in a s/h shop unless I really needed the money. If this was a Hollywood fairytale I’d find the guitar, buy it, trace the owner, and give him/her it back. Not very likely in real life, but there it is.

I’m kind of thinking out loud here, not really expecting the Bad Dog Cafe to hand me the answer on a plate. Hell, I haven’t even seen this hypothetical s/h guitar yet. Maybe if I do find one, the answer will come to me.
 

JDB2

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But then I’m thinking, would I be capitalising on somebody else’s misfortune? I can’t see me willingly parting with a nice guitar in a s/h shop unless I really needed the money.
Having a strong second hand market is important even in a downturn. Perhaps especially in a downturn. Otherwise people who need money more than gear will not have the opportunity to cash in for fair value.
 

HolmfirthNJ

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I understand, and while I have enough money to get by on and others don’t, I’m not worrying about looking for bargains right now, just a fair price. I don’t know about your secondhand shop but there’s something rather dismal about the chains, so I use eBay or Reverb for secondhand, and if I’m buying new, I usually go to GuitarGuitar - they’re employee owned and a good shop.
It’s obvs. going to be a grim winter but, just as we buy stuff we could sell again if needed, and use the proceeds to help someone out.
Enjoy your 335 if you get one 🙂
 

39martind18

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We have pawn shops here that could be questionable at times.
The problem with pawn shops over here is that ever since the internet
the pawn shop folks know current prices. A lot of guitar buyers on speed call.
Wish you luck.
In today's internet-driven markets, it's still possible to "get to" the occasional pawnshop. A case in point occurred just about a year ago when I bought my Vibrolux Reverb from one near me for $250. It was not operating (lit up, but no sound produced). After another $400 sunk into it for new speakers and caps, etc, I have a great sounding, "new" 43 year old amp for $650, worth between $1700-2000. Pawnshop finds are not as plentiful as they used to be, but vigilance will pay off at times.
 

andy__d

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I went into guitar center just after Hurricane Ian to sell a bass I’d been meaning to put on Reverb for a while, because I needed some quick cash to pay for (thankfully minor) repairs. I overheard the manager telling the person serving me “this is crazy. Every single person we’ve had in here today was a buy-in, no sales at all. Make this your last one - no more cash buy ins today - because we’re nearly out of cash”.

When you’ve got a more pressing need, it’s amazing how quickly you can drop your sentimentality for luxury items like guitars: so, by keeping buying from the second hand market, you’re keeping the opportunity there for folks who need to sell to be able to turn a toy into something they need more urgently.
 

HolmfirthNJ

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The ancient Romans had it right: Caveat emptor.

A friend and wise old owl sometimes debates with me over buying used. "There's a reason why they're selling it," he says, "and you're going to find out what that is."
I’ve only had really good experiences secondhand from EBay and Reverb (in the UK) but I do read the descriptions pretty carefully - I think people usually reveal themselves in just a few words.
 

4 Cat Slim

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Uriah 1 has it right.
Here in the States, it was possible (and easier) to find something in a pawn shop prior to the internet.

This is rationalizing, but my thoughts are that while the economy is tanking, if you have any
sort of resources to even consider purchasing a s/h instrument, it's probably because
you've either saved your money or denied yourself something like a vacation, new
clothes, or a few concerts or evenings out. And you will probably enjoy a s/h instrument more
than a vacation, new clothing or a few concerts or evenings out.
I wish you the best of luck in whatever you choose to do.
 

King Fan

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But then I’m thinking, would I be capitalising on somebody else’s misfortune? I can’t see me willingly parting with a nice guitar in a s/h shop unless I really needed the money. If this was a Hollywood fairytale I’d find the guitar, buy it, trace the owner, and give him/her it back. Not very likely in real life, but there it is.

When I read your post, this isn't so much about the how-to and hazards of buying second-hand. You're being thoughtful, looking at the ethics in this economy.

I agree with folks above who say not to feel guilty if you're buying it at a fair price *on consignment or direct from the seller.* If they need the money, you're doing them a good turn.

OTOH, if some opportunist pawnbroker or shop bought it cheap and marked it up to market or more, then you're not doing the seller any good, you're rewarding someone who ripped them off.

And if you deal with the seller who needs the money and 'bargain them down' to pay less than market, or to 'get a steal', that's not so cool. The trickiest is if they list it at a price you know to be too low. This happens especially with grandpa's guitar some non-musician found in the attic -- or when our widow 'sells off' our junk. Do you call immediately to lock in that price? Or to insist on paying a fair (higher) price so they don't get -- unknowingly -- taken advantage of?
 

Cleantone

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We have pawn shops here that could be questionable at times.
The problem with pawn shops over here is that ever since the internet
the pawn shop folks know current prices. A lot of guitar buyers on speed call.
Wish you luck.
Yes, when I have seen interesting guitars and amps in local pawn shops they have been priced level with comparable Reverb.com listings, unless they clearly needed substantial work. No hidden gems or lucky finds. However, I am not out hunting that often and can imagine that bargains get snapped up quickly.
 

offsideref

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When I read your post, this isn't so much about the how-to and hazards of buying second-hand. You're being thoughtful, looking at the ethics in this economy.

I agree with folks above who say not to feel guilty if you're buying it at a fair price *on consignment or direct from the seller.* If they need the money, you're doing them a good turn.

OTOH, if some opportunist pawnbroker or shop bought it cheap and marked it up to market or more, then you're not doing the seller any good, you're rewarding someone who ripped them off.

And if you deal with the seller who needs the money and 'bargain them down' to pay less than market, or to 'get a steal', that's not so cool. The trickiest is if they list it at a price you know to be too low. This happens especially with grandpa's guitar some non-musician found in the attic -- or when our widow 'sells off' our junk. Do you call immediately to lock in that price? Or to insist on paying a fair (higher) price so they don't get -- unknowingly -- taken advantage of?
That’s it, exactly. I take your point - buying directly from the seller, at a fair price, you both get what you want, or need.

My favourite local s/h shop, on the other hand - their visible ethical standards are pretty good (no stolen gear for sale, as far as we know), but I don’t know what their business model really looks like. I’m buying at a price I think is fair, but I don’t know how much profit margin they think is fair, so I don’t know what kind of deal the person who sold them their guitar is getting.

Plenty for me to think about there.
 

runstendt

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But then I’m thinking, would I be capitalising on somebody else’s misfortune? I can’t see me willingly parting with a nice guitar in a s/h shop unless I really needed the money. If this was a Hollywood fairytale I’d find the guitar, buy it, trace the owner, and give him/her it back. Not very likely in real life, but there it is.
If someone already sold it a guitar to a secondhand shop or put it on consignment, they already made the decision to part with the instrument, and you are not at all capitalizing on someone else's misfortune. IMO, the only way that you would be doing that would be if you know someone personally who had an instrument that you wanted and you made them a lowball offer before they decided to sell it because you know of their financial hardship. Unless you coerced them into selling it for a low price I don't see much of a reason to feel bad about it.
 

Trenchant63

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If someone already sold it a guitar to a secondhand shop or put it on consignment, they already made the decision to part with the instrument, and you are not at all capitalizing on someone else's misfortune. IMO, the only way that you would be doing that would be if you know someone personally who had an instrument that you wanted and you made them a lowball offer before they decided to sell it because you know of their financial hardship. Unless you coerced them into selling it for a low price I don't see much of a reason to feel bad about it.
Agree 100%. If deception and/or predatory coercion involved - walk away. While the coercion part might be technically legal (e.g. taking advantage of a seller in dire straights with take it or leave it lowball), I couldn’t do it - I would give them fair market price.
 

offsideref

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Just wanted to thank everyone who replied. I found that writing the OP helped me get my own thoughts in order. Your replies helped even more.

As a footnote, I could ask the s/h shop to make me an offer on something of my own that I already know the value of; that way I could get an idea of what their margin is/ how much they offer their customers, without the risk of offending them!
 

dented

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I have at least a dozen guitars I have bought from s/h shops, CL or any other flea market type of operation. Keeping cash in a coffee can, so to speak, is a rule for pouncing on good buys. There are certainly situations where I bought a guitar that was available due to others misfortunes.
I bought a Tele once, a very nice one for about half of it's saleable value. The people selling lived in a big house, fancy cars, fancy guitars and everything was for sale. Including the house. You could see this was a fire sale and they were bailing on everything to get out from under debt. It was a bit sad to see but I did my part in giving my hard earned money in a legit sale for a good product. These events are cyclical. The best position is cash in the can and move on.

What you learn from this is compassion for people down on their luck but you didn't put them there. Just don't put yourself there. Buy low sell high is as old as all of us combined.
 

Kandinskyesque

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Maybe I’m over-thinking this, or I’m getting soft in my old age, I don’t know. I have happily bought secondhand guitars in the past. The last one was a few years ago, an Epiphone EB3. It was a year old and was one third the price of a new one. As usual, I thought, I wonder if it was stolen. But, the s/h shop I go to is good at checking that sort of thing, and in addition (in case any encouragement was needed) I know the police go in every so often, make sure nothing untoward is going on. It’s a general s/h place, not specifically musical instruments. Also, the EB3 wasn’t set up very well - it’s A-OK now - and I wondered if the owner just couldn’t get on with it, for that sort of reason. Or - simplest answer - the owner needed the money.

Spool forward to today. The UK economy is not in good shape, we’re not alone in this, it’s the price of electricity and gas, fuel, food, interest rates, people having to work two jobs to get by, people out of work using food banks, people who are in work using food banks… It’s not great, and for most people, it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Meanwhile, I’m lucky: I even have a bit of spare money at the moment. I’d like another guitar, something semi-hollow or hollow, ES-335 or 339 shaped, a Gretsch or a Gretsch lookalike, that kind of thing. Yes, I’ve wanted one for 45 years or so, it never made it to the top of the list of things to buy, and even today it would have to be s/h, not new.

You almost never see one hanging up in the s/h shops round here, but if you did…

But then I’m thinking, would I be capitalising on somebody else’s misfortune? I can’t see me willingly parting with a nice guitar in a s/h shop unless I really needed the money. If this was a Hollywood fairytale I’d find the guitar, buy it, trace the owner, and give him/her it back. Not very likely in real life, but there it is.

I’m kind of thinking out loud here, not really expecting the Bad Dog Cafe to hand me the answer on a plate. Hell, I haven’t even seen this hypothetical s/h guitar yet. Maybe if I do find one, the answer will come to me.
Sometimes it's folks just offloading what they don't need when times are hard as opposed to selling the family silverware to keep their heads above water.
Times are tight right enough and we haven't had a Baltic winter for a few years, I hope this year is another mild one albeit our electricity got wiped out for a week this time last year which coincided our wood burner being on the blink.

A good place for 2nd hand stuff is the Scottish musicians buy and sell group on Facebook. There's a couple of groups and the one that covers the central belt and Fife is very good.

I don't use Facebook but look at it on my son's account, he regularly buys a bit of synth/DJ gear from it.

I managed to get 2 Bose L1 Model 2s, unused (a backup pa for a band that were splitting) from a guy in Bathgate for £1400, a Roland guitar synth for a song and a QSC mixer for £250.
The guy that was selling the mixer told me he buys stuff, tries it out and sells it a few months later.

The real bummer was the guy I bought the Bose from back in 2018 from gave me a shot of his Gretsch Steven Stills Falcon (we had a jam for an hour) and the guitar was pristine.
Two months later he had it for sale for £1900 and we were in the middle of buying our current house, so I was skint. I would love to have bought back then.

Gumtree is hit and miss but I managed to get a Ricky 360/12 for £1100 from a guy a few miles outside Inverness in 2017 He priced it low because nobody was prepared to travel for it in the middle of winter.
 
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