View Full Version : Ethics question

Feb-15-2004, 10:25pm
I'm not too worried about this happening but I've always wondered how people handle this. What if you find one of the oringinal Loar signed mandolins and the owner doesn't know what they have? Do you say, "I'll give you $5,000 for it..." or do you say, "golly, that's worth $100,000!" Now, what if you find one in an antique store with a price tag on it for $5,000? Do you pay for it and run out the door? What if it doesn't have a price on it and you ask them how much and they say, "make me an offer"?

I'm sure this happens all the time with art, antiques, etc. What do you folks consider to be ethical/unethical in these situations? Thanks for your input.

Feb-15-2004, 10:58pm
If you're going to give the instrument a good home then I don't find it unethical to pay 1/20 of what it would go for on the market. In reality a Loar isn't necessarily "worth" 100 grand... that's just what people are willing to pay. Worth is all a matter of who is selling it and who is buying it. I do think it's wrong though if you were to buy it just to capitalize.

Feb-15-2004, 10:59pm
take it and run. it's the seller's responsibility to know what he's got and what it's worth. i wouldn't consider this an ethical problem unless i were asked specifically what i know about it or it's market value. #if that topic came up, i certainly wouldn't lie about it. (that's where the ethical problem comes in for this buyer). #but if the price tag is already on it, or i'm asked very generally to make an offer, i'd call it good fortune and go with it.

Atlanta Mando Mike
Feb-15-2004, 11:55pm
I heard a story that supposedly happened in the recent past about a gentleman (known in his comunity as knowledgeable, perhaps even an expert, on banjos) who was approached by a novice with this 4 string tenor Gibson banjo he found under grandma's bed. He was wondering about its value and could did he think he could trade it for a 5 string bluegrass banjo. Needless to say the man in the know offered to trade him a $1000 5 string he had with him for the tenor on the spot. Deal is taken, couple of months later the tenor is sold for thousands of dollars. Its an original prewar,or something. The buyer was probably aware of its value.
Is this unethical-I think it is. If he had just kept the banjo to play then maybe not. Opinions?

Feb-16-2004, 12:15am
the buyer made an offer and it was exceted everyone was happy. I don't see a problem with that.

Feb-16-2004, 7:30am
I dunno Mike - your scenario involves someone going to an "expert" of sorts and asking about an instruments' value. I'd say the buyer was acting a little too dishonest in this case. The original question involved the lucky find, where some unknowing seller never bothered to find out what he had on his hands. But your story involves someone specifically seeking advice or asking about value from another person in the know. I'd call that shady at best.

Feb-16-2004, 7:52am
I'd like to think that I would tell the owner what he had, help him research it and offer to serve as his agent if he wanted to sell after finding out it's value. Then again, if I wanted to keep it for myself and never sell it I would probably pkunk down the 5K and thank him.

Actually something similar happened to me when I was teaching in a middle school a few years ago. I had mentioned to my class that I collected coins earlier in the year. A young man came to me during lunch one day and produced a 1919 Gold $20 and asked me if I would buy it. I asked him where he got it. It was worn and in fair condition. He told me his "paw-paw" gave it to him when he was 10 years old. He told me he would sell it to me for $50. I told him it was worth a great deal more and that he should not sell it. I wouldn't have purchased it from him anyway since I always have considered it unethical for a teacher to buy and sell with students. I phoned his mother and told her what had transpired and told her the approximate value of the coin.

Having written that I just remembered that I once sold a mandolin to a former student http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif

Feb-16-2004, 8:13am
There's a gentleman here who bought Loar #1 (June, 1922) from an elderly woman who didn't know what she had. The local college was involved in the transaction (they didn't know what they had). He offered a goodly price for it (well below what an in-the-know person would have considered) and the woman accepted. Ethical? Can't really say.

Feb-16-2004, 8:25am
If no one bothered to find out what it was, or what it was worth, no problem. Now, if this old lady was asking the buyer up front what it was worth, or what he could tell her about it, then that's a different story and I think he becomes obligated to disclose what he knows.

Feb-16-2004, 8:32am
And then there was this...

A man saw a Loar at a yardsale and the owner didn't know its value. #He told the guy that he made clocks out of mandolin bodies and offered $100 and the guy accepted. #He went to the car to get his checkbook and when he returned, the guy gave him the mandolin and said, "Since you were paying so much, I went ahead and cut the neck off for you."

Okay it didn't happen and its a ripoff of a Roald Dahl short story (antique chairs for firewood in that case...)

Fred G
Feb-16-2004, 8:51am
This has kind of happened recently to me. My friend does house and apartment refurbishes and found a violin. Asked me would I want to buy it and most importantly said "what is it worth?". He came over with it and I said to me it is worth $300 to $500, but lets see what we can find out. Looks like the bow alone goes for that much and the violin is in the $300 to $1000 range. I could have probably gotten it for $200 right of the bat, but if I found out later it was worth more I would feel guilty. I told him I would still give him the $400 if he decided he wanted to get rid of it.

Tom C
Feb-16-2004, 8:54am
Pay what they asked and hope it's genuine.

Big Joe
Feb-16-2004, 10:34am
If they know you are an "expert" and ask what it is worth, it is only fair to be honest and tell what you think a fair value is. However, if they just offer it for sale at whatever price and you accept, you are under no obligation to educate the seller. They have the opportunity any time they wish to research and learn what they can about the product and the bottom line is a fair deal is when both parties say "YES". Anything else is quite silly.

Feb-16-2004, 10:43am
Joe, #I agree with statement wholeheartedly.

Ted Eschliman
Feb-16-2004, 11:57am
Back in my younger days on the sales floor, we had a young adult musician that had a severe case of 'IAS'--Instrument Acquisition Syndrome. He'd come in the store, buy a student wind instrument (clarinet), fumble around on it for a few months, bring it back and trade on a different instrument (trumpet), and repeat this process over a period of about 3 years. He never got very good, as he never stuck with one long enough.
I had mixed feelings, as the lad didn't have much going for him, drug rehabilitation and some related mental deficiencies had him under clincical supervision at night, but he was free to roam about during the day.
On one hand, I was thrilled he had discovered music, but everytime he came in to trade, we knew he was going backward as far as his instrument investment "equity."
One day, after inheriting a large lump of money, he came in and purchased a very expensive Selmer Paris Sax. We were thrilled until he came in three months later to trade for a trumpet for about a fourth of its value. Store policy prevented us from giving cash back, and even if we did, the hit from depeciation would have been even more severe. We made the controversial decision to turn the offer down.
I knew it wasn't my job to by his Nanny, but I saw making the deal as taking advantage of someone who wouldn't know any better. I even went so far as to try to contact his "ward counselor" (that was NOT easy), and was reprimanded for not letting the poor sap spend his money the way he wanted.
Not 20 minutes later, I got a call from a Pawn Shop owner down the street who had absolutely no qualms "taking" him. He bought the sax for a fraction of its value.
While it might have been wrong for me to not only pass on a profit "opportunity" but let a customer buy under his own misguided terms, at least I can live with myself.
I don't care if it's in the name of "good busines," I say take the "high road" at every opportunity.

Feb-16-2004, 12:13pm
You're a kind soul, Ted. There's also something to be said for the differnce in a music store and a pawn shop. I would think most people would be on notice (with the possible exception of your somewhat deficient customer) that the local pawn shop is not the place to get good advice or an honest price.

Feb-16-2004, 12:27pm
Sorry I think I've told it before;
Garage Sale ad says "musical instrumnets", me and my girl go and are the only two people there. I pick out a Weissenborn, Martin uke, and an old RCA reel to reel and (not being a dealer or reseller) make a deal for a few hundred bucks
that surprises the lady. That'd be great, it's all junk
(Weissonborn was a taotal basket case but still cool).
She insists on me trying the tape deck, and as I switch it on, out of the speaker comes her recently departed husband singing a Cowboy Love song. The widow freezes and the tears just start falling (me and my girl included). We have a good laugh and she says do you know mandolins? This is 15 years ago, so I say no but I'd like to see it.
And of course, it's a old Gibson F. In the case is a photo of her husband and Bill Monroe (as ID'd by the widow)with the very same mando; husband strumming, Bill fretting.
I tell her to put it away and give Stan Werbin a call at Elderly. No idea how that turned out, I don't feel too bad about it. Still have the RCA, I left the tape with her.

Feb-16-2004, 12:30pm
I think an important point here is equating value to an instrument. An earlier post stated, "In reality a Loar isn't necessarily "worth" 100 grand... that's just what people are willing to pay. Worth is all a matter of who is selling it and who is buying it." I have seen instruments that are both over and undervalued.

If the seller places a value or price tag on something, that is what it is worth to them. I would pay the price if it was something that I want for mayself. I agree with others that I would feel dishonest if I bought it cheap only to sell it for more.

Feb-16-2004, 1:41pm
I met a fellow quite a few years ago who was a plumber. #He was working in a cellar, saw the oblong black case on the top shelf under the pipes. #There was very slight water damage to the case & instrument. #He bought the Loar for maybe $150.00. #Bought himself an addition to his house. #Lucky find, IMHO.
At that time, I beleive he sold it for something like $8K. Like I said, some time ago.

Bob Sayers
Feb-16-2004, 1:43pm
There are several interesting scenerios here. #I would say that if the seller already has a price in mind, you're free to pay that price without offering any additional information. #That's why an antique dealer will usually start a negotiation with the question "What do you want for it?" #If, on the other hand, the seller doesn't have a figure in mind, an honest dealer might estimate its fair market value, then offer perhaps half that amount. #The latter figure can be negotiated upwards, but half is still a reasonable starting offer. #The ethical issue arises when a dealer or collector deliberately lowballs the actual value of the instrument. #It happens all the time, of course. #And, to an extent, it falls on the seller to say no, if he (or she) senses that he's being ripped off. #Buyers of valuable instruments, of course, stand to acquire a bad reputation if they're known for lowballing unsuspecting sellers--and word does get around. #In their defense, though, even seasoned dealers/collectors often take calculated risks, since that 1923 Loar, upon closer inspection, may turn out to have a 1952-era top and a 1960-era refinish job. #This problem is compounded for the average schlump like you or me. #Suppose for a moment that you paid that nice lady down the street $10K for her grandpa's "Loar," then decided to crow about it on the "Post a Picture of Your Loar" thread--only to find out in the most humiliating way that its a 1960s copy, and not a very good one at that! #Caveat emptor! #


P.S.: I have a story that haunts me to this day. Back in the early 70s when I was a graduate student at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona, I was riding a bus to campus with my guitar. Just before getting off, the elderly lady sitting next to me asked me about the instrument, then volunteered the information that her deceased husband had worked for Gibson for more than 30 years. She said something about his personal instruments just as the bus arrived at my stop. Being a ninny (at the time), I got off and never saw her again! True story.