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Thread: vintage dealers: preservation of inst and price trends

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    Default vintage dealers: preservation of inst and price trends

    There are some interesting articles on the Gruhn Guitars website written buy George Gruhn and Walter Carter. One in particlar offers some food for thought about how the vintage dealers have helped preserve a large quantity of vintage instruments. They make a good case for that, but i wasn't convinced that driving up prices is as good for mankind. Have a read over there when you get the time.

    Disclaimer: The intention of this thread isn't to get folks fired up about the increase of prices over the years, although that issue may be joined at the hip with the rest.

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    My Florida is scooped pheffernan's Avatar
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    Default Re: vintage dealers: preservation of inst and price trends

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    Default Re: vintage dealers: preservation of inst and price trends

    Yep, this is the article; thanks for the link. It may be true that vintage stores have saved a lot of instruments from abuse and put them in playing order for us. Virtually everything with strings will likely need some work with age. And it seems like many of today's top luthiers started out doing repairs for vintage stores...Monteleone, Gilchrist, Henderson, and the list could go on.

    For example, there would be very few playable old Martin and Gibson guitars if these folks hadn't figured out how to do a good neck reset. Remember when the accepted method was to loosen the back and slip the neck and block forward? The house '74 D18 and '60 O18T have had neck sets and would not be playable now, which is not really easy to put a price on. Without this kind of work, maybe we would all be buying disposable flat tops, carbon fiber, or Taylor guitars.

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    Default Re: vintage dealers: preservation of inst and price trends

    There is a lot of good reading there. Not sure if the goal was "preservation" but a nice side benefit to a commercial enterprise. Same could be said of antique cars -- once somebody spends thousands restoring one, they tend to take better care of it!

    As far as prices go, a lot has happened in 45+ years since Gruhn started. It was once an inflation-proof business whereas for years the guitars never went down, only up. Then it happened, 2008 or so, we saw prices go down. So, a dose of reality is probably a good thing to keep in perspective.

    From my personal point of view concerning prices, I felt for years that vintage instruments were underpriced on local markets outiside of the vintage guitar world -- if you were willing to go out and look for them -- like Gruhn said, buy on one side of Chicago, then take them to the other side of town to sell them.

    I did a similar thing, I stockpiled instruments that I bought cheap and waited for the vintage guitar show and set up and sold for retail. I'm talking about years before eBay made it easier to find a buyer. I also ran ads in "bad" neighborhoods for buying, then waited and sold at the shows. 35 years ago, vintage guitar stores were few and far between in most of the country, unless you lived in a few key cities. The standard practice was that vintage stores would pay 60 percent of their selling prices, which were usually published in newsletters at that time. (again, before the internet) 60 percent might sound lousy today, but there was actually a lot of room for profit back then. I bought many guitars from Gruhn's list for $50-100 at flea markets, yard sales, thrift stores, pawn shops, etc. -- things he was selling for $500-600 back then. Many guitars I paid as little as $9 or 10 bucks for, if it was missing strings, etc. So, even 60 percent was good. If you consigned, you got even more. Now, keep in mind, the prices on the newsletter were going up almost monthly, it seemed -- well, certainly every six months!

    Those were great times, and even a poor college student could be a part-time vintage guitar dealer, back then! Or, at least a wholesaler.....

    Now, it's pretty much a rich person's game. I hated the reissues when they came out. At first, they were so inaccurate, then they got better. They did show why the vintage guitars were worth the money, at least by comparison. However, the whole "custom shop" thing created a market where $4000-6000 was accepted by many as "not a lot of money" for a cool looking reissue -- I never got that way of thinking. At the time the "custom shop" first started, many actual vintage guitars being replicated were available in the $4-6K range! It boggles the mind, but if there is a way for "corporate" to step in, they will everytime! Nowadays, when something vintage and cool is $25K, a little $4K custom shop version seems like a good deal, again by comparison -- but not by my way of thinking.

    Of course, every market changes in 45+ years......

    And, I guess it should go without saying, what is going to happen to the vintage guitar market after "us" baby boomers are gone? I don't believe we are being replaced with enough younger buyers, but I may be wrong.....

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    Default Re: vintage dealers: preservation of inst and price trends

    Hmmm, most of the music stores I used to teach for and repair for are closed now, mostly because they lost track of what customers wanted and as a result they invested too heavily in the wrong things, and/or they didn't keep up with technology in one way or another. The economic bubble sort has preserved the few brick and mortar stores that offer extraordinary instruments and extraordinary service. Even those stores are not immortal and they have to watch the bottom line very carefully.

    I also did some of the flipping of instruments back in the '70s and '80s for a couple of prominent stores. And I also did some repairs and restoring of those instruments... But I was a late comer, by the time I got in most of the good flipping was done, so I got out while the getting out was good.

    In my mind, the skyrocketing of the early '20s Loar, pre-war D-28 and pre-war Mastertone prices has been pretty opportunistic and has only succeeded during good economic periods when people were in good enough financial shape that they could justify paying those prices. When the economy goes down the sales of these instruments either stop, or the prices secretly go down in order to make a sale. For most stores though, these rare instrument six figure sales are just icing on the cake, most store budgets are based on sales of much lower priced instruments.

    Personally, I just like older daily-player instruments and usually end up buying high and selling low, or just keeping and not selling. This is obviously buying for love of the instruments and of the music rather than for the investment.
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    Default Re: vintage dealers: preservation of inst and price trends

    For an old instrument nerd, nothing will ever compare to my first visit to 48th st. NYC back in the day when you could get your hands on thousands of old instruments in one afternoon and a broke high school kid could came home with a '57 Les Paul goldtop for $500....

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    Default Re: vintage dealers: preservation of inst and price trends

    Quote Originally Posted by grandcanyonminstrel View Post
    For an old instrument nerd, nothing will ever compare to my first visit to 48th st. NYC back in the day when you could get your hands on thousands of old instruments in one afternoon and a broke high school kid could came home with a '57 Les Paul goldtop for $500....
    I agree. I remember seeing THREE D'Angelico guitars in the front window at $3000 each -- a lot of money -- when a good used strat was $300-400!

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: vintage dealers: preservation of inst and price trends

    Yeah, and my $450 'teens F-2, $300 1957 Martin D-18, $150 Gibson J-50 with a repaired top crack. Of course, I was making $6K a year, my apartment rented for $70/month, and my first new car, 1972 Dodge Dart, cost $2800.

    I do think, however, that anyone who gets into the vintage instrument market looking for "investments," is taking a larger risk than perhaps he/she realizes. IMHO buy instruments you want to play; some will increase in value, others decline, but the satisfaction you get from owning and playing a good vintage instrument -- that's immune to market trends.
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    Default Re: vintage dealers: preservation of inst and price trends

    I think moderately high prices keep more instruments in good playing condition and in the marketplace. Dealers with repair capability can buy a rough instrument, fix it up, and turn a profit. I've seen dealers with old Gibson As for around $1000 with multiple repairs, heel cracks, top cracks etc. and replaced tuners. Sold as good players, I wonder if they would have paid $500 or so for the instrument only to realize $750. So much as I don't like paying more, the fact they sell is more incentive to fix them. We don't need Grandpa's old broken mandolin languishing in the closet.

    And they also give more choice to the consumer who can buy a new MT or an old A3 for about the same money.

    I once told Frank Ford I didnt see the point in collecting, thought old instruments should be played. He pointed out that collected instruments were going to be better preserved for the future. Give a bluegrass player an old D 18 and it was going to get thrashed. Coins have two sides.
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: vintage dealers: preservation of inst and price trends

    Eldon Stutzman, the instrument dealer for whom I worked a bit in the 1970's, said at that point he'd pay $250 for all the parts of any Gibson F-model mandolin, if someone brought them in a brown paper bag.

    Never saw this actually happen, however, so it remains hypothetical...
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    Default Re: vintage dealers: preservation of inst and price trends

    Stutzmans is where my Uncle Gene Johnsons Feb 18th Loar came from in 68-69 I believe from a mando orchestra player around there? His name is still on the TRC.

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  18. #12
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    Default Re: vintage dealers: preservation of inst and price trends

    I ran the original cost of some of my instruments through an inflation calculator. Most of the prices were consistent with today's market values. So basically the prices kept up with inflation. Not an investment, not bought as such, but the real value seems pretty stable.

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