How to purchase a guitar at a guitar show..... a dealer's perspective
Posted on September 03 2013
Guitar ShowsIf you live in a larger city (at least in the United States) then there may be a guitar show in your area once a year. You are lucky! Many vintage guitar enthusiasts do not have the luxury of inspecting, playing and evaluating a vintage guitar before they buy it.
Guitar shows can be a great place to find your new (old) best friend for a great price. If at first you are intimidated then you are not alone. Do not fear, you are amongst friends. This is a place of people who are obsessed with vintage gear and the culture surrounding it. Prepare yourself for a full day of great gear at prices that are all over the place. It's up to you to find what you can't live without.
Remember these 3 things:1. Vintage guitars are not commodities. There is no "going price" for an individual guitar. Yes, there is a range that they go for but every guitar is different. You must decide what it is worth to you and offer that price.
If the guitar in question has a very clean finish, no issues and no repairs then expect to pay at or near "book price." (That term refers to this book: The Vintage Guitar Price Guide.) These guitars are lucky to even make it to the days that are open to the public. Many of these are snatched up on the load-in day because overseas buyers will purchase them for their stores and mark them up to local market price. Don't blame the dealers for sending guitars overseas. This is a free market and dealers have a lot of time and effort tied up in this gig (see #3). They wish to be compensated fairly for their time and effort.
After that, the guitar is worth what the highest bidder will pay. There will be many collector/player guitars out there waiting for you to fall in love. A vintage guitar is not like the purchase of a new item. The moment you purchase a new item it looses value. Vintage guitars, however, continue to gain value. Reglued bridges and braces shouldn't bother you like refinishes and wood putty. Some repairs are common and some are the result of neglect and misuse.
Don't expect to buy a vintage guitar at a show and flip it two weeks later on Craigslist for a couple hundred bucks more than you paid. If you plan on keeping a vintage guitar for 5-10 years you stand to come out even or make some money, depending on how the market goes. This happens to be a VERY good time to buy a vintage guitar compared to pre-recession prices.
2. Cash is KING and fanny packs are COOL. No booth owner wants to take your check for an expensive guitar. This is actually a good thing for you as a buyer.
Before you go to a show decide what kind of guitar you are looking for and what you would like to pay. Go to your bank and withdraw that amount plus a bit more just in case. Put that money in your fanny pack wear it proudly. Here's why:
Dealers look for people with fanny packs. That tells us that you are serious about guitars and not just a looker. Many lookers will be there and dealers just don't have time for them. We don't care about the story of how you bought X vintage guitar for $20 in a pawn shop. We look for people with money and that's who we are serious about talking to. We are willing to spend time with that person, make sure they are informed and work with you on a price. It's not that we don't like lookers because we do. We just don't want to spend 30 minutes talking to a looker when potential customers are coming through our booth. Please understand!
3. Be respectful of dealers. Most of them have paid a whole lot of money (about $350) just to get a booth for the show. They will drive for hours (I drove 6 hours one way for this show!!) and have months of work in building a good inventory for you to look at or buy. They have to spend even more money on lodging and food. I spent about $560 just to get and be at the show.
We would like for you to play the guitars you are interested in. There will probably be a chair available for you to sit in. Ask politely to play the guitar, pick it up and sit in the chair. You could probably play it on your knee but we don't want to see you do that. We feel more comfortable when you are sitting down and enjoying the experience. You will enjoy the experience better as well.