I buy guitars. I refurbish, setup and resell them. So this morning, I got an email –
I have a very nice guitar you may want. It is essentually new, almost unused, a couple years old, Black, Hard Rock, model, Fender Strat, with case. I don’t play, I got it for a friend, but they changed their mind. I believe the $300 new receipt is with it, in the case. I am hoping for $150.00, it is in perfect condition.– email from seller
Well, of course the “Fender Strat” is a Squier Affinity, which until recently, sold for $199 brand-new. They’re up to $229, new now. I sell them, unmodified, with new strings and a professional setup for $99. The “case” the seller refers to is a gig bag. I sell them for ten bucks used.
So, this seller was asking me to pay $150 for a guitar and bag that, after cleaning, polishing, filing fret ends smooth, filing nut slots down so it’ll intonate properly, new strings, pro-setup, intonation, etc., I’ll be able to resell fo $99 plus $10 for the bag.
I told him I could pay sixty…maayybee seventy at tops. Of course, he thinks I’m a crook! I can understand that he paid two hundred plus tax for the guitar and maybe thirty plus tax for the bag. He may have bought an amp and cord and everything rang up to three hundred bucks.
So, of course he should be able to get half his money back, yes? Well, besides the fact that he wasn’t offering an amp for the $150, even $115 – half price of the guitar and bag, discounting sales tax, is about the limit.
And why do electric guitars lose so much value, even if you haven’t put much “mileage” on them?
Think about it this way – guitar factories in China, Indonesia and wherever, all over the world, crank out millions of guitars every year.
Electric guitars last forever. I think the half-life of a Stratocaster is five million years! So we’ve got nearly a century’s worth of electric guitars on the market – with the supply growing at a current rate of just over one percent per year.
That’s the supply side. Now, what’s happening to the demand side? Just how many great and popular guitarists have there been in the past ten years? Nothing to compare to earlier generations, right?
From the fifties through the seventies, we didn’t have electronic games; we didn’t have personal computers. We didn’t have all the entertainment opportunities that we have today.
So the used guitar market is hit from three sides –
- An ever-growing supply
- A diminishing demand
- Growing entertainment competition
Compare that to the used car market –
- A steady supply, since automobiles have a lifespan
- Without the public transportation that other countries have, demand is steady and growing
- There really is no competition to automobiles except maybe motorcycles, bikes and skateboards.
So yeah, you can get half price or more for your three-year-old Yugo (maybe), but maybe not for your Fender Squier.
The other issue with used guitars is that many people tend to think of them as commodities. i.e.: One three-year-old Squier Strat is the same as any other.
That is no more true with guitars as it is with cars. You probably wouldn’t buy a used car without checking it out, test driving it and maybe having your mechanic take a look.
Yet, people buy used guitars by meeting sellers in a parking lot and not even trying them out. I buy and sell about two hundred guitars each year. I never – let me repeat that – I never get a guitar that doesn’t need a setup (brand-new guitars need a setup!) and often at least a minor repair or two.
And the issues are rarely noticeable. It takes a trained eye to find many of the problems and even then, a lot of them get past me until I have the guitar on the bench.
So as a seller, realize that you’re selling a less than perfect guitar (unless you’ve just had it professionally setup), in a flooded market with diminished demand.
Consider trading with another player, instead of selling for cash. If this is your only guitar and you don’t play – consider…and I mean really consider – keeping the guitar and learning how to play.
It’s a very rewarding pasttime. If you’re in your senior years, it’s good for keeping your brain young and for getting to hear your old favorites whenever you like. If you’re a youngster, you’ve got plenty of time to get good and I promise you’ll never regret learning to play.
You don’t have to have money for an instructor – there are plenty of YouTube channels to help you. That may not be the ideal way to learn, but it does work and it’s free.
So, if that “Fender Strat” (comeon – be honest and tell the people it’s a Squier!), won’t sell for $150 and you don’t want to learn to play, you may have to get reasonable with your price.
Sure people are running Squier ads for $125 to $150, but they’re not selling for that amount. Depending on condition and color, most sell for $50 to $110. With the median average between $75 and $100.
I’m modifying most Squiers to “Super Squiers” nowadays, to make them better instruments and get a few more dollars for them. But I sold a beautiful Silvertone Strat today for $79. It had new strings, stretched, tuned and intonated; a professional setup with sweet low action; level frets with smooth fret ends, cleaned electronics, a cleaned and conditioned fretboard, polished frets and a polished, shiny body. I guaranteed the electronics for one year and offered free setup adjustments for thirty days, if needed.
And I have more where that came from! So before you go to set a price on your guitar ad, think twice about it. If it’s your only guitar, maybe you should hang onto it. It’d look nice on a wall and you could practice a little each day.