I try my best to offer what I find at very reasonable prices, too. Now I know there is always room for debate on that subject but I stick by what I just said.
In order to do these things I have to buy very carefully and living on Cape Cod means I don’t have access to much of what may be available in urban areas. This makes it all that much more important that I have a good knowledge of guitars, trends in the market and generally just what people are looking for. However, sometimes in spite of my best efforts I do get burned – or I come damned close and heed the ringing of the alarm bells going off in my head. Here is an example that I hope will help you if you’re thinking about spending big bucks on a premium guitar.
A couple years ago I bought a fairly nice guitar made by one of the big name makers. In this case I was able to play the guitar as it was located just an hour or so from my studio. It truly appeared to be everything the owner had said. It was six years old but in absolutely perfect condition. Or so I thought. It was also desirable because it was from a fairly limited edition run so I figured it would be an easy sell. It sounded really nice and played easily. The price was right so I snagged it.
Well, I got home, brought the cased guitar out to the studio, opened the case and then went in the house to make a cup of coffee. I figured I’d change the strings on it a little later. After about an hour I went back into the studio. Oh my God, was my immediate reaction. What the heck is that smell? I’m sure I took a shower this morning…
It was my new guitar. And its case. The thing smelled like the owner had gone to the gym and worked out for an hour, then picked up the guitar and played for another hour. The smell brought me right back to high school locker rooms! Not exactly a desirable feature of a guitar and case that I was hoping to sell for about $2g.
Why did I not notice this at the guy’s house when I first played it? To this day, I have no idea. But something had to be done, without a doubt. My wife suggested Fabreeze but even if that stuff had worked I didn’t want to substitute one smell for another. I got to work, doing two vigorous cleanings with the wonderful Virtuoso Guitar Cleaner I sell, then following that up with an application of Virtuoso Polish. This worked – on the outside of the guitar. But sad to say, much of the smell was emanating from INSIDE the guitar. The unfinished wood inside had actually absorbed the guy’s sweaty ambiance. There was nothing I could do about that. I did not want to risk spraying anything in there for fear of loosening the glue or God knows what else. Also, it would again be a case of substituting one smell for another. So all I could do was air it out, which promised to be a long-term process.
The case was a bit easier to deal with. After much consultation at my local hardware store I settled on a fairly new product from a company called Fresh Wave. It was their Home Spray, a “natural odor eliminator” made from water and extracts of lime, pine needles, aniseed, clove and cedar wood. This seemed like a good choice as I didn’t want to spray anything on the lining of the inside of the case that might contain something that would react with the finish on the guitar. I sprayed in lightly on the inside top, bottom and sides and then closed the case in hopes it would work as advertised. A couple days later I opened it and lo and behold the stuff had worked. All that was left behind was the fainted odor of clove and pine.
Some weeks later the guitar began to loose its “bouquet.” Eventually it was all but gone and I did sell the guitar a few months later and the buyer was pleased.
So I guess the lesson here is: no matter how much knowledge you have or homework you do, you are ultimately at the mercy of the buyer. Just today I was looking at Martin 00-18SH (limited edition Steve Howe model) with interest. On the guitar forums the owner admitted the action was high and it would probably need a neck reset – but otherwise it “close to mint.” However, I found a more obscure site where he had listed it (I know it was the same guy because his screen name was the same on all the sites) and he owned up to the guitar having a significant crack running from the bridge almost to the bottom of the guitar. And the price on THAT site was $500 less than he listed it on the others! Just about the cost of a neck reset (!).
As with everything, buyer beware. I pledge to list my guitars as accurately as I can and in any case, I avoid guitars with “issues.” I’ve gotten burned a couple other times but live and learn, I guess. All I know is you can be sure my guitars are as I say they are, and I don’t go the gym!
Peace & good music,