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70's Fender Jazz basses and how to save for an instrument you really want

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by hernameisrio, Dec 27, 2013.

  1. hernameisrio

    hernameisrio

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    Sooooooooo my darlings.

    My lust for the Marcus Miller signature bass has mutated somewhat unexpectedly (whatever, I'm so predictable...) into deciding to go big or go home and get the real thing. I was waxing poetic about it to a fellow bassist friend of mine and he was like, "Girl, you crazy. Why would you spend $1200 for a Japanese reissue when for another couple grand, you can get the real thing?" And I went, "Oh."

    Now, I realize that some people want what they want, but once he said this, I started to look at it differently for myself personally. We went on Ebay and started looking around. It seems to me that the lower end of the average price for a 70's Jazz in playable condition is about $3000-$4000. It was an awkward search because I had to slog through all the Fender American Vintage series reissues which incidentally were priced almost the same, but I started finding a few auctions which seemed to be in this ballpark.

    Mind you, I've never spent more than $1200 on anything in my life unless you count the 13" MacBook Pro I'm typing this on, which I got on a payment plan at work. My credit is not great, I'm sure it's better than a few years ago but I doubt I would qualify for any sort of credit card-ish thing on Ebay or through Paypal. So I've pretty much resigned myself to doing this the old-fashioned way and putting aside at least $3000 into savings.

    That said, I'm also brainstorming ideas to give myself a head start and trying to prioritize what I could sell to make this a reality. I see this as a long-term investment in an instrument which is very unlikely to ever be flipped, and if it were, it would certainly hold its value better than a newer bass providing I take care of it. Am I right?

    So, I'm asking for advice in general about the 70's-era Jazz basses as far as what's a good year, what are some of the differences as you go into the late 70's and would, say, a '79 be radically different from a '74. What kinds of features should I be aware of as far as verifying authenticity? What kinds of features are reasonable to upgrade or alter at some point...how much of a stickler should I be when it comes to original parts? And if I do find one that needs work, how much work do you think is too much?

    I'm also wondering about the experiences of anyone else who decided to throw pretty serious money at a bass and what their strategies were as far as flipping other gear and saving money. I realize we all have different lifestyles and economic backgrounds and that this is a pretty personal thing, but when I make my list of gear to post for sale in order to cover part of the cost, I want to make sure I have my head on straight and am not just being impatient or impulsive.

    For a while I was determined to never flip another piece of music gear, but the more I get to know professional musicians, the more I realize that this is just unrealistic and that people grow out of things...well, or sometimes they just need money!

    Therefore, my philosophy these days is that if it's a piece of gear/instrument that I wouldn't feel the urge to buy at this point in my life, it might not be a bad idea to sell it in order to start filling up my savings account. Especially if it's something I can replace relatively easily or if it's something that already needs work that might depreciate in value the longer I keep it.

    But I guess I'm just sort of anxious to make a decision like this even though I know it's the right choice for me. It's just surreal to be able to plan my spending and saving like this after not having a decent income for a few years. For example, when I bought my Sterling last year, pretty much the only reason I pulled it off was because I got a really huge tax return check which covered that and my MarkBass combo amp. When I bought my Cirrus, it was by the skin of my teeth and I basically starved for a month to be able to afford it. Until pretty recently, I was broke and had lost the ability to trust my own judgement when it came to spending money.

    I realize this is a somewhat multi-faceted topic. Mods, feel free to move it to a different section if necessary!
  2. thebrian

    thebrian Still can't think of anything good to put here. Supporting Member

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    What people ask for on ebay and what they actually sell for are 2 different things. You can filter your ebay search and look at sold listings to get a better idea of what you'd pay. Late '70s 3-bolt jazzes (~'75-80) go for much less than the 4-bolts (1960-'74). All original early '70s jazzes do sell in the $3-4000 range, but the later '70s Jazzes sell more in the $2000 range. Marcus Miller actually plays a 3-bolt '77 (IIRC), so you should be able to pick one of those up for around $2K. The finish matters a lot too.. an olympic white will generally go for a little more than black, black a little more than sunburst, sunburst more than natural. I've seen all original natural '77-79 Jazzes go in the $1650-1850 range on ebay.

    The main differences between an early '70s and a mid/late '70 Jazz is the 3 or 4 bolt necks (which also determines whether the truss rod adjustment is at the headstock or the heel), and also weight. The later '70s tend to weigh in the 10-12 lb. range, and early '70s are usually in the 8-10 lb. range. Weight is a personal preference, but I like em light. Good luck in your search!
  3. hernameisrio

    hernameisrio

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    Thanks! The quest is on...good call to look at sold listings on Ebay. I definitely would prefer something on the lighter side.

    Why is the 3-bolt design cheaper?
  4. Doctor J

    Doctor J

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    Quite simply because the Japanese reissue is more likely to be the better made instrument. Back in the 80's, when I started playing, the reputation of 70's Fenders was terrible and for good reason. Time has somehow enshrined them with a desirability which baffles me, and I say this as a former 77 J owner.

    My advice would be to wait around for a second hand MM. That way, if you don't like it, you can sell it on without losing any money at all. They're generally regarded highly, so you're unlikely to get a dog.
  5. No Coast Rider

    No Coast Rider

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    I took many years off from TB, but back in the early 2000s I remember 70s era Fenders being the butt of many jokes. Absolutely nobody wanted one. I returned here a year ago and suddenly everyone wants one. Weird. What happened?
  6. thebrian

    thebrian Still can't think of anything good to put here. Supporting Member

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    I agree that some '70s Fenders aren't the best built instruments out there, but there are still great ones that exist, I've had/have several. And I also feel that there is this perpetual myth here on TB that the reissues are always better. "Better" is so subjective. Yes, most of the computer/CNC-made reissues are more consistent with fit and finish than the '70s basses were, but is that the most important thing? To some maybe, but not to me. The reissues don't have the same tone or feel as the vintage basses. None of the reissues (USA included) have that feeling of a nice worn-in BOUND neck - where the frets are rolled into the binding and the binding is nice and rounded on he edges, so you don't feel the fret ends. Real '70s electronics have a "sound" too that the reissues don't quite nail 100%. Although the tone of the '74 AVRI that I had was very close to my 1974 Jazz (closer than any other reissue I've owned or played).
  7. Bongolation

    Bongolation

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    Brainless hysteria by bubbas hopelessly priced out of the actual vintage market gets my vote.

    Seriously, there's no rational basis for it.
  8. hernameisrio

    hernameisrio

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    I don't know. I can definitely understand the thinking that a reissue would be a better quality build...but my curiosity has been piqued and I want what I want. I like the idea of the older electronics sounding different, of the wood feeling slightly less perfect or slightly more worn. I like the idea of buying an instrument that has a history to it beyond coming off an assembly line in California in the early 00's or whatever. The prices I'm seeing on authentic vintage 70's Jazz basses don't seem too bad at all and it also seems like it would be easier to flip a '77 Jazz bass for say, $1500 or so, than to buy a reissue, play it for a few years and possibly ding it up slightly, and then flip it back for anything over a grand. It seems that everybody else's drooling over vintage gear could work in my favor if I get a lemon or if I change my mind and want something new after all. I don't need machine-made perfection in an instrument...I have enough of a support network of guitar techs and older musicians that if something I bought needed work, it would be doable. I mean, I guess everybody's idea of what constitutes "better," is gonna be different.
  9. Doctor J

    Doctor J

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    There are also perpetual myths about older instruments, too, which you have just outlined here. You've run through a list of uniform features which, given the wild disparity in a lot of 70's Fender output, just cannot be taken as gospel in the way described.
  10. Bongolation

    Bongolation

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    You're describing this.
  11. JellinWellen

    JellinWellen

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    I Would pass, for 2 grand you could get a wayyyyyy nicer bass. Although thanks to Geddy early 70s jazzes will always have a spot in my heart.
  12. thebrian

    thebrian Still can't think of anything good to put here. Supporting Member

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    I can sure think of a lot of "brainless bubba" professional, working, and very talented musicians that choose to play '70s Fenders.. and also have the money to play anything they want - Marcus Miller being one of them. It isn't brainless to buy an instrument that speaks to you, regardless of what others may think about it or its quality. What would be brainless is to take some guy off the internet's generalized advice about an entire decade of production as a whole, and not just try a few out for yourself to see what YOU think about them.

    OP, there are people here on TB who demean others that like basses that they personally don't find interesting, don't like, or just don't think are worth the money. Don't let that deter you from trying out some vintage gear. Just remember, for every guy that hates them, there are plenty more that love them.

    On a side note, I consider '70s basses "vintage". Fender considered '60s basses "vintage" already back in the early '80s when they 1st released the American Vintage Reissues. Those '60s basses were only 20 years old when Fender reissued them. Now '70s basses are 40 years old!
  13. NWB

    NWB

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    70s jazzes can be very wonderful instruments.

    ...or complete dogs. In my early playing years, the ones I tried put me off jazz basses for several decades.

    Production quality was quite a bit more hit and miss during that era.

    I'd highly recommend playing first if possible or at the very least make sure the seller a good return policy.
  14. hernameisrio

    hernameisrio

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    Yeah, but what constitutes "nice?" I'm not trolling my own thread, I'm just asking, what makes one bass "nicer" than another? I highly doubt that any bass above $1000 is gonna be a total hack job. My Music Man might not be nice to some people. Heck, I almost sold it before I gave it a chance and started to really love it. I didn't like the tone, it felt heavy to me, it has cosmetic issues. But for me, it works. Obviously when you hold up basses in a <$1000 price range to ones above that, there are substantial differences in quality, tone, feel, and look. But I think once you get into quadruple digits, it becomes a little more subjective.
  15. KUNGfuSHERIFF

    KUNGfuSHERIFF

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    You'd be amazed.

    In my opinion, a "nice" '70s Jazz has a light resonant body, open airy tone with articulate mids, good balance and a nice neck, and at least mostly original.

    Don't pay those bogus eBay prices. That's a fool's game. What happens is that Goon #1 gets $1500 for his bass, so Goon #2 looks through the completed auctions and decides he needs at least $1750 for his bass. Then Goon #3 decides he needs $2k at a minimum for his bass, which has a twisted neck and none of the original electronics. It goes downhill from there.

    Have you played a Sadowsky Metro? Nine, consistent basses in the $2k range.
  16. Bongolation

    Bongolation

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    Oh boy, "talking basses" again! :rollno:

    Son, I've worked on these things for over forty years, and when someone has that much experience, you could do worse than pipe down and learn something from him, especially when he's not trying to sell you anything.

    Instruments hold no magic for me and I hold no delusions about them. They're merely gear. They don't talk. Some are individually better than others, but with instruments from a standardless production era forty years ago, that mainly amounts to how much destruction, degradation and wear they have accumulated.

    I'm not saying that there were no good '70s Fender basses (though there was nothing special about them in the first place, except for some of CBS's production mistakes and lowered QC), but I will say that a typical '70s Fender bass in 2014 is mostly going to be a collection of problems related to its age.
  17. NWB

    NWB

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    Because vintage instruments generally command a higher price regardless of the quality of said instrument. With that in mind, you could for example, buy a 1977 jazz bass for $3k that sounds dead, is very heavy, poor fretwork, a whacked out truss rod, ski-jump neck....

    If you're not sure about these things when buying vintage (any vintage bass!), then I'd highly recommend taking a more-experienced bassist shopping with you.
  18. thebrian

    thebrian Still can't think of anything good to put here. Supporting Member

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    I gotta ask, did you read the first sentence of my paragraph that you quoted? I agree that some can be dogs, but it's equally unfair to generalize my statements as gospel, and that they are all good and they all should be sold for top dollar. There's no denying the necks feel different on the vintage basses - unless you've never compared them directly to the RIs. I personally do hear a difference in the vast majority of old P/Us compared to the RIs. Most have a very different frequency range and I find myself adjusting my amps parameters to account for RI P/Us, to make them sit right in the mix of a band.

    No, If I was saying that '70s basses are consistently wonderful, then I'd be describing that. What I am describing is just supply and demand. There are a limited number of '70s basses that exist, and that alone drives the price up. Unfortunately, that can drive the prices of the "dogs" up as well, but that doesn't mean that the good ones aren't worth the going market prices. Like I said before, if a particular vintage instrument speaks to someone, then it is worth what they're willing pay for it - because there isn't another one in the store down the street.
  19. hernameisrio

    hernameisrio

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    Here's my thought. Guitar Center Online seems to have some pretty good deals on a few 70's Jazz basses. Obviously I won't sleep at night until I get one in my hands and just try it...I think we've all had that feeling, to say the least! So, since Guitar Center allows you to return things with no questions asked, whereas Ebay or Craigslist or even a "real" music store might be more strict, I think I just need to scrape up the cash, jump on one, get it, play it, and make the decision for myself. The worst that'll happen is that it'll be an overpriced piece of crap that I'll have to carry on the subway for a couple of stops, wait on a long line, and maybe sign a couple of receipts to be rid of it again...but somehow that seems easier than scouring the planet for The One and feeling the sweat run down my back as I hand over a wad of hundred dollar bills. I realize this sounds dangerously impulsive and is definitely a long-distance way of trying before you buy, but given that I live in NYC where I'm sure the prices of Vintage Gear&#8482; will be highly inflated, I think this might not be a bad strategy.
  20. bass151

    bass151

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    Not to get off topic, but what is the consensus on mexi or japan Marcus Millers? I know you guys have been kicking this around.

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