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Can We Have An Honest Discussion About Bass Mods and Impact on Resale Value?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Modulus1906, Aug 27, 2012.

  1. Modulus1906

    Modulus1906 Supporting Member

    May 5, 2009
    I've been thinking about this subject for a while and have decided to just poll the masses. I'll start by saying that I'm a bass mod-type, not for the sake of modding, but just because I believe modding gives you a chance to get exactly what you want in sound as long as you can pinpoint things about your current sound you believe can be better or you just simply have "issues" with your current sound.

    However, when it comes to trying to sell a bass that's been modded, people often take the default view that the value should necessarily be lower just because the bass has been modded. I've even heard many say that you just have to let a bass be what it is and, if that doesn't work for you, sell the bass and buy one that has the sound you like. Problem is, what if the sound I like is a $12,000 Fodera or something? As you know, many potential buyers shun the notion of paying the regular "market" price for a modded bass. Simply put, unless we are talking about true high dollar vintage or really particular instruments (e.g., Alembics, Ritters), I believe this argument is becoming outdated. In today's age of ready access to information, reviews, sound clips we all love to hear, sites like Talkbass, and the fact that many builders are using the very components we use as the basis for upgrades, I believe the practice of expecting a much lower resale value just because a bass has been modded has become much more gray now.

    I'll use my Yamaha TRB 5PII as an example. When I consider the premium woods and contruction quality of a $12,000 Fodera or something (not picking on Fodera by the way), I'll put that TRB against many of them construction-wise. Assuming for sake of argument that I like the "$12,000 Fodera sound", I'm 95% there with the Yamaha and many other very nicely-constructed basses. If I decide to tweak the sound to get a sound similar to whatever high-end bass I target, why is that a big deal relative to resale? I guess I'm asking whether you think that the very high prices of boutique basses coupled with the fact that there are so many good aftermarket upgrade components available should negate "traditional" concerns over resale value particularly since, as mentioned, we aren't in the dark any longer about what we are getting into. Have any of you actually sold a modded bass for less than you wanted despite a perception that the buyer and "9 out of 10 people surveyed" would actually enjoy the mod better than the original bass? How many of you have haggled over price due to a mod while all the time knowing you were salivating over the mod?
  2. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    I think the risk is that it is very hard to assess your craftsmanship via the internet. Most of the upgrades that people routinely do on TB are things I have little interest in. Chances are I will not find that sweet, sweet pickup you are in love with to be any better than what came with the bass. I make some mods to my basses and if I ever sell a modded bass I will be honest about what I did and see what I can get for it. If I don't like the offers I will not criticize the buyers, I will just wait patiently for the buyer who likes what I like. And that is the thing, you mod the bass to suit you and that automatically makes it less attractive than the factory model to those who do not like what you like. They will just have to rip out everything you did anyway and therefore they do not value your bass any higher than an unmodded example of the same bass. The one bass I have sold so far on TB was one that was unmodded. You may have to be very patient if you want to sell a modded bass. It is just a matter of how well your tastes match those of the average buyer of that bass, if there is such a thing.

  3. smcd

    smcd Supporting Member

    Jun 28, 2009
    Boston, MA
    A modded bass almost always brings a lower price than a stock bass. The only time it will come close to raising the value even a little is if you find a buyer whose taste and ideas are the same as yours. And of course that buyer would have to be in the market for a new bass just like the one you have. Slim odds.

    If you want to mod a bass, do it. Just don't bitch when you take a financial beating when you sell it.
  4. king_biscuit

    king_biscuit Supporting Member

    May 21, 2006
    I hate modded basses, it reminds me of the rednecks with their giant Honda muffler tailpipes. I don't know if that helps or not...
  5. Modulus1906

    Modulus1906 Supporting Member

    May 5, 2009
    Don't sites like Talkbass increase the odds of finding someone who will appreciate the mods? By the way, I've modded a Modulus Quantum 6 and a Pedulla Thunderbass ET5 and the concensus is that the basses sound better even from some who "hate mods". I don't believe a bass sounds better just because it's factory, even with high-end builders. I know "better" is a relative term. I no longer fear modding because I kinda know what to expect now.
  6. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass **** Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    It all depends on the bass and the mod(s).

    Many would argue that a '69 P-bass is more usefull with a J pickup added in the bridge position but it hurts the value. As parts the body is now worth about half as much and the pickguard with the extra hole is worth about a third of what it would've been. It's now a player's bass, and like it or not, this mentality trickles-down to lots of less valuable/collectable instruments.

    In all honesty, when it comes to heavy modification of mid-level instruments(let's say $400-$1200) it's a very personal thing. Even though you may have an addition $500 in parts and hours of careful planning an labor invested the type of player that is going to want that bass is probably going to want to at least choose, if not perform the mods themselves. It's a bit like ordering a bass from Warmoth, Carvin or Alembic...nobody will pay nearly as much as you did because they want to choose the woods, electronics, hardware, etc., so you take the hit if/when you want to sell it.

    There's also the "turd polishing" aspect. A $500 Ibanez(not picking on Ibby!)is always going to be what it is deep down. Even if you feel it sounds and feels like a Fodera with the neck re-profiled, the fretwork perfect and $600 worth of electronics it probably won't be worth much more than the $500 or half of what you've spent on parts.
  7. Modulus1906

    Modulus1906 Supporting Member

    May 5, 2009
    Care to provide more detail?
  8. I've never seen a significantly modded bass where I've decided it didn't make the bass less valuable, especially "permanent" ones. The possible exception might be a cheap generic bass that's had upgraded electronics, tuning machines, bridge, etc. But I don't have much interest in those anyway. I've never bought a modded bass and doubt I ever will unless it's so spectacular the GAS monkey wakes and climbs on my back.
  9. king_biscuit

    king_biscuit Supporting Member

    May 21, 2006
    The thing is that most mods don't really change the sound of the bass all that much. For example, I don't understand why someone would buy a new American Fender with Alnoco 5 single coils and replace the pickups with say Fralin Alnico 5 single coils. It just comes off like the young redneck males putting rims on old Japaneses econo boxes. Personally, i don't want a bass that has been molested by someone (this goes double for a high end bass like a modulus); and I am sure I'm in the majority.
  10. Johnius


    Dec 5, 2007
    Another angle I sometimes view mods from is necessity. I bought a Kingston, and the stock guts had that woody sound through the mids. To me that sounds terrible. I modded it out with Bart guts and now it sounds excellent. But then I know I'd never get out of it what I put into it. Those basses simply aren't "worth" that much. If I were to sell it I would have to wait for the guy who wanted the modern sound like I did but couldn't spring for the USA MTD.
  11. the Arsonaut

    the Arsonaut

    Aug 27, 2012
    You just can't have it both ways. Sorry.

    You are not going to make a $2500 into a $12,000, because YOU think it sounds the same.
    You've just taken the entire market out of the equation.

    I hate car comparisons, but okay. If I could get my Ford Taurus to move as fast as a Maserati on a 1/4mi, is it now worth as much as a maserati? Even though I obviously put A LOT of work into it, and invested a comparable fortune in it.
    Speaking of which, anyone here looking for a really fast, custom American made car? Does not handle turns (or braking) well.

    The vintage market is almost a payoff to the years you kept that old instrument in really good condition. That's why 1968 p-bass, mint trumps 1967 p-bass, dragged behind bus.

    And mods detract from that value. I don't think every Mod=game over.
    You swapped the original pickups for some 70s SDs with creme pickups, and you have the originals, too. That price should go sideways, not necessarily down...unless, you butchered under the pickguard in the process, and/or the originals don't work, either.
    But I am going to scrutinize your work-endlessly, while admiring the original craftsmanship.

    Should we highfive every special olympian who added extra pickups with a router on overdrive, who then covered their 'extra' routing with a New & improved pickguard? Good job. I now own an EMG active pickup, and a worthless slab.

    When you make changes, you are making it your own. Good for you.
    But remember that someone looking for a Mint Gibson Ripper, or Pedulla Pentabuzz, are not necessarily looking for an Arsonaut Ripper, or a "quadrabuzz".

    Do: take credit for your work. I ALWAYS (everytime) suspect some oddjob who says "well, the previous owner this'n'that" While I'm standing in his trailer with a soldering iron burning a hole in his lazyboy.
    And that can mean, not dealing with you at all...ever again.
  12. Jay2U

    Jay2U Not as bad as he lóòks

    Dec 7, 2010
    22 ft below sea level
    I think I wouldn't buy a modified bass. There are two reasons:
    1) I don't trust the craftsmanship of another.
    2) I'd mod it myself.
    I'm the owner of a cheap $250 Ibby, which I modded by removing the active electronics, as it simply sounds better and brings a bigger dynamic range. I improved many details regarding the neck to pocket joint, the saddles and the fretwork. Finally I convrted it to BEAD tuning. With everything set up to my preferences it plays like a $1000 bass.
  13. Modulus1906

    Modulus1906 Supporting Member

    May 5, 2009
    I disagree that mods don't impact the sound regardless of which side of the fence you are on regarding mods in general. You just have to do your homework and determine what components will meet your need. Saying that mods don't matter is like saying frequency spectrums and how we hear various frequencies is junk science. By the way, one professional player here in Atlanta heard my Modulus and ordered one just like it from Modulus recently. Now, in looking at the new Modulus site, I see a picture of a Quantum depicting two toggle switches very similar to my bass. I had not seen that before on the Modulus site B4. Hmmm??
  14. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass **** Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    I don't doubt you one bit. Ordering this option from the factory probably costs $200 extra, unfortunately selling a bass with this modification done "post factory" probably costs the seller $200 extra. It's just the way it is.
  15. king_biscuit

    king_biscuit Supporting Member

    May 21, 2006
    You are never going to convince me that I want a bass that you modded as much as if you didn't mod it. I don't care what it sounds like. :bassist:
  16. beggar98


    Jan 23, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    I think there are mods and there are upgrades. If you buy a mid-range bass with Bart MK1s and a no-name pre-amp and put Nordstrands and a Pope pre-amp in it, you've probably improved the bass and you've certainly added value. That, to me, is an upgrade.

    If you buy an early 90s Ken Smith neck-through and decide you want to add a piezo bridge, that's a mod and may or may not decrease the value, depending on who did the work.

    For the most part I think it comes down to three things: quality of the original component(s); quality of the new component(s); reversibility.
  17. Dbassmon


    Oct 2, 2004
    Rutherford, NJ
    You mod a bass to improve it somehow. Of course improve is in the ears of the beholder but at any rate, you are customizing your bass to your taste. If you are worried about resale, leave the bass alone, if you are worried about your tone, mod the bass.

    Basses are lousy investments, you are probably better off viewing them as instruments or tools... if you can make your instrument better, why wouldn't you?

    If you want an investment, buy Apple Stock on a pull back.
  18. king_biscuit

    king_biscuit Supporting Member

    May 21, 2006
    btw, most of the mods I see do not affect the sound that much: badass bridges, hipshot tuners, swapping one set of alnico5 single coils for another. I'm sure your coil tap switches did change the sound somewhat, but I would not want a high end bass that the previous seller drilled holes in; again, regardless of the sound.
  19. king_biscuit

    king_biscuit Supporting Member

    May 21, 2006
    That's going to decrease the value even if Ken himself did the work :)
  20. Never. I don't buy stuff to resell, just to use. And a thing is worth what someone is willing to pay for it, no more or less. I don't haggle. I walk.

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