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Investment Basses

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Johnny L, Jun 4, 2004.

  1. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    I'm all for taking old basses, preserving/restoring them, and then reselling them to players dedicated to showing why they're still being played instead of being sacrificed for a marshmallow cookoff.

    But what about the end-user, the guy who goes to, say, one of the famous pedigree bass sellers in New York, New Mexico, Cincinatti, etc.? Is the end-user coming into one of these shops for the wrong reason if he/she thinks that he/she is doing much more than financially supporting the hard work to see these kinds of products remain available?

    Curious and Ignorant,
    Johnny L
  2. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    I 'm not sure I understand what you mean But I'm curious to follow this thread as I am recently finding myself in said market.
  3. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    I'm looking at older basses. My friend who is helping me in this matter has not recommended anything new.
  4. Alex Scott

    Alex Scott

    May 8, 2002
    Austin, TX
    If you are trying to invest in basses, you should really take a lot of care to study the market and pedigree and anythign else you can, auctions, restoration etc.

    Remember Dealers are getting 20% and if you sell through a dealer there goes another 20%. on your $100000 bass a round trip effectively costs you $40,000. Great investment.

    Forgive me, I am also a stock broker.
  5. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    I meant to ask whether buying a bass as a financial investment was wise, but I was trying to ask it in a way that supported an open-minded discussion. But Alex is helping this thread gain momentum better than my response is, I think...
  6. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    You should buy a bass to play. But having said that, if you buy a good sounding bass, that is in good shape (or can be put in good shape) it will tend to appreciate in value. It IS kind of like buying tulips, the strong market is being supported by lots of people buying DBs. Which in turn makes factories in China make basses instead of shipping pallets. So if people STOP playing basses, certain sections of the market will not appreciate.

    But they are not making any more 200+ year old Italian, English, French, German etc. basses. They will ALWAYS hold the top part of the market. But it's just like real estate. You don't want to buy at the top of the market. EDIT - that didn't come out right. If you can buy an old Italian etc bass, you should. They appreciate, I've never seen them get cheaper. At some point, when people get to the point that playing upright is not what they want to do anymore, you'll see a lot of low end basses on the market.

    By way of example, my bass - I bought it in 1990ish for $2K, it appraises now at $8K.

    But, like the current housing market, if I sold it, any bass I would want to buy would cost much more.
  7. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Johnny, Don't buy an expensive Bass for the sole purpose of an investment. Buy the Bass you need to play in the Venue you will or are playing in and then move it up a notch or so for your Growth.

    Basses do not appreciate overnight unless you buy it under market value. Basses are worth what you can get for it and that's about it. Insurance appraisals are usually a bit higher so you can replace your Bass at current market value at a reputable dealer. That doesn't mean you can't do better shopping around. It just means you don't have to go hunting in attics and basements because you were under-insured. I have one Bass appraised between 25-30K but am selling it for around 20-25k. To replace it, I need every bit of the 30K from what I have seen and tried.

    What type of playing do you or will you be doing. That is most important. Some of the newer Basses even from China like the higher end Shens will cut through in an orchestra and work everywhere else as well.

    Older Basses, (if made well to begin with) will be more mellow and mature sounding. Not all old Basses were made better than the new ones today.

    Tell us more about your intended use and we can all pitch in and give you some useful suggestions.

    I am currently restoring an old Bass as well but it wont be cheap. Some Basses cost more to fix than they will ever be worth so be carfull with that idea. Bargains are hard to find even for those 'in the know'.
  8. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Were I to purchase an expensive bass rather than, say, a new car, my intention would be to see it played in the bass section of an orchestra (my local symphony, specifically)...though of course I would not wish to bar myself from participating in other music-making endeavors with it.

    When I first began lessons with my teacher, and the subject of pedigree basses would come up, I inferred from him that 20 years ago such prices would be considered, for the most part, downright laughable. I never got into the "why" part with him. I was focused on learning about playing the bass from him, and doing what he could do with vibrato and dynamics (still working on them...).

    I do indeed like the idea of purchasing a bass that, for example, survived noted historical events such as the French Revolution and has a sound that pleases me, but I'm not at all opposed to something like a much less expensive and new Chinese bass either. To be honest, I have no real leanings here and am still doing fine climbing the learning curve with what my Strunal offers. Playing with a number of basses Robertson brought to the last bass symposium I attended confirmed that I could make any "adjustments" to a much better quality bass pretty quickly (i.e., I'm not much better a player either way). So I'm not lacking in patience, but I am lacking in knowledge.

    There was one killer, killer bass...one where the table and ribs came together without a lip over the edge and cool looking f-holes. It sounded really, really good to me, and it was comfortable to play in any position. I was just trying to get experience with the superhero pedigree basses, but anyway, everyone share market secrets as you see fit.
  9. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    First of all, I bought my first of this group of Basses to 'Play' it and not for an investment. As you may or may not know, I was a 'Very Very' sucessful player in NY from '68-'88. I can play all styles and know the difference between Basses with my eyes closed! I currently play in a local Symphony and occasionally accept other gigs.

    When I choose a Bass, I am aware of the market value and aware of the makers as well. Most people do not know these things and have to take the word of the seller or dealer. I have seen people selling an old Italian Bass that was actually a 19th century American Bass. If I take the label out of my Batchelder, I could easily pass it as a northern Italian Bass to a 'non'-dealer.

    My intentions for each Bass I have bought was to Play it and not collect it. I am however aware of the values so I can sell it quickly without loosing money or having to wait 10 or 20 years till I can do so.

    The average person with less Bass knowledge may not be able to wheel and deal as easily especially when you walk into a shop and pay top dollar.

    I currently have 2 Basses for sale but I dont advertise them. I was selling my Gilkes for a short minute but after hearing it with Obligatos, it's back as my favorite. I am also looking at 2 other Italian Basses. One of them may smell like a sweet deal but I just found out the Bass needs a 'ton' of work and the 'Name' of the Bass will most likely bring a higher price than it is worth considering its condition.

    If you understand the market, you can buy and trade your way up little by little. Basses are at a peak now and wont go up for awhile. Just like the realestate boom in the last 20 years, it's at the top with no where to go.

    Deals are hard to find but timing is everything.
  10. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    I agree with Ed in that one should buy a bass that comes as close as possible to the sound you are looking for . If that is a 2k bass; great ! If it's an 80k bass and you have the coin for it; great also !

    Part of the problem in dealing with old instruments I am finding is that very few are what they are attributed to be. "Expert" opinion is highly subjective. One dealer may call a bass a Testore and another may say it's not even Italian.

    This is where I get nervous because I am no expert...not even close.

    I think research is key as well as having someone you trust to help you. especially if that person is not necessarily going to make a buck off of helping you.
  11. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    As JonnyL alluded to I also think it is kinda cool to own a bass that may have been played during the premiere of a Beethoven Concerto or a Mozart opera.. The historical aspect is certainly alluring.
  12. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Mommy, can I go play at Ken Smith's house? :smug:
  13. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Thanks Ken for sharing your thoughts. I agree with much of what you've posted - that the pedigree market is ripe for the seller and the smart buyer is obligated to understand what is really being sold along with what he or she really wants.
  14. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Buying a bass as an investment is dumb. And it is not investing, it is speculation. An investment assures a reasonable rate of return on a relatively liquid (saleable) asset. A string instrument is only worth what someone will pay for it at any particular moment, and can take years to resell. Speculators fuel the upward march in antique instrument "values", pricing many deserving players out of the market. Anyone considering a highly-priced old bass should buy because the instrument is right for them and moves them forward as an artist, not because they think they might make money on the deal. And it's important to feel confident that you could get out of the instrument should something go wrong down the road. And anyone who thinks prices only go UP is a fool. "A fool and his money are soon parted." Who said that?
  15. azflyman


    Apr 24, 2004
    Astoria, OR
    Why Arnold I believe you just said that ;-)

  16. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Thanks Arnold also for your thoughts, I agree with much that you have offered as well.