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Opinions on valuation of fretless Precision, late 1970s

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Rockin John, Aug 24, 2005.

  1. Hello folks.

    I've been emailing a seller in the UK regarding a private sale for a fretless Fender Precision.

    I'd like to get some idea if the dealers who've valued the bass - and so the seller's asking price - is reasonable. The bass is:-

    1) Made 1978 or 79, identified from the serial number using MrGearhead.net

    2) Ungigged

    3) All functional incl truss rod.

    4) Owned by current seller, from new.

    5) Rosewood board, with Ash (?) body.

    6) In A1 condition considering year, etc.

    7) Fitted with flats strings so no f/board wear.

    8) NOT including a hard shell case with this sale.

    These are basically the seller's facts, discovered by exchanging many emails: I have NO REASON WHATEVER to suspect the seller is anything but totally honest. I have not seen the bass myself.

    The bass was valued by a London dealer at about £1200. The seller asks me about £800.

    My question is whether or not these sums are likely to represent fair value for money for the instrument I describe.

    Opinions greatly appreciated.


  2. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    Personally I would say yes, it is. Those late 70s fretless P basses are fantastic.
  3. AGCurry


    Jun 29, 2005
    Kansas City
    In general, fretless Fenders have lower market value than fretted ones, because fewer people are looking to play them.

    I sold a '78 in very good condition on eBay about 3 years ago for around $500. But that was before Guitar Center started marketing 1978s as vintage collectibles.

    The late 70s were Fender's dark years. Quality control was spotty. They made some good ones and some bad ones.
  4. Yes, I did wonder whether I've been caught up in the vintage thing. But I'm not after a vintage bass, just a fretless Precision which (for this one) because of it's age seems to be called 'vintage' and priced accordingly! That is probably quite fair, of course.

    I'm not exactly sure of the US$ vs GBP exchange rate these days but if it were about 1.8, then my possible £800 investment becomes about $1400.

    In either currency, of course, that's a lot of money. I could buy quite a good, modern fretless for around £800. For Fenders, the street price for a USA Jazz fretless is around that and another £200 or so would get me a USA DLX Jazz fretless.

    Having said all that, this appears to be an exceptionally good instrument. The seller has owned it since new; that's nearly 30 years. Not many basses can say that. :eek:

    And so to Philbiker and AGCurry...

    Could either please advise me how to spot the good from the bad for those years of manufacture. It won't be possible for me to try before I buy, but I might be able to see before I buy. If this bass is as good as the seller indicates I don't want to miss it all for the sake of a lack of knowledge.

    Help, as always, gratefully appreciated.


  5. You really need to be able to play this instrument before you buy it. You might find that the tone is not what you're looking for, and another bass with the same price might be more of what you want. Just because it's vintage doesn't mean it's better than what else you can get out there. It sounds like you're looking to play rather than collect, so definately play this instrument.

    If the owner won't let you play before you buy, don't buy this bass.
  6. Thanks. You're right. I don't want to collect basses. Any next purchase would be my 2nd instrument, and probably my last.

    I'm sure the owner of this one would be delighted to let me play it. It's just that we're too far apart (in miles) for me to get over there.

    I very briefly had fretless P in the mid/late 1970s. I was hopeless on it 1st time around :eek: :ninja: - probably down to it being unlined - so wanted to have another try. And it's now my luck that a bass nobody really wanted then (as now) has become a vintage collectible!

    In any case I've been looking around for a fretless Fender (because I like Fenders) for some time. 1970s fretless Ps come up very rarely in the UK. Modern Fenders are all lined. I even flirted with buying a used USA DLX 5, J or P, and having a defret or even a new board fitted. I own a USA DLX 5 Jazz fretted, now.

    So that's the brief story behind all this. I can't remember how my P sounded: the memory dims after 30 years - 30 minutes in my case! - but I felt sure a fretless P with flats and a rosewood board wouldn't be too much more then a good old 'thumper'. As always, though, I could be wrong...and often am.


  7. Thanks, Smash.

    And thanks for the clip...liked the song, too. :D

    I feel jammed in a bit of a corner over the fretless. I feel the market - rather than the seller - is forcing me to pay more than I want to do. And I agree about the USA vs UK prices. Generally, everything seems to cost about 50% more over here :spit:

    Recently, on Ebay, there was a USA dealer putting a 1973 (date shown on pic on the heel of the neck) fretless P for sale with the valuation of $1000, approx = £550. I'd not quibble about £550, all other things being equal, but £800 is different!! Then I need a hard shell case and to insure it...

    Please...assuming the seller would take photos of the parts you suggest, what can I do / where do I go to verify the details given?


  8. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    (1) No, I can't help.

    (2) FWIW I personally don't subscribe to the general complaints about Fender's QC then or now. I know they have a reputation for being spotty but I've never tried a Fender I didn't like, from any era. Admittadly that's not saying much, since I've only played a few.
  9. AGCurry


    Jun 29, 2005
    Kansas City
    Well, gee. I wouldn't pay that much for a 1978 fretless P.

    As far as "things to look for" in quality:

    straight neck, functional truss rod
    smooth fingerboard (no grooves or chips)
    weight (many late 70s Fenders were HEAVY)
    okay fit with neck and neck pocket
    all the other things you'd look for, fretless or fretted

    Many fretless players seem to want a Jacoesque sound. IMO you need to have a bridge pickup for this sound - P/J, Jazz, or Elite II.

    If you aren't concerned with resale, you may be ahead to find a loaded body on e-bay and order a fretless neck for it from Warmoth. I did this recently with a Geddy Lee body, ordering a wonderful wenge-with-ebony-board neck. All for around $700.
  10. Thanks.

    My real issue is to try to overcome the thing that defeated me on a P fretless all those years ago. So I want a fretless Fender Precision rather than any old fretless....it's a grudge thing now, you see :bag: :eek:

    Interestingly, looking around UK on-line dealers, most 'vintage' basses seem to be priced around the £1000 (with the really good ones at well over that!). That probably means the bass in my question is fairly priced for the UK, all other things being equal.

    Thanks, AGCurry, for the pointers. It was just that I'd heard such a lot about Fender QC over that period and wondered whether there were any specific points to look for during that era.


  11. zombywoof5050


    Dec 20, 2001
    IMO this is an important factor.
    What if it's one of those 12-13 pounders?