Reputable guitar store owner bashes customs

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by lamborghini98, Oct 1, 2005.

  1. lamborghini98

    lamborghini98 The Aristocrats

    May 1, 2005
    NYC; Portland, OR

    I was talking to the owner of an extremely famous vintage guitar/banjo store and he said a few things about customs I want your input on. I mean.. he might be right in some sense.

    First of all he said he would never make them because they have no resale value.
    I asked why they have no resale value.. I mean.. I see Foderas and Sadowskys going (when they do) on sale used for most hefty prices.
    He said something about how much Martins increase in value.
    I didnt care.
    Then we got into how all of the big name custom makers are/arent really custom basses. Hes sort of got a point there, because they will absolutely refuse to make something that they dont want to put their stamp on. Youll never see a famous maker make some radical body shape for a customer... and its not that unusual for a manufacturer to put a limit on the number of strings for a certain style bass. Then theres the whole deal with "custom" bass makers actually having certain styles. They let you customize some of the woods and stuff. But its not like you cant replace the hardware once you get the instrument.. and its not like you cant repaint the body.

    Sort of seems like Im agreeing with him here, but Im not. He does have some good points, but ultimately I think that a custom instruments are custom simply by the fact that you did specify at least some ( at least one, really) aspect of it, and its being made just for you.

    Then he said something about them being worthless because no one else is going to want what was made for you. Personally I might buy a bass just because its one of a kind; even if it isnt made by anyone Ive ever heard of. Wouldnt a lot of people?
  2. Matt H

    Matt H

    Jul 30, 2005
    Ithaca, NY
    it sounds like your conversation wasn't just about "Custom", but rather "boutique" instruments.

    i see a big difference between "boutique" and "custom" (though the two often overlap). this comes in, specifically, in your point about builders not making things they wouldn't put their names on.

    in my experience, "custom" (in a truer sense of the word) does tend to have absolutely crap resale... whereas "boutique" instruments that are "more standard" (that is, opposed to "custom") tend to have great resale value...

    like you said, look at sadowsky- great resale value. but they're not "custom" in the sense that the owner can get ANYTHING... it's more like a stock basic design with a few user-selected details.

    that being said, vintage martins (or other big names) do tend to appreciate in value... why? name brand recognition which then spawns "collectors" of said name brand. this may or may not be true with boutiques... especially when you consider the boutique market (in any meaningful capacity) has been around much shorter than just stock instruments from "big name" manufacturers... (who often have a custom shop component- and you'll notice that "custom shop" for these lines- say gibson, demand higher coin... whereas carvin's custom shop has pretty poor resale value in comparison).

    anyway- i do'nt mean to offer any real opinions to this thread, just add some food for thought.
  3. beadgc


    Oct 10, 2003
    Brooklyn, NY
    That's true of some Martins, but not most of them.

    Pre-WWII, yeah, they have increased tremendously, and will continue to do so, because there were relatively few made, great exotic wood was widely available and cheap (midrange Martins back in the 1920s had backs and sides of solid Brazillian rosewood) and the craftsmanship was superb.

    Post-war, it's a whole different story. Some of the models from the 1950s and 1960s increase in value (the D-sized ones the bluegrassers like, for instance). But once you get into the 1970s, most Martins haven't gone anywhere in years, and new ones depreciate in value dramatically. Right now, Elderly Instruments has a 1999 OM-42 in excellent condition on its site for $2,850; a new one is on sale at Mandolin Bros. -- just to pick a dealer -- with a "minimum advertised price" of $3,899. That's generally true for most Martins made in the last 25 years. [I should add that IMO they're still excellent guitars -- but not great or even good investments]

    There are lots of reasons for that, but basically, it sounds to me like the guy doesn't know much about the upscale bass market.
  4. syciprider

    syciprider Banned

    May 27, 2005
    Inland Empire
    Short answer:

    He's not a dealer
  5. jongor

    jongor Supporting Member

    Jan 11, 2003
    I think maybe that store owner is peeved that custom makers are cutting into the mass-marketed brands.

    We have to have options! Fenders are great, but that would stink if that's all we could get. Of course that store owner would be happy, cause we'd all have to buy from him.
  6. lamborghini98

    lamborghini98 The Aristocrats

    May 1, 2005
    NYC; Portland, OR
    Who? The guy I had the conversation with?
  7. lamborghini98

    lamborghini98 The Aristocrats

    May 1, 2005
    NYC; Portland, OR

    Good hypothesis, but he is pretty ignorant in terms of bass. I mean... he didnt know that most of Sadowsky's output is basses. I think he thinks they make archtops guitars.
  8. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Sounds like your dealer buddy has been hanging out with Ed Roman.
  9. mark beem

    mark beem Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2001
    New Hope, Alabama
    Damn, ya beat me to it Munji!!!

  10. Judging from your description of the store and the fact that you live on Staten Island I'm going to guess the gentleman you spoke with has the initials S.J.(?) If so, I've spoken with him several times as well and purchased two guitars from his store. He is an authority on the vintage stringed instrument market (and a darn nice fellow), but probably not as knowledgeable about the bass world as you point out.

    Matt H makes a good point about the difference between custom and boutique. A few years back I ordered a custom chambered jazz guitar from a young but well respected builder. He allowed me to choose the woods, specify neck shape, fret size, pickups, everything. I also ordered a floating bridge. After a semester in school I sold the guitar to finance my education and afford to eat. Because the guitar was truly customized for me it was difficult to sell -- even to collectors of this particular builder's work -- and I ended up taking a bath.

    Fodera is probably an exceptional case. Even Alembics seem to lose a fair amount of value on the used market.
  11. If he's a music store owner, what kind of a store does he have? What is his market? What is his niche? This sounds to me like more of a marketing question than a knowledge of instrumentation.

    Here in the provincial area of Western Pennsylvania, most music stores carry Peavy, Ibanez, Yamaha, etc. Several may have one "specialty" line - like Godin. You'll find some with Johnsons too, since the Fenders/Gibson/Ibanez/Epiphone/MusicMan etc. lines are hogged by Guitar Center. GC will sometimes bring some nice pieces in, like Pedullas, Warwicks and Spectors, but forget Modulus, Roscoe, MTD and any other high-end builder you can think of. Anyone that's playing a Ken Smith or Sadowsky didn't get it here.

    That's the market. The typical music store here caters to the soccer moms, making most income from lessons for their kids rather than instruments that will appeal to professional musicians. That's because in this market, professional musician is a 2nd (or 3rd or 4th) job for us. If there was a store like a "The Perfect Bass" or "Austin Bass Traders" or "New York Bass Works," I'd bet the store wouldn't last a year.
  12. To each is onw opinion!!
    He sounds frustrated no? Perhaps he should have sex....
  13. Slurm


    Jan 9, 2005
    i own a second hand custom , and its the best bass ive ever played
  14. Pennydreadful

    Pennydreadful Goin out West

    Jun 13, 2005
    Arlington, Texas
    It's more or less the same here in North Texas. There's just not enough of a market for anything beyond your standard Ibanez, Peavey, Fender stuff.
  15. bmc


    Nov 15, 2003
    Limited market for boutique, compared to the stuff the masses want. Heck, even as an owner, I am very caustious of the resale value of boutique instruments. My personal experience has been that they are harder to sell and I've never made money on a sale. YMMV.
  16. ii7-V7


    Aug 4, 2002
    Baltimore, MD
    C'mon, don't you know that whatever is hanging on his walls are the best instruments that you can buy....and whatever isn't is a waste of time.

    Thats salesmanship! ;)
  17. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY

    Who cares. Buy and play what u like, not what some dinosaur tells u to buy

  18. vacman


    Mar 8, 2004
    portland, or
    Yup. Ya speak da truth. The need to be negative for the sake of a sale is not salesmanship at all. Value lies in the mind of the end consumer, and if it is hand made or CNC the consumer will be the ultimate judge.
  19. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    Has G.C. had an impact on your business and the brands of gear that you stock? We have a great local store here; it's owner is a top notch guy, and he offers very good deals and service to his customers. He does great repairs too.

    Since G.C. has opened a store in my area, I've noticed his inventory has gone from upper end stuff to many of the same fast selling items that G.C. sells.

    - Art
  20. lamborghini98

    lamborghini98 The Aristocrats

    May 1, 2005
    NYC; Portland, OR
    On the point that theres a limited customer base...
    Hes a vintage guitar reseller. His customer is not that big. Its not like every person in New York is going to go there to buy his instruments, so I think that the limited customer base argument is a little invalid. Theres a market for good basses, its just not the majority. Same with vintage guitars (even though theyre a lot more popular.)