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"Used bass for sale... Missing serial number"

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by James Collins, Apr 27, 2018.

  1. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    Is it just me, or if you have a used bass and it is missing a serial number for any reason, the resale value is brought way down unless there is some other way to authenticate the bass.

    Examples I see are:
    1) a serial number on a metal plate is removed, presumably because someone didn't like how it looked or feel
    2) the bass is refinished in a non-standard way covering or destroying the serial number.

    In the latter case, I would think the value should be very low because the ability to confirm authenticity is greatly reduced and it doesn't even look normal, but the postings try to make it like no big deal.

    If you plan to modify an instrument that you may later sell, keep some sort of documentation. For example, a certificate of authenticity, sales receipt, picture before and after modification, receipt from the luthier modifying the instrument including the type of instrument before and what was done. It just seems unlikely you would have no proof if it is a legitimate instrument. Especially with the number of counterfeits around now.
  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    central NY state
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Usually would indicate it's a fake, especially if it's claimed to be "vintage".
  3. Depends on the bass. If it's an off-brand, no big deal. Only if it's collectible or a brand that there is a reason to counterfeit does it matter.

    Modifications generally lower resale value rather than increasing it. One guy's mods are another's abominations.
  4. If it's a stolen bass, there probably won't be a serial number or documentation.
    dan1952 likes this.
  5. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    I would also suspect fakes. Some of them can look pretty good or close. But even if it is real, once that serial number is gone it is near worthless. The one I'm seeing recently is a Nobby Meidel that is missing the serial number. And in its absence it is a fake or worth what a similar fake would be priced at.
  6. If they won't sell it for a fake/knock-off price, you don't want it.
    Unless it really plays and sounds nice and then you pay the price of a really nice playing/sounding fake/knock-off.
    Which is still less than what you should pay for an "old beatup POS squier."
    James Collins likes this.
  7. I won’t buy basses with stratched out or covered up serial numbers for several reasons. One is that it could be a fake. Aside from Chinese clones and stuff I’ve noticed many basses listed online over the years for example Squier basses where they basically put a fender decal on the headstock and try to sell it as a fender. I actually recently saw one that I know for a fact was a Squier VM jazz 5 and they changed the decal and tried to say it was a MIA fender, probably because they knew no one would believe it was a MIM jazz with the block inlays and white finish on a 5 string.

    But the main reason I won’t buy basses with no serial numbers is because I don’t want to buy a bass that was possibly stolen and then weeks or months later have the original owner hitting me up on social media or showing up on my front porch thinking I’m the one who stole their bass. If I was in that position after buying a bass with a serial number I’d do the right thing and give the original owner the bass back knowing how I’d feel if someone stole one of mine, but then I’d be out whatever I paid for it. If I was confronted by the original owner like that I would personally be embarrassed to admit I bought a bass that was likely stolen also
  8. James Collins

    James Collins

    Mar 25, 2017
    Augusta, GA
    I'm particularly hesitant to buy any Fender or Gibson online used. Partly, because I know there are so many fakes. And partly because I don't know enough to tell I got ripped off. There are a couple of reputable dealers I've dealt with before, that I trust enough.

    I didn't even get into the ethical dilemma of a scratched off serial number for nefarious purposes. I feel the same way when I see something priced way too low or with "NO RESERVE" listed on it too. Why are you selling a Fodera for $800? Why is your Alembic listed for a starting bid of $5 and no reserve? Stolen much?

    I guess the point is, "If something seems off, something is likely off." Some of the missing serial numbers are at least plausible to me. Like someone with a painted BC Rich that has it stripped and refinished in natural gloss. That serial number would come off in the process. I've also seen where there is an old Warwick that was likely natural oil finish with engraved serial number that was refinished in a gloss white, covering up the number.

    I've never bought any of these. It just isn't worth the risk to me.
  9. T_Bone_TL


    Jan 10, 2013
    NW Mass/SW VT
    ...cut to the chase and toss a big wad of cash into a bonfire? It's quicker and you get to see the value vanish in front of your eyes?

    NSN = my first assumption is that it has been stolen at some point in the past. Why bother making fakes without faking up some fake serial numbers to go with?

    Whether my first assumption is right or wrong, I'm going to take that 39-1/2 foot pole you wouldn't touch a Grinch with and push that thing away from me, because if my assumption is right, I neither want to be involved nor to support thieves.

    If my assumption is wrong, well hey, it was your cash you might just as well have thrown in a bonfire...

    As for stripping painted or painting over engraved SNs, they make this stuff called masking tape, and you really ought to leave that tiny patch alone, though of course the manufacturer should also be marking less fragile locations, ideally. Won't exactly bankrupt them to stamp the end of the neck and inside the pocket, say. Inside the pickup and/or control cavities if it's a neck-through...
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2018
    MEKer likes this.
  10. MEKer

    MEKer Supporting member

    May 30, 2006
    All the above are good responses. Let me add I have found some basses that simply did not have a serial number stamped on them due to factory error. And I am talking about some quality basses such as an early '80s Washburn B-20 Stage bass (neck-through) and others of similar quality (Matsumoku made). If you are familiar with the brand of bass and and any particular model's quality then I'd not worry about it if it falls into that type of category.
    The key word is always..."depends"...and I ain't talking diapers.

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