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What is your take on refinished vintage basses?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by SakuBass, Sep 13, 2017.

  1. SakuBass

    SakuBass Lvl 50 Pixelpusher Supporting Member

    Apr 6, 2013
    Turenki, Finland
    I mean it just hurts my eye a little when there is, say a '72 jazz bass with nicely aged neck and spick and span body finish... the ages do not match.

    I understand that someone might not like the original color... I'd trade the bass to one that I like. If the finish for some reason is so badly worn then I understand it, but would a light relic job be in order? This opens yet another can of worms, I know, but I for one would prefer a slightly used feel in a vintage instrument.

    And what about the effect on trade price? I would not pay premium bucks for a refin, yet I see a lot of sales posts (reverb, ebay) with high prices that I would consider if the instrument was in original, but good condition.

    What say you TB'ers?
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2017
  2. Bassist30

    Bassist30 Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2004
    I like basses that look their age. That's me personally. No refinishing as I would not want to change the instrument from its years of refining its sound.
    bobyoung53 likes this.
  3. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    It's just part of its history, as will whatever the next owner does to it will become.
    packhowitzer, SakuBass and Sartori like this.
  4. The Bass Clef

    The Bass Clef “the brian” Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 17, 2010
    Southern California
    A lot of sellers ask "all original prices" for refins, but it doesn't mean they actually get them. Those basses typically sit on ebay and reverb for years, unless a real sucker comes along. And those sellers aren't depending on a sale to put food on the table. They just put em up for stupid prices and don't care how long (if ever) it takes .

    As a rule of thumb, a refin will usually sell for about 60% of what an all original bass of the same year sells for. And keep in mind, since custom colors can be worth thousands more than a sunburst of the same year, once it's been refinished, it's not a custom color anymore. So those basses usually also go for about 60% of what a sunburst model would sell for. I have seen some examples of refins where some of the original custom color paint is still left in the cavities, and they sometimes get a bit more than a normal refin, just because it proves they were a custom color at one time. But the price difference is not that much. Say, a sunburst bass is worth $10K (and a refin $6K), and that same year bass in Shoreline Gold would be worth $16K, then a refin that has some of the original gold paint left over might sell for say, $7K instead of $6K.

    I agree @SakuBass that a shiny new refinned body with a worn neck looks kinda silly. I don't personally like the idea of reninishing unless it has already been devalued somehow (damaged or routed for a pickup/battery, etc..). At that point, might as well fill the route, fix the damage and repaint it, which will actually help restore some of the value back. But if the neck finish is still original and worn, then I think a relic job on the refinned body is in order, so at least everything matches. IME, the relic refinned basses that look consistent top to bottom go for more money than the ones that have a shiny clean body with a worn neck and tarnished hardware.
  5. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    Completely depends on the bass in question. Some refins are proper and correct. Others can be unfortunate; though it is up to the owner to determine what they want to do with the instrument.

    First, you are referencing Fender refins. That is a really particular case, because Fenders are the only basses where there are parallel universes of a legit collector market and a player market. You really need to keep those two concepts in a parallel mindset, because they value different aspects. Both need to be respected; but, they are different.

    So, taking a vintage Fender bass and stripping it because there are scratches etc is a big no no, mainly because it destroys collector value. Still, people do it. And, it is their bass. So, whatever.

    OTOH, many vintage Fenders had their collector value destroyed a loooong time ago. Case in point is my 62 Jazz that I located courtesy of a cat who prowled the local pawn shops. This one came out of a Flint Michigan shop. I got it for $275 in 1987. Body stripped. Truss not working. Frets pulled. Bridge pickup not working. Etc. It went to Brian Galloup at the Guitar Hospital in Big Rapids for a proper nitro restoration. That's about the best I could do. The headstock and neck finish is original. Meet Bucephylus, named after the horse effigy in the Black Stallion, a movie my then kids were watching at the time; and my uninformed mis-spelling:
    Bucephylus for Web 2.JPG
    And, BTW, it has seen a LOT of gig time since refin, and the body is way past "neat and shiny." LOL

    I have other refin stories of my own. Recently an Alembic Series I, that the magnificent folks at Alembic chose to do a warranty full restoration on. And a Nashville Tobias 6, which Pat Wilkins did a marvelous refin on. Neither will ever be collector items. Still, I always try to have appropriate refin work done. I think that is important. Work with good people and don't do stupid stuff.

    So, it just depends. Categorical statements about refins probably don't make sense. Sure there are plenty of head scratcher Fender refins out there. Fine. Move along, nothing to see there.
  6. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Rickenbacker guru.......... Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2006
    I look at it on a case by case basis.
  7. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Tulsa, OK
    Unless the original finish is completely wrecked by a bad refinish (either stain or paint), I say leave it alone. This coming from a guy who can't stand artificially stressed (relic'd) basses. :)
    Ever Wire and bobyoung53 like this.
  8. Mastermold

    Mastermold Supporting Member

    I have two '64 P-basses, a sunburst original finish and a CAR refin. As you suggest, I think the refin cost me roughly 60% of what I paid for the sunburst. See photos of both below.

    Regarding the refin, I'm told by the prior owner that before the restoration it had been refinished in coffee table brown in the 1980s, but about 12 years ago underwent a professional period-correct “no expense spared” restoration by Denny Rauen in Milwaukee: Rauen Guitars | Home

    I think it turned out pretty nice!

    JIO, SakuBass, crucislancer and 6 others like this.
  9. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Owner of seven basses - eligible for 44 TB Clubs Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2011
    A refin vintage bass has a lower market value but the same intrinsic value as a vintage bass with original paint.

    Since I'm not selling vintage basses it doesn't matter to me.
  10. BassFishingInAmerica


    Jul 24, 2014
    It only makes sense to refinish a bass that has already been poorly refinished.
    But, how bad does the original finish need to get to justify refinishing?
    For me, it would require replacing whole portions of wood.
  11. TinIndian

    TinIndian Supporting Member

    Jan 25, 2011
    Micco Florida
    For me, I would never touch an original finish on a vintage Fender, even if there was only 10% of it left. Now if it had already been refinned all bets are off. I have an 82 G&L L2KE that was a poor refin on it. It is now and was originally Natural. This one will be getting done in the near future. These aren't exactly valuable at this point but it's a great bass and the finish is driving me nuts.
    P. Aaron, Steve Holt and MonetBass like this.
  12. Grahams Groove

    Grahams Groove Can we please just groove for a while? Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2001
    Boulder, CO
    If I decided to get into the vintage Fender market for a main player, I would personally prefer a nice refin - especially given the lower price. With the exception of a few unobtainable basses (Pino's fiesta red Precision, The Funk Machine, etc), I'm not a huge believer in mojo based primarily on age, wear, paint chipping, or era.

    I understand there are folks who will disagree with this and have hunted down specific instruments because of this perceived mojo. However, I think the real mojo comes from your own time & experiences with a given instrument. If I buy a 50 year old jazz bass that's worn and beat up, the only immediate upside for me would likely be the neck feel (backside). Other than that, I'd prefer to have newer pickups, pots, frets, and (in general) a bass that isn't dinged up and worn out. Again, that's not to detract from guys who dig the well worn basses - if you feel like it inspires you and plays better, that's the whole point. I like trying to find that in a bass that has not completely been through the wringer. I want to do that on my own...

    With regard to relic'ing new instruments (or refin > relic), that's always been baffling to me. I just bought and sold a fairly new Sandberg TM4. The price was several hundred dollars lower than their relic'd basses built to the exact same specs. I guess I view it similarly to the way I see buying jeans for $150 that already have scuff marks and holes in them. Save the labor costs, give me a fresh pair, and I'll have a longer lasting product with genuine wear & tear from my own use. If you like the look, more power to you - I just don't find the appeal in that.
  13. Aberdumbie

    Aberdumbie Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 22, 2016
    South Carolina
    I have the Gibson RD I bought new in 1977. Back then it was a tool and it isn't "relicd".. In fact it looks quite nice for its age... All except the back where it was beat against my belt buckle.... Two years ago I set out to bring her back to her original glory. Buffing, polishing, new screws to replace those melted by years of sweat. She came back to being beautiful... I came within a hairs breath of refinishing the old bass because that buckle rash in the back just drove me nuts. I am rather glad now I got over it finally. The bass was spared the refinish. It is natural maple and the finish has turned a lovely golden shade over the years. If you don't turn it over. It is a beautiful bass... Ultimately my vote is.. Leave the age as is. There are stories to be told in that finish.
  14. Mastermold

    Mastermold Supporting Member

    Yeah that's the CAR refin I have, it was "clean" when done 12 years ago and in the two years I've had it I've played it extensively so it has "natural use" showing in the form of finish swirls and such but is still in great shape. I found a photo from a bar gig, you can see it's not new but still looks good:

  15. Aberdumbie

    Aberdumbie Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 22, 2016
    South Carolina
    Oh please get your guitar player a stand. That photo with his guitar leaned against the way gives me the willies!!!
    SakuBass and Mastermold like this.
  16. Badwater


    Jan 12, 2017
    With early 70s vintage, it all depends if it's going to be a player bass or a conversation piece. For a player bass, It has to function well and not have any structural problems. For a conversation piece, it must be all original, and play well, and not be abused or fake relic.
  17. Mastermold

    Mastermold Supporting Member

    LOL. He's had the headstock repaired once already!
    SakuBass and Aberdumbie like this.
  18. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    For me it was a '68 Precision Bass with 10 pounds of black poly and another 5 pounds of Bondo underneath that. It is now nitro Daphne Blue and aged nicely. Oh yeah, it also weighs a lot less now. The bass looks its age. I made sure of that. Light relic, and some natural wear from myself. There was no way I was going to leave that finish the way it was.
  19. I'm all for anyone refinishing their basses however they see fit. It's theirs, they bought it. But yeah it more often than not hurts the resale value.

    Personally I'd wrap a bass body in vinyl before I'd paint it.
    SakuBass likes this.
  20. I have too much respect for them and their history so unless there is a real good reason to refin older basses I never will. Each scratch, dent, chip, paint rub, crack and residue tells some sort of a story.
    Liam keane and Admiral Akbar like this.