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Which basses will gain value through the years?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by tonynoriega, Aug 9, 2005.

  1. tonynoriega

    tonynoriega Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2004
    Tampa, Florida
    I'm finally to the point where I can afford a high end bass - I'm talking about the 1,600 to 2,000 range - and being an older guy I have an appreciation for assets that appreciate in value with time. I currently have an original '66 Jazz and we all know what's happened to the earlier Fenders.

    I'm thinking of buying a Sadowsky or USA Lakland or a comparable instrument, and would consider others (I prefer basses with a traditional appearance). I'd like to hear your opinions/experiences in regard to anticipated value down the line. Thanks! Tony Noriega, Tampa
  2. Groover


    Jun 28, 2005
    Ohio, USA
    The bass you want to invest in is the type of bass I play when I become really famous! :D (and hopefully not dead...lol)

    But seriously, your guess is as good as mine. I'd probably say something that is considered a good bass today, but made for a short period of time is what might be worth keeping for future collectors.
  3. KJung

    KJung Supporting Member

    That's an interesting question. At least in the relative short-run, IMO the primary drivers of a bass holding or increasing its value in the resale market has to do with brand name recognition and the time it takes to get a new one (along with quality, of course). The only relatively new basses that I'm aware of that actually can be sold used for more than new retail are Fodera's. They have the brand recognition, they are good quality instruments, and it will take a good year or so to get one if you order it new (in most cases).

    Sadowsky NYC might achieve this status someday, and possible the MTD line if Michael ever slows down... again, given the name recognition and quality of these instruments. However, since it takes a relatively short amount of time to obtain a new one, the motivation isn't quite there to pay a premium in the used market.

    Unfortunately, IMO the large number of relatively unknown but high quality custom luthier brands out there will probably drop like a rock in value down the road.

    PS The resale value of the Lakland USA stuff is very poor, due IMO to the very high quality Skyline stuff.... same thing might happen to Sadowsky NYC, given the Metro's.
  4. Eilif

    Eilif Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2001
    The only basses that can really be construed as investments are vintage basses. A bass that you are buying to play will likely not increase in value. A sadowsky will not lose value the way other basses will, but with few exceptions, the only basses that increase in value faster than inflation are vintage pre cbs fenders and a few other old brands. Add to the fact that the real investment instruments need to be as near 100 percent origional as possible, and you are not looking at many "player-centric" instruments that are going to be investment worthy.

    That said, if you buy an all origional pre-cbs fender jazz or precision, only play it at home and treat it well, that bass will almost assuredly increase in value. In short, almost nothing presently made could be consedered a real investment in anything other than enjoyment.
  5. KJung

    KJung Supporting Member

    +1 over the long term if you are looking for a pure investment purchase.
  6. DanGouge


    May 25, 2000
    It's impossible to say. The market for vintage Fenders took at least twenty years to develop. Before that, they were just "old" and not "vintage" or anything like that. At the end of the day, it's better to buy for love than for money, any investment value is just a bonus.
  7. pointbass

    pointbass Jersey to Georgia Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works
    I agree ..... so many of these very talented, but tiny, builders may not have the financial strength to hang around long enough. It seems like most high-end basses take an immediate, heavy hit in re-sale value, but I guess your question is which of the current contenders can eventually recover and hold value 15-20+ years down the road .....

    Fodera is the obvious contender. I think Alembic will likely be another great collector bass, as will Ken Smith, in both cases due to their amazing construction. For that matter, all three of these builders have, IMHO, dedicated themselves to absolute top-of-the-line quality. All three also charge some really serious cash for their basses, as well.

    Sadowsky, Lakland, MTD, Roscoe, FBB, CB, Elrick, etc??? Who knows, they all have amazing talent as well, and we are all fortunate to have these builders as options when considering a new purchase. But I'm not sure if they have the staying power of Alembic, Smith and Fodera :confused:

    Wouldn't it be wild if, 30 years from now, a $100 SX was a true collectors item? Hey, who ever would have thought that my '62 Fender Precision that I bought for $250 new and sold for about the same 3 years later would be worth $5K+ today???
  8. jive1

    jive1 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    There's too many unpredictible factors to determine if today's "player" becomes tomorrow's "collectible". In it's simplest form, whatever increases demand and/or reduces supply increases the value of a guitar. But the things that change demand are quite unpredictible.

    For instance, who would have been able to predict that Slash's populatrity in the late 80s would lead to the increased value of Les Pauls at the same time? Or that a lawsuit by Fender would lead to an increase in the value of Tokai and Fernandes strat copies?

    I think in addition to brand recognition, player endorsements seem to add to the value of an instrument. Whoever is "in" and graces the covers of guitar player magazine seem to bring up the value of the instrument they play. Paul McCartney singlehandedly raised the value of Hofners that were once considered cheapos. Slick marketing helps too. Interesting stories behind instruments help alot. Using the Paul McCartney example, the Hofner bass has a place in history as the kind of bass that was played on early recordings. Even after Sir Paul switched to Rickenbackers, the Hofner still has a place in today's bass market. I believe that if Paul McCartney played a P-bass on those early Beatles recordings, Hofner could never charge the prices they charge today.

    Of course reducing supply will help the value. That's the reason that vintage instruments are worth more - there's less and less in circulation as time passes. Limited supplies of components can also affect the value. For example as Wenge became rarer and more expensive, Warwick switched to an ovankol neck instead of a wenge one. As a result, the Warwicks with a wenge neck seem to fetch better prices that other used Warwicks. Limited productions runs also help. Compare the price of a Deep Impact pedal brand new, to what they fetch now and you'll see what the effect of ending the production of a popular item can do for it's value. To take the example further, say if Fender bought the rights to the Akai pedal, then the old version becomes a pre-Fender Deep Impact and may fetch more money. Ibanez re-releasing the Tube Screamer did not hurt the value of the vintage Tube Screamers one bit. It may have actually helped.

    The sad thing is that construction and quality isn't usually the biggest factor that drives up the value of a bass. But quality construction never hurts.

    Right now MTD has an 8 month backlog, and Lakland has a 6 month backlog so they do have some demand out there. They could have value in the future, but it depends on more than whether or not they make a great bass. If Michael Tobias were to call it quits and retire, you may find the value jumping up. If Les Claypool appeared on the cover of Bass Player with a Lakland, you might see an increase in the value of them.

    Too many factors. If you want an investment, get a good quality vintage bass. But if you want a good player bass, then don't. It's hard to enjoy playing a bass and gigging when each time you bump it you think about how it's value decreased.
  9. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    personally i don't buy thinking of the resale value, although i can see how that would be a concern.

    So far the "vintage" fenders and Music man basses seem to be selling for lots, but like's been said, those markets took forever to develop.

    I would vote high for original tobias basses and the MTD basses. Even so, the MTD basses will probably only go up after mike packs it up. My 1986 tobias 4-string wholesaled for 1500 when mike sold it (that's what he told me). I dunno what the dealer sold it for. I got an unbelievable deal and bought it used about 10 years ago for 1500 with a bad preamp, and spent another 200 putting a preamp in it. I get offers of 2500 every now and then, and i see the pre-gibson tobias basses going for about 2500+ pretty regularly.

    Sadowsky's seem to resell pretty well, but as has been noted, the Metro series may put a dent in that. Then again, 20 years from now i can see a NYC sadowsky going for a LOT.

    Sadly, the majority of high end basses take quite a hit on resale. Smith and Alembic seem particularly vulnerable to this, although my guess is that their very high new prices have a lot to do with this. Then again, see what a series 2 goes for in 30 years.

    Overall, i think it's kind of a stock market thing. Hold onto one of those basses long enough and you should get your money back. ;)
  10. Stox


    Mar 18, 2005
    London UK
    A NYC Sadowsky perhaps.... better bet would be a WAL
  11. Carl Thompson???

    since his basses are already wanted/hard to find....plus with him going into retirement they'll start becoming more scarce by the day....
  12. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    Fremont, Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    I have seen Pete Skjold's basses sell used for more than he sold them new, which is extraordinary considering how new Pete is to the scene. I think that he has started off with some low prices to get established in the market, but now that his basses are getting some recognition, the used (and new) prices are heading upwards. In my opinion, his basses are still priced on the low side, but don't tell Pete until I pick up a fretless! :D

    Another bass that has risen in value is the Gibson Thunderbird. I bought mine new for $695 (which I am told was $50 less than dealer cost t the time) in 1992, and I see them go for far more than that used (especially the "vintage" T-Birds). I picked up my Gibson Explorer Bass for under $400, too!

    Other basses that I see as having strong potential to gain value through the years include, as others have mentioned, pre-Gibson Tobias, MTD's (when/if Mike slows down), NYC Sadowsky's, and of course Fodera's.

  13. bassclef112

    bassclef112 Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2003
    New York City, NY
    +1 on "it's a crapshoot". Of course the early Fender's - with pre-CBS commanding the highest prices and late '60's coming in second. Early-mid 70's are the next level of vintage that's going up steadily. I find this particularly ironic, because the general consensus back then was they sucked. Go figure.

    My Inside Track Tip - the Precision Elite II's (early 80's) are going to be next up. They can still be had for a reasonable price and are very fine instruments.

    Pre-EB Music Man's are also on the rise. 60's and 70's Gibson's are seeing a real upward spiral with TBirds heading the pack. The current batch of vintage basses are only going to go up (for a number of reasons, including the perceived "it's got to be great because it's old" and the "gotta have it!" factor).

    The most difficult guesses are the boutiques. Right now, for most brands like Alembic, Smith and Fodera it's very difficult not to take a pretty good hit when you sell one bought new. The ones bought used are fairly steady in that range. Again, this is a niche market and though desirable, it's not as broad a base as Fender or even Gibson. The general idea I see is, buy a 'tique because you love it and plan to keep it, not to flip it down the road - most won't return anywhere near the cost. I bought a new Alembic MK 5 years ago and have no plans to sell it, but in 5 more years I doubt I'll get what I spent. However, a couple of months ago I finally managed to get a beautiful '62 Jazz, refin but all original, and I know in 10 years I'll get my outlay plus if I sell.

    One thing I've learned first hand - vintage does NOT equal magically good. There were dogs made then too. Just because a POS is 40 years old doesn't mean it automatically gets better - it only gets older. Some ARE great, some are just okay and some really suck. Whatever you decide on, make sure you love it for what it does - playability and tone are still the rule.
  14. The Hammer

    The Hammer

    Jul 13, 2004
    You guys don't know anything about what makes a bass valuable. You want a bass that will only increase in value? I have two words for you "Wish Bass" :)
  15. Vintage guitars. Its same as cars, you don't buy a new Audi because it will increase in value. A 1960 Ferrari, however...
  16. Sutton


    Mar 3, 2005
    Plainwell, MI
    If you get a Rickenbacker 4003 in the color of the year, you can usually sell it for atleast the same price you bought it for down the road
  17. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass ****

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    Pre Gibson Tobias are a good bet, right now they are sort of the "pre CBS Fenders" for alot of Gospel players. Pre CBS Fenders are well beyond the reach of many of us and the 60's to early 70's stuff is drying-up pretty fast. The late 70's to early 80's stuff will be the next batch to realize big price increases, especially if the market gets a bit healthier and I wouldn't be surprised to see the earlier MIJ basses hold a bit of value, but they have to be "players".
    A limiting factor for many later Alembics as well as some other custom made basses is going to be the fact that they aren't production instruments for the most part. They are truly made specifically for someone else and the idea that someone is selling a bass that is made "just for them" will always effect the resale value.
    Early Kabuki and Steinberger are great playing "freaks" from the 80's and their stock will always be high.
    While I will NEVER consider selling it, I hope my "pre-fire" Dingwall will some day be a significant instrument in terms of value and/or history. In general I have have a feeling that Dingwalls will continue to hold their value quite well in the years to come.

    MAJOR METAL The Beagle Father Staff Member Supporting Member

    Thats an interesting question about the Sadowsky's going up in value given sometime. I heard several of Rogers early instruments were sought out and their owners offfered BIG $ to sell.I could see this happening maybe when Roger decideds to retire and stop making basses.
  19. Groover


    Jun 28, 2005
    Ohio, USA
    Does that mean that a bass that has been played would have more value than one that's just been sitting in the case for 30 or so years?

    Is that because it indicates a good playing bass, therfore it's been played a lot?
  20. Gard


    Mar 31, 2000
    WInter Garden, FL

    Ed, just to clear something up, Keith Roscoe opened his first shop in 1971.

    What is recognizably a "modern Roscoe Bass" didn't appear until the mid-80's, but, I'd say that still demonstrates a bit of staying power...