Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Confessions of an Ebay Junkie

WARNING: Another Boring Ramble on an Unimportant Subject.

(Everybody's good at something, right? I have elevated boring rambles on unimportant things to an art form.)

I'll get to the Ebay part of the story in a minute. First some background.

I play some seriously mediocre guitar, and truly cannot justify paying top dollar for name brand guitars and parts. Now, I could buy top dollar, name brand guitars if I wanted, but with me it's kind of like what folks used to say when you got a new haircut, "That's a $20 haircut on a $2 head!" Buying a $3000 Gibson Les Paul at my level of playing ability is pretty much the same idea. Heck, even Fender guitars made in their Mexico factory can cost up to $900 (Like this sweet Robert Cray Strat I'd be proud to own), and their American made guitars start at about that much, so I find it hard to justify spending that kind of money on basically no talent.

I have found that I much prefer playing guitar on fat, chunky guitar necks, while most folks like the slim ones on most guitars.

Buying a specific Fender guitar neck to put on one of my cheap Fender-like imitation guitars is too expensive for me too. A real Fender neck with the fatter, hand-filling feel can cost $300 - $500 just for the neck!

There is a brand of guitars, SX, that are manufactured in China, but are of unbelievable quality for the price. Like a friend of mine says when he buys another inexpensive tool from Harbor Freight that was made in China, "John, Chinese prisoners work cheap!" (I know, that's mean, but it is funny.)

The fact is, that the largest guitar maker in the world is in Korea. Many famous guitar brands that you might have heard of are actually made in the Samick factory in Korea, and they put Epiphone, and whoever else's label on them and ship them out.

These Pacific Rim factories have been making guitars for decades now, and they truly make guitars equal to, and sometimes superior to American made ones.

Back to the Chinese made SX guitars.

The only importer of SX guitars and basses that I know of is Rondo Music in Connecticut. They are made of good quality woods, usually three pieces of alder or ash (same wood types as Fender uses on their US made guitars) and the hardware and electronics are of decent, but inexpensive manufacture.

These guitars are perfect for folks like me who like to eventually upgrade the electronics and otherwise modify their guitars to make them exactly like they want them to sound and look.

And that's one thing that's really fun for me, is to take a decent, basic guitar, and over time, upgrade the hardware, and electronics to where you have a first class guitar, exactly like you want it. Just buy the basic guitar in the color you like, then you can replace everthing from the neck to all the hardware and pickups.

Buying a cheap guitar that has decent quality wood as a base, you can slowly turn your guitar into an exact, custom tone monster just like you want it to be.

This is where Ebay comes in.

If I own a $110 guitar, then someone who has taken apart a similar guitar and sells the parts on Ebay, will necessarily only be able to get prices for the parts totaling maybe just a little more than the guitar as a whole.

That, believe it or not, is a HUGE way people operate on Ebay.

Take a $1200 American-made Fender Telecaster, take it completely apart, and then sell the individual parts for a little less than you would normally have to pay for the parts, and the Ebay guru might end up getting $1500 for all the parts to a $1200 guitar. Do that many, many times and you are making some nice money on the side.

Same holds for a $110 guitar. Take it apart, and instead of getting $500 for the guitar neck by itself as you would for an American Stratocaster neck, you only get, say, $40. A little less than half the price of the guitar originally.

But the beauty of it for people like me is that I can get the fat, chunky guitar necks that I prefer to play on for a totally reasonable price, and these might be dirt cheap compared to a "real" Fender guitar and parts, they are of good quality despite the cheapness.

I have a guitar neck like I wanted that I received from an Ebay seller two weeks ago, that I will soon put on my $50 Guitar. The neck that is on the guitar now is nice, but it's really slim, and the used one I bought is nice and chunky, so I'll swap them out and my $50 guitar will be much more to my liking. I'll flat-out play it more because I don't like the slim neck that came on it.

So I'll end up with a guitar customized for my own preferences for not much moo-lah.

At this moment, I have bids on one other guitar neck, and another guitar part on Ebay too.

Buying one inexpensive piece at a time, I end up with quaility instruments customized by me, for me.

So a couple of times per day, I cruise through Ebay, searching for particular items, and often am the only bidder, and get good stuff for a great price. If you know what you want, what the market says these items are worth, and watch for your items to show up, you can get great deals.

Who knows, maybe one day I'll actually plunk down the money for a real Gibson Les Paul Standard like I dream of, just because I want it. I'll probably get it on Ebay too.

One weirdness that I have seen over an over on Ebay that always makes me question people's sanity, is when people will bid and buy a used item on Ebay for more than they could have bought that item brand new.

The SX guitars that I talk about here, cost anywhere from $100 to $175, but I have seen people pay $175 for a used guitar on Ebay, when they could have contacted Rondo Music and bought that exact guitar, brand new, for $100.

I see this over and over. It's not as if they are rare items, or items no longer made; just a click over to another page and they could be buying the exact guitar, brand new, for $50 or so less than the used one they are buying on Ebay.

I just don't get that. I guess some people just don't think to look to see what the price of a new item is before bidding on an Ebay item. Pretty dumb though.

Anyway, I'm often looking for deals on Ebay for things I want from people who have proved themselves to be reputable sellers. It's a lot of fun, and when a guitar is finally modified to be exactly what I would have wished for in a custom-made guitar, it's even more rewarding.

And, as mid-life crises go, buying cheap guitar parts is way easier on the wallet than buying a Corvette.

What do you find yourself looking for on Ebay? Anything?

Here's a photo of all my SX guitars:


Hammer said...

I hardly play anymore but I used to collect guitars. I would go into seedy pawnshops and haggle on a decent name guitar, take it home, clean it up, play around with it then sell it on Ebay or give it as a gift or trade it for another guitar.

With the econonomy the way it is I bet the pawn brokers are full up on nice guitars right now.

You have a nice collection going. I only have my bottom rung gibson SG that has been played hard and put up wet but it still sounds good.

Big Doofus said...

I just bought my second acoustic electric guitar. While I got the first one new (an Epiphone), this time I looked on Craigslist and found a very nice Ibanez for $150. It was a $400 guitar just four years ago and the electronics are great. I actually like it better than my original guitar and it's become my instrument of choice. Oh, and I only paid $125 for it. The nice thing about Craigslist is that you find it online in your metro area and then see the merchandise before buying.

Babystepper said...

I try not to go on e-bay at all if possible, because I will find too many things I "have" to have. I avoid garage sales and flea markets for pretty much the same reason.

That being said, the last thing I bought on e-bay was a set of sea urchin shells. For my son. Because he got a stuffed otter at the zoo, and, you know, otters eat sea urchins...

Sharon Lynne said...

I like your guitars!
I have a Fender Telecaster-early sixties. I wish I had a picture to show you. If I ever post one...I'll come over and get you.

It looks a little like your blond guitar. It has a great sound.

I used to play in an all-girl rock band. (my old secret life)

JAM said...

Hammer, if you're gonna keep one around to plunk on from time to time, and SG is a nice choice. They have the "Gibson" tone that I love in huge amounts. Plus they're light and easier on your back.

Doofus, years ago I went to a nice guitar store with lots of cash in hand to buy myself my dream Gibson acoustic. I ended up playing on all the different Gibsons, Martins, Ovations, and finally Taylors they had in the store. The Taylors, for me at least, blew the others away. I played a Taylor for over ten years and ended up selling it. Just goes with what you said, though I paid a good bit for that Taylor, the best guitar for you, or anyone is that one you sit down with and just LOVE to play. No matter the price. When I get a chance to replace my badly missed Taylor, I know I'll buy something much cheaper. I can't justify that expense any more.

Babystepper, buying Ebay stuff for your kids is a great justification for cruising their wares and buying from time to time! It always works for the Democrats in congress too, "But it's for the children...!" and then they spend tons of our tax dollars.

Sharon. All I can say is WOW. An early 60's Telecaster is worth some serious, serious money these days. A few dings and scratches only seems to add to the price. Heck, if you look at the Fender lineup this year and for other recent years, they charge a premium price for "relic" guitars that they beat up in the factory to make them look 40 years old. I've seen real 60s teles on Ebay go for $6,000 - $10,000. I know you wouldn't want to sell it, but just know that if for some reason you get in a real financial bind, you could sell that guitar for some big money to help out. You'll have to post a pic sometime.

Qtpies7 said...

Ebay is crazy! I have also seen people selling things for $.01 and then having shipping at $20.00!!! Yeah, I'm THAT stupid.

But it is fun to get great deals there. I used to shop for cloth diapers, but they can't sell used ones now because it is used underwear and could spread std's??? Hello! Babies!!!! And you WASH them. Hot water with some bleach, no disease.

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