Buying, selling, and trading gear on Craigslist can be a very exciting and rewarding experience. It can also be a very frustrating one. This article is aimed to help you make the experience as rewarding as possible by following a few steps that are sure to help with your success.
1. Know Your Gear
It is of the utmost importance that you take the time to know and understand what you’re trying to sell or trade. Most of us guitar players are fairly familiar with our gear, but there are times when it’s not so easy to determine exactly what we have. When you’re not sure about your gear, start by trying to google it. Also, look for what you have on sites like eBay and Reverb (we’re going to be coming back to this in just a bit) and compare your results.
Use Google as a means to do a serial number search. There are also a ton of online blogs, forums, and other gear-related websites that can help you pin down the piece of gear you’re offering.
There are times when determining the identity of your gear is very easy. You might have a Mexican-made Fender Telecaster with the serial number MN789456. A quick google search on this guitar and serial number will confirm that it is indeed a 1997 Mexican-made model. There are other times when it’s not so easy. I personally enjoy the research that’s required for the vintage or weird. For me, it’s more fun when I really have to dig to find out what I’ve got or what I’m trying to get.
2. Know What It’s Worth
This can be a very sensitive subject. All gear has a “market value.” It also has what we might call “intrinsic value.” And then, of course, there’s always “sentimental value.” These three levels of value can be a rather difficult number to land on among two parties involved in any deal. Let’s quickly run through the meanings of each value.
Market value, is what an item is actually worth in the current market. Simply put, your item’s market value is what people are currently and consistently paying for the item that you are selling. Want to find out what the market value is for your item? Get on eBay, look up what you’re selling, and then click on the “completed items” icon to see what your gear has been fetching over the last few months. There will always be a high and low number for an item, and lots of numbers in between. Finding an average and setting your price there is a sure-fire way to know that you’re asking a fair price for your gear.
Intrinsic value can be difficult to determine. It’s kind of like market value, except intrinsic value also deals with the investment value of an item. So, if you have a 1965 Fender Stratocaster in a super rare color with original hang tags, it will obviously have a market value, but it might also have an intrinsic value based on its collectibility and value as equity. Buying and selling collectors will often times determine prices for highly-collectible guitars based on market value and the intrinsic value. If that 65’ Strat was owned by Jimi Hendrix, its intrinsic value will be much higher than a 65’ Strat that was owned by your grandmother, even though they are essentially the same guitar.
Sentimental value, is the worst. This is where you really have to make good decisions when dealing with someone who is selling a piece of gear. Sentimental value essentially means nothing to anyone accept for the person who has some kind of sentimental value attached to a piece of gear. Usually, as a rule of thumb, if I think that someone has sentimental value attached to an item they are also wanting to sell, I keep my distance.
In most cases, people who are selling something that is also very sentimental to them, don’t actually want to sell the item. It just ends up being a frustrating experience for everyone involved. Consider yourself warned. Oh, and the most obvious clue that someone is attached to a piece of gear is an astronomically high asking price on something that is typically worth next-to-nothing.
In some cases, these “out of their mind” prices will have nothing to do with sentimental value, and everything to do with step 1. They simply don’t know what they have. Just because something is old, and was made by Gibson or Fender, DOES NOT mean that it’s worth a ton of money and that you’ve hit the jackpot.
3. Be Safe
Lets just be honest. Craigslist is a shit show! I’ve had some good experiences using it. I’ve also had some experiences that would have made great Saturday Night Live skits, or would have otherwise fit in just fine on an episode of South Park.
My point here is simple. Be safe, and be smart. As a rule-of-thumb, I never invite anyone that I’ve met on craigslist over to my house to look at or test gear. I also stay away from going over to their house. Find a local spot with plenty of people around. Something like a Guitar Center parking lot always works great. You can always walk right in from the parking lot and test out a piece of gear, and none of the employees I’ve ever encountered seem to care. If anything, they’ll usually help you out with your deal, commenting on how good the guitar you’re selling is sounding through that Fender Blues Jr. you’re plugged into. Those guys will sell anything.
So Craigslist is great if you spend a little time doing your homework, which is usually just fun if you’re a gear head like me. Keep the flame alive my friends. Gear Acquisition Syndrome is strong in us all.