Defective Used Acoustics Offered For Sale

Jay K

Member
Messages
2,307
I purchase many guitars online, about half acoustic and the other half electric. I believe doing this is riskier with acoustics because if they are kept in bad conditions (e.g., low humidity) or abused in other ways, significant damage can occur, more so than with electrics. But, in any case, on average I have done well with my online purchases ("online" meaning Reverb, Ebay, and Forum Emporiums, for the most part)

As above until recently I thought I had pretty good luck purchasing used guitars, including acoustics, online, and some were truly great purchases. However, a couple of recent experiences and another perhaps a year ago give me pause, and I'm curious whether others have had similar experiences and what they make of them.

The recent cases involved high-end acoustics in the $5,000 - $10,000 range used (in both cases the guitars would have been in the range of approximately $14,000 - $20,000 new). Although a lot of money to risk on a purchase, my thinking was that owners of such high-end guitars would keep them in decent shape. And one would think an owner of such guitars would (1) know if there were something wrong with them; and (2) keep them in conditions that would not damage the guitars, including at optimal humidity.

But the two I recently received (both advertised as "mint") each had some of these symptoms: severe bellying; loose x-braces; truss rods that did not work, among other significant problems. The one with the loose x-braces sounded dead when I played it.

So, how have others here fared in purchasing high-end acoustics online? I suspect many will say they wouldn't do it owing to the risks, but in my defense (if a defense is needed) I have purchased 3 Ryans, 2 Petros's, and about four Goodalls this way without any previous problems of significance. Was I more lucky in those cases, or more unlucky with the two most recent purchases?

A discussion of this (based on experiences, not dogma) would be helpful in my deciding whether to give up on these types of purchases or just write off the latest as bad luck.

Incidentally, the sellers of the two "bad" guitars did without resistance take them back for a full refund, so that did not become an issue. But nonetheless the experience of dealing with such a situation and the initial uncertainty (before contacting the sellers) about whether the sellers would be cooperative about a return and full refund was unsettling.
 
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zombywoof

Member
Messages
4,610
It would generally come down to whom you were buying from. If it was George Gruhn or Jim Baggett, or somebody like that I would be able to rest assured that the condition was what they said it was. Buying from an individual though can be like playing Russian Rouletette with five bullets in the chamber. And sound and feel are another ballgame. Key would be to get the guitar at a good enough deal that you could unload it if it did not work out without taking too much of a bath.

I am not much for buying anything other than parts guitars or cheap fixer uppers on line. Only bought a guitar not in that category online once. In this instance it was a fairly hard to find guitar sitting in a Mom & Pop place which ran an eBay store. It was one of the easiest deals I have ever gotten into. They dropped the price to $1K lower than I had ever seen one of these guitars sell for and even though they did not know me from Adam, they sent me the guitar to try out. The guitar was actually in better condition than described. Only catch was if I decided not to keep it I paid the return shipping. May have been pure dumb luck but when it comes to guitars I am the luckiest SOB on the planet. Last one I acquired was found sticking out of a garbage can. My heart literally skipped a beat when I saw it. A very rare guitar and easily worth four to five times what I ended up putting in it.
 

Jon C

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
17,645
Wow.. I'm very interested to know what maker / brand these were though, as you note, it could be upkeep, not construction defects (to be charitable)...
 

Zuper

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,520
It just depends on the seller. Ask a lot of questions, and ask for pictures. Even then, it's still a gamble, since you haven't inspected the guitar in person before buying. It's not just acoustic guitars; I've had issues with sellers of electric guitars, amps, cabinets, recording gear. Almost all of them have been minor issues. You certainly take your chances every time you buy OR sell online.
 

Jay K

Member
Messages
2,307
Buying from an individual though can be like playing Russian R ouletette with five bullets in the chamber. And sound and feel are another ballgame.
Your mention of sound and feel raises another issue that is interesting to me. I often hear people say it is better to play the guitars first (at a store) and look for the one that sings to you. And then you read about people who say they played let's say 10 J-45s and only one was deemed great. What I wonder is how much of this variability is the result of how the guitars are set up and even how old the strings (as well as which strings are on the guitar), and if you take those variables out of the equation whether the different guitars of the same model are really that different.

I mention this because I recently purchased a Baranik and Petros (a different one than the one I returned) online, both of which I was not so impressed with upon first playing them. But I then had them set-up to my preferences and the difference is night and day. I now love the Petros, and quite like the Baranik (it is a parlor sized guitar so basically fits a niche). If I were able to play the "old" Baranik, and the "old Petros" side by side with the "new" properly set-up versions, I would perhaps think they were different guitars and I doubt I would have purchased the "old" pre-setup guitars. So I sometimes wonder whether the impressions one reaches in the process of looking in guitars shops for that guitar that sings to you are a bit skewed by factors external to the actual quality of the guitar.

This is not to say there aren't significant differences between different models of guitars, and certain models may be more suitable for particular players. I have the luxury of having a number of guitars so I don't have to find the one guitar that suits all my needs. But I truly don't know whether I would end up with a better collection of guitars if I evaluated their sound in guitar stores and then made the purchases, as opposed to purchasing them online but with a pretty good idea what each builder produces and how the models differ. On the other hand, if I did purchase them in brick and mortar stores, I wouldn't have to go through situations like the one I described in the initial post in which I had to return two recent guitar purchases owing to glaring defects. And I would not have had to wonder whether the return would be accepted and go well with a quick refund (which fortunately in these two cases it did).
 
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