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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Gear »

Permalink Vintage Guitar Chop Shops

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Here's something that has been bothering me but I haven't seen any discussion of yet: people who buy vintage guitars and then part them out on ebay. Basically, they remind me of chop shops - even though they are probably buying guitars legitimately, they are still breaking them into parts to sell them to make more profit than they might otherwise.

So I was wondering if other people have noticed this and what they think about the practice. I don't care about people buying current or recent issue guitars that are still in production. But there are those who buy guitars from the 60s or 70s and then dismantle them to sell each part at exorbitant prices. It's useful in the sense that it gives us a supply of vintage parts to fix vintage guitars. But on the other hand, it's reducing the number of vintage guitars in existence - maybe a good thing for those of us who have such guitars and want to sell them, but it's bad for anyone who wants to buy and play one because it makes them that much more scarce. Also, it means these chop shop people are constantly scooping up these guitars at the lower end of the price range, blocking our chances to get any good deals.

Maybe this makes no difference for the really popular guitars like strats and teles, but when they are doing this to Jaguars, which were never sold in the same numbers, it has a huge impact on the market. So I'm wondering what people think. It's not too hard to recognize some of these sellers on ebay, though I'll refrain from pointing fingers. But I'd rather avoid dealing with them if possible. I do at times look to buy vintage parts, but I don't want to contribute to the dismantling and destruction of complete vintage guitars. Sure, it's a free market world, etc., and it's all legal, but that doesn't mean I have to approve of what's going on or support it.

Edward -
It's a two edge sword. I've collected rare and valuable Mosrite parts for my Mosrite stash. I've built or completed guitars from the purchase of vintage Mosrite parts. And with rare anything (cars, guitars, etc.) it's always wise to have a personal supply of spare parts. That should be axiomatic for collecting rare anything - having spare parts.

So - I made it a point to obtain parts before the "chop shops" get them - if only to avoid the higher prices they charge. If the chop shops can find them, why can't I? I don't fight capitalism - that's for suckers. I compete.

If a guitar is rare enough, it should survive and sell whole rather than be parted out. No one in their right mind chops up rare autos or rare jewelry.

I don't get the "quasi-rare Jaguar idea". Jesus, Ed, they're all over the place. There should be parts aplenty.
If you think you are contributing to a guitar "dismantling", you are thinking a bit too much.
Consider -
There's a ban on ivory these days. But you can still get it from grey market dealers who dismantle old pianos, gun grips, etc. Same for Brazilian rosewood - lots of furniture made from that in days gone by.

The elephant that died and the tree that was felled are very much gone. Consider that your local DMV wants you to contribute body organs as part of a "spare parts program" for other humans. Does a dead elephant or dead tree rate more than you? (Hint: Answer should be "No")

My thoughts and two cents ..
J Mo'

Good points there. Yes, I overthink things - it's what I do.

I agree about stocking up on vintage replacement parts for vintage guitars, as we do need them. I'd still prefer they came from someone who took them off their guitar when replacing parts, or came from a guitar mangled beyond repair or from some random draws in a luthier's shop.

Perhaps the thing that galls me the most is those guy seem to be able to grab a sizable number of vintage guitars at cheap prices (taking them off the market before other people get a chance to buy them) then sell the parts at high prices (as you noted). This also inflates prices for parts on ebay (love it or hate it, it still seems the place to go for vintage parts). Other sellers look at the prices charged by the chop shops and think they can get the same price for their parts (failing to look at completed sales to see what these things actually sell for).

And I would say vintage Jaguars are comparatively rare - we will never know actual sales numbers (thanks to Leo's lack of records), but they never sold in near the numbers that Strats and Teles did. I sure don't see vintage ones everywhere - they feature a lot on this forum, they get a lot of publicity in recent decades, but I hardly ever see any show up on the local Craiglist.

Looking at ebay listings for vintage Jaguars, it's not easy to get a sense of supply because of all the reissues, custom shop builds, etc. For 1964, I counted 5 complete guitars for sale and two chop-shop bodies. For 1967, there are 2 complete guitars (from Japanese sellers, who have multiple listings for the same guitars). There are no bodies, but 2 necks from one chop-shop, and lots of other parts. Vintage Jaguars are still cheaper than vintage strats and teles, and so they are much more subject to getting parted out.

But that's enough rambling for now. I've long had my vintage Jag, so prices for complete ones aren't a huge deal to me personally, though the effects on spare parts is annoying.

In a number of cases these parts come from trashed instruments. Parts off a Gibson with a splintered neck or lost headstock, or from an old Strat that had a body that was reshaped by heavy handed sanding after being prepped for a refin, or mutilated by someone with a vision.

or mutilated by someone with a vision.

Bad time to tell you about the 1959 Jazzmaster I cut a 'JEM' handle into?

They who die with the fewest control knobs, win.

Tqi wrote:

or mutilated by someone with a vision.

Bad time to tell you about the 1959 Jazzmaster I cut a 'JEM' handle into?

I've seen worse!

I've seen some travesties as well. I think it's true for the highest valued guitars that they are only parted out when they've been truly mangled, as you get a lot more value (and an easier time selling) from a vintage strat or LP.

But I've definitely seen guitars like vintage Mustangs and Duo Sonics that were in good shape but completely dismantled for parts to sell on ebay. You can see when certain sellers post all those bits one after another and it's clear it was not a mangled guitar.

Of course, when speaking of travesties, there's the guitar in my avatar, which is an old Japanese Mustang-style guitar (made by Sakai but un-branded). I painted it in high school and have since replaced the bridge and electronics. I wouldn't be getting any money for that, even for parts, with the exception of the pickups, which are awesome.

edwardsand wrote:

. . .

And I would say vintage Jaguars are comparatively rare - we will never know actual sales numbers (thanks to Leo's lack of records), but they never sold in near the numbers that Strats and Teles did. I sure don't see vintage ones everywhere - they feature a lot on this forum, they get a lot of publicity in recent decades, but I hardly ever see any show up on the local Craiglist.

Looking at ebay listings for vintage Jaguars, it's not easy to get a sense of supply because of all the reissues, custom shop builds, etc. For 1964, I counted 5 complete guitars for sale and two chop-shop bodies. For 1967, there are 2 complete guitars (from Japanese sellers, who have multiple listings for the same guitars). There are no bodies, but 2 necks from one chop-shop, and lots of other parts. Vintage Jaguars are still cheaper than vintage strats and teles, and so they are much more subject to getting parted out.

I’ve heard that they actually were considering dropping the Strat from the lineup, but then Hendrix came along and interest in the Strat increased. In 1966/1967, I would go to the local Fender dealer to look at guitars and dream. I was much more interested in a Jaguar than a Strat and Telecasters had a goofy headstock and were only for old men. Now I knew Pipeline and Secret Agent Man (which, for some reason, I was taught in Dm) back then, but I didn’t really single out Surf as an interest. By that point in time, Surf was yesterday’s news and most of the guys at my Jr. High were Into the British Invasion bands. But it was a small town and I do t think I’d ever seen a Rickenbacker. We had one music store with Fenders and Gibsons, another had Greatch guitars and Vox amps. I visited each store in turn, but never could afford a Fender, Gibson or Gretsch until later on.

But my point is that the Jag’ was pretty much the top of Fender’s line in those days and they sold like hotcakes. Then came Hendrix and between his influence on the market and bridge issues Jaguars once again sold like hotcakes, which is to say they were about a buck a stack. Smile One reason that they were so popular with Grunge and Alt bands was the fact that they were cheap to come by. Hardly anyone was thinking about Surf from the late sixties until Pulp Fiction. Jags were bright by design, great for Surf or Country, but Surf was rarely played and the Country guys were more likely to be seen playing Teles; it was part of the look. (Jags make for great Country guitars, BTW. I worked in a band with a Tele player and I used a Jag. He was blown away by how good that Jag was at getting the sound he had been seeking from his Tele.)

The artist formerly known as: Synchro

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