Hi, this is not a luthier-type question, but here goes:

How can one tell a guitar's worth? I always seem to

be checking-out guitars (usually used ones) on-line,

whether it be Craigslist, Daddy's Junky Music, Ebay..

So, how do I know I am getting a good deal or not?

What is the best way to know how much a certain

used guitar is really worth?


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There are so many ways to answer this question, I am sure each person who reads this post could write a book. If you are looking to buy and sell, you should be looking for the 'names'. Martin, Gibson, Taylor..... But the real worth in a guitar comes in the sound and playablilty. The danger in online shopping is you really can't tell if the guitar is right for you until you have it paid for. Don't buy an instrument from someone who begins their sales pitch with "I don't know anything about musical instruments" , my experience has told me that that is code for "there is something seriously wrong with this guitar, but I don't want to tell people that". Look for sellers who have a good reputation and who are able to communicate intelligently about a specific instrument. In terms of an actual price, on ebay at least, you can check the ended/completed auctions to see what similar guitars have sold for. But remember that a guitar really isn't worth a darn if you don't enjoy it. I guess I would recommend picking one out you want to buy and going to a store where you can actually play a few of them and seeing if that is something you really want.

If a guitar is worth anything consider first if it is well made that the materials/hardware alone can exceed 100s if not

1000 +dollars.Know where it came from.Then playability.A good guitar must exceed its material worth or somebody ain't gettin a good deal but desperate men/women do............blah blah blah worth is in the perception of holder!

Two great sources. 1. Gruhn's Gude to Vintage Guitars - excellent reference information on American guitars.   2. Vintage Guitar Price Guide - another good reference and published buying information with market value ranges. Reading the companion monthly Vintage Guitar magazine is a good way to get updates to the yearly guide book and in-depth brand & model articles. Fun stuff!

Whenever I would ask my old boss Jim at Mass Street Music how much a guitar was worth, he'd always say, "It's worth exactly as much as someone is willing to pay for it."  Ah, the Zen of economics.



Here's chapter one of my "book".


I think the best advice I ever got about purchasing a guitar was from a friend that told me to play it, walk away for a couple of days and then play it again before deciding if it was for me. I have very seldom found a guitar I purchased without playing it first that I actually wanted to keep once I did. Everybody has a different idea of what defines a "great" guitar. 


The second best advice I ever got was to educate myself about the brands and models of guitars I'm interested in. I do this by reading almost everything I can find about these guitars online, ( much of it taken with a grain of salt) as well as talking to other guitar people. I have also built a small reference library that I am constantly adding to which includes books about specific brand names guitars as well as books that are less focused. I've also found that repair/building books can give a surprising insight into some of the issue that may arise with vintage instruments too so I would say it pays to read some of this material even if you never intend to build or repair anything. ( Read EVERYTHING on Franks site, it will teach you a lot about the instruments AND a lot about clear "outside the box" thinking.)


As other already pointed out, buying a guitar without first holding and playing it is not a good idea. I occasionally purchase a guitar on Ebay and I ALWAYS assume that it needs more repair than the listing indicates. So far this has always been the case.  Everyone has a different level of experience and a different set of tastes so that "sounds great" quote is meaningless. ( I particularly like the listing that picture a guitar with no strings and no nut or saddle but are described as "sounding great with good playability." )  I'm sure that there are a lot of guitars on Ebay and other sites that are great guitars. The problem is that brand/ cost/ reputation is not guarantee. I like Martin and  Gibson guitars, generally speaking but I've seen and played lots of both brands that I would'n't care to own.


My current main player would be considered a "boutique builder" guitar  which is a (IMO) wonderful guitar. Over the course of a few weeks, I played 3 other guitars made but the same builder along with this one before deciding which I wanted. All were well made, comfortable, great sounding guitars but I like this one the best and have never regretted my choice.  A few weeks ago, I was able to play one of those other 3 guitars again and  still feel I made the best choice of the two. My friend feels exactly the same way about his guitar.  The point is that I think a guitar is a personal item that should fit you as well as possible and that you owe to yourself to find the best possible fit you can afford even if it means that you have to invest a lot of time and, maybe, money in the search. In the end you will be happier with your decision and you will play better and more often.


BTW,  Budget enough for a guitar so that you can get a decent quality instrument. You don't have to pay thousands for a good or even great guitar. I think it is safe to say that money isn't always an indicator of a quality guitar BUT true quality comes at a price.You need to determine what level of quality you can afford then find the best guitar you can lay your hands of for that price.  


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