“The pawn shop is a musician’s best friend.” I’ve heard that phrase many times before. The worst part of it is, it’s true. Many musicians end up pawning old instruments and old equipment there. They get out of the game or they simply change their instruments or equipment for something newer. This is where you can profit from their losses.
A few years ago I found this beautiful B.C. Rich L.A. Series guitar in a pawn shop. What I didn’t know at the time is that, technically, this guitar was not sold here in Canada. In reality, at least two of them were sold in a particular store (for people in Ottawa, Montreal or Toronto: Steve’s). I remembered seeing two of them, of which I now own one, in the Ottawa store. I didn’t remember the price tag, but knew it was somewhat above $1,000 Canadian (around $750 US: it’s made in the US).
The sales tag asked $450. I knew that for that price they had no idea of what they had. I tested this notion. I didn’t just say “OK, here you go, thank you very much”, I negotiated. I asked them for their best price. They looked in the catalogue and couldn’t find it. Obviously, it’s a limited edition, made in 86. The year was early 1999. So they asked me to make an offer. This is something you must remember, don’t seem too anxious. I offered $400, no taxes and a case to put it in. Take it or leave it. Of course, they also had a nice NJ Series at $900. Not quite the L.A. Series, but a nice guitar, nonetheless.
So the girl at the counter (very cute) said OK. What I didn’t mention was that while they were looking at the catalogue, another customer, some young kid who happened to see it from behind, asked “is that a B.C. Rich?” After I said “yes”, he asked how much they were asking. When I told him how much, he started blabbing about how much of steal it was. I ended it up telling him to shut the %$&* up. Never let them know you know what you’re talking about.
I brought it to a shop to get the bridge adjusted (it’s a Floyd Rose). And the neck was off by about 1/16 of an inch. The guy tried to dissuade me from getting it adjusted, but I knew just how much I could get out of a B.C. Rich. He told me it would take a week. It took him just a day. The rest of the time was just to have it in the showroom where someone offered $1000 cash to leave with it.
I had it appraised for insurance purposes. I can’t speak for other countries, but check out your insurance policy. Here, all musical instruments (including amps, cables, pedals, etc) are covered for a maximum of $2,500. Buy the extra insurance, it’s worth it if something happens. It came up to $2,300. You see, guitars, good guitars that is, don’t lose value. Before they are 20 years old, they keep up with the times, they adjust to the market value of an equivalent model (if there is anything equivalent available. If not, figure several hundred dollars above the best model). After 20 years, they become vintage models: You fix the price.
Basically, in the case of guitars and basses, look for something that is made in the US, Canada or Europe. Many smaller companies, such as Godin and Fernandes are popping up. They don’t seem impressive to look at, but they rate up there with the best. Certain Japanese models will also be top quality. However, these are pretty much limited to anything Ibanez make and most Yamahas. Although Yamaha have been losing in quality as far as acoustics are concerned.
As far as Fenders are concerned, don’t forget that Leo Fender (the guy who founded the company) left it in the early seventies. When he came back, about 10 years later, he didn’t like what he saw so he left again.
A great guitar, made in Mexico will not be worth even half of the price of its US-made counterpart.
Most pawn shop owners wouldn’t know a great guitar if it hit them in the face. They think that only Gibson and Martin make good guitars. Don’t forget that!
As far as amplifiers are concerned, though, pawn shops are not really the place to go. Most people wouldn’t sell anything more than a practice amp there. The main reason being that a pawn shop won’t know what to do with an amp.
For those, ask around. Look at places that rent practice rooms for bands. My band uses one of these rooms. Much less trouble. We don’t have to carry around our amps and the drummer doesn’t even have to carry around his drum set: They already have one set up. Where I practice, they also supply the Montreal Jazz festival. Which means that every year they have a few Roland Jazz Chorus amps to let go for cheap. I love the Jazz Chorus 120 as it’s a combo tube and chip. Also, it’s basically two 60-watt amps with a speaker each that work in synch. My B.C. Rich was mainly designed as a Heavy Metal guitar, the amp was designed as a Jazz amp. Mixing the two gives you an awesome sound. Well, I love it anyway.
If you can get a place like this for amps, do it, you’ll get the best deal anywhere. Always remember that musical instruments are made to last. If you don’t beat them, they’ll go on for years and years. No need to dish out the big bucks for something brand new.