Will Ray's eBay Strategies(8)

November 1, 2004

Will Ray's eBay Strategies

Auction Item: 1950s Kay Barney Kessel Artist
Winning Bid: $550

I love vintage instruments, but I hate paying exorbitant prices for them. So what I do is look for "damaged goods"-meaning guitars that have been modified, or have some minor defects that can be overlooked, while still retaining a classic sound and feel. This late-'50s Barney Kessel Artist is one of the most coveted Kay guitars ever made, and it has an undeniably cool vibe. At $510, I was lucky enough to be the high bidder for this guitar, but the auction ended without the reserve price being met.

I don't give up easily, so I e-mailed the seller to see what he wanted for the guitar, and he said the reserve was $800. Well, the guitar had huge belt-buckle scratches on the back, the finish was flaking off, there were two poorly repaired cracks near the lower f-hole, and the bridge and pickguard weren't original, so I said the price was way too high. I e-mailed a counter offer of $550 along with a detailed letter addressing the guitar's defects. The seller accepted, and he even offered to pay the shipping if I overnighted a money order to him, as he needed the money quickly. Since I usually have pretty good eBay karma-and he had great feedback as a seller-I agreed.

The guitar arrived inside its original brown hardshell case, and it was just dripping with character. It quickly became my favorite Kay. It has very good action, a straight neck, and the pickups are punchy and full sounding. Sure, she has many battle scars, but she sure can play! Another bonus: Since I bought this guitar, the prices of Artists have skyrocketed. If I hadn't jumped on the purchase when I did, I would have regretted it for years.

-Will Ray, willray@hellecasters.com

Roll Model

Motorcycles and rock guitar have always gone together, but MJ Guitars handcrafted this little hummer for those who really want their rock to roll. The guitar is fully functional-right down to the handle grip volume control-though smokin' riffs could pose a danger, and a helmet may be required in some states. Price? $100,000! Additional photos and a poster are available at mjguitar.com.

-Barry Cleveland

Web Alert!

Tired of half-tone tyranny? Check out unfretted.com-an expansive site containing everything you could possibly want to know about the microtonal mysteries of the fretless guitar. You'll find the history of the instrument, an artist gallery, video clips, gear reviews, master classes, Roland VG-88 patches optimized for fretless guitar, and much more-including the usual news, blog, forum, and FAQ pages.

-Barry Cleveland  

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