Guitar shows are a fun and often are a profitable way to spend a day. They represent an opportunity to evaluate broad selections of vintage, used and new gear as well as an opportunity to sell some of that equipment that needs a new home. For new attendees as well as some who have only attended a couple of shows here are five tips to get you going in the right direction.
1.Do Your Homework
Aisles upon aisles of neck stocks, rows of amplifiers, tables of foot pedals, and the smell of vintage guitar cases can send any guitar-loving person into a state of shock. It’s important before you go that you have a plan of attack and that you do your homework before getting there. If you are looking to buy, you should have an idea of the make, model, year, color etc. that you hope to find. You might not find the precise model (probably won’t) but knowing what you want allows you to quickly take a pass through the show before you get into browsing mode. If you don’t go on a recon mission early, the piece of gear you were hoping to find (that was in the back corner of the room) could disappear while you paw through a cigar box of knobs.
You should also have a good idea of what your desired piece of gear is fetching on the open market. There are several pricing sources including the blue book or vintage price guide. But often, closed sales on auction and guitar marketplaces are the best indicator of what you should expect to pay from a dealer.
If you are selling, be sure you do the same. Educate yourself about what you’re selling and look up the closed prices. Understand how dealers make their offers. Remember, they can’t sell it for more than the market and they need to make a profit. So, offers from dealers will be less than the market price since they have to make a profit on the instrument. In addition, if you see a dealer with a table of 80s Charvel, Kramer and Hamer guitars you probably don’t need to spend time negotiating a price on your Gibson 1956 LG-1. If there’s a list of dealers you can always scope them out ahead of time to better gauge who is a good candidate.
I have seen quite a few people tucker themselves out as they try to shop that twin reverb around the show floor or carry 4 guitars at once. Think about what you have to sell and how you want to present it. If you have multiple pieces to sell, think about bringing in “like” pieces. Dealers often have particular interests. If you have an amp larger than a single 12” speaker, get a little luggage dolly. I am not talking about a hand truck but rather something small and mobile will make your time much more enjoyable.
For guitars, write a description clearly with a sharpie on an 8×10 sheet of paper and tape it to the case. That way everyone – patrons and dealers – can read the description and stop you if they have interest. Include the model, year, and finish on the sign. You could also walk through the show carrying the guitar in front of you with the case in the other hand. This depends on the value of the guitar, of course. Amps don’t require as much signage since they are quite visible. Clean the equipment. It’s not much work and it will present your product much better if it the dust bunnies and grime have been removed. If the strings are really worn or tarnished, replace them. Get through the first wave at the door. If people come on too strong as soon as you get into the show, you can say you are going to look around first and ask them where their table is so you can visit them later. Figure out where you are going to eat. Sometimes, food is on premises. Most of the time, you have to bring it in. A guitar show and a growling stomach don’t mix.
If you’re buying gear you should plan your load. I have seen more than a few people scratching their head outside their vehicle as they consider their options for getting that last amp, or guitar case in the back.
Cash rules. This is how it’s done for the most part at guitar shows. The patrons with gear to sell certainly can’t take credit cards. Paypal is sometimes an option between individuals, but that comes with its own limitations and most people selling don’t want to get into it. Dealers can usually take cards, but you will negotiate a better deal with cash. Don’t assume that the ATM in the conference hall will be an option. I have seen many situations where that lone ATM was completely stripped of cash by lunch as people who didn’t bring cash (or enough cash) had to make a withdrawal.
4.Go With A Friend
Often, a show is a great opportunity to grab a few friends for a little road trip. The experience of buying and selling gear along with the sights, sounds and characters you see at a guitar show make for some fun memories. Plan to leave early and stay late. You always end up spending more time than you expect. Think of attending a guitar show with friends sort of like a bar crawl when you were single. For example, your friend might take much more time than expected as he admires his newly found love and negotiates a final arrangement. A friend can be of great help when, in that moment of weakness, you need to be told to just walk away. There are some prizes we can’t afford or might regret! If you’re really lucky, you have friends who know a lot more than you do. In that case, make sure you pay for their lunch.
5.Take your time
There’s a lot to see at a decent show. You might not leave with what you were looking for, but if you take your time, the stuff you want will find you. Sometimes the best deals happen as the show is wrapping up for the day. I wouldn’t advocate getting to a show late, but don’t despair if that’s all your schedule will allow. The selling among dealers can heat up pretty quickly in the last 45 min of a show.
If you take your time, build a rapport with people, and remain positive you will be successful. You will find that everyone at a guitar show is really after the same thing: fun, enjoyment and profit.