Cracks in a guitar neck can be an opportunity instead of a deal-breaker.
I've been strangely attracted to Epiphone guitars in recent years. They seem to offer a lot of bang for the buck, and most used models fall within Bottom Feeder price territory.
A few years ago, Epiphone introduced a smaller version of an ES-335 called the ES-339—a model designation that Gibson debuted in 2007. Its compact body features two F-holes, a center block for sustain, and two adjustable P-90 pickups (or humbuckers). I wanted one in cherry red, and found one on the 'Bay for $275 buy-it-now. I quickly read the description, which said it had a small nick on the headstock and was labeled as a “blem" guitar.
Bottom Feeder Tip #666: Whenever you see the word “blem" in an auction, it's shorthand for “blemish," and that can cover a lot of territory, so read the description very carefully. I see a lot of “blem" guitars on eBay with cracked or broken necks, so I emailed the seller and he replied that the only blemish the guitar had was a small nick on the headstock, which was no big deal to me since he had already posted pics of it. So I pulled the trigger.
When I received it four days later, though, upon inspection I noticed the neck had cracks on both sides of the nut. Bummer! I immediately took some pics of the two cracks and then contacted the seller through the eBay email system, which allows exchanging photos. While I was waiting for a response, I played the guitar and discovered the cracks had no noticeable effect. Other than the cosmetics, the guitar actually played and sounded great! It seemed to stay in tune fine, with no fret buzzing. Plus, the guitar was really fun to play.
Photo 2 — Though shaped like a classic Gibson ES-335, the ES-339 has a smaller, lighter body.
I thought about it, then emailed the seller and offered to keep the guitar if he would give me back a partial refund of $75. He was okay with that, so I ended up with a great little guitar for $200. It's a nice size and the P-90s really sing, and I've enjoyed playing it a lot. What's nice about these P-90 pickups is that they can be raised to bring them closer to the strings for more volume and grit.
Bottom Feeder Tip #667: Everything's negotiable. If you receive a damaged guitar and it otherwise sounds and plays great, sometimes it's worth offering the seller a partial refund option to keep the guitar. The resale value will be lower when you decide to sell it later, but it's no biggie if you've already bought it really cheap. Incidentally, I currently own six guitars with cracks in their necks and none have ever given me tuning problems over the years.
Photo 3 — The cracks on both sides of this neck are obviously more than “blemishes," but having no noticeable effect on the guitar's tone or tuning, they became a bargaining chip.
So is it a keeper? Sure, for now anyway. It's a great little guitar and the undamaged ones can be had for $300 to $350 on eBay all the time. Listen to my sound sample and see what you think.
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