Can you get a decent electric guitar for the price of a tank or two of gas?
A lot of people say you can’t find good deals at guitar shows anymore. But strangely, I can usually find something in the Bottom Feeder range to go home with. A while back I was looking around at the Spartanburg Guitar Show in South Carolina when I spotted this AXL Tele-style guitar (Photo 1), which was looking quite lonely on the very last row.
The last row is always my favorite place at that show because that’s where the cheaper guitars usually reside. I picked up the guitar and looked at it. With a price tag of $99, it wasn’t bad. What drew me to the guitar, however, was its visual appeal—there’s nothing quite like an aged-looking blonde Tele with a matching maple neck and black pickguard. Man, that guitar had me at hello.
I tried some licks and it played really well. The action was nice and low, and the maple fretboard didn’t have much polyurethane on it, which made it fun to bend strings. The neck was straight with just the right amount of relief, and it felt really easy to play.
I liked the guitar, but there were still more to see at the show, so I moved on. But that guitar stuck in my mind, and when I was done prowling, I went back for a second look. This time, I observed a rather deep gash on the upper bout (Photo 2), as well as a major ding on the headstock (Photo 3). I hadn’t noticed these before.
Bottom Feeder Tip #766: It’s always a good idea to do a thorough examination of the instrument before buying. It’s easy to overlook flaws when you’re in love, and these little flaws can really affect a guitar’s resale value later on.
Now $99 wasn’t bad, but I wanted to do better. So I talked to one of the workers at the booth and he brought the price down to $80. Cool! But I’m a bottom feeder. The boss finally came over and said, “Yeah, I see the dings. I tell you what, how about $60 cash? I don’t want to take it back.” We shook hands and I paid the man, who was gracious enough to throw in a nice gig bag to boot.
Bottom Feeder Tip #485: Always carry some cash to a guitar show. A credit card is fine for the big-ticket items, but dealers really like cash, and it can increase your negotiating power.
So how do I like it now? After changing strings and plugging into an amp, I thought the pickups sounded pretty good, though they’re a tad on the weaker side when compared to a real-deal Fender Tele. The two pickups were also wired out of phase, an easy fix. But for 60 bucks, it’s a steal in my book. I love the aged look, so I’m keeping her for now, but reserve the right to stick in some Seymour Duncans down the road.