Buying vintage guitars to strip parts - Bad mojo, right?

Duane_the_tub

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It's probably due to the pandemic and related work situations, but I keep seeing vintage Gibson guitars pop up on the used market at prices that could easily be recouped by stripping them for parts (pickups, hardware, tuners. etc.) that Burst people are always chasing. Some of them are complete, all-original guitars in beautiful shape.

I have been so tempted, but this is bad mojo - isn't it?

Once these guitars start getting stripped, even if the parts are replaced with modern/repro, I would think their appeal and chances of finding new, appreciative owners would drop as well. I'm not just saying this because they'd be harder to move afterward - like I said, one could easily recoup the initial cost by selling the parts, and often turn a nice profit on them in fact. But to me, it's somewhat akin to converting an old Goldtop into a wannabe Burst - it really is a shame, and I have to think there's bad mojo there.

Right?
 

smk506

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Generally speaking I’d rather see old guitar left original rather than parted out. I think there’s probably some middle ground to be had in examples that aren’t 100% original or refinished/repaired though.

If you have something that’s a mix of repro and original and you decide going all repro works better for you, go for it.

That unused bridge or tuners would probably sit in the instrument case if they were mine, but there do need to be vintage parts on the market too.

I don’t think I would buy a vintage piece in good or better condition with the notion of parting it out though.
 

Pete M

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There are certain people on Ebay and the like who make a business out of it. But I would say it's generally frowned upon especially if there is nothing wrong with the guitar as it is. The only valid reason I see is something like a 60's SG that has been broken so many times it's hardly worth fixing or other major issue.

It's all about profit margins really. I have sold guitars that had way better parts and pickups on them than they should have, but I'm not the type of guy to start ripping it apart. You know that guy who says it has Pat number pickups and a Bonamassa signature switch tip in the photos, but that it will ship with other parts. Nope. To me that kind of penny pinching is not something I care about. A few dollars more here or there, but then that's how you make money if you can sell enough on a consistent basis. Bad mojo? I don't believe in it.
 
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Duane_the_tub

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Especially now, when like I said I think some people are forced to sell their instruments after losing their jobs/gigs due to the virus. For example:

There are two vintage Gibson hollowbodies for sale locally here. They are both reasonably priced enough that I could rip the pickups, bridges, pots/caps, knobs and tuners out of each and make a nice profit selling just those parts. But what's left? They're both in beautiful shape, and who is going to want them with all those parts replaced or missing completely? They're going to be shadows of their former selves. It sounds and feels weird to say it, but those old guitars deserve better than that.

But then again, something tells me that if I don't do it, someone else will anyway. I just don't think I have the stomach for it.
 

charlie chitlins

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Just try to find, for instance, a '59 ES225 with original tuners.
Not only is it bad juju to strip guitars...how many bursts are out there needing tuners?
I'm guessing the parts are going into counterfeits and conversions, which is mostly bottom-feeder stuff.
 

lpfan1980

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Here's my thoughts on people that strip parts off of a perfectly good vintage instrument:

May they be doomed to play crappy 50 dollar knockoffs for ab ETERNITY IN HECK!
 

Pete M

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I don't think it works as well as most people think. You need guaranteed buyers, and it's a buyers market right now for sure. People will always want burst parts and P90s but not necessarily for ridiculous prices. There is a lot of junk parts that come off other models that nobody could ever sell. Don't assume that just because things are vintage, people are going to want to buy them.
 

filtersweep

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I honestly have no clue what you are talking about.

The only affordable 'vintage' guitars around here are Norlins-- which take forever to sell, are overpriced, not highly sought after, and I'd argue that any reissue would make a better instrument for actually playing.

Pickups for Norlins? Good luck. Seemed everyone swapped out pick-ups in the 80s for something hotter anyway-- so good luck finding original pickups of anything anyone is interested in. If you are talking 50s or 60s guitars, you are not talking Les Pauls if you are looking at affordable options. As for the rest of the parts, why? Vintage bridges? Vintage tuners? They just are not worth that much, and I'd be concerned that half this stuff fits.

So what are these vintage guitars? Few are worth LESS than the sum of their parts.
 

Frutiger

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Just try to find, for instance, a '59 ES225 with original tuners.
Not only is it bad juju to strip guitars...how many bursts are out there needing tuners?
I'm guessing the parts are going into counterfeits and conversions, which is mostly bottom-feeder stuff.
Ain't that the truth. I'd go as far as to say the majority of vintage Klusons you see on the market that have been "re-tipped because the buttons disintegrated" actually had white oval buttons originally and have been changed to the more desirable keystone buttons.

I'm conflicted with the parting out of guitars to some extent though - I don't think it's right in any way and seeing some of the flagrant parting-out that happens is mildly sickening. But at the same time, buying guitars that have been parted-out has been the only way I've been able to afford some great guitars. I have a '61 Switchmaster which I wouldn't own if it still had PAFs in it, but without them it cost the same as a VOS ES-175N does/did. I also have a converted LP custom with PAFs - again something got parted out so that guitar could exist. I didn't convert it but I'm glad someone did.

And the sad truth is that there are lots of guitars (Gibsons in particular) out there which have fallen from favour with players and are worth more parted out - I'm thinking big archtops mainly (like PAF Switchmasters) which are expensive and don't sell easily compared to vintage 335s and Les Pauls. That gives you three PAFs, a no-wire bridge, PatPend Grovers, six burst knobs, six vintage pots, vintage TRC. That's a lot of money in parts and then you sell the husk for cheap. It's not right that people do it, but it's not surprising in some circumstances.
 

Duane_the_tub

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And the sad truth is that there are lots of guitars (Gibsons in particular) out there which have fallen from favour with players and are worth more parted out - I'm thinking big archtops mainly (like PAF Switchmasters) which are expensive and don't sell easily compared to vintage 335s and Les Pauls. That gives you three PAFs, a no-wire bridge, PatPend Grovers, six burst knobs, six vintage pots, vintage TRC. That's a lot of money in parts and then you sell the husk for cheap. It's not right that people do it, but it's not surprising in some circumstances.
That's pretty much the exact scenario I am looking at. Try finding a serviceable 50s no-wire ABR on the secondary market for less than $1500. Guys are getting a grand for period-correct Klusons (Grovers are still a bargain, comparatively). Pots and caps can be sold individually for big-time money compared to what they'd bring as recently as 5-10 years ago.

I had a shot at buying a vintage LP husk a few weeks ago and started doing research into the parts needed to bring it back to life properly. I talked to all the most prominent vintage parts guys, here in the U.S. and overseas, and the reality seems to be that some of these parts are approaching scarcity - and the prices reflect it.
 

Frutiger

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^ Agreed, I used to have a big stash of parts and would buy cheap vintage parts whenever I could find them but it's harder and harder to find stuff. Particularly things like D-stamped Klusons and black bonnet knobs! I wonder if that's sympomatic of more guitars getting restored nowadays?

As I've always bought and sold player grade stuff, it made sense for me to have a stash of spares - I knew that eventually I would need the parts for one project or another, and that's played out with me owning a load of player grade guitars with now mostly original parts and my stash down to very little.

The other things I've done were 1) Figuring out what's acceptable to me in terms of later parts (wired vs no-wire bridges, later Klusons instead of earlier ones, or no-lines instead of D-stamped) to get guitars closer to 'vintage' but on a tighter budget. 2) Taking good repro parts and doing a bit of extra re-shaping or colour tinting etc. to get them closer to vintage accurate. Another trick with bridges is that the later gold ABR-1s are still nickel plated under the gold, rub it off and you have a vintage nickel bridge for way less than a pre-64 one.

With pickups it's that sliding scale of PAFs / Pat numbers / T-tops as to how vintage you want a guitar and what you're willing to put into it. Plus whether it's even important to you or not! It is to me but I clearly have vintage guitar sickness really badly.
 

charlie chitlins

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The upside is, it can put vintage wood into the hands of folks who couldn't otherwise afford it.
My 59-ish ES225 (one pickup, unfortunately) is the most amazing player I've ever held, and it was affordable because it's missing the original trc and tuners and is a refin.
 

Fletch

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I look for desirable husks that fit the stash of parts I have, which is dwindling. However I have managed to put together some guitars of value that are mostly original now. Vintage parts used to be much more accessible on eBay But that’s drying up. Biggest sticking point with doing this is original pickups that now bring big money. Original P90s are in the 3-400 range each with a few dreamers asking much more.
 

cherrick

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That's pretty much the exact scenario I am looking at. Try finding a serviceable 50s no-wire ABR on the secondary market for less than $1500. Guys are getting a grand for period-correct Klusons (Grovers are still a bargain, comparatively). Pots and caps can be sold individually for big-time money compared to what they'd bring as recently as 5-10 years ago.

I had a shot at buying a vintage LP husk a few weeks ago and started doing research into the parts needed to bring it back to life properly. I talked to all the most prominent vintage parts guys, here in the U.S. and overseas, and the reality seems to be that some of these parts are approaching scarcity - and the prices reflect it.
How much was the husk? I might be interested, not to install vintage parts but to put together something with boutique parts for a project.
 

Duane_the_tub

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How much was the husk? I might be interested, not to install vintage parts but to put together something with boutique parts for a project.
The husk is long gone now. I had an agreement in place to buy it, then someone else got wind, offered more money and bought it out from under me. I never even had a chance to counter. Bummer, especially since I had already started amassing parts for it. Oh well...
 

red_house356

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Bad mojo or not, selling vintage gear is not all its cracked up to be. You're going to attract a specific clientele that will ask numerous detailed questions or photo requests (and rightfully so). I try to be patient with these buyers, as I am one for certain items (amps mostly). Then you get the people who will try and insult you will low ball offers, teach you "something", or display incredible skepticism.

Then there's the required patience to sell your stuff at the price you set out to make a "profit". I always tend to try and break even with my vintage gear. I sold a well loved '56 Les Paul Junior for $3850 last year. I made maybe $500 after shipping and fees. Insurance isn't cheap. Had I been looking for $$$, maybe could've asked for $5000, but that guitar would've been on Reverb for a good 4+ months.
 

jimi55lp

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But if you need the parts for a project and don't want to be robbed for vintage parts purchases, It's always been a great idea !
 


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