What Brands of Guitar Sell Best?
Brand names are all about marketing. I’ve had Cadillacs and a few Lincolns that frankly, IMHO, were “junk”. And I’ve had some Fords & Chevys that were tough and dependable. Well, marketing is no different when applied to guitars.
Fender, Gibson and Ibanez are the “top brands” and they drag their economy brands along – Squier, Epiphone, & Gio respectively. I’d just as soon play an Monoprice Indio Strat as a Squier Bullet Strat. The Indio costs nearly half what the Squier costs.
But a used Squier guitar will sell much faster than a used Indio. Some people will say that the resale value will hold better, but that’s actually not true. Let’s look at an example –
A new Squier Affinity Strat currently costs $230. Once it leaves the store, it’s value drops by about $80. That’s a loss of over 1/3rd or 35%!
A new Indio Strat is currently $100. In like-new condition, it’s used, retail value is not likely to drop below $80, a loss of 1/5th or 20%.
Considering only brand differences, a Squier guitar would likely sell three times faster than the equivalent Indio. But when you mix in the price difference – an $80 guitar will likely sell three times faster than a $150 guitar.
But there’s also the markup difference. You might be able to get that Indio, like-new, as low as $60 but that leaves only a $20 margin. That’s not enough profit to bother setting up, restringing, etc. Probably not enough to bother with the buying & selling process alone.
There are a lot of decent. lesser brand name electric guitars – Peavey; Schecter; Jay Turser; Silvertone; Dean; and many more. Overall, most are good guitars, but they don’t have the marketing behind them that Fender & Gibson have, and to a lesser extent, Ibanez also. So they often take a bit longer to sell and maybe they don’t fetch as much money as an equivalent top-brand guitar.
The worst-selling brand I’ve seen is First Act. They’re mostly “ok” guitars, but very slow selling.
Now, like all things regarding market prices and popularity, there’s a good bit of locale and temporal things that can affect the numbers. If a band suddenly gets very popular and they’re playing cheap Glarry Telecasters.. well, you can expect Glarry Telecasters to get really popular. A guitar that’s popular in Nashville, might be cold in Chicago.
So read this as a rough guide, but temper everything with your own experiences and what you see in your community.
Even an “excellent”/”like-new” guitar will probably need a setup and strings. In fact, a big part of my branding is that I don’t sell a guitar I haven’t personally checked out, setup and restrung. So when calculating your profit margin, you need to factor in the time and materials for doing whatever work the guitar will require.
Nut Slot Heights
If you’re just beginning and don’t have nut files yet, you’ll want to carefully inspect the nut slot heights and ensure they’re neither too low nor way too high. (More about inspecting guitars to buy, just a bit later!)
Move the G, B & e strings aside a bit and inspect those top few frets – at least the first five. If you see worn grooves, and don’t yet have a crowning file, radiused leveling blocks, etc. – then you need to walk away from this guitar.
Cleaning & Polishing
If the seller’s guitar looks great, then they’re probably wanting a higher price. Thankfully, (and strangely), most sellers don’t even bother to dust their guitars off. As in dating, appearances – especially first appearances – are very important.
Cleaning and polishing are simple tasks for you and give you a reason to pay less yet still sell higher after you’ve performed your magic. I use a Carnauba spray wax on laquer finishes and Nu-Finish car polish on poly finishes, for cleaning and shining.
Headstock & Fretboard Cracks
More about this later, but always closely inspect the back of any swept-back headstock like most Gibson, Epiphone and PRS, etc. guitars have. These often get cracked and even if professionally repaired, the resale value drops dramatically – thirty to fifty percent!
Another issue – and this can happen to any guitar, but seems more common on swept-back headstock designs, is separated fretboards. This condition can happen concurrent with a headstock/neck break. If there’s no headstock/neck issue and just the fretboard separation, it’s a quite fixable, yet serious problem. If the guitar tech is capable of a good refinishing/touch-up job along the edge of the fretboard after it’s been re-glued, there shouldn’t be too much drop in resale value.
Rust and Corrosion
If rust is bad, you may need to replace some screws. If you don’t yet have intonation screws, pickup height adjusting screws, pickguard screws, neck strap screws – some in various sizes and thread types, then you may need to pass. Naval Jelly (more on this later) and other tricks can help a lot but they have limits.
If pickup poles are corroded, it may be difficult to sell the guitar. Since loss of plating on the pickup poles doesn’t affect sound, you may consider installing pickup covers. Try to stock the ones without holes. That not only hides the corrosion but also keeps you from having to stock all different pole-spacing sizes and the inventory headaches that come with that.
Guitar Scratches, Dents, etc.
Various automobile polishes (see Meguiers), fine-grit sandpaper and nail polish are handy to keep around for fixing minor blemishes in guitar bodies. If you have a bit of talent or time to learn on YouTube, you might consider an air brush set for fixing blems. (I’ll have much more about this in a later section).