Editor's Reply

A not-so-quick note about the vintage instrument business... which may sound prickly, but please, I don't intend to be.

Someone posted a comment, recently, something to the effect of "I saw that same instrument on eBay sold for $100, you're trying to resell it for $300? Didn't look like you did much to it! What a joke!" I deleted it out of spite, but that doesn't really address the underlying jab, does it?

My short answer? If you believe anyone is in this business for the money, you have to be kidding me. If I cared about making money I wouldn't even consider being involved in anything related to music at all.

My long answer? Let's do the math. That instrument actually cost $100 plus $45 shipping to me (which I considered a good deal, anyhow, for the particular model, despite missing parts and work needed), I charge $300 or so out of which $25-35 is shipping to the customer who buys it (I include shipping in my prices since a few months ago), $3-7 for strings, install roughly $15-40 of vintage hardware (depending on average "eBay prices" for those parts) from my parts bin, and put in $75-100 worth of my shop time in a fret level/dress, cleaning, a good setup, and all the other minor details of overhauling an instrument, all of which are necessary work that isn't obvious from "first sale" pictures to "resale pictures" but add tremendously to the usefulness and value of an instrument. In addition to that, I take big pics and many of them, go to the bother of figuring out the history and dating of the instrument, record a good soundclip, and then don't ever bother to consider my time packing or shipping an instrument.

So, what am I trying to get at? You get what you pay for! An instrument "not fixed up" is entirely different from an instrument "all fixed up and ready to go," which is something a player will understand right off the bat. Very rarely I get lucky on purchases, mostly I pay better than fair prices for items I work on, and I often overvalue trade-ins from customers as a nod to getting folks upgraded equipment to make their music on... which... after all... is what this is all about.

So, there.

I'm hoping that this post finds the original commenter, since I couldn't just pop it in an email to him (none was provided). And, as always, if you have questions or comments about any aspect of the business, really, just ask or send word. I'd be pleased to answer them or have a discussion about them anytime, as anyone who's talked to me on the phone or in person in the shop will know.


Zac Pelo said...

Tell 'em, Jake! Your blog is one of my most frequented sites, besides Facebook and so on. It's pretty easy to tell how much you care about music and the repair/restoration business. I also could tell based on the awesome work on the banjo that I received from you a few months ago. So that guy can suck it. Keep on doing what you love, man.

Anonymous said...


I bet your fans and happy customers outnumber the naysayers. I've purchased several instruments from you and they are my favorites to play. Keep doing the fine job that you do. Anyone with business sense knows you need to make some profit to stay in business. From what I've seen the last couple years following your blog your profit margin is indeed modest.


Linda said...

Ultimately, that poster is not your customer. To borrow from Seth Godin, he's not in your tribe.

The people who buy your instruments and appreciate your work understand the value you add.

Sadly, I believe that as a culture we are far too focused on getting what is "cheap" without considering the real cost. Some day I hope to purchase an instrument from you and will take great pleasure not only in the item purchased, but in supporting the work and art of the man who restored it.

Antebellum Instruments said...

Thanks, folks. I'm glad you guys get it... I just needed to write something down last night in response so I could fall asleep without having to think about it anymore.

Linda: I agree about your observation on our culture as well. There's an overwhelming obsession we have here with pennies and nickels saved (price) rather than true value received.

Anonymous said...

I have looked at your site for some time. I admire the dedication, love and workmanship that you put into your restorations. You do a great job. If anything, you should be charging more for the great work you do. Unfortunately, too many people want something for nothing. Keep up the great work!

Aaron C Keim said...

Yeah, so there. Don't mind the haters jake. The rest of us know that you are undercharging us! Keep up the good work!