Honest question >> How do people afford very expensive guitars?

Discussion in 'Other Guitars' started by Jam Handy, Oct 17, 2020 at 11:48 AM.

  1. Jam Handy

    Jam Handy Member

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    Once a guitar price goes over $2,000 (to me) that is expensive. I'm just really curious what kind of employment (if you don't mind saying) or how do people afford guitars that are $2,000, $3,000, $4,000 and more?

    Let me explain my social situation... in 2016 I was permanently disabled and now I live on SSI social security disability of $783/mo. I do some part-time work-from-home stuff for a music store uploading new products to his web page. Before being disabled I was a contract field engineer for the telephone companies across the US and made (depending on the contract) $60k-$90k annually. Even at that wage with a wife and family I thought these guitars were still out of my price range.

    An R9 Gibson Les Paul is $6,500 these days. A Gibson LP Custom is $4,700. USA-made PRS's quickly hit the $3,000-$4,000 mark.

    I think some of these guitars are amazingly beautiful and I can understand the pride in ownership for sure. But I'd like to hear from folks (especially) that own 2 or 3 or more of these guitars at these prices... How did you buy them, what do you do for employment, and just plain how can anyone middle class or upper middle class afford guitars like this?

    A few guesses on my part...
    - Is it as the pun says they are "doctor and lawyer" guitars, only doctors and lawyers can really afford them?
    - You have super good credit and you were able to throw one on your VISA or other credit card (or a store credit card)?
    - You worked it out on a layaway of some kind? (maybe the store extended the layaway past the regular 90-days?) (I've done this before)
    - You inherited wealth or created wealth well and above upper middle class norms?
    - You sold a multitude of other guitars and gear (along with some disposable cash) to raise the funds for this one really expensive guitar? (maybe threw in a tax refund, etc... bonus checks from work, etc, etc)

    Since I'm on the Epiphone forum with this, I have to say I love my Epiphones and all the guitars I've obtained that were $1,000 or less. I've shopped hard, fanaggled layaways with stores for way longer than 90-days, had some bargains drop in my lap out of the blue when I just so happened to have cash enough in hand. I now have 25 really cool guitars and none of them were more than $1,500. I've played guitar for 45 years and in 2016 when I was disabled I had to sell every guitar, amp, and pedal (and microphone and P.A. gear) just to survive.

    Starting in late 2017 I started buying guitars, pedals and amps again. With very little and next to no money. The first ones I bought were all Squire Strats, Epi LP Special II's and the such I found at pawn shops for $60-70. I took 12 instruments to a store all at one go and got $1,200 worth of cash and gear. From that I started building much better quality items and started finding ridiculously awesome deals on guitars worth hundreds more.

    I have since bought a Fender American Elite HSS Strat for $675 used and in mint condition with all the case candy... at a pawn shop across the street (New they are in the $1,900-ish range). At another poawn shop just across the Florida/Georgia border I scored a Fender MIM Classic Player Baja Tele in mint condition for $300 (new they are $825). A guy sold me a gorgeous mint Epiphone Nighthawk Custom Reissue for $200. I have an Epiphone Johnny A model I bought new on layaway from the store I work for with an employee discount. I have a gorgeous Gibson LP Traditional Pro II I got from the same store for $1,475, probably my most expensive guitar. The list goes on, 25 beauties like this but still I find many new guitars are just out of reach as far as price goes.

    So, how did you do it? How did you possibly come up with the USA PRS money, or the R9 funds, or anything over $2,000 per item, and then how did you buy several guitars over that price?

    Thanks for replying. I'd rather this not turn into a flame war against all companies with expensive guitars. I honestly would like folks to share their stories on how they acquired these types of more expensive guitars.

    Thanks.

    Jam
     
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  2. BGood

    BGood Well-Known Member

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    My wife worked as a guide on a real fancy cruise boat in the Artic where some cabins go for 42,000€ a week. There were people that had been in the same cabin for 3 months.

    Just to show that for some, money is not a factor.
     
  3. Paruwi

    Paruwi Kraut-Rocker

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    Some of my friends had lost more $$$$$ / €€€€€ in just one or two years on their new bought cars than I've spent on my guitars/amps in the last twelve years......
    and I still have most of my equipment, not losing much value in the future
     
  4. Paruwi

    Paruwi Kraut-Rocker

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    When I've re-started my 'guitar journey' around 12 years ago I had to save up a few months to get my
    first 'good' guitar, an €piphone Lucille, back then they were around €800 new.
    Basicly I've saved up all I could, mostly from doing side-jobs, cause I had to feed a wife and two girls as a sole earner.
    Back then I thought I had to buy new - that has changed for the most part.
    I try to fill up my war-chest and scan the market, if there is something that gets my interest i try to get it at a good price.
    This worked very well, so I've sold some guitars/amps for a profit.
    The most expensive guitar I've bought was a new FGN Masterfield for € 1700.-
    now they sell for ~ €2000.-
    The most expensive one, the FGN Virtuoso usually sells for €4-5000.- when new - I've spent € 1700.-
    The most expensive amp I've bought is a Mesa Express 5:25+ Combo,
    they sold around €1700-2200.- when new - I got mine for less than €800.- like new condition,
    only footswitch was missing.

    So my way to get those 'expensive' items is: save up and be patient.....
    never bought a guitar/amp on credit
     
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  5. Herman Munster

    Herman Munster New Member

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    A guitar made out of wood has a neck and a body .A pick-up if it's a electric. Why certain ones are priced so high ? Good question doesn't make any sense to me . I have cheaper priced guitars that play and sound better than my so called expensive guitars . So save your money and just try some copies if you will , you will find other being able to say it's a so and so (bragging rights) it's just a guitar after all. You play it and are happy with it that's all that matters. Herman
     
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  6. soulman969

    soulman969 Well-Known Member

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    Without getting into all of the politics of income inequality consider this.

    A married couple in their mid 50s or older with a home that's paid off or nearly paid off still earning over $100k a year jointly would in all likelihood have a pretty fair amount of discretionary after tax income.

    I know of single or divorced guys with no other monthly expenses but some utility and insurance payments and the cost of whatever they spend on food, clothing, and other incidentals getting over $3000 per month in retirement income. It's not too tough to spend $3000 or more on a pricey guitar or multiple guitars and pay them off over 12-48 months taking advantage of a dealers 0% interest payment plan.

    Or, we can look at some who are triple dippers. Over age 65 and retired collecting monthly SS income, a military pension, and a pension from a corporate plan or monthly/annual income from personal retirement plans such as 401k, 403c, or IRAs.

    While this may be a fairly small group comparatively speaking they do exist.
     
  7. Supersonic

    Supersonic Well-Known Member

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    Any guitar player that says they would never want a $5k guitar is a liar.

    That said, when you look at reality, someone can get 9 or 10 high quality Epis that span every tonal and style need for every genre...or get one Gibson LP Custom for the same price. Hell, you could get a high end $2k tube amp and still have 3 grand for guitars left over.

    It's a no brainer for me, but some people have to have the name. If they have the cash to spend then by all means go out and buy that $10k PRS and have fun looking at it in the display case on the wall.
     
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  8. soulman969

    soulman969 Well-Known Member

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    Then that would be me. I'd spend $2500 each on two amps before I'd ever spend $5k on any guitar.

    My playing would not be enhanced by a $5000 guitar but I'm sure most $2500 amps would knock my $500 amps out of the park and they aren't bad amps either. Just not the same level as a Two Rock, a Magnatone, a Mesa, or any one of a dozen or two dozen more I'd love to have. :drool:
     
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  9. Supersonic

    Supersonic Well-Known Member

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    That's why I mentioned amps, I feel the same way as you.

    And there's a difference between wanting something and actually buying it. Meaning 'would I like to have a True Historic R9 ?' Sure. 'Would I actually buy a true historic R9 ?' Not a snowball's chance in hell.
     
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  10. Bradley D. Lyons

    Bradley D. Lyons Well-Known Member

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    I'm a software engineer and single. I make less than you claim you were, but I live frugally and save money. My mortgage is about half of what most people pay for rent on a one bedroom apartment these days, I take care of my car and put about 1/3 of the miles on it/them that most people do. Wealth isn't necessary, planning is.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2020 at 10:45 PM
  11. Supersonic

    Supersonic Well-Known Member

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    The being single part helps A LOT with the saving money part :D
     
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  12. soulman969

    soulman969 Well-Known Member

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    Agreed coupled with wise shopping.

    I've never fallen into the hole of buying something then taking a beating if I sold or traded it. That along with some careful money management has allowed me to rebuild nicely over the past ten years even though I don't make anywhere near the money I did in my hey day. And yes, being single has helped a whole lot.
     
  13. grinwer

    grinwer New Member

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    No.

    Good (successful) Special or Standard (Professional)
    pretty. For me.
    I don't know why I need more than an EPI 339 Pro (possibly Les Paul ES), Standard or Florentine (!).
    Further - the sound is not better, they look - a matter of taste, but the Custom Shop is not my choice.

    I also don't know why I need a lot of guitars.

    There is a lot of snobbery and placebo in our business. I'm not that one.
    There are also terms of contracts.
    It is sad.
     
  14. Jam Handy

    Jam Handy Member

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    There's some really good comments here, thanks to all for adding your thoughts and ideas.

    Warning, long post ahead... LOL

    I have sort of an "attack plan" when I am up for buying stuff. First up, I rarely buy anything brand new. Even a $600 MAP price guitar can be had for less used and often in showroom mint condition. I also usually don't buy sight unseen (except for pictures) and sound unheard and play ability not felt by buying off the Internet. I prefer sitting down in a good well-stocked mom and pop store for used items. Those stores are becoming far and few between with the national chain and Internet take-over but they do exist.

    If I might give one shameless plug for one store that I think is the best store on the planet for guitars would be Motor City Guitar ib Waterford, Michigan. (North side of Detroit). Marty the owner stocks and has on display somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 stomp boxes in every range. He carries and stock most every kind of boutique amp as well. Maybe not some of the very obscure, but tons of stuff you'll never see at Guitar Center or Sam Ash. I lost count but over 1,000 guitars hanging on his walls of all different prices from $60 no-names to high-end Gibsons, Fenders, PRS, Suhr and many more. Last time I was at my local Guitar Center, they look impressive by the way they hang them on display, but I counted 15 electric guitars. I think the same store had about 50 or less pedals. Marty and his wife started that store over 30 years ago and it is still going strong.

    Marty's store really spoiled me for choices. We have 2 Guitar center stores, a Sam Ash and a George's Music here in Jacksonville and they just don't compare to the stock of guitars, pedals, and amps Marty has at MCG. His store is more like what you'd see in Nashville. Chicago, New York or L.A.

    Wish there was a store like that in every city.

    My number 2 "attack plan" is to regularly search the local Craigslist and Facebook marketplace for my area. Also, a lot of the national chain stores have a "used" section where I've found some really great deals. Guitar Center and Sam Ash both have online "used" sections. Sweetwater posts an online affiliate page for used but they do not manage or get involved with any of the ads there. The Sweetwater used place is more like a Craigslist place just under the Sweetwater name, they have no other connection.

    If I do ever venture in to a Guitar Center or Sam Ash store I make a beeline straight to the used section and see what's hanging there used. My philosophy (for the most part) in buying used versus new is... "let some other guy take the 30% depreciation hit with a new purchase." No matter what you buy guitar-equipment-wise depreciates the second you walk out the door with it. For conversation sake, if you buy a guitar for $1,000 next week it's used and you can get something like $700 for the same guitar in mint condition as a now used item. It is no longer new. Some folks may be better at bartering for prices, but that's a general perspective.

    But if you buy used for $700, unless you're in a hurry to get dollars and have yo cut the price to some ridiculous deal, you'll see the same $700 on a used item (unless the guitar got thrashed or something).

    Another way I have bought 3 guitars and one amp is... Sam Ash has a plan called "Progressive Leasing." After being disabled my credit is shot. Once you can't work or get income, and long before the government finally agrees you can get SSI disability (which ain't much) the way of the system is to... turn off your lights from not paying our bill... turn off your internet service... turn off your phone... then you get evicted and you find yourself homeless (I lived in the toppered box of my truck, long story, a good one for another thread).

    Anyways, even on my stated income of $783 on SSI social security disability I still qualify for around $1,000 financing from Progressive Leasing at Sam Ash. Its kind of screwed up as far as how the money flows. Its not a credit card its a "lease". You have 90-days to pay off whatever one item you decide to buy. You pay a fee of around $85 and get to walk home with a new or used guitar. Then, 30-days later you make your first payment through auto-pay at your bank.

    I just brought home one of the new Epiphone Firebirds and an Firebird case a couple months ago. The guitar and case (new) were like $718. To use the service there is a finance charge up front. So I pay about $135/mo for 3 months and in the 3rd month I pay off whatever the balance is on the "lease" and the contract is over. My 3rd month payment will be the $135 + around $380 to polish off the balance. Its not cheap, its more finance charge than you'd spend if I could get a credit card and pay it off, but I have bought 3 nice guitars and an amp this way with no credit. My credit score post-disability is 399 on one and 586 on another. Nobody is going to give me a credit card for the next century, LOL.

    Buying using Progressive Leasing I've bought:
    - 2020 Epiphone Firebird and case (new)
    - 2020 Fender (MIM) Deluxe Nashville Telecaster (new)
    - 2018 Jackson Randy Rhoads RRT5 and case (used)
    - Orange Rocker 15 combo (new with a discounted price goochy in the grill where looked like some kid had stuck his finger)

    Another method of buying I've used most frequently is finding a store that does layaways. Sometimes a good mom and pop store will let me stretch out a layaway beyond 90-days. This is like buying on credit with no credit and no interest... so kind of "interest free" buying in a way. This usually comes after I've sat down in a store and test drove a guitar and really liked it. I have bought 29 items on layaways in the last 3 years (everything I now own I've bought in the last 3 years). Amps, pedals, guitars, my current Pedaltrain pedal board. I am the Lay-A-Way king. Beautiful thing is, I've locked in some great deals right then and right now by being able to pack it away on a layaway. Stuff I'm certain would have been gone should I have hesitated.

    Such as a Fender American Elite HSS Strat I saw at a pawn shop. I saw "Fender" on the headstock and at first thought it was probably a Mexi-Fender. I wrote down the serial number and did a few minutes of research. Figured out what model it was, saw they were selling new in the $1,900-ish range, and gulped because the pawn shop was only asking $675 for the guitar in mint condition (still had the plastic which I always soon remove from the pickguard). It still came with the original Fender Elite case and inside the case was all the case candy and a certificate of authenticity. It is the nicest Strat I've ever owned. Normal 3-way blade for your regular 5 Strat tones, then an S1 on the volume gives you 5 more tones, down by the tone controls there is an on/on push/push to cut the tone circuit out and go directly to the humbucker for and 11th sound. Ebony fretboard, locking tuners, solid machined steel saddles, what a find for $675. I used the pawn shops layaway to buy it that same day. Its one of those guitars if I had waited somebody else would have ended up with...

    I think what Supersonic said about everyone would want a $5,000 guitar might be true to some angle. There's a couple reasons why I wouldn't really want a guitar that cost that much. For one its like patting the guitar maker on the head and giving them positive reinforcement to go ahead and keep asking ridiculous prices for instruments. It actually sort of disturbs me that companies are asking these kind of prices for a wooden product often times hasn't had any major design changes or innovations since the 1950s. -- Another thing I would be afraid to play it in a club for fear of theft or damage. That's me, I guess people do do that kind of thing... -- I'm not sure I'd want it in my home as a target for thieves. (Howbeit they'd have to get past my dog and my AK-47). -- If I touch it, as clutzy as I am I'm sure to scratch it, dent it, and make the value drop just by using it. -- I could have TEN $500 guitars for the same price and probably be way more nourished for different tones, pickups and body styles. -- I don't ever even pick up those guitars in those price ranges because I can't possibly afford them, and I don't know of any store that would do a 3-year layaway. LOL.

    I do admire beautiful things just like everyone normally would. My favorite car on Earth if I had the money would be a Ferrari. I once had a Corvette that I spent a small fortune on and created a 550hp fire-breathing monster. But that's like comparing my $150 bargain deal Epiphone Les Paul Traditional Pro that I gutted and replaced all the innerds, to a finally hand-crafted hand-made boutique guitar. The Corvette will never be a Ferrari. My Epiphones will never be Gibsons. But with a 550hp small block Chevy under the hood I had a helluva lot of fun with that Corvette (several people were afraid to ride with me after their first ride... LOL). And I have a helluva lot of fun with all my $500-$1,000 guitars. (All 25 of them).
     
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  15. grinwer

    grinwer New Member

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    +1
    Marketers have taken over the world.
     
  16. Jam Handy

    Jam Handy Member

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    Also... I got my "gotta have it, gotta have a top of the line guitar" juice poured out when I was 17-18 years old (now 58). For a graduation present and incentive to stop smoking pot back in the day my mom bought me a brand spanking new Gibson Les Paul Artisan. We ordered it in June of 1980 and it came in from the Kalamazoo Gibson plant in October of 1980. This month that guitar has been in my measily meathooks for 40 years.

    I insisted that when it came in I would be the person to pop the staples on the shipping box and the store let me do that. In the day it was pretty much the most expensive Les Paul they made. Sort of a Les Paul Custom with super-fancy hearts and flowers inlays up the neck and on the headstock, and a Script Gibson logo. Heavy? Ugh... its a Norlin-era LP, heaviest guitar I've ever owned at 13lbs 6 oz. A log of deep, rich Series VII high output pickup tone. Its going in the coffin with me when I expire from this world.

    Brand new, tax included this guitar was $925.60 in 1980. Using Gibson's seemingly who the hell knows how they get these prices spreadsheet, I imagine new today would be considered some kind of "custom shop" piece and priced more like $9,256.00 (or probably some ridiculous price over that). (If I were to take a wild guess, something like $25,000 these days).

    Here's my baby... she's been with me through hell and high water and through every f-ed thing and every blessed thing I've ever lived through. Mom passed in 2011, so up to heaven, "thank you mom" for the coolest guitar I've ever owned, and... one of those "really super expensive" guitars...

    1980 Gibson Les Paul Artisan

    1980 - Gibson Les Paul Artisan.jpg
    DSCF0384sm.jpg
    DSCF0383sm.jpg
    (Real authentic wear, not a "relic")
    DSCF0386sm.jpg
    DSCF0368sm.jpg
     
  17. grinwer

    grinwer New Member

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    You touched my heart
    Interesting Stop Bar. Have a close-up photo?
     
  18. Paruwi

    Paruwi Kraut-Rocker

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    Schaller TP-6 / Gibson PTTP-040
    mostly used on the Lucille

    [​IMG]
     
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  19. Raiyn

    Raiyn Well-Known Member

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    Don't look at me. My latest started @ $600 before case and TUSQ nut install. After that I added locking tuners, shielding, and my preferred jack. Heck even after a sweet set of new knobs I'm still a decent dinner for 2 under a grand.

    I'd love one of those new American Pro II Fenders that are riding the YouTube hype train right now :drool:. However, with everything going on this year, I'm fortunate enough to have my first new axe. Even if it's a Tribute.
     
  20. rjwilson37

    rjwilson37 New Member

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    I live in California, and I wonder how people can afford a new house here, paying a minimum of 500k for a 3 bedroom 1300 sqft home. I did pick up a Gibson Custom for just under 5k a few years ago, and the hype is real, it is a very nice guitar for sure. But... it is just a guitar like any other after a while of having it now for a couple of years. I just picked up the new Epiphone Les Paul Custom Joe Bonamassa BB, and it is a really nice guitar with an ebony fretboard, where my Gibson Custom has richlite. Anyway, I just picked up the Epiphone Custom and after I get it setup the way I like it, I will be doing a close comparison to see how different they really are. I changed the strings and oiled the fretboard last night, now hopefully today I can finish the setup to get her right for me and have a little bit of time with her to really give her good go at it with my TH30.
     
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