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Question On Selling Your Custom Guitars


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Late last year I completed my first build and it came out better then I expected. It plays extremely well and I honestly surprised myself.

I cant wait to begin my next project but I have a major obstacle in my way in the form of cash. For my next project I want to build two builds simultaneously.

One of them will go to a friend and he is paying for his raw materials which will come out to around $800 by my estimates not including time. I dont plan on marking that one up and will be doing it just for the experience and to add a completed build under my belt.

The second one will be funded by me out of my savings with the intention of hopefully selling after it is completed. I like to make enough off the sale to make my money back and hopefully fund another future build.

So what I'd like is some suggestions on how I might I go about selling this? I had a thought to document these upcoming builds on Harmony Central and possibly generate some interest there but I think its against their TOS. I'd love to hear suggestions.

The second question is how much to you think I could expect to fetch for a quality custom guitar from a no name amateur? I have a figure in my head of between $1600 -$2k. It that unreasonable?

I plan on doing a mahogany body / maple top design with 2 HB's in it with a polished nitro burst finish. I'm not looking to start a full time business here. I just really enjoyed building the last one and want to progress my new hobby without my savings account taking too bad of a beating in the process. If I could make a little bit of money it would be a bonus but its not the objective.

I look forward to the responses and be gentile.

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Since I am a gentile, I'll respond :D

I have made commission customs for people and done several custom finishes for people related to guitars. I also write software. Both are related in that they require skill and time. Lesson learned - nobody likes to pay for someone else's "time". My father-in-law is a master woodworker who builds grandfather clocks that sell for 10-25k each. He sells maybe 3 a year and constantly hears that so-and-so company makes one for 1/3rd the price.

You can sell them and ask exactly what you want for it - but the question that needs to be prepared for is what's the value in your custom build that isn't already available - other than it's handbuilt? Is there something awesome about the handbuilt process that makes the setup better? (I'm just throwing this out rhetorically).

Most of the builds that I have sold are unique in shape and or finish and people are willing to pay for that because it looks custom. Just my thoughts.

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Most of the builds that I have sold are unique in shape and or finish and people are willing to pay for that because it looks custom. Just my thoughts.

+1

You'll get nowhere build anything that can be readily available by any manufacturer. Build something unique.

I only accept truly custom guitars. Even if the shape is something like a Tele, there has to be something about the design that you can't get anywhere else and I'm talking about more than the type of wood used.

The last custom build, I backed out. I refunded the deposit because the guy kept changing his mind on level of completeness, parts procurement, kept wanting to change certain things (i.e. trem, no trem, finish, color etc), kept wanting to drive the price down and wanted the guitar quickly. It takes a LOT of time when you have to constantly reprice stuff and change things around. from now on, the spec sheet is not modifiable after work has started. It only takes one semi-bad experience to learn this.

One word of advice - do the best work you can and never work for nothing. If someone lowballs you, tell them to look elsewhere.

in terms of selling, the approach I'm taking for the next couple of builds is consignment at a good local retailer but the best way in my opinion is to have someone commission a guitar.

Consignment can create interest in your guitars but you won't get as much money this way.

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if think its a bit unreasonable to expect $2k from your second build - but someone may pay it if the quality is there (it wasnt with my second :D )

I know when i first started selling a few the local guitar shops were suggesting i asked a lot more than i was comfortable with(£2-3k, nearly $6k at that time), shockingly those early guitars did not sell at that price! (unknown builder, unusual guitars)

realisticly - if you can cover material costs and get a bit of money towards the next then people are paying for your hobby and hopefully getting a bargain in the process. You get to develop your skills both with woodwork, guitar making and set-up and dealing with people requirements. and most importantly you get instruments out into the world - and the more of them you have, with happy customers telling the world about your stuff, the more you will be able to charge for the next

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if think its a bit unreasonable to expect $2k from your second build - but someone may pay it if the quality is there (it wasnt with my second :D )

Agreed - I still have to redo the finish on my 2nd build. #3 and #4 were pretty good but still, could be better in some aspects.

By the time you build 5 guitars or more, the quality should be more consistent, with less mistakes.

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Thanks for the input so far.

I totally get the unique factor and agree. Its something I've been struggling with while designing my next build. Coming up with something thats not cookie cutter and not been done to death and yet still having pleasing lines is not an easy task. At least for me.

WezV-you may be right about 2k as an unreasonable amount. I'd be happy making enough to cover the expense of the hobby at this point. Anything extra would be a bonus.

I think the quality is there in my first build. I've owned lot of guitars in my years and I feel my first build is up there with some of the nicer ones I've owned as far as playability, despite some of the mistakes I made along the way. It really exceeded my expectations. I hope my second can stay on par.

Kpcrash-"what's the value in your custom build that isn't already available - other than it's handbuilt?"

Food for thought and an excellent question to ask myself. I'll defiantly keep this in try to keep it in mind while finalizing the design process on my next build.

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I finished my seventh build recently which was my first true commissioned build, not something asked to be done by a friend. After maybe guitar #3 I started selling them, but only on eBay or a small local shop. Knowing that I am an unknown name people would not be willing to shell out high dollars for my guitars. The eBay guitars I listed once at what I felt was a realistic, but a high number. None of them sold, so I relisted them and knocked them down to what I thought was fair and they sold. I made maybe $100 or a little more on each of them. That did not pay for any time though, that was only money above materials and parts. I felt it was a fair deal though, because this is not my livelyhood it is a hobby. The two I sold locally I told the store owner the price I wanted to list them at and told him the lowest I would accept and that he could negotiate the price on them. I've dealt with the guy for a long time and trusted him to get me a fair deal, which he did. I made about $250 on each of those. So I earned enough to upgrade a few tools.

I'm still early enough in the process that I feel if I can build a guitar with no money out of my pocket and make a little to keep upgrading my tools I am happy. This is my hobby and it doesn't cost me money. I build guitars for fun and to relax, I'll worry about making a profit when I start getting weekly requests for quotes. Until then if I can walk away with a few dollars in my pocket I achieved what I wanted to.

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would you pay more than $750 for a guitar on ebay from an unknown maker. I certainly wouldnt without playing it and discussing the purchase with the builder.

lots of cheaper factories are capable of producing unusual instruments and calling them 'custom' and even sometimes 'handmade' - look at someone like agile... how do you know this unknown brand you are ordering is not something along those lines with clever marketing speak?

the only other thing you can sometiems rely on is reviews, and it aint easy to get them if you dont shift guitars!

ebay is not the best place for small guitar builders, but if you are willing to not make much profit it can be a good way to get a worldwide audience for your stuff!

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would you pay more than $750 for a guitar on ebay from an unknown maker. I certainly wouldnt without playing it and discussing the purchase with the builder.

lots of cheaper factories are capable of producing unusual instruments and calling them 'custom' and even sometimes 'handmade' - look at someone like agile... how do you know this unknown brand you are ordering is not something along those lines with clever marketing speak?

the only other thing you can sometiems rely on is reviews, and it aint easy to get them if you dont shift guitars!

ebay is not the best place for small guitar builders, but if you are willing to not make much profit it can be a good way to get a worldwide audience for your stuff!

My understand is that I could commission a build after having been to his shop or spoken to him, see the quality of his work and pay $750 for a hand made guitar. eBay is prob one of the worst way to sell a custom, handmade guitar.

You're right though, buying an unknown guitar is a bit of a risk.

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out of interest i just did a worldwide search in the guitar section of ebay for "handmade custom"

i got 23 electrics, 5 acoustics and 4 basses (32). about 16-18 fit that description of "handmade custom" for me (i.e not a handmade custom in a chinese sweatshop)... about 5 of those are currently under priced and will hopefully sell. most of the rest that are aiming for "market value" or more wont budge

here is a current bargain - will it go above $750??? it really should but who knows

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Schoepfer-8-sting-handmade-one-kind-custom-made-/250760334056?pt=Guitar&hash=item3a627b0ae8#ht_1464wt_1139

what about Flon Klar's banana

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Banana-Bass-handmade-fretless-must-see-custom-built-WOW-/250760333653?pt=Guitar&hash=item3a627b0955#ht_781wt_1139

(Didnt realise they were both the same seller)

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My understand is that I could commission a build after having been to his shop or spoken to him, see the quality of his work and pay $750 for a hand made guitar.

you would have the option of waiting for his next ebay bargain, which probably wont match the spec you want and may never happen if he is really good, or ordering exactly what you want at (reasonable, for a new unknown builder) commission prices

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It's tough to price a handmade guitar when you're not "in business". From what I've seen, you could get $2000 for a guitar with a unique shape or style, as long as it sounds and plays well. They're not easy to sell, though. You need to find the right person, or be willing to sell for less.

It took a long time before I could casually ask for $4000 for a custom. People rely on your experience, so selling them without a known name can be very difficult. There are guys who build in their spare time and sell them, but rarely for more than $2000, no matter how good the instrument is.

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Just saw your website.... very nice... but do you really sell a completely finished, ready to play handmade instrument for $750.00?

Wez pretty much sums up why my pricing is at the low end and Not You also touchs upon it nicely. In reality I am just starting out, yes I've built guitars but not enough to charge what an established builder can charge.

If you look at what is offered, you can basically get a standard simple body shape, i.e. strat clone, tele clone, vee. It's going to be a flat top with one or two colors of paint and it is woods that are easily and commonly available for low cost, there is no figured wood in there. From the suppliers I have tracked down I can buy enough lumber to build two bodies, 3 or 4 necks with fret boards for less than $75 total. Standard grade hardware is going to be along the lines of Gotoh TOMs or trems, nothing fancy or expensive but not cheap junk parts either. I'll use precut inlay which can be had reasonably cheap. So I am not spending a ton of time on it, and my material cost still stays within reason.

I am not going to rip someone off, but I also carefully worded everything so it sounds better than it is. For $750 you basically get a hand built Strat, nothing really that fancy. I took some time to find out what others are charging and gave it some serious thought and considered that I am truely an unknown and essentially an amateur builder. $750 as a starting line is still a lot of money for most people, and having no reputation I need to start somewhere. If I had a reputation like Perry, my price would go up very quickly, and one day I hope to get there. But for now this is truely a hobby and I am only looking to make a little money off it. As long as I don't spend my money on it, I am happy with it.

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I took some time to find out what others are charging and gave it some serious thought and considered that I am truely an unknown and essentially an amateur builder. $750 as a starting line is still a lot of money for most people, and having no reputation I need to start somewhere.

Honestly I think it is refreshing to see someone who is willing to start at the bottom instead of being just another guy demanding top dollar for skills that may or may not be there.

Think of it like this...for $2000 you can get a completely pro instrument...just because it is factory does not make it low quality..$2000 buys you a top of the line factory guitar...

But at the below $1000 range there is alot of room for improvement..and I mean a LOT.

You should be proud to provide high quality at a low price for now.Plenty of time to jack things up as your demand increases..

Bottom line..when there are more orders than you can get to,raise the price until the demand reaches levels you can keep up with.

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I took some time to find out what others are charging and gave it some serious thought and considered that I am truely an unknown and essentially an amateur builder. $750 as a starting line is still a lot of money for most people, and having no reputation I need to start somewhere.

Honestly I think it is refreshing to see someone who is willing to start at the bottom instead of being just another guy demanding top dollar for skills that may or may not be there.

Think of it like this...for $2000 you can get a completely pro instrument...just because it is factory does not make it low quality..$2000 buys you a top of the line factory guitar...

But at the below $1000 range there is alot of room for improvement..and I mean a LOT.

You should be proud to provide high quality at a low price for now.Plenty of time to jack things up as your demand increases..

Bottom line..when there are more orders than you can get to,raise the price until the demand reaches levels you can keep up with.

I agree 100% with Wes on this. My first guitar that I sold was at cost of materials. The next made a few dollars. My GOTM, well That one was special. Wish I had it back though. :D

MK

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Think of it like this...for $2000 you can get a completely pro instrument...just because it is factory does not make it low quality..$2000 buys you a top of the line factory guitar...

But at the below $1000 range there is alot of room for improvement..and I mean a LOT.

You should be proud to provide high quality at a low price for now.Plenty of time to jack things up as your demand increases..

Bottom line..when there are more orders than you can get to,raise the price until the demand reaches levels you can keep up with.

Definitely agree on this. When I get some requests for parts or complete guitars, I price my work reasonably, based on the amount of experience I have and what is available out there but for me, 1K is pretty much on the low end for a nice body, neck with figured wood, maybe an ebony board, nice hwardware. The last thinline build with unique specs was actually a little over 1K. My problem right now is is having to refuse commissions because of the lack of time.

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That is the one thing I love about the situation that I am in right now. I have a real life still so I limit the amount of work I'll take on. Plus I can turn down customers, because this is a hobby and not a carreer. I had one guy whoe lived about 15 minutes away that was very interested in a bass, but he was not 100% sure on some of the detail and he was talking about coming over to see the progress and watch me work at least once a week. I work out of my garage and only when I feel like working. I was not going to be held to his schedule and I refuse to have someone watching over my shoulder all of the time. If he wanted to stop in every couple of weeks or once a month to see how it looked and maybe make sure the feel was what he wanted, that would be fine. But once or more a week was too much for me, so I told him I appreciated the interest, but I had to decline.

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out of interest i just did a worldwide search in the guitar section of ebay for "handmade custom"

i got 23 electrics, 5 acoustics and 4 basses (32). about 16-18 fit that description of "handmade custom" for me (i.e not a handmade custom in a chinese sweatshop)... about 5 of those are currently under priced and will hopefully sell. most of the rest that are aiming for "market value" or more wont budge

here is a current bargain - will it go above $750??? it really should but who knows

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Schoepfer-8-sting-handmade-one-kind-custom-made-/250760334056?pt=Guitar&hash=item3a627b0ae8#ht_1464wt_1139

what about Flon Klar's banana

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Banana-Bass-handmade-fretless-must-see-custom-built-WOW-/250760333653?pt=Guitar&hash=item3a627b0955#ht_781wt_1139

(Didnt realise they were both the same seller)

Since I've been mentioned by name in a previous reply, I guess I'll add my $.02:

I've sold 2 of my basses on ebay. In both cases I started the bidding at the cost of materials, and in both cases that's what I ended up with. I sold my Banana bass (my 7th build) to the ebay seller (who currently has it for re-sale) for $500. So maybe ebay isn't the place for an unknown builder to make a profit, but I can only hope that the exposure and distribution of the product will help shine more of the spotlight on my work in the future. On a slightly different tack, I recently had 2 of my basses stolen, and the insurance company appraised them at $1200 each- so apparently they are maybe worth more than I can actually sell them for. That's where the whims of the buyers comes in to the equation- you never know how your work will strike someone out there, and how much they'd be willing to pay for it! I'm going to keep trying...

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I sold my Banana bass (my 7th build) to the ebay seller (who currently has it for re-sale) for $500.

looks like its appreciated in value then (currently $510), and its got a hell of a lot of bids with 2 days to go - its a step in the right direction, even if its not profit for you :D

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You should be proud to provide high quality at a low price for now.Plenty of time to jack things up as your demand increases..

Not necessarily... If you're asking $750, you'll start to be known as a sub-$1000 builder. If, after a few years, you price your guitars on par with other boutique builders, people will still think they're getting a $750-quality guitar. Take Schecter for example; they are not a lot of dough. If they came out with a $2000 guitar, I doubt anyone would buy it since in everybody's mind, they make "lesser" instruments due to their prices.

Be honest with yourself; if you need to improve to compete with factory-quality instruments, you probably shouldn't be selling them as a business. It's another thing if you're selling to your friends and just want to help support your hobby.

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Not necessarily... If you're asking $750, you'll start to be known as a sub-$1000 builder. If, after a few years, you price your guitars on par with other boutique builders, people will still think they're getting a $750-quality guitar. Take Schecter for example; they are not a lot of dough. If they came out with a $2000 guitar, I doubt anyone would buy it since in everybody's mind, they make "lesser" instruments due to their prices.

Pfft.First you have to get known at all.

But that theory makes no sense.Not to mention that Dean's $1000 guitars are in no way worth $1000,and a lot of the "custom builders" I see are in no way worth what they ask.On one hand I hear complaints about Gibson's prices,then I hear the same people crying that their instruments are worth $4000 or more?

And in too many cases the instruments sold are not heirloom quality,as ALL custom guitars at that price should be.If a $4000 guitar does not last a lifetime at least when properly cared for,it is a rip off.

And a $2000 factory guitar will last that long if not abused...90% of the time anyway...

i mean,I don't want to argue or hurt anyone's feelings,but I have owned more guitars than most,both factory and custom,and the best custom I have ever owned was less than $2000,and the best factory guitars I ever owned were both less than $1400 brand new..and those two best factory guitars are both as good as the custom,and both were better by far than the Jackson USAs I owned...and all three are world class instruments..

One is a Gibson,One is an Edwards,and the custom is a KXK...

So ,you know...

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Take Schecter for example; they are not a lot of dough. If they came out with a $2000 guitar, I doubt anyone would buy it since in everybody's mind, they make "lesser" instruments due to their prices.

or they might think - wow, a higher end schecter, gotta check that out

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