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11 Pointers for Buying and Selling Gear

This post focuses on some tips for getting the most for your equipment when you decide to flip it on the market.

I worked in used music store for three years not only as a salesman but also as a buyer.  It’s an interesting job, particularly in the city: I caught some thieves, made some really good buys and some really bad buys.  I learned a lot about what makes gear sellable.  Sooner or later, no matter how well you choose the equipment you use, you’ll be in a position to get rid of something (often for something better).

Tips

  1. Buy used – Used gear, when treated properly, can be a great value.  It helps to be very knowlegeable about how the sort of equipment you’re looking for.  For instance, an experienced guitarist would know to check the neck of a guitar for uneven rises and bad frets.  An experienced audio engineer would check a console for unreliable pots and connections.  But, if you have the opportunity to check out the gear thoroughly before buying, getting used means that you’ll get more of your money’s worth when you sell it down the line.
  2. Find the ‘sweet spot’ time to sell it – Most equipment, particularly techie stuff that becomes obsolete, has a few weeks where the market still will pay a decent rate before the bigger, better, newer product comes out.  I find that the best time to flip gear is as soon as you hear the company is releasing its replacement but before it hits the market.  I sold my MBox version 1 for what I paid for it (used) just as MBox2 was announced.  This is particularly fun to do many product releases in a row… so you can keep up with the latest without taking a big hit in-between.  If even you don’t really need the latest gear, most companies have planned obsolescence whereby eventually your equiment will not be supported.  Not really that great.  This relates to…
  3. The longer you wait to sell techie gear the less you’ll get – stuff like computer equipment, samples or libraries in proprietary formats, and such you should sell as soon as you are aware you don’t need or want it any more.  These things almost never experience upticks in market value, so sell ASAP.
  4. The newest gear is sometimes unproven – if you’re eyeballing the latest and greatest thing to replace something you use a lot, consider not selling your older piece.  If it works for you, that’s really important to consider.  New products are often unproven and require a learning curve to get the most out of them.  This is particularly true for major software releases.
  5. eBay is a good place to check for market prices on used stuff – Do a search for the gear you want to sell an hit the ‘Completed Listings’ checkbox.  Ignore ‘new’ items… just look for items that have actual photos and are genuinely used items.  10% above the lowest price you’ll find for an item of the same condition is probably a good asking price for your gear.  Set Buy it Now to what you really want to get just in case there’s someone out there who desperately wants it and is willing to pay a premium.  Don’t rely on Buy it Now!  There are some exceptions… especially like things that are too big or awkward to ship that won’t sell as high on eBay as a result. Usually things like instruments are cheaper online than in stores because stores usually do some minor work on the gear to improve its condition (and buyers can verify that work in person).
  6. Craigslist is filled with flakes and diamonds-in-the-rough – If you try posting on Craigslist, mark up your item a bit because you will get low-balled.  Have the buyer come to you or you’ll end up wasting your time (buyers often flake out at the last minute).  On the other hand, selling to someone local can make a new contact or friend.  It’s an admirable thing to keep gear local, too.  It’s good for the scene as long as people are honest.
  7. You’ll take a big hit when selling to a store – expect stores to pay betwen 30-60% of the fair market price.  They have to pay employees, pay rent, and keep the lights on.  But… their checks won’t bounce and they often reciprocate if you’re a regular customer.  Getting a deal on just the right used purchase because you’re a good customer is awesome.
  8. Fix up the gear you’re selling as best you can without spending money on it – when selling a guitar, for instance, oil and clean the fretboard, scrub the bridge with a toothbrush, peel off stickers (and Goo-Gone them if the remains are grubby), etc.  I can make many used guitars look new and you’d better bet you’ll make 30% more if it looks good.  You can buff out scratches on most equipment with fine car gloss.  Remove knobs and de-oxit pots and faders (just spraying it in and wiggling it back and forth fixes most scratchiness issues).
  9. BE HONEST – Dont try to pull a fast one on people.  When posting on eBay, take photos of all cosmetic damage and document clearly any issues the gear has.  You do not want a pissed customer because it sucks up your time and will eventually ruin your reputation.
  10. If it’s hosed, try As Is – There are a lot of really handy, smart people out there with parts lying around.  Selling things As Is is surprisingly effective and way better than throwing it out.
  11. Sometimes ‘broken’ becomes a feature – I once bought a cheap, solid state 50s era organ amplifier that was pretty broken for a dollar.  It produced the most disgusting distortion ever (which was a bad thing in the 50s but can be neat now).  It was probably a fire hazard, but it sounded really unique.