News From The Pit

This Old Guitar
By Jimmy Brown

What is one of the old guitar surprises you have encountered?

Hardly a day goes by that I am not surprised by something or somebody. Dealing with the public is a sort of mixed blessing, and what I've learned is that there is always more to learn. We are all each other's teachers, I suppose. While I have been surprised many, many times, one story comes immediately to mind.

In 1982 we were still in our original location on Baxter Avenue. It was the fall of '82 and the "Louisville Tonight" television show was going to run a feature story on our shop. It was exciting, fun, and a little embarrassing, what with this kind of attention.

You might think that this publicity would bring in lots of business everybody flocking in to buy from our fine selection of vintage guitars after seeing the show. I know I did. It's good common reasoning, don't you think? Well, au contraire. People flocked in all right, but not to buy our guitars. They came to get some cold, hard cash for those dusty old guitars in their closets and attics. Most of those guitars were junk, but there were a few gems in there.

Anyway, a man called (he will remain anonymous) and said he saw our story on TV the night before and that he had an old guitar he wanted to sell to us. It was a 50's Gibson Les Paul, he said and asked if would we want to buy it. I assured him we would be interested in this guitar, so he told me in a kind, gentlemanly, and very matter-of-fact voice that he would be over at 4:30 p.m. with his guitar to sell to us, no ifs, ands or buts. Just be fair and straight up with him, that was his only request.

Promptly at 4:30, he arrived with his wife and guitar in hand. Everything was just as it should be. He arrived on time, and the guitar was just as he said it would be a '58 Gold Top Les Paul, in near-mint original condition. We exchanged pleasantries, then I examined his guitar, trying not to draw too much attention to it, as it was crowded and busy that day.

Throughout this whole exchange, I was assuming we would be buying this guitar. My only concerns were determining the fair market value for this guitar and trying not to create a disturbance, what with the bunch of people all standing around, ready to pounce on this guitar and start geeking away.

Besides, it was just not prudent to discuss in a room full of strangers how many thousands of dollars this guitar was worth and just how much money we about to lay on this older man and his wife. Subtlety was the route to take.

Anyway, I informed the gentleman as to just what he had and how much of that amount we would be paying him. Much to my surprise, the man was shocked by the figure I quoted him.

"It's not too little?" I asked him.

On the contrary, he and his wife couldn't believe that this old guitar they bought in 1958 for $260 could be worth so many thousands today.

Mr. And Mrs. Guitar Owner, come on down! Your ship has arrived!

So at that point, they had a sudden change of heart and, rather than sell this guitar, decided that they would keep it for a rainy day. They then politely asked me to write them an appraisal for their guitar, which I did.

Needless to say, I was a little shell shocked myself. I realized that I could have offered him a few hundred dollars for the guitar, and he would have sold it to me. But he had called, said he was going to sell us the guitar and asked only that I be straightforward and honest about it, which is what I tried to be. So, it just goes to show while it's okay to make plans, don't plan on the outcome.

As a postscript, I should add that a number of years later, the gentleman and his wife decided to do some remodeling, so they brought in that '58 Les Paul, (complete with matching amp by the way) to have us sell for them. It had been a great investment, and we were able to help them by selling it when the time was right.

So, maybe "fair and straight up" paid off after all.

It's a new day here at the old "rock" quarry and, since I've brought my hard hat, it's time to get to work.

Until next time, keep rockin.