That last trade for the Carvin was a bit of a risk, but a calculated one, and it paid off this weekend.
As I’ve learned during this project, there are a few guitar brands that have real draw. The combination of name recognition and often fierce brand loyalty means that they have both widespread appeal and a dedicated and fervent fan base. Fender and Gibson are the two that I’ve seen with that kind of power. Epiphone and Ibanez are respectable brands, too, but don’t have the gravitas of those big names. Paul Reed Smith guitars seem to be right between a Carvin and a Gibson, with a little more name recognition, but still kind of a guitarist’s guitar, and a following that absolutely swears by them. I’m sure there are others.
Carvin, though, who are they? They seemed to be a somewhat small, boutique outfit who had been around for a while, with a reputation for good quality guitars that weren’t all that widely available. This made it risky with real potential payoff, though; it’s a lesser-known brand, but with potentially a lot of interest among those who have heard of it.
That ended up being the case with Greg (not his real name). Greg wrote and offered me a beautiful Gibson Les Paul guitar, with a near-immaculate satin gold finish, no dings, dents, or scratches, and only the slightest wear. Looking into it, I found that that guitar had sold in the past for anywhere between $800 and $1,800, and I’d valued the Carvin at $1,550. But I wasn’t finding many of this Gibson model available, and with its high quality and excellent condition, scarcity is my friend.
“I have tomorrow off,” Greg told me on Thursday. “I’m coming from Sonora, so, bit of a drive.”
He must mean Sonoma, I thought. And he’s right, forty-five minutes is a bit of a drive for a trade but hey, I’ve done it (shoutout to that Stockton Denny’s!) But no, he meant Sonora, in the Yosemite foothills.
That’s a 2 1/2 hour drive. One way.
I really didn’t want to make this guy drive that far if I wasn’t sure. So I thought on it, did some more research, thought about how long I’ve wanted to have a Gibson guitar to trade, and decided to go for it. If his guitar was in worse shape than he’d let on, that wasn’t on me.
And of course it wasn’t. It was just as he’d described and just as beautiful as I’d expected. And he was so happy with his get. “I have like seven Les Pauls at home, and I’ve always wanted a Carvin.” It always feels really good to make trades where the other party is getting something they really want.
And, the guy made the drive worth it. On the way out he stopped in Tracy to see his daughter. Was gonna head to Elk Grove outside of Sacramento on his way back to stop and see his brother. He made a day of it. That made me feel better.
As for me, I was able to meet him outside the Guitar Center in Emeryville, make the trade, and get back home without having to eat into much of my Friday workday.
One weird story from our exchange: We were both in masks, and there were some paramedics taking a break outside their ambulance nearby. Greg motioned to his mask (we were both wearing masks) and he said to me, “This stuff drives me crazy. You look at the EMTs and they’re not wearing masks, and it just…” He shook his head.
And I was like, “Yeah man I hear you.” But immediately I thought, wait I’m actually not sure which thing this guy is complaining about. Is it that he’s frustrated that even EMTs aren’t following the basic public health advice? Or is he suggesting that EMTs don’t wear the masks, so this all feels like a big hoax? It honestly was unclear to me.
Anyway as I usually do, I said at the end, “Well, normally I would shake your hand, but…” And he was like, “Nope, I’m good with that,” as he turned away with his new guitar.
So maybe that gives me my answer.
1984 Mercier Le Velo line:
Original item value: $200
Number of trades to date: 6
Latest trade: 1996 Carvin DC400M electric guitar ($1550) for 2017 Gibson Les Paul Gold Top Tribute ($1750)
Total line value dollar increase: $1550
Total line value percent increase: 775%
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