Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Flippin' sweet

Late last year, I decided I wanted to try to expand on my guitar playing hobby and see if I could turn it into a little bit of a money-making venture by buying and reselling guitars and guitar gear. I was not under the illusion that I could get rich or quit my day job doing this, but scanning the local Craigslist musical instrument classifieds day after day had planted the idea in my head that it might be possible to make a few bucks here and there.

Because as it turns out, most of the people who are selling stuff on Craigslist are not very smart. They take lousy pictures with cell phone cameras, they can't manage to describe their items in any detail, they sell stuff without cleaning it first, and they don't have a very strong command of written English with all its crazy capital letters and periods. My theory was that since I take pretty good photos and can string a few words together (and let's face it, my problem is that I don't stop at a few), I might be able to buy stuff under market value and sell it at market value. And along the way, I would be able to demo all kinds of guitars and effects that I couldn't otherwise afford.

So I talked with Tracey about it, and she agreed to let me take $200 out of our budget one month to start this up. That was the most I could spend on my first buy, and it turned out to be just enough. I bought an imported Telecaster from a college student who needed to pay his parking tickets before the school would let him return to classes, and I was on my way.

That was about six or seven deals ago, and I have just about doubled my money, having a whole lot of fun along the way. There's something I enjoy about getting a guitar that's been collecting someone's bedroom dust for a year, cleaning it up, adjusting the action, and getting it ready for sale. It's sort of cathartic to take these dirty things and make them clean, and in the process increase their value by 20–30%.

I'm now at the point where I can have more than one deal going at once, which adds some flexibility to my buying patterns. And as an added bonus, I very often get lots of little accessories out of these deals. For example, that Telecaster I bought came in a nice case. I was able to put one of my own guitars in that case and still sell the Telecaster for a profit. I also get lots of cables and tuners and straps and things like that. None of these items affects a guitar's resale value in any appreciable way, so I keep them for my own use.

Here are a few tips for selling stuff on Craigslist:

1. Take a decent photo. Borrow a real camera if you don't have one. Turn the flash off and shoot the item in natural light.

2. Write complete sentences that don't make you sound like a jerk I wouldn't want to talk to. Seriously, I have no idea why this is so hard.

3. Accept email. Duh? It's the Internet. I can't believe how many people post to Craigslist specifying that they only deal by phone.

A few photos of the items I've flipped:


Gary said...

My younger brother has done this for several years- since we grew up in a small town, he would see the same guitar multiple times.

uphillrider said...

I find it amazing how little difference price seems to make on the intertubes. I did a commercial for one of the biggest ebay resellers in the area who told me she got into the business when her brother bought a camp stove at K-Mart for $15 and sold it on ebay for $25.