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bassaussie

Condition preference when buying a used Fender bass

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Hi all. I haven't participated on here on ages, but always love checking out the classifieds. I'm contemplating a purchase shortly of an older Fender, and have been watching what's available on the forum. One thing I've noticed is the apparent love of "mojo" - basses that might still be all original, but display a lot of signs of use. I'm just curious about what people's thoughts are on this, why they prefer that beaten up look over a more pristine example. Just to be clear, in my mind, there's no right or wrong, I think it's all very personal, although myself, I prefer something that's reasonably clean, with some signs of use.

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After many ‘new basses’ passing through my hands over the years I realised about 10 years ago that the only ones I hold on to seem to be used bassesn. Precisions are my general go to basses and I like them to have signs of having a life. To the point that the visual condition doesn’t matter to me in the slightest so long as it’s just cosmetic. The sight of a well worn sunburst P with a tort plate is enough to get me all of a quiver.

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I am always a little wary of mint vintage instruments, as to me, a virtually unused vintage instrument suggests one that is not that good an instrument, one that people have played, not really taken to and ended up selling on to someone else that soon finds it is not a player and moves it on again or, sticks it back in the box and shoves it under the bed in the hope then can recoup their money somewhere down the line.

A well worn instrument suggests a bass / guitar that people have wanted to play and play often which suggests to me a good instrument that plays well and sounds good?

It's like when these really early and highly desirable 1st year Fender's or genuine 59 Les Paul's come up for sale on the likes of Ebay / Gumtree etc, there are certainly more serious collectors out there than there are instruments that fit the bill, dealers will know where most of these instruments currently reside and they will likely already have a queue of buyer lined up if they come on the market so, to me, one of these instruments turning up on the likes of Ebay suggests an instrument that has issues or that the collectors don't rate?

I know I am generalising and there will be many instruments (some of which have been for sale on here) that would blow my argument out of the water!

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Un-modded is generally what I look for. I`ve been throught he changing pickups/bridges thing and have realised I prefer my Precisions stock.I`m not that fussed over a bit of wear & tear, as long as it looks like genuine wear and not an instrument that has either not been cared for, or made to look worn.

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I’m not sure how some people play their instruments, but a well looked after, yet old instrument won’t always be battered, bruised and have large sections of wood showing through. Some do, and I feel represent those that simply didn’t look after it, probably back in the day when they didn’t feel the need to look after them so much, as the value and desirability simply wasn’t there. 

Old and clean instruments are desired because they are looked after, like collectible cars, or anything else, they are not un-played because they have ‘issues’. Never understood that theory?

Personally, I look for an instrument that is as original as possible, including the finish, then the best condition I can afford for my budget at the time, depending what itch needs scratching at the time. 

I’m not suggesting worn guitars aren’t also good instruments, many certainly are, they’re just not as well looked after, and prices will reflect that. I have an ‘82 JV proto Jazz bass from April ‘82, I bought it in ‘84, gigged regularly with it until ‘95, and still play it very regularly, it doesn’t have any additional marks on it from the day I bought it 34 years ago. Doesn’t make it a bad bass, it’s actually one of my best, and most played. I also look after it.

Having said all that, I love to see an instrument with nice honest wear, even if I rarely buy them. 

Too many heavy relic things around these days which actually look nothing like a genuine old guitar, which is influencing how people I think about stuff I think.

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There are a few people on here that are constantly searching for "the one". Some basses can pass through several hands and hardly be played. I tend not to fret over a second hand bass still being in excellent condition because of this. I don't particularly seek out basses with wear as I tend to look after mine, and don't really do relics or vintage.

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I'm with Roger2611 and Lozz196.  When I went looking for a vintage Fender I deliberately sought a bass that had some visible wear as to me it probably signals it's a good item and has been used not abused (and hopefully maintained) rather than stuck in a cupboard.  As original as possible and un-modded.  Mine actually has one none-vintage strap button but I guess I could always remove the old hootenany button and use that instead and leave a hole in the headstock.

Gratuitous vintage Fender pics (it's a '66):

916015405_66P02.thumb.jpg.71c805efd66feb6cb577438767827e1d.jpg_MG_0027.thumb.JPG.a5aa9dd82335facfc68d2d42251449b5.JPG_MG_0019.thumb.JPG.d2d59a5f54b12768034912b017ed67ca.JPG

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33 minutes ago, ead said:

I'm with Roger2611 and Lozz196.  When I went looking for a vintage Fender I deliberately sought a bass that had some visible wear as to me it probably signals it's a good item and has been used not abused (and hopefully maintained) rather than stuck in a cupboard.  As original as possible and un-modded.  Mine actually has one none-vintage strap button but I guess I could always remove the old hootenany button and use that instead and leave a hole in the headstock.

Gratuitous vintage Fender pics (it's a '66):

916015405_66P02.thumb.jpg.71c805efd66feb6cb577438767827e1d.jpg

Nice bass, lovely dark rosewood too, all in great condition!

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17 minutes ago, Rick's Fine '52 said:

Nice bass, lovely dark rosewood too, all in great condition!

+1, that is GAW-JUS!

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Thanks for all the responses guys. It's great to get both sides of the "if it's in good condition, it's never been played" argument. I think it probably proves, more than anything, that each instrument has to be judged on a case by case basis.

ead - that's a stunning example, and for me, that would be the sort of condition that would appeal to me. I own a 1966 P at present, and the condition is about the same as that, maybe a little more beaten, but not much.

It was actually another Precision that's being advertised in the classifieds currently that prompted this thread. It's a beautiful old bass, at a very reasonable price, but the condition is a little beyond what I am looking for. Reading the thread, though, lots of people love the condition, even saying it's the perfect example (or something to that effect), and it just got me thinking about what appeals to people these days.

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I have a 1970 P in sunburst/rosewood/tort just like that 1966 P,  which is in used but certainly not abused nick. There's a mobile phone sized patch of wear on the back, and various smaller patches of wear, about half of which were there when i bought it 24 years ago, and the rest has been picked up along the way.

I think the fashion for relicing has given an unrealistic idea that old guitars become inevitably battered - if you take good care of them, they don't.

Mine has clearly been well used and had some professionally-done repairs over the years (on its second refret and its third jack socket) so its no museum piece, but as a working instrument it is incredible.

I would neither seek out battered examples, or shun pristine ones really. All instruments are individual anyway, so it's down to whether or not I like the one in my hand (or more likely, whether I can afford it!)

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6 minutes ago, bassbiscuits said:

All instruments are individual anyway, so it's down to whether or not I like the one in my hand (or more likely, whether I can afford it!)

That's exactly my point. Often it's about a certain instrument speaking to the individual. I might think it's a dog, but you think it's great.

I actually thought about this recently, I was watching one of those Youtube clips where they talk to a famous guitarist or bassist about the rig they use. So they go through all this recent gear, then ultimately, they'll pull out some guitar from the player's childhood, and they say "yeah, my mum gave me this guitar on my 16th birthday, and it's the best one I've ever tried". And it'll be some instrument from a year that most collectors go "oh .... no, that's a terrible year"!!! :D But for whatever reason, that instrument speaks to that player - whether it's truly a great instrument, whether it's simply a matter of the player and the instrument growing old together, whether it's the nostalgia associated with the the instrument, something about it speaks to that person. While that's a little different to what we're discussing here, I think it still showcases the fact that you need to have the instrument in your hands before you can truly know if it's right for you. We can make educated decisions based on collectability, value, all those things, as they're simply numbers. But the feel of it, whether it's going to be an instrument that works for you, that's all down to the connection that happens when the player tries the instrument.

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1 minute ago, bassaussie said:

That's exactly my point. Often it's about a certain instrument speaking to the individual. I might think it's a dog, but you think it's great.

I actually thought about this recently, I was watching one of those Youtube clips where they talk to a famous guitarist or bassist about the rig they use. So they go through all this recent gear, then ultimately, they'll pull out some guitar from the player's childhood, and they say "yeah, my mum gave me this guitar on my 16th birthday, and it's the best one I've ever tried". And it'll be some instrument from a year that most collectors go "oh .... no, that's a terrible year"!!! :D But for whatever reason, that instrument speaks to that player - whether it's truly a great instrument, whether it's simply a matter of the player and the instrument growing old together, whether it's the nostalgia associated with the the instrument, something about it speaks to that person. While that's a little different to what we're discussing here, I think it still showcases the fact that you need to have the instrument in your hands before you can truly know if it's right for you. We can make educated decisions based on collectability, value, all those things, as they're simply numbers. But the feel of it, whether it's going to be an instrument that works for you, that's all down to the connection that happens when the player tries the instrument.

Sure thing. But i think there's a risk of overthinking it too in searching for some holy grail of bass, which imparts some mystical connection etc.

They're just instruments at the end of the day - the rest is all subjective.

If you're a collector/trader then original, unmolested condition is going to command the highest price and be most collectible. But you're going to play it (presumably like the people who got a cool guitar for their 16th birthday etc) then it comes down to what feels and sounds the best to you.

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I think there's some marketing going on. Whether it's true or not, older instruments are perceived to be somehow "better". They are probably rarer (where do all the old basses go?). There's nothing quite like being all beat up to announce "I'm old". So a beaten up old Precision announces that you can afford something from the 60s. They have hardly changed so how would you know otherwise? 

At the end of the day, you have to pick up a bass, plug it in and see if it's for you. It's still just a lump of wood with some strings attached.

It's similar to "why would anybody pay for a Fedora when a Squier will do?".  Because they do. Taste and fashion is a funny old thing 😄

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19 minutes ago, bassaussie said:

That's exactly my point. Often it's about a certain instrument speaking to the individual. I might think it's a dog, but you think it's great.

I actually thought about this recently, I was watching one of those Youtube clips where they talk to a famous guitarist or bassist about the rig they use. So they go through all this recent gear, then ultimately, they'll pull out some guitar from the player's childhood, and they say "yeah, my mum gave me this guitar on my 16th birthday, and it's the best one I've ever tried". And it'll be some instrument from a year that most collectors go "oh .... no, that's a terrible year"!!! :D But for whatever reason, that instrument speaks to that player - whether it's truly a great instrument, whether it's simply a matter of the player and the instrument growing old together, whether it's the nostalgia associated with the the instrument, something about it speaks to that person. While that's a little different to what we're discussing here, I think it still showcases the fact that you need to have the instrument in your hands before you can truly know if it's right for you. We can make educated decisions based on collectability, value, all those things, as they're simply numbers. But the feel of it, whether it's going to be an instrument that works for you, that's all down to the connection that happens when the player tries the instrument.

My mind has changed on this; I did think that all instruments these days are made to a reasonable standard and that was that. If it didnt work for you, it is probably that it didn't quite fit physically to your own body geometry.

I then bought a very capable ibanez bass and it had lovely looks but it was soulless in a way that I cannot describe. I bought a jap fender P at the same time and I could not stop playing it, and I hated precisions at the time. It spoke and resonated in a way that I cannot describe. It had music in it. In short, I don't think cosmetic wear to any level makes any difference at all, its all about the qualities of that instrument. Even if it was made by hand in teh old days, or on a CNC router now; you can still get duff wood, duff copper windings, duff steel batches whenever they  were made or on whichever continental landmass

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Sadly I'm more selling than buying these days due to illness , but Over the the years I've always been happy buying instruments which have been well used and and dings in , just meant I could use and gig without worry . 

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If buying a bass I want to get one that is in top condition I dont gig so dont class my basses as work tools but I am quite precious about my basses I like to keep them clean and maintained 

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Do you think this beaten up look is something that only applies to used Fenders, or maybe basses that look they they come from the 50s and 60s?

For some reason, I can't imagine a seller advertising a Warwick Thumb or a Sadowsky and saying "and it has that beaten up look".

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You see it on Gibsons too - I don’t think the Warwick time frame is seen as being as “gritty”

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My 1966 cherry red Gibson EB2 is faded - much more on the front that the back - and gently worn and rubbed. I had a chance to do an almost straight swap for a mint condition 1965, still bright cherry red and looking as if it had never been out of its case, and  turned it down. The other looked and felt artificial, too shiny. Mine looks and feels as if she's been part of 50 years of music history.

I wouldn't be drawn to a bass that was visibly seriously bashed about, even if it was genuine wear. New relic'd - only if it was the only bass on a desert island.

EB2.thumb.jpg.d7b27a03d427fb70bcc90cd062c7cac2.jpg 

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