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How Much Is A "Partscaster" Worth?

by vaughn skow July 20, 2015 4 min read

Value of a Parts caster how much is it worth

Hi fellow tone seekers, great to be with you once again on this fine day.  Hey, hows about we talk “partscasters”?  In particular, let’s talk about the value of a partscaster in cold, hard cash.  Cool, let’s dig in.

The partscaster phenomenon is in full-tilt boogie

As I pen this blog, in the summer of 2015, I can say without reservation that the partscaster phenomenon is in full-tilt boogie.  From boutique “builders” charging multiple thousands of dollars for their beat-up and bolted together “custom builds” to the average Joe having a little fun in his garage, this trend is huge.  Some online music retailers even have a business model based merely on buying complete guitars, dismantling them, and selling the pieces individually.  It’s hard for me to understand why a guitar … especially an EXCELLENT one like, say, an Eric Johnson Strat, is worth more in pieces than it is as an entire, exquisite instrument, but hey, that’s exactly the way it is as of 2015.  Go figure.  What’s up?  Let’s talk about it.

Two options in essence comprise the biggest question where value is concerned

Least you think this shaping up to be a general bashing of the partscaster movement, now would be a nice time for a confession or two.  First, I am currently working with a quality boutique builder, Rock Road Guitars on my own Tele-style build.  Not exactly a “partscaster” since he actually carves his own necks, but … Second, I am seriously considering the purchase of a Strat style partscaster from a local hobbyist who simply bolts parts together.  So there!  No snobbery here, we’re just going to ferret out the facts as best we can.  And, the two options I just laid out in essence comprise the biggest question:  Is it a guitar made by a for-real builder who does some actual woodworking, or a hobbyist who bolts readily available parts together?  Either can wind up with a nice guitar, but chances are better with the former.

Now, I’m not going to name names, but I am aware of quite a large number of boutique “builders” who simply bolt off-the-shelf parts together, “relic” them, and sell them as a multi-thousand dollar piece of artwork.  Personally, I don’t get that … and from what I have witnessed, those guitars on the used market bring about 20 to 25 cents on the dollar of what you pay for them new.  I.e.:  your $2000 “custom” Strat has a real-world value of about $400-500.  How about a guitar put together in a garage with components all sourced from somewhere like All-Parts or Stew-Mac?  Well, you’re probably going to end up with a minimum of about $400-500 in the parts, and if you do a nice job of putting it together, it’ll be a guitar worth about that much on the open market … especially if you put a Fender water-slide decal on the headstock … or better yet, have your own decals made, and call it a “boutique custom build”.

Five hundred bucks is about the most people feel comfortable paying for a “partscaster”

Let’s talk about that $400-500 price range.  Although the sky seems to be the limit when placing an order with a custom builder, from what conversations I’ve had with fellow Nashville guitar players, and what I’ve seen on the forums, there seems to be a consensus that five hundred bucks is about the most people feel comfortable paying for a “partscaster” on the USED market.  And, to pay this price, ya gotta be in LOVE with it.  In a way that’s too bad, the honest truth is that the average $500 partscaster … even bolted together by a rank armature … is far superior to a “Standard” made-in Mexico Strat.  I mean, it’s almost impossible to actually BUY electronics and pickups as poor as what's in a Mexi-strat, unless you buy direct from Chinese mills!  But, on the flip side, I get it; once the partscaster hits the real-world, it’s just plain an unknown commodity, even if it is comprised of quality “parts”.  Even those with botique decals are often seen as mearly "off-brand" by the vast majority of the general guitar buying public.

When Love is involved

Okay, so there, I’ve went ahead and said it: five hundred bucks, pay more than that for a “Tele” or “Strat” that’s been bolted together by someone other than a Fender employee in the USA and you need to be prepared to lose money on it if you ever sell it.  So the question is why would you (or anyone for that matter) ever want to pay more than that?  That’s easy, because you LOVE the guitar!  It speaks to you in the voice of a true love.  It whispers your name and gives you inspiration.  It’s your one true muse.  When you find this instrument, “resale value” has no place in the conversation; you’re gonna be buried with this guitar.  Your wife will complain that you “love that guitar more than you love me”, and she’ll be right.  So there, I think we’ve arrived at our final value: five hundred bucks max … unless love is involved.

See Ya’ll next week.

emailVaughn    About Vaughn Skow 

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