Well, first things first, buying a new bass isn't easy -- especially when you have no idea what you want (sounds familiar to me). But on eBay, the process can be streamlined a lot. But don't get lax! It's still a pretty difficult job. So here's a couple of things I personally do to start off: Check My Budget, Think What I'm Looking For, Check The International Lots, and then Narrow It Down.
Checking The Budget
This is real important, because you can't get no bang for your buck these days. If you have even a rough idea of what you want to spend and what you don't, then your search will be a lot easier. Use the advanced search function to stick in a price range if you have a very specific budget -- that way you'll really be able to streamline your shopping.
Decide What You're Looking For
Well, this is almost a no-brainer, were it not for the fact that I
never have any idea what to look for on eBay. I rack my thoughts and come up empty each time -- so make sure you
have even a general idea. For posterities sake, I always shop for Rickenbackers because they're my favourite brand of bass, so try any brand out (even obscure brands like Alembic or Sei). Specifics help, but if you're just window shopping, then I do have a great way of giving you some eye-candy real quick:
1. Browse to the Bass category, and then press Advanced Search...meandering, but it makes the tool a mite easier to use.
2. Type in a price range about halfway down the page.
3. Set your viewing preferences, but give yourself 200 lots per page (I alwas use Price Lowest First, keeps me excited =P )
4. Leaving the search field empty, press the Search button.
Voila! A glut of basses ready to be viewed. But the next step really helps bring more to your eye.
Hopefully, you should be ok with ordering internationally -- because eBay UK isn't the best place to shop for basses. International lots really opens up your shopping -- my eBay bass came from Germany for a great price. To get international lots that will ship to the UK, simply use the Advanced Search tool again, and select "View Items Available To The UK" and set the price to "Any Currency". This will bring up a fair few more lots -- but if you're just window shopping, try setting "View Items Worldwide". You might not be able to buy those basses, but you can see some really amazing things.
However -- international shipping can be extremely damaging for several reasons.
If you're set on buying a bass from anywhere outside the EU, be prepared to pay Import Duty. The "Gift" option is slowly losing its ability to get past customs (come on, someone from Australia is sending a £500 bass to a guy in Britain as a gift? Give the officials
The shipping fees can be phenomenal. My first bass came from an American site, and the shipping was
£90! Perhaps not too bad for some of you, but bad enough for a 15 year old me.
Make sure the packaging is sufficient!! It'd be pretty horrific to see your lovely new bass in two pieces thanks to shoddy packaging. USPS and UPS can be pretty lax with their package handling, trust me. If the seller is including a hard case, then brilliant -- but make sure to remind him/her that the bass must still be comfortable inside the case. All basses must have the neck joint and heel reinforced with bubble wrap -- thats the part by the body, and the part where the headstock joins the neck. The headstock is particularly fragile -- would you prefer a chip in the body or a snapped head? If there is no hard case, the bass simply
must be in a huge amount of bubble wrap, and a large cardboard box that isn't liable to split. Whatever you do, don't worry about asking the seller to watch out for these things -- if he/she is smart, they won't be offended and will simply see you as being concerned over what you've just spent a wad of cash on. This paragraph on shipping goes for all basses, really -- internationally shipped or not. Don't look at Jaco's handling of a bass -- your bass is not akin to Rambo, and doesn't like being beaten on.
Narrow It Down
When you finally have an idea of what you want, you'll obviously want to start narrowing it down. The things to look for in the item description are the same for any instrument, and involves several questions:
Is it New? This one is a no-brainer. If its new, why are they selling it? If it's an eBay shop, you know why....but never trust an auctioneer who says "As new....from 1995". What the hell have they been doing with it?
2. If its second-hand, what is the condition like? Aha....you have to think laterally with this one. Some auctioneers barely write about the bass -- something like "Second-hand bass been gigged with will throw in gig bag questions welcomed". From that, how do you think the condition will be if its been gigged? And if they're throwing in a gig bag, does that mean it has ever seen the inside of a hard case? The worst auctions are the ones with
no pictures, or simply a promo picture or a 10 feet away picture. The best auctions are the ones that tell you first-hand what the cosmetic damage is, with detailed pictures of those damages. Belt-rash, Dimples, Scratches, Chips are extremely common on eBay basses -- I once saw a Ricky with a cracked scratchplate, enough belt rash to make a bad case of herpes blush, thousands of litle dents and dimples on the back and a few chips on the headstock and lower body curve. And the seller still managed to take a picture of each example.
Don't be afraid to email the seller with the question "Is it damaged in any way?". Even that is showing interest in the item, and most sellers welcome
any attention (if it means the prospect of a sale). If the seller gets offended, is far too vague or doesn't answer, I wouldn't even bother to do business with them. Their loss, not yours.
Make or break damage is the stuff that affects a bass even after repairs -- a broken headstock or neck joint should be avoided at all costs (especially on a neck-through bass), because even after repairs you've got a hell of a weak point on a bass that handles at least a hundred lbs of string pressure. Cosmetic damages shouldn't faze you unless you're after a collectors bass -- the way I see it, a bass with a scratch has history..."I got that one when I was throwing it in the air at a gig....I got that 'un from dropping it down my stairs". You don't see that with a bass you handle with silk gloves.
Great auctions are those where the bass needs repairs/replacements of the mechanics or electronics. A bass with a broken tuner or two is easily remedied (and a new tuner really spritzes up the bass) at a cost of maybe £40, a buggered bridge can be a gift from heaven (new bridges make the bass sound and feel like a completely new bass) at the cost of maybe £60-120, and new electronics opens up a lot of upgrade potential (preamps, pickups, fancy doo-whizzles). Don't be put off by these auctions!! Many sellers knock a huge discount off the price. A friend of mine got a Rickenbacker 4003 for £200 because the electronics needed re-wiring, a tuner was broken and the bridge was loose.
3. Is it stock? That is, have they replaced any parts? This normally goes hand in hand with the previous question. If you're a snobby collecter (no offense =P ), you'll want a bass that is
all stock or at the very least you'll want the seller to throw in the stock parts. If you're a guy like me, replacement parts can be a gift from heaven (especially if they're better than the stock parts). However, stock basses generally sell for cheaper than non-stock basses -- even if the replacement parts are shoddy.
4. Can I trust the seller? This isn't case of just looking through feedback -- if you see 10 positive, and 1 negative, and all the positive feedback are from buyers of basses, odds are you can trust him/her. If the 10 positive are from sellers, and the negative is from someone who tried to buy a bass off them, would you still trust him/her?
Remember to check a sellers' feedback thoroughly! Ask them about any negative or withdrawn feedback -- they shouldn't mind as long as you aren't abrasive.
5. Can I trust the shipping? This is extremely important if you're buying internationally. If his postage amount is too low or you know the chosen service to be shoddy, offer to pay more for a better shipping service.
Don't try and persuade them to let you pay less for postage -- it's rude, and will probably lose you the lot unless you give an extremely good reason. Any experience with the selected service is important -- I know for a fact that DHL are real buggers for calling when you're out, but their shipping is extremely fast (a 28 day expected wait for my first bass was actually only a 5 day wait), while USPS call when you're out, are slow, and are not as careful with your package (whatever I ordered from them, my box was ripped and dented but the item was luckily in one piece). I've had no experience with FedEX, but haven't heard much good about them.
6. Do I really really want it? Are you sure? Double-sure? Not going to sell it in a few months? I have to make absolutely certain that I want something...but sometimes I get excited and get caught up in the eBay chase! Remember to keep things in perspective! And always ask yourself:
Can I still afford it? If you really want it, but it goes just over your price range, sometimes you end up bidding over your limit and get a bit stuck!
There is the guide for you! I hope it was helpful to some degree, and if you want any more help/random conversations/dodgy business deals, then contact me through eBay.
Buying A Bass Guitar
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22 August 2006
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