Sunday, November 14, 2004

The art of the deal

Yesterday I went to a garage sale. I usually don't go to many garage sales or flea markets, but this one intrigued me because Depression glass was advertised and I collect it. The sale was in an older home with a detached garage where the sale was held due to the cool outdoor temperatures.

I was looking around and found nothing remotely interesting. Everything seemed to be picked over. I was about to leave when the owner, an older woman in her late 60s or early 70s, came over to me. "Did you find anything that you liked? she asked.

"No," I said, " I was in the area and thought I would stop in. I was hoping you might have some musical instruments such as a guitar."

"Oh," she replied, "I do have a guitar, but I didn't put it with all of this stuff. Would you like to see it?"

I told her that I would be interested although, judging from the quality of the stuff in the garage, I figured it would be a junker.

She said something to a younger woman who I believed was her daughter. She led me outside the garage and through the back door of the house. It was in an area of those 3-story homes with an attic on the third floor. She was telling me that she and her husband bought the house when it was only a few years old and they had lived there ever since. Her husband had recently passed away and she wanted to sell a lot of the old stuff so she could move closer to her daughter and her grandchildren.

We entered the house and walked up an old staircase and into what appeared to be a bedroom that now serving as a storage room. She opened a closet door and I could see the outline of a guitar case leaning against the wall. The case was dirty and dusty, but I could distinctly make out the word "Gibson."

"My husband was a musician when I met him and he bought this guitar in 1959," she said. "He only played it for a year or so before he developed arthritis in his hands. I don't think it's been played since then and I doubt that it's been out of the case in many, many years."

I asked her if I could pick up the case and I nervously approached the closet. There were cobwebs attached to the case and I slowly lifted it up. The case was heavy and definitely old and I carefully carried it into the room and laid it on the wooden floor.

"My husband said it was one of the best guitars that was made at the time. He couldn't play anymore and thought about selling it. He was hoping one of the kids would take up the guitar, but the boys seemed to be more interested in sports and my daughter had no interest at all. Here's a cloth you can use to wipe off the dust."

She gave me a rag and I knelt down and started to clean the case. I could see the words "Les Paul" appear near the bottom of the case! I could no longer contain my excitement. I set the rag down, unlatched the case and lifted the top.

Inside was a Les Paul electric guitar. It was dusty and missing two strings, but it looked like it was in great condition. "Did you say your husband bought this in 1959?" I asked.

"He ordered it new from a music dealer and he had to wait for it to arrive. It came just before Christmas that year. I remember because our daughter was born a few weeks after it arrived."

I lifted it up and turned it over. The back of the guitar, except for dust, was flawless. I lifted it up to eye level and looked down the neck. It was as straight as if it was new!

The 1959 Les Paul is one of the most important electric guitars ever made...and certainly one of the most valuable. The '50s Gibson Les Pauls and Fender Stratocasters are considered by rock historians as two of the seminal instruments in the history of rock...and I was holding an original '59 in my hands!

Jimmy Page used a 1959 Standard Les Paul as one of his stage guitars during the Led Zeppelin years. Any of the guitar gods from the rock era either owned one in their personal collection or used one in their recordings.

Gibson even makes authentic reissues of these guitars which sell for thousands of dollars. They are even making a reissue of Jimmy Page's guitar.

"Would you consider selling it?" I nervously asked.

"Oh sure," she said. "I just didn't list it because I didn't think anyone would be interested in an old guitar."

OK, I thought, nothing ventured, nothing gained. "Um, how much would you want for it?" I asked.

"Would $200 be too much?"

And then I woke up!!!

Damn. Must have been thinking of last night's post!