Great Moments In eBay Guitar Packing


When it comes to instrument purchases lately, particularly Electras, am I on a run of bad luck, stupid decisions, or both.

First there was the X135 Anniversary Edition I bought sight unseen from a Guitar Center. The kid at the store confirmed that there was an Anniversary plate on it. What he failed to mention was that the Matusomoku pickups had been swapped out for some mystery-meat garbage. Then I missed a much better Anniversary X155 through a mis-click on eBay. Then there was an X185 in Graphite that looked brilliant in photos but quite dull in person.

Finally, today’s arrival: a 1982-build X155 Phoenix. I’ve often said that if I could pick just one guitar to exemplify the Electra Phoenix, it would be the X155. It’s the right materials (maple body and neck, rosewood fretboard), the right pickups (the properly-spaced later MMK45s), the right bridge (Strat-style trem instead of a fixed bridge or Bendmaster) and right aesthetic (pearl white with matching headstock). Well, this is the worst X155 I’ve ever seen. It arrived in a monstrous box that had ten pounds of styrofoam peanuts in it.

The guitar had fallen out of the case during shipping. There’s a fairly serious crack in the body/neck joint. These are par for the course in Phoenixes and they usually don’t affect anything, but the photo in the original listing doesn’t show it very well. Which makes me think it happened during shipping. Which infuriates me.

The complete disregard with which these guitars are treated by eBay sellers, pawnshops, MusicGoRounds, and Guitar Centers helps me understand why so many of the “Burst” Les Pauls from 1958-1959 are still missing despite the fact that any of them would be worth $150,000 in any condition if they could be found today. There’s nothing quite as worthless as an old guitar in the eyes of a lot of people. The fact that none of the Electras I bought lately set me back more than $299 drives that point home.

I bet you that there are still hundreds of extremely valuable Les Pauls sitting in barns and basements, crushed and broken, forgotten and abandoned. They’re out there to be found, but the people who find them won’t like the condition their conditions are in, to quote the old song. Luckily for me, I’m not in that market. I’m just buying guitars from 1981 and 1982, buying them cheap and stacking them deep, building a fortress of rock maple around an idealized version of my childhood, you get the idea.

Still — just look at the photo. Like Randal said, there are a bunch of savages in this town, and other towns.

7 Replies to “Great Moments In eBay Guitar Packing”

  1. jz78817

    I don’t know what it is about eBay, but the most pants-on-head stupid packaging jobs I’ve ever seen have been for things I’ve bought there. Like the time I bought an SGI Octane workstation (hey, I was curious and it was still- barely- viable as a CAD tube) and the guy packed it in a cardboard box. A box which was just big enough to fit the workstation, which meant no cushioning or packaging material. He seemed surprised when I told him UPEx managed to bang it up pretty good.

  2. WiredChuck

    I once bought a nice Nash S-57 on eBay. It arrived in a box that was ripped, poorly taped and – I’m not kidding here – packed with plastic supermarket shopping bags. Most people are idiots.

    And if there are any 57 Les Pauls to be found abandoned in a basement somewhere, I have no doubt you’ll be the one to find them, Jack. That’s how you roll.

  3. Syke

    It’s not just guitars. The horror stories I’ve heard regarding vintage bicycle frames and the insanely bad packing (like a bicycle frame is all that difficult!) would make one’s teeth curl. And I’ve gotten one or two, although luckily all were repairable in my shop.

  4. Domestic Hearse

    I bought an eBay Warwick a few years back. The guy properly loosened strings, triple wrapped them in blank newsprint, neatly folded and taped on top. The guitar went in it’s original Warwick gig bag, then inside it’s original Warwick delivery case, wrapped in the original packing material.

    It was absolutely brilliant packaging. As if it came from the factory itself. The bass was 99.9%. It could have easily hung on the wall as new, and the original cards, bridge wrench, everything, was tucked into the gig bag case in the original delivery plastic bag.

    The only problem: UPS delivered it to the wrong house. Weeks went by, I called UPS. I called the seller. UPS had a signature, but it wasn’t mine. Wasn’t my wife’s. So we drove around. Look, there’s a house with the same street number as ours, but is on a road that turns onto our road. You don’t think…

    So I went up and rang the doorbell. A sleepy eyed teenager, fresh from a bong hit, answered.

    Did you get a package from UPS by mistake. I have reason to believe they may have left it here.

    Um, let me check.

    He went back inside. I waited. Waited. The garage door opened. On the floor, my bass. Still unopened, but obviously, no effort had been made to take it around the corner to my house, or to direct the driver that he was at the wrong house. Just hoping nobody would find out and they’d make for the nearest pawn shop.

    This it?

    Yes, thank you.

    So even when things go perfectly on the seller’s part, UPS has a way of turning a great transaction into disaster.

  5. Robert

    Jack – speaking of idealized versions of one’s own childhood… I’m planning to treat myself to two things this December for my birthday – an “experience” at MSR Houston, and an electric bass guitar. Can you recommend a setup for a compleat noob? I’m looking to play mostly 80s rock & pop, with a little Earth, Wind & Fire, etc., mixed in for flavor.


  6. Felis Concolor

    A friend in PHX found a cheap early Super-VHS editing deck for me at a pawn shop and decided to ship it to me with nothing but a single layer of balled up newspaper surrounding it. I wept when I saw how the softball-sized transformer had ripped free during shipping and torn through the internals during its 2 day journey. Fortunately I had paid for insurance and the settlement netted me Mitsubishi’s final top of the line S-VHS unit, a mere 3 years before streaming tape video media became obsolete in the US market.

    When ordering large posters from various shops in the eary days of internet commerce, I would specify the shippers wait until I sent them my super special poster shipping container: an 8″ sonotube reinforced with several layers of kevlar cloth and epoxy resin. Occasionally the shipper would ask, “doesn’t that shipping tube cost more than the merchandise,” I would quickly reply “how many years ago did they stop printing that life size Ginrei poster?”

    Assume the delivery services are actively hostile to customers obtaining their merchandise intact, and build your shipping containers appropriately.


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