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Don’t Get Ripped Off! Buying and Selling Gear Online

21st August 2017

buying and selling online

As a member of multiple Facebook guitar groups and forums I have started to notice more and more suspected fraudulent activity. Members of these groups have either shared stories of how they have gotten ripped off by sellers selling fake products or they have let go of their cherished instruments only to receive no payment. In each instance of fraud the victim will face many brick walls feeling helpless and cheated. This article aims to make you aware of when you should be cautious buying and selling online and points out some ways to identify genuine instruments from well known brands.

Complete Transactions In Person

A recent letter from one distressed guitarist to The Guardian newspaper explained how fraudsters use EBay’s terms of sale to make things difficult for sellers. The seller in question advertised his Fender Stratocaster and a bid was accepted; after posting the item to the given address the buyer opened multiple cases against him claiming the guitar was “Not as Described” and the “Item was not received”. As the letter states, the seller faced paying out the value of the winning bid plus fees; he was left with no options and the buyer refused to sign missing item forms needed to open a case with the courier. So PayPal ruled in the buyers favour at what seems to have been on trust alone that what he was saying was the truth. EBay closed the case not carrying out a sufficient investigation and the courier could not act without the required documents. An honest musician was left £1,165 out of pocket.

Dear guitarists and internet shoppers, if you wish to buy or sell an instrument through online second hand websites arrange to meet with the other party in person. Make sure you are getting the product as described in the ad, the money you receive is correct and that both individuals are happy.

Spotting A Fake

Another example of fraudulent behaviour is that the item is a fake copy of what it is described as being. The Facebook groups I am associated with are extremely helpful when it comes to fake products. It pays to join groups that are made up of experienced players that are more than happy to give their opinions and advice. It is common to find fakes of two major guitar manufacturers, Fender and Gibson, but there are ways to identify copies that you should be aware of. Two videos posted by Kennis Russell on YouTube highlight some things to help spot a fake Fender and  a fake Gibson. He notes the following:


The logo on the headstock is a big giveaway if someone has removed a previous logo to add a Fender one. Fake instruments tend to have a waterslide decal where as this is only present on vintage Fenders as newer models are laser printed.

The quality of the hardware is noticeably cheaper on fakes; take a look at the bridge, saddles and the smoothness of the pots. Genuine saddles tend to have the Fender logo engraved.

Looking at the neck of the guitar check how the frets are finished; are they smooth or rough? Does the nut look like a good quality of material or a cheap plastic?

The trust rod access on genuine American Fenders is finished with a wooden insert; Mexicans tend to have a plastic one whereas Squires and fakes will have no insert.

Check the serial number online; this will tell you what the instrument is and when it was made.


Gibson instruments are easily identifiable by their headstocks; they are a particular shape and are finished to perfection. If you notice that the shape is a little off, the logo looks a little bold or the placement is off, it is likely a fake

All Gibson Les Pauls have two screws securing the truss road cover; Epiphones may have three.

The binding on the guitar will have no paint spills; check along the guitar neck to see if the paint has made its way onto the binding.

The serial number is engraved into Gibson instruments, not incredibly deep but just enough to be clear. Check this serial number online as Gibson will provide you with the correct authentication.

Kennis’s videos are an extremely helpful visual to get to know some of the ways fake instruments can be identified so we would recommend you take a look. It is however important to note a few things regarding copies. Copies are not necessarily bad guitars; they are just not the real thing. If the seller is genuine and states that the instrument is a copy with a price reflecting this, you could have yourself a great guitar for the money. If you play enough Gibson and Fender guitars, you should become familiar with how they are meant to feel and you will be able to identify a fake.

So be careful when buying and selling a second hand instrument. Try to meet with the person at the other end of the transaction and have a play on the product. When everyone is happy that the instrument and money are real you can complete the transaction safely.

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