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View Full Version : Do most quality ukuleles lose 40% of their value within a year or two?



hollisdwyer
09-16-2014, 04:50 AM
Having recently purchased some quality ukes over the past few months or so and putting two on the market (hoping to sell one of those to part finance my first commissioned instrument) it would seem that even quality ukuleles do not hold their value well. This has not been my experience with guitars.

Is the lesson to be learnt here that, if you commission a new ukulele build from a quality builder, you either better be prepared to keep it or be willing to take up to a 40% drop in value in the first 1-2 years. And that for uke builds that also have a long wait time for delivery.

Do those who have been buying and selling ukes for many years find this to be true? Do we truly pay for our sins (UAS)?

Jon Moody
09-16-2014, 05:00 AM
I think you're talking about two different things here, and it's really across the entire board for instruments in general.

Quality ukes seem to not retain their value as well mainly due to price; there's more to lose. If ukulele #1 retails for $300 but then you sell it for $180, that's a 40% loss but only $120. If ukulele #2 retails for $1,000 and you sell it for $600, that 40% is a lot bigger now.

The second one you referenced is ordering a custom instrument from a quality builder. That is going to have a much steeper drop in price in the resale market, mainly due to how "custom" you made it. The more specific you get in choosing options - woods, inlays, etc.. - the smaller your resale market is going to be.

hollisdwyer
09-16-2014, 05:24 AM
I was meaning to only talk about what you have referred to as a custom instrument. I see you have a BP M style. Would you be OK with realising only 60% or less of your original cost when you decide to flip it?

I am trying to set my expectations correctly in this matter.

Jon Moody
09-16-2014, 05:30 AM
I was meaning to only talk about what you have referred to as a custom instrument. I see you have a BP M style. Would you be OK with realising only 60% or less of your original cost when you decide to flip it?

Well frankly, I have a custom inlay on it that will lower the price much more than that. But yes, I would have no problem with that, as buying a custom instrument made to my specifications has the caveat of having a very small resale appeal. The more specific you make the instrument, the harder it is going to be to get someone to buy it should you decide to sell it.

haole
09-16-2014, 05:35 AM
Quality production instruments (K-brands, etc) and made-to-order instruments (Mya-Moe, etc) hold their value well. Imports, not so much (unless they're especially rare or desirable).

Customs generally don't hold their value well at all unless they have desirable features and nothing too "personal" from the previous owner. It doesn't matter if you spent $10k having a custom 10-string uke built out of endangered Lithuanian wood with a 500-piece inlay of your wedding photo on the fretboard that took two years to complete; if you try to flip it when your marriage dissolves because of your sick ukulele habit you're going to take a huge hit. Unless it's a Moore Bettah. ;) A Moore Bettah with an inlay of a naked Steve Buscemi would still get sold to an impulsive buyer for more than it cost brand new.

hollisdwyer
09-16-2014, 05:36 AM
I see your point and agree that really 'custom' elements makes an instrument very personalised. But do you believe the same rule of thumb would apply with just, say, wood choice (e.g. An all myrtle compared to a Sitka and Koa bodied uke)?

hollisdwyer
09-16-2014, 05:41 AM
Quality production instruments (K-brands, etc) and made-to-order instruments (Mya-Moe, etc) hold their value well. ;)

I was particularly talking about made to order ukes such as MM and others in the same category.

ericchico
09-16-2014, 05:42 AM
I dont know if most people get a custom with expectations of selling it. I could be wrong but that would seem to be a bad investment. You should expect to buy it and hold on to it knowing your not going to get near what you paid for it. Treat the custom as an heirloom and pimp off all the others.

SteveZ
09-16-2014, 05:47 AM
I was particularly talking about made to order ukes such as MM and others in the same category.
As long as one can buy new at $XX, there's no incentive to be a used, out-of-warranty item at anything close to the new price except to alleviate the wait-time. Now, if they stop making a certain uke brand of high quality, then supply-and-demand impacts price.

Jon Moody
09-16-2014, 05:50 AM
I see your point and agree that really 'custom' elements makes an instrument very personalised. But do you believe the same rule of thumb would apply with just, say, wood choice (e.g. An all myrtle compared to a Sitka and Koa bodied uke)?

Again, it all depends. Especially if you're paying a premium for a wood that isn't as known in terms of tone, that may be a harder sell as opposed to a custom uke that is all koa (which is well known).



I dont know if most people get a custom with expectations of selling it. I could be wrong but that would seem to be a bad investment. You should expect to buy it and hold on to it knowing your not going to get near what you paid for it. Treat the custom as an heirloom and pimp off all the others.

Personally I don't think anyone should spend the money on a custom instrument - ukulele or any other - with the concern of resale in the back of your head. That said, things happen and come up, and there may be a point at which someone has to sell a beloved custom instrument, at which point any of those very personalized touches may have a negative effect on the resale.

hollisdwyer
09-16-2014, 05:51 AM
I dont know if most people get a custom with expectations of selling it. I could be wrong but that would seem to be a bad investment. You should expect to buy it and hold on to it knowing your not going to get near what you paid for it. Treat the custom as an heirloom and pimp off all the others.

Sorry for my loose connotation of 'custom'. I should have used the term 'made to order' to indicate a uke that has no special inlays or decoration but does have a personally chosen wood combo, binding, tuners, pickup,etc.

Actually I have just ordered my first commissioned instrument (my choice of all the elements mentioned above) and that is an instrument that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Doc_J
09-16-2014, 05:54 AM
Having recently purchased some quality ukes over the past few months or so and putting two on the market (hoping to sell one of those to part finance my first commissioned instrument) it would seem that even quality ukuleles do not hold their value well. This has not been my experience with guitars.

Is the lesson to be learnt here that, if you commission a new ukulele build from a quality builder, you either better be prepared to keep it or be willing to take up to a 40% drop in value in the first 1-2 years. And that for uke builds that also have a long wait time for delivery.

Do those who have been buying and selling ukes for many years find this to be true? Do we truly pay for our sins (UAS)?

It really is supply and demand. Lots of nice ukes out there these days. Supply has gone up. For example Mya-Moe has made about 1,500 ukes. So a few turn up for sale every so often. Demand I can never figure out.

hollisdwyer
09-16-2014, 05:56 AM
This is a great conversation, thanks people for broadening my perception and understanding of the uke universe.

Dan Uke
09-16-2014, 06:12 AM
Depends on brands but I tend to start with a 30% guideline as a fair price. However, with the popularity of ukes in the last 5 years or so, prices have gone up so if you bought a uke four years ago, you won't lose that much.

One thing that's definitely gonna hurt you is if you buy from small builders that aren't well known. They might make great instruments but if most people haven't played one, they'll be relunctant to buy. I took a chance on one of my first customs, LFDM but the price was right. He has become a little more popular and the prices have risen so I'll lose less if sold.

Ukulele Eddie
09-16-2014, 06:15 AM
I agree that you should not buy new with too much focus on re-sale. If you buy well, you can buy used and flip in and out of instruments doing pretty well particularly in the sub-$1K range. There seems to be a fairly sharp dividing line at $1K. Over that, there seems to be much less demand and growing amount of supply. Great for buyers, not so good for sellers.

Additionally, there are natural ebbs and flows. A year ago when I first started there was a lot of enthusiasm for Collings. A few months ago I finally picked up a UC2 used at a pretty good price. Loved it so much I bought a UC3 with a sunburst finish I really wanted "knowing" I could sell the prior one I bought. The fervor around Collings has cooled somewhat, it seems.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
09-16-2014, 07:00 AM
A Moore Bettah with an inlay of a naked Steve Buscemi would still get sold to an impulsive buyer for more than it cost brand new.

Awesome! Thank you for giving me my next inlay inspiration!

strumsilly
09-16-2014, 07:10 AM
unless super rare or hard to get, I usually figure 3/4 - 2/3 of the new price , depending on condition, even for customs. requiring fixing 1/2 and less, depending. If you buy used you usually don't lose much, sometimes just shipping, and you get to try out some great ukes. that's why I don't buy new instruments, but then it's hard to get EXACTLY what you want, which is why if you got the $ you would go custom.

DownUpDave
09-16-2014, 07:14 AM
Let us assume you mean builders like : Mya Moe, Covered Bridge, Kinnard, Boatpaddle, MP and other well known and respected builders here at UU. From a buyers prespective if it is one year old or more with minor wear and wood of accepted norms, ie maghogany, koa, cedar or spruce top w/rosewood etc. I expect to buy it for 20-35% less than new price. If is over $1000.00, as eddie points out, your pool of potential buyers drops.

As others pointed out if there is some features that are "kinda different" then it gets even harder to warm up to. Case in point is the MM myrtle tenor you have for sale. Beautiful, beautiful top back and sides, the head plate for me is a deal breaker, way too much contrast. Now that is just me and another person might love the head stock.

Bottom line is any K-brand that is 1-2 years old seems to hold at about 20-25% loss and that is as good as it gets, all others depreciate more.

DownUpDave
09-16-2014, 07:19 AM
Awesome! Thank you for giving me my next inlay inspiration!

Is it wrong that I find that picture mildly.............................oh never mind.:o

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
09-16-2014, 07:24 AM
Is it wrong that I find that picture mildly.............................oh never mind.:o

Haha! As soon as I posted that I regretted it......

hawaii 50
09-16-2014, 07:55 AM
I agree that you should not buy new with too much focus on re-sale. If you buy well, you can buy used and flip in and out of instruments doing pretty well particularly in the sub-$1K range. There seems to be a fairly sharp dividing line at $1K. Over that, there seems to be much less demand and growing amount of supply. Great for buyers, not so good for sellers.

Additionally, the are natural ebbs and flows. A year ago when I first started there are was a lot of enthusiasm for Collings. A few months ago I finally picked up a UC2 used at a pretty good price. Loved it so much I bought a UC3 with a sunburst finish I really wanted "knowing" I could sell the prior one I bought. The fervor around Collings has cooled somewhat, it seems.

Yeah Uke Eddie the Collings rush might be slowing down now as Kinnard's seem to be the popular one now...they both have about the same tone and nicest fit and finish around though...

but like I have been saying since I have been on the UU I buy my ukes to play...not resell...(although i did give my buddy MM Stan)..a good deal.... almost gave them away haha... on 2 of them...as he is more of a collector than me.......:)

when I can not play my keeper ukes anymore(stiff hands) I will gift to someone(younger) who will enjoy and play my ukes as I do now....hard to find someone like that, but my buddy Corey will get a few for sure.....

got in trouble with my thought a few years ago...but sticking with my story....:)

my 2 cents....:)

DownUpDave
09-16-2014, 07:58 AM
Haha! As soon as I posted that I regretted it......

He just seems to be a very attractive man with that hat in that pose', not that there is anything wrong with that. Just never quite thought of him as attractive.

I can't get that image out of my head.

You have scarred me for life Chuck :uhoh::uhoh::uhoh:

Rick Turner
09-16-2014, 08:11 AM
So how did the value of that fiberglass boat in your avatar hold up from new to now?

Unlike that boat, a good uke made by a respected small shop builder will drop at first, but then after ten or fifteen years, it will go up and just keep going. That's what we see in the small shop guitar scene. I'll bet you'd have liked to buy a Traugott or an Olson about fifteen years ago... And unlike that boat, a decently kept uke will be even better in 50 or 100 years than when brand new.

I think the whole issue of worrying about instrument values dropping is ridiculous. How ya doin' on that TV? The stereo? The computer you're staring at right now? What about your kitchen appliances? Or that great Ikea knock down particle board furniture? What about the sofa in the living room? Or your car? Yes, I knew a woman who made out really well on a car once, but it was a Mercedes 230 SL...

Steveperrywriter
09-16-2014, 08:38 AM
So how did the value of that fiberglass boat in your avatar hold up from new to now?

Unlike that boat, a good uke made by a respected small shop builder will drop at first, but then after ten or fifteen years, it will go up and just keep going. That's what we see in the small shop guitar scene. I'll bet you'd have liked to buy a Traugott or an Olson about fifteen years ago... And unlike that boat, a decently kept uke will be even better in 50 or 100 years than when brand new.

I think the whole issue of worrying about instrument values dropping is ridiculous. How ya doin' on that TV? The stereo? The computer you're staring at right now? What about your kitchen appliances? Or that great Ikea knock down particle board furniture? What about the sofa in the living room? Or your car? Yes, I knew a woman who made out really well on a car once, but it was a Mercedes 230 SL...

I'd just offer an "Amen," here, because this nails it squarely for me; however, one more thought: You will surely have a different mind set if you buy something as an investment (if you know how that works, anyhow,) versus buying something you plan to use. If you buy a uke, wrap it in plastic and stick it into a vault because you plan to sell it someday and make a profit, you'll do what you need to keep it pristine.

Different than if you strum it.

And unless you have a crystal ball, you won't know how the market is going to be ten or fifteen years down the road. I bought a novel once, had the writer autograph it. Just a big fantasy novel, a fun read. Then a TV series got made based on the book, and that first edition, even in the been-read condition it is in, is worth about forty times what I paid for it. Who could know that going in?

There might come a day when you have to sell a cherished instrument. I had a guitar that was terrific, but I wasn't playing guitar much in my newfound enthusiasm for the ukulele. The guitar was too good to sit in its case and not be played by somebody who could appreciate it. As it happened, I bought from a maker on his way up; his list had gotten long, and when I asked him if he thought he could sell it, he allowed that he could. And quickly sold it for more than I paid for it originally. That wasn't my intent when I bought it, but meanwhile, I got a great deal of enjoyment from that guitar, and now it has allowed me to commission a first-rate uke.

Sometimes when you go with the flow, things work out ...

Stevelele
09-16-2014, 09:22 AM
I would totally buy a Moore Bettah with an inlay of a naked Steve Buscemi, just to prove your point.

If you are thinking about possible re-sale when you order a custom, you have to think about how many of these ukes are out there and what the demand/wait time is for the ukes currently. you also need to think about the momentum that the builder has at the time. Also, not everything that is special about an ukulele will cause it to retain value and might even make it lose value more steeply. Say for example you spend a lot of money on an african blackwood custom. Well that's a very expensive wood, but there aren't that many people who have african blackwood instruments in the ukulele world, and i'm not sure how many people are yearning for it, bc people generally aren't as educated about its value or reputation from a tonal standpoint. On the other hand, if you had an ukulele with a very special piece of koa that was just perfect (mother of curl), then the extra amount that you pay for that ukulele might actually be justified if you sell in the future.

anyhow, this is just one perspective from someone who has bought and sold a lot of ukes. I actually hate selling ukes, but I do it fairly often to try new ones. But i'm getting close to the point where I won't be able to sell anything because I love what I have


Quality production instruments (K-brands, etc) and made-to-order instruments (Mya-Moe, etc) hold their value well. Imports, not so much (unless they're especially rare or desirable).

Customs generally don't hold their value well at all unless they have desirable features and nothing too "personal" from the previous owner. It doesn't matter if you spent $10k having a custom 10-string uke built out of endangered Lithuanian wood with a 500-piece inlay of your wedding photo on the fretboard that took two years to complete; if you try to flip it when your marriage dissolves because of your sick ukulele habit you're going to take a huge hit. Unless it's a Moore Bettah. ;) A Moore Bettah with an inlay of a naked Steve Buscemi would still get sold to an impulsive buyer for more than it cost brand new.

Dan Uke
09-16-2014, 09:58 AM
So how did the value of that fiberglass boat in your avatar hold up from new to now?

Unlike that boat, a good uke made by a respected small shop builder will drop at first, but then after ten or fifteen years, it will go up and just keep going. That's what we see in the small shop guitar scene. I'll bet you'd have liked to buy a Traugott or an Olson about fifteen years ago... And unlike that boat, a decently kept uke will be even better in 50 or 100 years than when brand new.

I think the whole issue of worrying about instrument values dropping is ridiculous. How ya doin' on that TV? The stereo? The computer you're staring at right now? What about your kitchen appliances? Or that great Ikea knock down particle board furniture? What about the sofa in the living room? Or your car? Yes, I knew a woman who made out really well on a car once, but it was a Mercedes 230 SL...

This only works if you like it. If I don't like an instrument, why would I keep it for 10 to 15 yrs? Losing some now and buying an instrument I like for 10 to 15 years is worth more than getting in early on the next flavor of the month builder and seeing it appreciate in its case.

Rick Turner
09-16-2014, 11:03 AM
In the high end steel string acoustic guitar world, there are a lot of amateur players with more money than sense who buy very expensive guitars thinking (fantasizing) that the new guitar will instantly make them better players, so they go from a $5,000.00 instrument to a $15,000.00 one, and guess what? They still suck...until they find the next guitar...and then what? They still suck. But the acquisition is such a high for them that they keep doing it. It's like a gambling habit, or more precisely like a Home Shopping Network addiction.

And then there are those who delight in acquiring well made instruments and supporting the lutherie craft and art.

With ukes, once you get much beyond about $2,500.00 or so, you're paying for jewelry. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that, but that's what it is. 2 to 2.5 K-bucks could get you nice Adirondack over Brazilian rosewood or a spectacular all super curly koa with simple binding, ebony fingerboard, and the tuners of your choice. Then it's laminated necks, overlays, purflings, inlays, etc...all really nice touches, but not musically important. And you might be better off with a spruce top over that koa.

katysax
09-16-2014, 11:10 AM
Having bought and sold a number of instruments - my experience is that a new instrument loses value over the first few years. If it is a quality mass produced brand or if it is a custom, there is a good chance it will appreciate, in some cases appreciate a lot. But it might take 10-20 years.

Cornfield
09-16-2014, 11:40 AM
In the high end steel string acoustic guitar world, there are a lot of amateur players with more money than sense who buy very expensive guitars thinking (fantasizing) that the new guitar will instantly make them better players, so they go from a $5,000.00 instrument to a $15,000.00 one, and guess what? They still suck...until they find the next guitar...and then what? They still suck. But the acquisition is such a high for them that they keep doing it. It's like a gambling habit, or more precisely like a Home Shopping Network addiction.

And then there are those who delight in acquiring well made instruments and supporting the lutherie craft and art.

.....

I resemble these remarks

hollisdwyer
09-16-2014, 02:07 PM
So how did the value of that fiberglass boat in your avatar hold up from new to now?

Unlike that boat, a good uke made by a respected small shop builder will drop at first, but then after ten or fifteen years, it will go up and just keep going. That's what we see in the small shop guitar scene. I'll bet you'd have liked to buy a Traugott or an Olson about fifteen years ago... And unlike that boat, a decently kept uke will be even better in 50 or 100 years than when brand new.

I think the whole issue of worrying about instrument values dropping is ridiculous. How ya doin' on that TV? The stereo? The computer you're staring at right now? What about your kitchen appliances? Or that great Ikea knock down particle board furniture? What about the sofa in the living room? Or your car? Yes, I knew a woman who made out really well on a car once, but it was a Mercedes 230 SL...

Can we really compare consumables with fine, handmade musical instruments? BTW my little sailboat would command 75% of what I paid for it 3+ years ago and that is the depreciation that I would have though reasonable with builders like : Mya Moe, Covered Bridge, Kinnard, Boatpaddle, MP and other well known and respected builders here at UU.

Also let me clarify that I am not in it for the money but in it for the satisfaction of owning a few fine instruments that have individual voices. Hence, me recently putting one of my very recent purchases back on the market. In that case, it was that the seller of that uke offered me his Beansprout (I had just sold a 6 string banjo and still wanted an instrument with that particular voice).

The theory of Sacrificial Expansion demanded that I sacrifice one of my Ukes to keep the population density stable. Owning instruments from two of the above mentioned builders and unable to make the choice between them about which to keep and which to sell, I put both on the market at the same time, saying that the one that sold first was the one that would go and that I would be very happy to keep the other. In the situation mentioned above, my expectation was that I'd be offered, at least, the price I had just paid (approx $1200) which was of course less that my asking price of $1350 (people need to feel that they got a bargain, or as Woody Allen said, "It's against my religion to pay retail").

But I guess it is as many of you have so rightly pointed out, "it's all a case of supply and demand at a particular time".

ksiegel
09-16-2014, 03:00 PM
I buy my instruments to play them, not for investment or to resell at any point.

I have bought a few used, but only sold one: An Epi Les Paul Uke that I had duplicated, and I sold it to UU Member Olarte for what we both considered a reasonable price. Did I sell it for less than I paid? Sure I did, but a large part of that was the buyer. He was looking for something at a certain price point, and I had an instrument I wasn't playing, so I offered it to him for less than he was willing to pay - I wanted to make sure that the instrument went to someone who would play it.

Another UU member offered me an instrument at less than he was asking for it, with a payment plan, knowing it was something I really wanted, but couldn't quite afford yet. How could I say no to that?

I have done the same with my other hobbies - I just offered someone 50% more for a weaving loom than she was asking, just because I don't have a place for it yet. I also researched the hell out of the thing, and found that her husband had offered it to me at far too much less than it is worth, and I wanted to be fair. And I still got it for about 18-20% of what a new one would cost.

As to Custom-built/ made to order instruments, I have but one: A Bradford Donaldson Concert. It is very personalized, and has - as Rick described it - Jewelry. Two insets on the fretboard, and one on the tuning head. Two of them are part of the collar brass I wore on the Fire Department, and the third is a pewter coffee cup pin I got from Starbucks. These pins represent over 30 years of my life, and are meaningless to anyone else.

And on the back of the tuning head in my FD Name Badge - no one else can ever say that this is their uke. Does it bring the resale value down? It would, if I ever considered selling it.

Which will never happen.



-Kurt

equina
09-16-2014, 03:49 PM
And unlike that boat, a decently kept uke will be even better in 50 or 100 years than when brand new.

Pardon my ignorance on wood. A luthier once mentioned that all wood will eventually decay and 'die'. Assuming that a high-quality uke has been greatly cared for by all its owners, how long can the instrument last, as a playing instrument and eventually as an unplayable artwork?

Nickie
09-16-2014, 03:53 PM
This is a moot point to me....I don't care....I kinda figure that the fun I get to have playing the thing, no matter how little or how much denaro I spent, is priceless. No amount of money can replace sheer musical joy. The uke I have the least amount of money in has been used to bring joy to more hospice patients and families than I could ever put a value on.

Steveperrywriter
09-16-2014, 04:00 PM
Pardon my ignorance on wood. A luthier once mentioned that all wood will eventually decay and 'die'. Assuming that a high-quality uke has been greatly cared for by all its owners, how long can the instrument last, as a playing instrument and eventually as an unplayable artwork?

When did the Stradivarius violins get made? Late 1600s into the early 1700s? They still work well enough to command millions. Guitars and ukes aren't built as stout, but there are examples of both a lot older than anybody here. I wouldn't worry about it ...

hollisdwyer
09-16-2014, 04:43 PM
You're right Nickie. Fun and joy are the currencies that have most value to us. And you're right too Ksiegel, fairness is the direction on my moral compass that I set sail for when buying and selling (pardon the nautical metaphor but after all I am a sailor). I just hate people who try to beat you down to the point where there is no respect being shown.

Rick Turner
09-16-2014, 05:12 PM
"A luthier once mentioned that all wood will eventually decay and 'die'."

What idiocy. Who is the luthier? Some luthiers haven't a clue as to what they're talking about. What time frame encompasses "decay and 'die'"? "Eventually" is a rather imprecise term. "Decay" usually involves microorganisms. And if the wood is not in a standing tree, it's dead already. To say that the wood in a uke is "alive" is like saying the goat or cow from which came the banjo head is still alive.

And yes, at around 300 years of age, many of Stradivari's instruments are still quite playable...probably somewhat more than 600 of them.

equina
09-16-2014, 08:13 PM
When did the Stradivarius violins get made? Late 1600s into the early 1700s? They still work well enough to command millions. Guitars and ukes aren't built as stout, but there are examples of both a lot older than anybody here. I wouldn't worry about it ...


And yes, at around 300 years of age, many of Stradivari's instruments are still quite playable...probably somewhat more than 600 of them.

Thank you, I understand this part.


"Decay" usually involves microorganisms. And if the wood is not in a standing tree, it's dead already. To say that the wood in a uke is "alive" is like saying the goat or cow from which came the banjo head is still alive.

Another stupid question: I am under the impression that there is microbial activity on dead things, like decomposition of dead bodies or aging of dried tea leaves, so why would there be no microbial activity on dead wood? Also I have seen ancient metal arrowheads and spearheads without their (dead) wooden handles in museums, and I was informed by a guide that the wood had decomposed over the centuries.

Steveperrywriter
09-16-2014, 09:10 PM
Organic material does decompose, and metal will often oxidize. But this process can be slowed down (or speeded up) depending on how you care for it. Leave that spear buried in the ground, weather and bugs micro- and macro- will chew on the wood and the iron. Oil or wax it regularly and keep it indoors, it can last thousands of years. Once dry rot sets in, it is hard to stop, but you can prevent this. Bacterial activity apt to harm wood can be kept at bay.

Ever see any antique furniture? Old wooden sailing ships? Wooden-framed houses that are four or five hundred years old? Microbes are active on dead stuff and live critters, but a lot of them eat something else or each other, and not their host, and the science of how to protect wood and iron goes way back.

Probably most uke owners are going to avoid burying their instruments in the ground, or leaving them out in the rain or snow, and if long-running threads here are any indication, apt to case or properly humidify their ukes so as to protect them from the elements. Since it is evident that well-tended instruments can last over several human lifetimes if cared for, I wonder what sparked this question. Regardless of what a luthier or a tour guide said, all you have to do is look around ...

equina
09-16-2014, 10:04 PM
As I mentioned in my previous post, I understand that ukes, if properly cared for and maintained, can last for and be played for at least a few centuries. What confused me was the implication that decay does not happen to dead wood, that's all.

equina
09-16-2014, 11:12 PM
Why I brought up the issue relating to the lifespan of the uke was because the OP asked an investment-related question, and the lifespan of the investment is an important factor in its pricing. I both play and collect ukes, hence I am interested to know how long is the uke able to hold or even increase its value, because once it reaches end-of-life, it will be worth zero.

Bill1
09-16-2014, 11:42 PM
When you commission a custom uke, you are paying for the materials, taxes, labour and warranty, the maker adds up the costs adds the profit and comes up with a purchase price. When the first buyer comes to sell the custom uke as a used item, the market only cares about current relative value which is always going to be different to the cost based price model. The same applies to buying most things like cars and boats. I don't want to stir up an argument and make another locked thread, but buying custom ukes new from the maker has an element of patronage in it in most cases, you need to realise that part of the motivation is to keep a fine tradesman in business and appreciating the artistic end of instrument making. If you just want a playable uke for a bargain price, you would be better getting a late model used custom in my opinion or a nice production uke.
With production model ukes, if you buy when the item first comes on the market you most likely will pay a premium, then as the stock sits on shelves longer and new stock is ordered, the discounting starts and a seller of a used uke is going to be competing with heavily discounted new ukes.
If you are in a situation where re-sale is an issue, look for the easiest uke to re-sell. Maybe stick to plain mahogany and koa and plain embellishments. Also maybe do some research to find the market's favourite production ukes. Maybe follow the product cycle and harvest the big discounts when stock gets too old to be held on shelves?
But at the moment the market is flooded with reasonable quality product. That is always going to make it hard to sell used ukes for a good re-sale price.

hollisdwyer
09-17-2014, 01:13 AM
As the original poster of this thread, I would like to thank all of those that shared their perspective on the value of 'built to order' instruments from well known builders in the USA.

As I said in my original posts, my aim in asking the question was to correctly set my expectations re buying and selling recently built instruments. Thanks to all who have provided their insights and POV's.

Cheers from Oz

coolkayaker1
09-17-2014, 03:11 AM
I agree with most of the replies and only wanted to add this perspective (along the lines of what nongdam, Daniel, wrote): the "hot" ukulele builder now may be the forgotten ukulele builder five years from now in most cases. This is not true for high-end, established K brands, like Kamaka.

For example, there is a ukulele on the Marketplace now built by a luthier that stopped building a few short years ago--he is renowned, and extremely highly regarded. His ukes were considered the top-of-the-line, he had a wait list. The threads about him were full of adoration and awe. The instrument for sale is priced in that sweet spot, under $1000, for a custom uke, from a caring owner of the highest regard.

It's languishing and unsold. Most of those that have replied to this thread, honestly, based on when they signed up for UU, don't even know the luthier. It will sell, as many recall his repute as a builder. But will they in another decade?

The "biggest" custom luthiers, known to be awesome on UU now, may not have a strong resale down the road. Tread with caution, young Jedi and Jediettes, if you are stretching your budget and if resale is your goal/concern. (Now that I think of it, this is exactly what Daniel said...lol).

hollisdwyer
09-17-2014, 03:41 AM
As someone who currently has for sale the type of uke that I was asking about, I'd be very interested in your perception of what percentage of the original cost you would be satisfied with. Please PM me if you are not comfortable providing your perspective on my original question in public.

equina
09-18-2014, 12:35 AM
This has been an insightful thread.

A summary of the features of ukuleles that have the potential to increase in value compared to the original purchase price:

1) no customization
2) out of production / rare
3) trusted tonewoods
4) reputable brands / builders
5) age > 15 years

An unspoken assumption is these must be quality ukes, regardless of whether they are imports, high-end production ukes, or custom builds.

hollisdwyer
09-18-2014, 12:50 AM
I think you're being optimistic about the potential of a 2nd hand ukulele to increase in value except in certain and probably rare instances. Also that was not my intent in asking the question in the first place. As I am new to the world of the 'built to order' level of instrument, I only wanted to set my expectations correctly both as a future buyer as well as a future seller of these instruments. I hate when people low ball me when I am selling something and I didn't ever want to do the same through ignorance, but I also realise that some people (including myself at times) set unrealistic values on the things they sell.
If I believe that something is too expensive I walk away and if selling, (and luckily i have never been in a position where I just have to sell because of personal situations) I would rather keep the item, give it to family or friends or a charity for them to sell.

equina
09-18-2014, 03:03 AM
I think you're being optimistic about the potential of a 2nd hand ukulele to increase in value except in certain and probably rare instances.
I never once claimed that the price of a used uke will definitely appreciate in value. I only wrote that it has the potential to appreciate. Were you too pessimistic in your outlook? Have you tried selling a uke you bought 15 years ago, and it sold for less than what you paid?

A forummer mentioned that the price of the uke includes the cost of materials, labour, taxes, warranty, etc. Over the past 15 years, have these costs increased or decreased? If they have increased, won't the price of a used uke also increase according to the increase in the prices of new ukes? It's called inflation. Once a uke has reached 20 years, it reaches the vintage status, and isn't the price also likely to increase for vintage instruments that are well taken care of? So, if the seller is willing to keep his uke for at least 20 years, it means there is potential for price appreciation because of inflation and its vintage status.


Also that was not my intent in asking the question in the first place. As I am new to the world of the 'built to order' level of instrument, I only wanted to set my expectations correctly both as a future buyer as well as a future seller of these instruments. I hate when people low ball me when I am selling something and I didn't ever want to do the same through ignorance, but I also realise that some people (including myself at times) set unrealistic values on the things they sell.

Other forummers have already answered your question, which is a 'yes', it is possible to suffer a huge loss when you try to sell in the short-term. MM produces ~1,500 ukes--relatively large supply for a 'custom' builder. MP, although a fantastic builder, is now not the 'talk of the UU forum'. Buyers seem more keen on BP and JSK. In fact, you are selling your MP and MM tenors to buy another tenor--a BP! Why? What it means is for some reason, the demand for MP and MM ukes is not so keen as to command a slight discount over the original prices.

Sometimes, the cool response to your ukes may be due to other factors: wrong tonewood combo, wrong body size, wrong scale length, insufficient frets, no cutaway, dishing, does not fit the buyers' budgets, etc., etc. In other words, 'wrong place wrong time'--luck.

As for low-balling, no need to get angry or upset. It's a free marketplace, and there's no rule that says the interested party must agree with your assessment of the uke's value, and there's no rule that says that the buyer must pay the same price as his perceived value of the uke. It is common for buyers to want to buy below their perceived value of the uke. Just treat it as a normal occurrence whenever you wish to sell something, not just ukes. Be realistic. Accept it as a part of life. Refer to Doc_J's trades and you will understand. His ukes were priced to sell, because he is realistic, and knows that buyers love bargains!


If I believe that something is too expensive I walk away and if selling, (and luckily i have never been in a position where I just have to sell because of personal situations) I would rather keep the item, give it to family or friends or a charity for them to sell.

Yes, do just that.

I buy my ukes to keep, not sell. I am very aware that in the short-term I will suffer a huge loss if I sell my ukes. Why should anyone buy a used uke from me if they can get the same specs or their dream specs by paying just a little more? But--I am concerned about the resale value over the long term because I intend to pass my ukes to my descendants as a legacy. I want my descendants to benefit either from the ukes' vintage tone if they play, or the appreciated value of the 'investments' if they sell.

Cornfield
09-18-2014, 03:38 AM
[QUOTE=equina;1579199]

.... MM produces ~1,500 ukes per year--relatively large supply for a 'custom' builder......QUOTE]

I think you will find that the 1500 number is their total lifetime production of ukuleles and banjo ukes, not annual production. I think they finish 1 uke per work day.

equina
09-18-2014, 03:41 AM
I think you will find that the 1500 number is their total lifetime production of ukuleles and banjo ukes, not annual production. I think they finish 1 uke per work day.

Corrected... thanks for pointing this out!

HBolte
09-18-2014, 04:45 AM
I recently sold a MM for what I paid for it. It was a very nice build. I have sold a couple of K brands for about 20-25% below what I paid. If someone has a custom built with their girlfriends name on the fingerboard expect to get much less. ;)

Of course if you buy used you should also be able to sell for what you paid if you bought right.

hollisdwyer
09-18-2014, 05:44 AM
Of course if you buy used you should also be able to sell for what you paid if you bought right.

And that was the core reason why I started my investigation to determine if what I had paid for the MM and MP (I am the second owner of each and as such I suspect that it was the original owner who took the biggest hit from new price) and what I was trying to sell them for was reasonable.

But as equina has so rightly pointed out, it is the market on the day that determine what sells and for what price.

For the new BP that I have just ordered, I have no plans in mind to sell it in the future and that is not because I would 'lose' a lot of money from what I paid new. I wouldn't sell it because I have always wanted a BP ML Tenor with my own wood combinations and upgrades. This is like my Appalachian Dulcimer (A gorgeous instrument of Ebony, Sitka and Maple) that my family commissioned from a luthier in Texas. It's actually named "The Family Gift" and signed by the maker. I have always thought of this instrument as one that would be part of my estate and past down through the generations. My BP will certainly be added to my estate list.

As to the other instruments that I currently own, they are all wonderful instruments and I love playing them but would I rather have been the person who commissioned them in the first place, the person who made the choices that defined what was built? Absolutely! The only reason I would sell these would be to afford to build from new. I am trying not to let my UAS define my life (lol), so that is why I want to keep the population density of my Uke collection in check. As I said before, we pay for our sins but its just that I don't want to pay retail. BTW how much is a pound of sin now a days?

PS. I just pulled out the calculator and worked out that for the instruments that I have that their buy price was 61-70% of what the build price originally was. So at least in my experience ukes of this quality do lose approx 30-40% of their original cost within 2 years.

Rick Turner
09-18-2014, 09:54 AM
This is the kind of thread that makes me wonder why in the hell I decided to build ukuleles.

We builders put a lot into these little beauties. I know many of the custom uke builders who chime in here from time to time, at least through correspondence if not in person. They are craftsmen (yeah, most are males) of the highest order making functional art. These are real musical instruments. They're not frigging toasters or consumables or automobiles or fiberglass boats. They may be collectibles. What they are, if they're any damned good at all are tools for musicians. They're not tools for capitalist investors who want to talk more about monetary depreciation than appreciating what goes into building a nice ukulele.

If resale value is really the issue for you, maybe you should be buying something else. Leave luthiers alone with all your financial worries. Buy a used uke and stick someone else with that first year depreciation. Or just buy a plywood beater and be done with it.

Now let's talk about how much an hour ukulele builders make...it's not a pretty picture...at age 71 I manage to pull about $10.00 an hour from my business. Thank god for Social Security.

SteveZ
09-18-2014, 01:15 PM
For whatever reason, this discussion reminded me of a segment from an old "Star Trek - Deep Space Nine" episode. The Ferengi lead character was visiting his home, looking at his room as a child and saw a toy action figure which was a favorite toy. His mother then chided him about how much more the toy would now be worth had he just left it in its original box and packaging....

If the goal is a profitable transaction, that's business. If the goal is to enjoy the time and a tool/instrument/toy makes it all more enjoyable, that's time and money well spent - the profit is in the heart and mind, not the wallet, and that's okay.

hollisdwyer
09-18-2014, 03:30 PM
I really seem to have touched a nerve with some people and let me please apologise if you have mistaken the purpose of my enquiry because of my sloppy prose. It was not to bemoan any potential financial loss that an owner of a fine ukulele would have to bear. Although this may be an inconvenient truth, I was only seeking from the pool of greater experience on this forum how I should set my expectations re the value of a 2nd or more hand instruments. I have said this numerous times in my posts. Maybe people haven'y seen them.

I truly value all the fine instruments that I currently own or will ever own. I highly respect the craftsmanship of the luthiers who create such object of joy for me. This is why I don't buy mass produced factory instruments to save a few bucks. I am also cognisant of the work that goes into the making of a fine instrument and am amazed that they are sold for such reasonable prices. I know that many might make value judgements based on the size of the object, as ridiculous as that is. I believe that there is probably 80% of the work/costs in a fine uke as compared to a fine guitar and yet the luthier might only get 50% of the price of the guitar.

I would now request that this thread is closed as my misinterpreted remarks and the responses that it has engendered is really bringing me down. Who would have known this was such a raw nerve thing. If I did, I would have never asked in the first place.

Rick Turner
09-18-2014, 04:13 PM
I would respectfully suggest that your remarks were not misunderstood as much as ill-considered in the first place. Churning high end ukes...or even cheap ones...is bound to be a losing proposition. And if you want to sell it in a year, you probably shouldn't have bought it in the first place, no matter that many seem to. Churning ukes and guitars seems to be a hobby among a certain population. And you make about as much money on that hobby as with a trip to the slot machines in Vegas. If losing money gets one off, then fine, but...

Finely built musical instruments...in the long run...turn out to be "the gifts that keep on giving" in terms of utility and beauty, but also, when you take into account the useful life of the instrument, are decent investments, even if that "investment" turns out to be for future generations. I've had a number of clients who were buying instruments to be handed down to their kids and "kept in the family". And I'd love to have bought Martin ukes in the 1930s to have now...as was the case with a woman who came to our uke club...she was the original owner of a mid-30s Martin soprano Style 2.

hollisdwyer
09-18-2014, 04:49 PM
Please don't make unsafe assumptions as to my thinking or intent. I agree with what you have just said. It is odd that original owners of fine instruments flip them in such a short time. I have no idea of why that is and I am not even going to propose a reason. I guess these decisions are individual, based on individual circumstances. Although it is not a behaviour that I would engage in if I had commissioned a fine instrument. Buying and selling 2nd hand is a different matter. That allows you to try different models/brands without a really major spend. That is the zone of enquiry that I was investigating. I certainly meant no disrespect to any builder of fine instruments or to dissuade any purchaser of new builds.
As I said before, it may be an inconvenient truth that built to order and custom built ukes depreciate in their first few years of life but that is a reflection of market forces so please don't hold me responsible for 'letting the cat out of the bag' on that one.