How do YOU determine the price for a used ukulele ?


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Nov 15, 2014
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I have waited a little while before I posted this question. The reason being, there are often people selling items here but, after a while I realized that there will always be items for sale here. And if you currently have items for sale you may not like me very much, or depending on the responses you might want to thank me, who knows?

The questions is how do you determine the price for a used ukulele? I have been looking at guitar forums and they have a wide variety of answers and a lot of them are based on economics. Some are from the point of view of people who buy and sell used instruments and equipment professionally, as well as retailers of new items, collectors and G.A.S. sufferers from financial and all other backgrounds.

There were people comparing their guitar to cars, and TV sets, computers etc... saying that as soon as you buy it it looses half of its value, which is the rule of thumb I have always grown up with. This is compounded when a warranty is available verses when it has expired. Others noted when an item is sold used to a shop the price is also marked back up and you might be offered $200 for a $1000 guitar so the shop can mark it up to $700 and make the $500 (or half of the retail price.)

Other things that were considered on the other forums were how rare the instrument was, the condition, improvements, and unique custom instruments. How rare something exceptional was, was the biggest factor, along with condition. Improvements, repairs and customization seemed to almost be a detriment. The original "hype" or popularity of an older instrument was also considered, and "must have" items tended not to hold value as well as standard items. I guess this is to be expected how much would somebody pay for a used pair of bell-bottoms or parachute pants today ?

Getting very few justified answers, I went to the Department of Commerce tables of depreciation.

and it came as no shock that ukuleles were not listed. They did however, have a couple of categories for items made out of wood. Basically a "general item" made out of wood is expected to last for 12 years, and depreciate 13-15% annually provided there is no inflation. (Things like houses are in their own category.) So a run of the mill ukulele (according to this model) that originally sold for $100 typically would be worth a little less than $87 if in good condition the following year. After two years and with a scratch on it it might be worth $70, and just a little more than half after the third year. ($100 - 45 or 3x15)

Also noted were things that are considered "vintage goods" which are normally evaluated by their ability to hold value against inflation. To figure out the worth of an item from 1920 you would take the amount it sold for then and calculate the rate of inflation. Which according to an inflation calculator on line I discovered that $20 from 1920 is equal to about $237.43 today. Then to appraise it, you would take away points for damage, and add points for supply and demand if a similar item is not currently still available.

And there lies the "rub" something is worth what somebody else will give you for it. Everything not discussed might just be emotional. If someone was to offer me $100 for my first ukulele which I bought at Guitar Center for $42 including tax, I don't think I would take it, the emotional value it has is worth the extra $58 to me. If they want my Rouge Baritone I bought new for $40 including shipping for $100, that is another story all together even if it is the best buy I ever got I can still get another one for $40.

So how do you put a value your ukulele ? And how do you determine the worth of one you want to buy ?
Just from what I've seen, most times if it's a uke that is like new, you go 30-40% below retail value. Often to sweeten the deal, you pay shipping if it's within the continental US. If the uke shows wear 50%.

Now, if it's a K brand that's like new, you may be able to get by with as low as 20% off retail. You've got to remember that a used uke, no matter how nice it looks, or how recently it was bought, it is still a used uke.

Vintage ukes, you've got me. I have no idea what kind of formula applies here. Generally it has to do with the shape it's in, and what the market will bear.
Complicated and excellent question. From participating and observing the marketplace here there are a number of factors sellers go with. Perceived market value being the most obvious.

For me, I have never made money on a resale. Nor do I ever sell an instrument at anything more than $150 less than what I paid. (caveat here: once in more than 50+ sales have I sold for more and that was only by virtue of work being done by a luthier to that particular uke whilst i owned it. i still lost almost $200 on it). I will ask for slightly more if it's a unique instrument or as new, recently purchased and unmarked. I also live at the ass end of the world and shipping (invariably to buyers in the US) often is around 100 dollars in itself so selling is never something I have considered in terms of making money. I have always taken a loss, sometimes a huge one, but I would rather sell than have one gathering dust on the marketplace board for weeks on end. I'm not sure the Dept of Commerce table can be applied uniformly with ukes or guitars for a few reasons. Scott makes excellent points though not always will you get a purchase at 30-40% less than original retail.

Some points to consider:

* vintage worth. as dictated by other sellers and buyer recent histories selling the same or similar instruments, rarityetc
* condition (obviously): strumwear, nicks, dings, cracks, action etc
* customised options (as an original owner these may have been quite expensive to you, but may hold no or little value to potential buyers)
* shipping costs
* hardcase included or no? (bear in mind this may increase the cost of shipping quite substantially given the extra weight involved)
* always be careful of ebay. ask questions. if it looks like a dodgy setup, it probably is
* my advice from having sold many ukes here and elsewhere is to include shipping in your asking price from the get-go. that way everyone knows where they stand

I do see some folks asking ridiculous prices but only very occasionally. I find the UU marketplace and often, FMM to be inhabited by mostly honourable and knowledgable folks and there are always many bargains to be had. If you wish to be a successful seller and maintain a good reputation, err on the side of asking less everytime. My price points are generally -25% if in perfect cond. and slide down from there given age, condition etc, notwithstanding those factors listed above.

Just some thoughts off the top of my head. Hope they are helpful to you Brian.
I'm a simple kind of guy if I want something and I can afford it I'll buy it. I rarely haggle and usually buy at full asking price though I see others haggle a little and get a great deal. At times I get a great deal others I lose it is what it is.

I do have issues with getting rid of things so I haven't sold any yet. I'm not going to speculate on how I would price a ukulele. I'm a pro tattoo artist I'm used to pricing my worth. Some agree with my assessment and are more than happy with my prices, others walk looking for a better deal. I lose no sleep over those that walk, you just cant make everyone happy. Commonsense in business tells us you can always start high and come down but its hard to go up in price.

This reminds me of the whats your gas mileage questions on the motorcycle forums, if you're having fun what does any of it matter? If you are sitting crunching the numbers you are not out there riding. Go have fun!

toughie. I try and buy used ukes at a price that will allow me to resell it for at least what I paid without great difficulty. Trades are another topic.
All the posts are right on the mark above. However, here at UU, it's a very friendly community, and I always take I to consideration when I buy, the seller, why he or she is selling it Etc.

One golden rule former is to kmow what the price of the Uke would be somewhere else, ie. Ebay, retailers Etc. And I stay away from sellers who are not willing to disclose either the reason for selling the Uke, or what they paid or what it retails for new.

I was once interred in a sale here, but could not find any pricing on the Uke, the user never replied that particular inquiry. So I finally called the luthier, explained to him why I was asking, and he was quite candid with me as he remembered that particular Uke which he had sold only a few weeks before.

Well as it turned out, the seller was asking for 50% more than he paid for it. Then when confronted, he felt personally attacked and had a whole sob story to explain himself. Granted the luthier has a waiting list etc. What I disloked the most about this experience was feeling that this guy was making a profit on the hard work of the luthier. It was not a vintage instrument, and the sweat from the maker was still fresh... So why would I give the original owner a 50% commission on somenone else's work? Had he been honest, I would have been fine or ate least interested in paying what he paid for it.

So I don't use any tables or formulas, since the buying experince here is more of a friendly experience than just a sale. But I'm also not gullible and would not cheat or expect to be cheated by anyone at uu.

So far since 2009, the story above was the only negative experience I've had in 40+ transactions here.
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It's actually quite simple.

Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Sellers don't determine purchase price... The buyer does.

Doesn't matter what the item is... Uke, car, art, services etc.

Supply and demand.
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It's actually quite simple.

Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Sellers don't determine purchase price... The buyer does.

Doesn't matter what the item is... Uke, car, art, services etc.

Supply and demand.

:agree: You cannot use numbers and logic. Buying a ukulele is often more emotion than logic.
:agree: You cannot use numbers and logic. Buying a ukulele is often more emotion than logic.

It's actually quite simple.

Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Sellers don't determine purchase price... The buyer does.

Doesn't matter what the item is... Uke, car, art, services etc.

Supply and demand.

right on, on both accounts...:shaka:
:agree: You cannot use numbers and logic. Buying a ukulele is often more emotion than logic.

Totally agree. Especially when it comes to discretional purchases. I thought it was worth it to work all summer when I was 15 to afford my first Martin guitar. I thought it was worth it recently to sell another favourate instrument to fund the commissioning of my Boat Paddle ML Tenor. The perceived value of these instruments have never changed and I expect never will.
At the end of the day, when I am selling an instrument, I will always like to realise close to what I paid for it, but if I want to make a sale, I will accept a reasonable offer. I guess the issue is the variation of what different people believe to be what is a reasonable depreciation/discount for a pre-loved instrument.
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For his second career, my father bought modest rental houses, which he upgraded before selling. He told me many times, "It doesn't matter what you feel it's worth—it's only worth what the buyer is willing to pay."

I have observed on UU that new ukes that are marked down 25-30% will sell fairly quickly. The first owner should expect to take a big hit on resale.
The unpredictable territory is if you're the second owner of a uke you're selling. Second (or later) owners want to sell for close to what they spent, but buyers of used ukes want them to cost less for each subsequent sale. Rarity or specialness of the uke for sale will attract more buyers, but the seller will probably get no return on person-specific customization.

If you want to sell quickly, set your price lower than you were hoping for. And, if you can offer ease in the transaction (like included shipping), your uke for sale will be more attractive. It also helps to be forthright, as well as nice, in all communication—it fosters trust and good word-of-mouth about you as a seller.

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There is no easy answer to the OP's original question, but I would think that starting at 25% off the original street price would be a good starting point. As someone that has bought and sold many ukes here over the years, I have seen prices vary significantly on different brands. It is all supply and demand. But more so based on the demand.

I remember back in 2010 and 2011 KoAloha's were extremely popular and always in demand. Pop's specialty models, the scepter and the Pineapple Sunday were all the rage and held their value very well. Now you would be lucky to get 50% of their retail price in a sale. Times and demands change.

Speaking of demand, over the years there have been numerous individuals here that have been bitten by the UAS bug, including myself. These people can drive the market. The more people that are afflicted with UAS and are active on the Forum at the same time, the more competitive the atmosphere has been here on the secondary uke market. I would say that at the present time there are fewer of these people here. I see more ukes for sale, both higher and lower end, with fewer buyers. And that has meant lower prices.
Everyone has made a great point. The internet is a great tool to do research as many ukes have prices listed including how much the seller bought it for. I don't have any issue with someone making a profit but there's a chance someone will call them on it, which is fine too because that info is public.

I definitely think the used uke market has gone down for most brands. If a used Kamaka sold for $850 a couple of years and still fetches $850, the main reason that is because the retail price has gone up so the original seller is taking a bigger hit.
When I was playing guitars, I bought and sold and traded some, gave one away, and wound up with three classicals. Each had its attraction: I had a good beater, and two customs, both made for me. I played each of them frequently.

I was at the top of the mountain, and I couldn’t conceive of selling any of them, nor did I need another. No GAS left.

Fast-forward six years:

When I began playing the ukulele, and spent less time with the guitars, my attachment to them lessened. The beater wound up at my grandson’s; I considered selling one of the the customs, and eventually, did sell it.

Not particularly for the money. More than anything, it was because it was such a good guitar that it deserved to be played, by somebody who would love and appreciate it more than it was getting at my house.

A great instrument that sits in a case and never comes out? What is the point? Nobody gets any joy there.

I contacted my luthier and asked if he knew anybody who wanted one of his guitars, but who couldn’t afford a new one. He allowed as how he knew of a serious student who did. So the luthier cleaned it up, sold it for more than I paid originally, and he and I both made a little money, plus the player got a good and timely deal. (The luthier’s current pricing is 50% more than mine cost me, and his waiting list is also a couple of years long.)

I was happy to get a profit, though I was perfectly willing to take less — I had already gotten my money’s worth from that guitar, and then some.

Value for me is what I decide it’s worth to me. If you buy a new instrument already thinking about how much you can get for it if you sell it, there’s nothing wrong with that, of course, and there are investors who buy and sell all kinds of things without getting attached to them.

Time and circumstance change things, and it may happen one day that I feel I must sell one of my ukuleles. I don’t see it now, but neither did I see it with my guitars. Should that day arrive, I’ll do what I do, but meanwhile, they are keepers, and worth more to me than what I could get for them.
I came to this thread to read multiple posts saying the buyer decides the price...
...wasn't disappointed ;)

I think certain brands have specific issues that affect resale.
For example Pono. Everyone selling a used one has to compete with "micro blems" sold new and recenty heavily-discounted models. Really nice ukes, but when it's time to sell, feels like you're competing with the manufacturer/dealer.
I Remember once seeing a photo of higher-end, imperfect guitars in a pile waiting to be destroyed by the manufacturer (Martin?). I thought they were doing this just to protect their image, but now appeciate what it does for all those who have already bought a guitar from them.
toughie. I try and buy used ukes at a price that will allow me to resell it for at least what I paid without great difficulty. Trades are another topic.

I agree with Phil.

There is a sea of ukes and if DownUpDave doesn't buy them all ... there will be lots for all of us to buy reasonably! :agree:
I figure that if I buy a used one, I'll sell it for about as much as I paid for it - sort of. Let's say I buy a uke used for $300 including shipping. I'll sell it for about the same, including shipping. That means my cost for using the uke is whatever the shipping I'm paying is. May drop the actual price a couple bucks, but not more.

If I buy an instrument new, unless someone twists my arm to buy it for whatever reason, I usually trade my new purchased instruments for something else used. Can usually come up with a much fairer deal that way.

Since I'm not out to make a profit, it's easier to negotiate something reasonable.

Usually prefer to trade. It's more fun and can get creative. Have done two-for-one trades when value needed to be balanced (heck, they do it in major league baseball all the time!) and it met both parties' needs.

The best part of it all has been getting to meet and chat with some great folk.
Maybe the question is "What are you willing to pay for a used a ukulele?"

For a readily available production instrument, some percentage of a new instrument price, depending on condition, seems fair. Up or down from that value depending on supply/demand. There must be some incentive to not buy new.

For top custom instruments of outstanding quality, not easily found, and with long wait lists or where the builder has retired, we have seen resale prices for more than new instruments from the same maker. These instruments cannot be bought any day of the week, so are "rare". This is really all about high demand and low supply. Percentages of new prices don't apply here, as long as there is a willing buyer. Sometimes it is about finding an incentive for the current owner to part with an instrument.
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I'd like to throw out a few things, some have already been mentioned, others haven't. The first is what you might expect to get from an insurance company if your instrument needs to be replaced. In most fields that is considered an accurate indicator of somethings value. So I did a little bit or research on insurance for musical instruments. And noticed that there are many types. The salespeople of music instrument insurance like to steer customers away from what is called "actual cash value" insurance for "agreed value" insurance. Having been friends with several insurance salesmen I have always wanted to look into the type of coverage that they steer me away from, because it is often a better deal in the long run.

What these sales would rather you buy is "Agreed on Value" insurance. I would imagine for a couple of reasons. First I imagine that it seems like a customer would think this is a good / fair deal. Because that is what people expect from insurance. Second it costs a little more because you are not only insuring the instrument against loss and damage you are also insuring it against both appreciation and depreciation. "Agreed on Value" insurance is more time effective to determine for the insurance company, and the other type of insurance is going to make people upset, and eventually notice they are insuring something that might be worth much less than they paid for it, and may believe it to be worth.) Agreed Value insurance is also often priced to avoid any deductible for the claim, and often has an extra fee for the policy itself, which is a personal decision each person can make for themselves if that is a wise choice. Its likely "Agreed on Value" insurance probably plays a big factor in perceived value.
Just as an aside, I did notice looking up insurance for musical instruments, that Home Owners insurance can and often does include musical instruments. And may be worth looking into. Be sure to mention if you investigate home owners, if you play an instrument professionally, and ask about deductibles. I don't know but I would guess that Home Owners insurance would pay similar to "Actual Cash Value" and have a deductible and it looks like it will often not cover an instrument for more than $2,000 and have a deductible of about $150-$200. You might also consider if that deductible is for each ukulele or for ALL of them, in the case of fire for example you might pay one deductible for your everything including both your couch and ukulele. If you run over your ukulele I assume it would be the entire deductible for the one item.

Getting your money back for insurance one would assume is unlikely however, in the rare case when an item actually increases in value regardless if was insured or "self insured" that is what is happening. In other words when you pay more than the "actual value" in a way you are paying someone to keep it safe for you until you buy it.

Another point I would like to explore has been mentioned a few times, and it is Supply and Demand. Particularly the Supply and Demand of niche markets. The question (that probably does not have an absolute answer) is if it is better to advertise to a small market such as here on UU or to a large market such as ebay. Obviously if you have 110 identical ukuleles to sell you don't want to advertize to a market of only 100 people. In that case you would likely want to reduce your inventory (supply) to entice at least 10 people to buy more than one. As a gift or to keep one in the bathroom or something.

When you introduce a used product to the huge market of ebay (for example) it must compete against not only identical, similar, and new versions a ukulele will also compete against everything else there is to buy from mandolins to automobiles. However it is the same currency that is used to buy each item. Even if it is adjusted from dollars to pesos, it probably gives a closer idea of the actual value. Keep in mind as the third poster ITT mentioned be sure to ask questions of the seller. You also must be aware of shill bidding which although is against ebays rules (and illegal) for obvious reasons it is nearly impossible to report or prove without the hard to get cooperation from ebay itself.

Finally, "Brand Names" and this will only apply to brand names that have the reputation and MSRP that they deserve which is subjective in and of itself. But it is my firm belief that brand names depreciate at the same rate any other similar item. That does not mean that a 10 year old $1000 ukulele will be worth the same as a 10 year old $100 ukulele it means that the brand name gets its premium up front. It starts off at a higher price and ends at a higher price although ends at a price lower than it originally sold for taking inflation into account. I believe this is true with very few exceptions. One exception would be if the ukulele was hypothetically made of gold. In January of 2006 gold was just under $600 an ounce, at its peak in 2011 it was three times that, today it is just double what it was in 2006. In this case the value of the ukulele is not in the fact that it is a ukulele it is in the fact that it can be melted down and sold as something else it matters very little if it has strap buttons, the value would be based on what it is made of minus the cost it would take to melt it down and make it into something else. So as mentioned in the OP brand names holding their value better than others is an emotional decision, but there is nothing wrong with emotional decisions for the seller but in the end a buyer must have an equal emotional choice to make. Sadly for the sellers, in most cases, custom items regardless of how long you had to wait for them tends not to be taken into account by buyers. A custom item is usually considered in most markets to be a frill for the original owner only. The original owner pays extra to have something particularly meaningful to them.
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