So… now I think I’ve decided I want a Telecaster of some kind, but I still need to work out how to get one. As I mentioned, my budget is – shall we say— ‘limited’, and my ideas about what I want within the general Telecaster type are somewhat vague.
There are three main options for obtaining the instrument
Buying new would be logical and safe. Painless, except for the wallet. Low risk. You know what you’re getting. Either it will come with a pretty good setup out of the box or I can have the store do a setup. Any problems with the guitar should be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. But of course not the cheapest way to do it.
Of course used would be cheapest[i]. The Tele is a robust solid bodied instrument that seemingly lasts forever. I also believe that they depreciate circa 30-50% when they leave the store[ii], but then hold their value pretty well. So as a bonus down the line, if I decided to sell, I’d likely get something close to what I paid for it. However, comes at extra risk. The local Craigslist market for Telecasters here in Phoenix doesn’t seem to be particularly liquid. Lots of Strats for sale of all different kinds, but precious few Teles, so my choice would be limited. There’s of course a bigger market on eBay, but that means I wouldn’t be able to play the guitar before purchase, which increases the risk I won’t like it when it arrives
The Tele is a modular guitar, so building my own from a mix of new and second hand parts could be an option. All components can be swapped. Building these ‘Frankenstein’ or ‘Partscaster’ guitars is a time honoured tradition. If it’s good enough for Clapton and Van Halen, it’s good enough for me. Various things such as bodies, pickups, necks come available all the time on eBay and Craigslist. This might be a fun thing to do, and open up almost limitless choice, but would also be time-consuming and place a burden on me as a ‘builder’. I’m not known for my practical nature, so I could really balls it up if I’m not careful. Also, such ‘Recycled’ guitars don’t hold their value as well as unmodified examples.
I like the idea of getting something used and maybe finding some choice parts to swap in and out, but I feel I need to understand what kinds of guitars are out there and how the market values them. The logical place to start to do that is to look at Fender’s current portfolio.
[i] I’m going to steer clear of the term ‘vintage’ as to me it just means ‘used and expensive’.
[ii] This is a pure guess, based on what I see on Craigslist and eBay. But of course a Squier is likely to depreciate 50% and an American made model maybe only 20-30%, before it ‘goes vintage’ 20 years down the line and begins to increase in value.