The Emerging Shift Toward Refurbished and ‘Like-New’ Guitar Gear

by Madonna

In an era where the strains of a soaring cost of living are felt across the financial spectrum, a harmonious solution may be dawning for guitar enthusiasts in search of both economical and environmentally-conscious alternatives for acquiring new gear.

The longstanding tradition of buying and selling used gear within the guitar community traces back to the golden era of the 1960s when musicians sought out instruments through classified ads in publications like NME and Melody Maker. This age-old practice is, however, undergoing a transformation, aligning itself with a substantial wave in the world of consumer electronics.


For those who have traversed the technological landscape over the past decade, the notion of selling one’s smartphone to a refurbisher is familiar territory. These masterful refurbishers breathe new life into aging devices, rendering them akin to their pristine, fresh-out-of-the-box counterparts. This trend, originating in the realm of cellphones, has burgeoned into a significant force within the tech domain. It not only offers individuals a budget-friendly avenue to access the latest gadgets but also contributes to a more sustainable planet by minimizing the demand for ‘new’ products through efficient recycling.


While the guitar realm has been somewhat sluggish in its adoption of this trend, winds of change are undeniably sweeping through. E-commerce platform Reverb, serving as a hub for gear enthusiasts, has noted a substantial uptick in its ‘B-stock’ category, largely driven by the surge in ‘Like New’ items. The second quarter of 2023 witnessed an impressive 18% surge in sales within this category compared to the same period the previous year. Jim Tuerk, spokesperson for Reverb, elucidates, “The terminology ‘refurbished’ or ‘B-stock’ has been commonly associated with phones and computers. It’s not as frequently seen in the context of guitars, but that is a narrative that is rapidly evolving.”


In essence, what sets apart the realm of ‘Like New’ from conventional used gear is rather straightforward. It encapsulates a spectrum of items including demonstration units from retailers, products that have been opened and subsequently returned, or those bearing minor cosmetic blemishes.

Beyond the economical appeal, the consumer stands to reap substantial rewards. Chris Van Den Berg, Web Manager & Purchasing at Pixel Pro Audio, articulates the allure of B-stock products, stating, “Customers gain access to top-notch gear that might exhibit minor scuffs or imperfections, often backed by a manufacturer warranty, all at a more affordable price point. It’s an enticing option well worth considering.”

As the harmonic tide of environmental awareness continues to rise, the world of guitar is poised on the cusp of transformation. The ethereal allure of new gear remains, but the resonance of refurbished instruments and equipment harmonizes with a global call to combat waste and tread lightly on the earth. Amidst the melodies of acquisition, the prospect of shopping ‘like new’ — be it for guitars, amplifiers, or effects — emerges as a poignant note in the symphony of responsible consumerism. In the realm of music, as in life, the cadence of progress echoes, and in this cadence, harmony may yet triumph.


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