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Old 12-14-2005, 01:22 PM   #1
Auburn Annie
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The nicked-up guitar and Gene Schmidt were born the same year, 1938.

Gene paid a guy 50 bucks for the instrument 11 years ago. Knowing a thing or two about guitars, he saw the respected Martin brand name and figured he was getting a good deal.

But not this good. The guitar sold on eBay this week for $47,200.

You'd expect a price like that for a used guitar if Jimi Hendrix had played it with his teeth at Woodstock. Gene is no rock star. He's a regular guy living in Camp Douglas, Wis., population 592, who fixes cars for a living.

Gene ventured into the big town, La Crosse, to get some help posting the guitar on the Internet auction site from a storefront business called Sell It All Online. During the spirited bidding, questions about the six-string were pouring in by e-mail and telephone.

Gene Schmidt of Camp Douglas, Wis., with the 1938 Martin guitar he bought 11 years ago for $50. This week, he sold it on eBay for $47,200.

"People wanted us to put the guitar up near the phone so they could hear it strummed," said John Goddeau, who runs Sell It All Online with his wife, Carlena.

The bidding started at $100, and by the second day of the weeklong auction it hit $15,000. On Sunday, with 27 seconds to go, a Connecticut collector submitted the winning offer. The price had shot up $18,000 in the final 30 minutes of bidding.

"I knew it would be worth something someday, but not this much," Gene said when I reached him by telephone. "I had a guy appraise it one time and he said it was $8,000 to $10,000 maybe."

C.F. Martin & Co., of Nazareth, Pa., made just 121 of this model, D-28, that year and sold them for about $100 each, roughly equivalent to $1,400 today.

Scott Follweiler, a spokesman for the company, called it the "Holy Grail of acoustic guitars" with its Brazilian rosewood body, African ebony fingerboard and mahogany neck. If you can believe what you read online, pop singer Beck owns a 1938 D-28, and country crooner Merle Travis had one, too.

Ten years ago, Gene paid $350 to have the guitar's faulty bridge replaced and neck realigned, but he hasn't strummed it all that much over the years. I asked if he's a good player.

"I'm not Chet Atkins, I'll tell you that. But I'm busy every weekend playing," he said. That would be in bars mostly, offering up old country tunes from the likes of Hank Williams, Hank Snow and Ernest Tubbs. He also plays fiddle, steel guitar, mandolin, harmonica and a little banjo.

I have an old Yamaha guitar that I'm quite attached to (and I noticed two similar ones straining to attract any bids at all on eBay Tuesday, so apparently I have no big payday coming). I assumed Gene had the same fond feelings about the Martin. Nope, he said. He's got nine more guitars, a mix of electric and acoustic.

It was time to let this one go, he said. Business is down because these newer cars are so darn complicated to fix. And Gene's wife, Hazel, had a knee replaced a while back, which wasn't cheap. So they can use the money.

"I'm just getting old. Last year my brother fell over dead a year older than me," he said.

And you can't take it with you, unless it's a harp. You do see those in heaven.

This guitar came close to being scrapped. The man who sold it to Gene was killed in a car accident a couple weeks later. His widow told Hazel that they had no idea of the instrument's value and probably would have tossed it out with her husband's other unwanted possessions.

After eBay and the Goddeaus get their cut, Gene will walk away with about $41,800. Sell It All Online handed Gene a ceremonial check this week so two La Crosse television news crews would have something to shoot.

Gene played one last song on the old guitar, Buck Owens' "All I Want for Christmas Dear is You."

"It plays beautifully all the way up," he said. All the way up to $47,200.

[ December 14, 2005, 12:28: Message edited by: Auburn Annie ]
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Old 12-14-2005, 07:37 PM   #2
New 12 String Mike
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Thanks Annie.

All of us want to stumble upon a guitar like that, only many of us wouldn't sell it!
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Old 12-15-2005, 06:37 AM   #3
BILLW
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Mike,

If I ever find one I'll be glad to sell it to you.

Merry Christmas,

Bill
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Old 12-15-2005, 01:25 PM   #4
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One of my doctors found an old D-45 that one of his patients owned, but the guy refused to sell it when the Doc made an offer. A couple of months later, he called the doctor and sold it for $200, because it had a couple of hairline cracks in the top.

I forget what year it is, but I know it's old enough to be my mother. And don't tell Mom I said that!
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Old 12-15-2005, 03:49 PM   #5
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I'm telling Hazel and she's gonna send me all of your XMAS gifts!
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Old 12-15-2005, 07:16 PM   #6
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That wouldn't suprise me at all.
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