8 Types of Used Music Gear That Went Up in Price in 2020

Needless to say, 2020 was a crazy year. It was a crazy year for historic and globe-spanning events, and it was a crazy year for way less important things like prices on used and vintage music gear.

As has been reported in a lot of other places, the pandemic, social distancing, and lockdowns brought a huge surge of aspiring new music makers into the fold, which increased demand for a wide variety of music gear—and for beginner-friendly instruments in particular. On top of that, store closures and interrupted supply lines in the spring limited the availability of certain types of brand-new gear, pushing many buyers into the online used market possibly for the first time.

The combined effect of these forces was an increase in demand with a decrease in supply which adds up to increased used gear prices across a wide array of different categories, makes, models, and vintages. Additionally, here on Reverb, we saw an increase in sell-through rates across most listings, as well as a general decrease in the time it takes for used listings to sell once they get published to our marketplace.

Today, we’re going to highlight some examples of where this dynamic of increased activity and ultimately increased prices seems to have played out in 2020. There are tons of other pockets where prices went up beyond what’s highlighted below, but these examples hopefully provide an interesting illustration of these general trends while representing a good variety of different sorts of gear.

It’s also worth noting that while increasing prices is the theme of this post, there were plenty of pockets of the market where prices trended in the opposite direction or stayed largely flat. Vintage guitars on the whole went down slightly in price, even while many specific brands and models increased.

Prices across the whole used amp market went down on average, which likely reflects a decreased need for larger gig-worthy amps and a focus more on smaller social-distancing friendly options. This seems to be proven out by the fact that used Boss amps (like the popular Katana series) went up in average price, while prices on vintage Marshalls slipped down about 4%.

Beginner-friendly used ukuleles went up a bit, while used mandolins and banjos went down, which I suppose makes sense 'cause who wants to be stuck in lockdown with someone learning to play the banjo?

The above chart shows average prices across some key categories. In many instances, the increased focus on cheaper beginner-friendly gear is probably what drove overall category averages down.

Other Factors Pushing Used Gear Prices Up

Before getting into specifics, I’d like to take a moment to offer a little more context on other factors underlying the overall upward pricing trend of 2020. The aforementioned dynamics of increased interest in making music, coupled with decreased supply in new inventory, was definitely the main headline for 2020. No matter how you slice it, more people making music and buying gear because of lockdowns (and more of them doing so online and not from local shops) was the primary driver of these trends. That said, there are some other factors, both internal and external to the music gear industry, that played a significant role.

For one, in the US at least, stimulus checks put some cash into people’s pockets and at least some of that ended up in the gear market. This year also saw major gains in certain segments of the stock market, which may have given some buyers some more cash to spend in higher-end segments like vintage synths. Historically speaking, higher-end vintage prices rise and fall somewhat in line with other asset classes, such as stocks, and it stands to reason that this trend would continue even amidst this generally unpredictable year.

Additionally, with both of these macroeconomic considerations, there’s likely an element of retail therapy at play here. People are bored at home and not spending money on things like vacations, so may decide that now is the right time to spring for that Ibanez JEM they’ve always wanted. On a more somber note, there are a lot of people struggling in the world in 2020, and some people may be selling gear to help pay for bills. Undoubtedly, that has some effect on the market in general.

Another factor could be the extremely lame and disheartening (though legally required) introduction of sales tax for many sales on online marketplaces like Reverb, which started last year in much of the US. While none of the average prices presented below include sales tax in the total, these new legal requirements for sales tax on online platforms may have a less direct impact: Lots of people who buy and sell gear try to recoup their investment in each flip, so sellers may be factoring in the added tax amount in their asking prices when they go to resell an item.

Similarly, as I’m sure some of you are already thinking, Reverb did increase its sell fee from 3.5% to 5% back in August, which probably had some impact on these trends. That said, many of these increases were most pronounced around March and April when the lockdowns first hit and well before that change was announced. And while we don’t have as much data from other platforms, price increases on used gear seem to have occurred through other venues and platforms as well.

With all that out of the way, let’s turn to some specific examples from various music gear segments. As a general note on this data, the prices listed below are averages for used gear only and exclude gear in non-functioning, fair, or poor condition. And as always when we present Reverb data like this, these numbers only reflect sales on our platform but we do hope they serve as a useful proxy for the used gear market more broadly.

1. Entry Level and Beginner Guitars and Basses

Perhap the biggest increase in sales across the entire music gear industry this year occurred in the realm of beginner-friendly guitars. Fender and other big players reported all-time sales records as droves of new players decided to use their at-home time to pick up the hobby. It was a real silver lining to this whole bummer of a year.

The above brands and categories are meant to represent a decent cross-section of beginner-oriented product lines, though there similar trends to be found across a ton of smaller brands and models. Squier is an interesting example where prices have gone up consistently the past few years, but this also reflects an expansion of their product line to include a bunch of exciting new models which changed the composition of the total used Squier inventory on Reverb. This sort of compositional change as a driver of categorical price increases is something that may be an underlying factor to many of the data points shown in this article.

2. Rare, Discontinued, and Hyped Pedals

As much as we’d like to think that people only buy pedals to serve actual musical needs, there’s no denying that a certain collector mentality plays a central role in driving the used and vintage pedal market. There’s such an amazing variety of boutique pedals out there with such fine nuance between them that, increasingly, pedal people view things like overdrives the way a sommelier might compare two vintages of pinot. They want to try all these rarified flavors and are increasingly willing to pay serious cash for the opportunity.

This year, we saw a number of rare and discontinued pedals surge in price often driven by some form of internet hype. The Klon Centaur, for instance—the eternal go-to example for hype in the pedal market—continued to climb in price as did its smaller red counterpart the Klon KTR where used pricing seems to be fueled by a lack of new product availability. Part of the reason for the ongoing march of the Klon may have been a number of new videos on YouTube about the Klon legacy. There’s a feedback loop that exists here where the higher the prices go, the more people talk about it, and the more people talk about it, the higher the prices soar.

The Klon is the most famous example, but all the other pedals listed in the chart above reflect some version of this dynamic where new supply is limited or non-existent and something creates collector or player interest in the model. The DOD Grunge and Behringer Super Fuzz, for example, are almost entirely the result of JHS making videos that feature these models, and the inflection point of their price graphs line up almost exactly with the release of those videos.

Prices on used Analogman Prince of Tone overdrives.

Watching discussion around these themes on various forums and groups, there seems to be a lot of anxiety within the gear community that pedals are moving in the way of Supreme drops or sneaker culture or other sorts of collectables where it’s more about having than it is about using. It’s an understandable thing to be worried about.

As some of you may know, we released some exclusive pedals to promote our upcoming documentary, “The Pedal Movie,” last month and the flipping that followed was at the center of this discourse. As one of the producers of the movie who was involved with this promotion, I can say unequivocally that no one involved likes seeing this sort of behavior and much like the rest of the community, we want to see these pedals on the boards of people who are going to enjoy them.

The Pedal Movie: Official Trailer

More generally, though, most segments of the used pedal market did inch up a bit in price in 2020, but nowhere near the increases shown for these rare and collectable examples.

3. Iconic '80s Roland Drum Machines and Synths

Along with old-school Moogs, '80s Roland synths and drum machines are maybe the most iconic variety of vintage electronic music gear out there. They sport this recognizable aesthetic which only adds to their appeal as gear that sounds really good and provides the foundation for whole genres of popular music.

This past year saw a continuation of a longer-term trend where much of the most iconic Roland gear ticked further upward in price, with the highest-end stuff like the TR-808 and 909 reaching new all-time highs. There aren’t all that many of these drum machines out there and as their status goes from coveted gear to mythical artifact, it doesn’t seem especially likely that the trend is going to reverse any time soon.

Prices on used Roland Juno-106 synths.

For more on the vintage Juno craze, check out this article.

4. '80s Electrics and Van Halen Guitars

This next example is a bit of a sad one, but an interesting example of how events in the music world can ripple into used gear. As you undoubtedly know, Eddie Van Halen, a peerless legend of the electric guitar, passed away in October which rightfully caused the entire world to reflect on his indelible and revolutionary impact on how people play the instrument.

Almost immediately there was a huge increase in people buying EVH-associated guitars, both in terms of his signature gear like the modern EVH-branded line, as well as other guitars that are associated with the way he played. It’s a bit of a bummer on the one hand that this tragic event would cause prices on these beloved artifacts to go up. On the other hand, it is, in a way, a beautiful testament to how he’s continued to inspire people to play music much as he has since first hitting the scene back in the ‘70s.

5. Go-to Home Studio Microphones

In addition to beginner guitars, one of the major areas of expansion for music gear in 2020 center on home recording gear. On Reverb, we saw a major lift in people buying entry-level interfaces, USB mics, studio monitors, and other home studio equipment. The peak was most pronounced right around the first wave of COVID, as people thought to use their time in lockdown to record a demo or maybe that podcast idea they’ve been kicking around for years.

Prices on used Audio-Technica AT2020 mics.

This appears to be a good example of where limited supply of brand-new gear also propped up used prices. The Shure SM7B—a longstanding go-to for vocals and broadcast—was nearly depleted of new inventory for a bit, and this trickled over to the used market, driving up prices significantly.

Studio monitors are another area where you would expect prices to rise, but this was a bit more of a mixed bag. Some of the most-popular monitors on the market, such as the KRK Rokit 5s and Yamaha HS-8s, noticeably ticked up in price around March, though many other models and brands stayed flat perhaps reflecting sustained availability of new inventory.

6. Les Paul Customs (and Especially Silverbursts)

Les Paul Customs appear to be in fashion of late, and I think the main reason for this is relatively straightforward: They are really cool. While prices on used Les Pauls in general have stayed mostly the same over the past few years, Les Paul Customs have all ticked up including vintage Customs, modern Customs, and even more affordable Epiphone variations.

Most interestingly, Silverburst Les Pauls, which were made for a bit from the late ‘70s to the mid-’80s, saw the biggest increase in 2020. A contributor to this may be the release of a much-publicized Gibson Custom Shop signature model for Adam Jones of Tool. This is a dynamic we see often: A new reissue creates more awareness of the original artifact, inspiring buyers to look into the original. This is compounded in the case of the Adam Jones Silverburst where the original examples are actually cheaper than the new release.

Prices on ‘50s Les Paul Customs also have been ticking up it would seem, but so few of these ultra high-end guitars are actually sold in a given year that it’s difficult to extrapolate much from the average numbers as the pricing is far more case-by-case.

Prices on "Norlin Era" (ca. 1970 - 198)5 Gibson Les Paul Customs
7. Tascam Portastudios

The digital recording revolution of the past several decades has made home recording easier than ever before, but even before, it was the stalwart four-track tape recorder that gave millions of aspiring producers their start. While neglected by many for years, many of these older school home recording units have found a new appreciation in recent years, and the Tascam Portastudio series sits at the very center of the trend.

Prices on Used Portastudio 414 MKIIs

The reemergence of this variety of tape recorders probably boils down to two main factors. For one, there’s a whole lot of home recording people who prefer the tactile workflow and analog sound of a tape machine. This has always been the case, but in my estimation, more and more people are probably interested in moving away from the computer as the center of their setups in an age where we spend so much of our time staring at screens.

The other factor is a rise in interest in tape manipulation, looping, and all sorts of other lo-fi experimental goodness that utilizes this sort of gear. For an example of what that’s all about, check out this fantastic video we made with our good pal Alessandro Cortini.

Alessandro Cortini of NIN: Using a Cassette Recorder as an Instrument

Of note, the major inflection in pricing on the Portastudio 414 MKII he’s using in that video coincides almost exactly with when that video was released.

8. Loop Pedals

And finally, we come to Loop pedals, which make a lot of sense as the sort of thing people would be interested in using while stuck at home. The classic Ditto Looper is consistently the most-popular used pedal on Reverb and demand only increased this year pushing prices up. Indeed total order volume for loopers on Reverb went up about 24% in 2020 over 2019.

Well, that about does it! If you actually read this far, I thank you for your attention. I do want to point out that while sure, Reverb does sort of benefit from heightened used prices, no one here is making any efforts to sway the market one way or another, which is something I’ve been accused of when posting things like this in the past.

Also, on a personal note: After eight years, this is my last article as a staffer at Reverb. If you’ve read anything else of mine over the years, I want to express my sincere gratitude. It has been a blast.

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