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  1. #1

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    I'm not connected with Norm's. Just browsing for a Les Paul '54 Custom reissue and saw they have quite a few stunning archtops, though you'll need some fairly deep pockets.

    My favorite is the 1949 L-5 P natural ... $28.5k. Ouch!

    Check out all 3 pages.

    Gibson Archives | Norman's Rare Guitars

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  3. #2

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    Is it me or do a lot of these prices seem about 20%+ more than market?

  4. #3

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    Norm's gotta eat too.

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by DMgolf66 View Post
    Is it me or do a lot of these prices seem about 20%+ more than market?
    Maybe so. Brick and mortar costs money.

    On the other hand, you eliminate the risk of buying from some faceless nimrod on the internet who maybe didn't describe the guitar as accurately as he should have, like the neck repair, or the sunken arch, or volume pot that cuts out once in a while or ....

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Uncle Vinnie View Post
    Maybe so. Brick and mortar costs money.
    Understood, but I've been to a few very good vintage brick and mortar shops that weren't priced so much over market as this. 20-25% over market is not insignificant. But he has the name and popularity of his shop, so I guess he can.

  7. #6

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    Is it actually open to the public, or by appointment only ? To his credit, Norm's is active with at least one local charity . So, maybe, after you walk in and say hello, a customer's first words should be: " So, assuming I have a check for the charity of your choice, which I do - will that help me find out how much these guitars actually cost ? "

    But the market is probably as tough as ever to gauge. Everyone knows what something doesn't sell for - -but it's really tough, if not impossible to get close to the price where these instruments actually change hands.

    MHO

  8. #7

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    Norman Harris, like George Gruhn, got in on the vintage instrument business early. I believe he has operated his store for 45 years now. That's a considerable time to accumulate and turn over quite an inventory in vintage guitars, basses, etc.

    If you go into his store in Tarzana, California, you will be bowled over by the stuff he has--mainly Les Pauls, ES-335s, Telecasters, and Stratocasters. That is what most people think of when they think about "vintage electric guitars." He also has lots of archtops and flattops, of course.

    If you go to Nashville, you will probably think that Gruhn's sticker prices are on the high side, too.

    Even if you don't end up buying a guitar at either store, however, these institutions serve a purpose. You can get a great education about vintage guitars there. You can walk in and do a deep dive on archtops. Not sure in your mind about the subtle differences between, say, a Gibson ES-175, ES-350, and a L5CES? Spend time playing two or three of each type. You can build up a lot of guitar-specific knowledge in an establishment like Norm's. Over time, this might end up being worth the sticker price of a Norm's guitar, no?

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by DMgolf66 View Post
    Is it me or do a lot of these prices seem about 20%+ more than market?
    Quote Originally Posted by DRS View Post
    Norm's gotta eat too.
    20% is the standard upmarket dealer's commission. Some dealers take 10%; 15% is about the norm, pun unintended, these days. There is always wiggle room.

    In other words, if Norm's asks $10 000 for a guitar and I have the same model in the same condition, I can safely state that its "true" market value is about $7500 to $8000.
    Great Deals with Great Folks: max52 (Guild-Benedetto Artist Award); prickards (Ribbecke GC Halfling); Cincy2 (Comins Concert)

  10. #9

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    My first encounter through email with Norm's was with Mark Agnesi. I enquired about a chopsocky Steven Seagal's 2012 Super 400CES ASB on ebay. Norm's wanted $7350 for it. I countered with $6850. Mark Agnesi was curt the first time round. And he did not reply to my counteroffer, if I recall correctly without tarnishing his reputation. Norm's sold it about six months later on ebay for...$6850. I thought that Norm's catered for stars and doctor-lawyer-dentist-hedge fund types and steered clear of the shop after that. I am sorta glad he did not reply to my counter because I got my 2012 Le Grand ASB, a much more suitable guitar for me, shortly after.

    The Mark Agnesi Play Authentic Gibson video did not surprise me. That was the vibe I got in my brief encounter with him through one email. Kind of smarmy and combative persona. I am a motorcycle leather-jacketed (Lewis Leathers as Gawd and The Ramones intended), T-shirt jeans, and boots guy myself, and I hope I don't project the same smarmyness.
    Great Deals with Great Folks: max52 (Guild-Benedetto Artist Award); prickards (Ribbecke GC Halfling); Cincy2 (Comins Concert)

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Greentone View Post
    Norman Harris, like George Gruhn, got in on the vintage instrument business early. I believe he has operated his store for 45 years now. That's a considerable time to accumulate and turn over quite an inventory in vintage guitars, basses, etc.

    If you go into his store in Tarzana, California, you will be bowled over by the stuff he has--mainly Les Pauls, ES-335s, Telecasters, and Stratocasters. That is what most people think of when they think about "vintage electric guitars." He also has lots of archtops and flattops, of course.

    If you go to Nashville, you will probably think that Gruhn's sticker prices are on the high side, too.

    Even if you don't end up buying a guitar at either store, however, these institutions serve a purpose. You can get a great education about vintage guitars there. You can walk in and do a deep dive on archtops. Not sure in your mind about the subtle differences between, say, a Gibson ES-175, ES-350, and a L5CES? Spend time playing two or three of each type. You can build up a lot of guitar-specific knowledge in an establishment like Norm's. Over time, this might end up being worth the sticker price of a Norm's guitar, no?

    Well said and point taken. I do think Jabberwocky was right to a point with regards to who the stores may cater to (deeper pocket stars and business professionals), but I'm sure I'd still stop in if I was in the area.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jabberwocky View Post
    My first encounter through email with Norm's was with Mark Agnesi. I enquired about a chopsocky Steven Seagal's 2012 Super 400CES ASB on ebay. Norm's wanted $7350 for it. I countered with $6850. Mark Agnesi was curt the first time round. And he did not reply to my counteroffer, if I recall correctly without tarnishing his reputation. Norm's sold it about six months later on ebay for...$6850. I thought that Norm's catered for stars and doctor-lawyer-dentist-hedge fund types and steered clear of the shop after that. I am sorta glad he did not reply to my counter because I got my 2012 Le Grand ASB, a much more suitable guitar for me, shortly after.

    The Mark Agnesi Play Authentic Gibson video did not surprise me. That was the vibe I got in my brief encounter with him through one email. Kind of smarmy and combative persona. I am a motorcycle leather-jacketed (Lewis Leathers as Gawd and The Ramones intended), T-shirt jeans, and boots guy myself, and I hope I don't project the same smarmyness.
    re: Mark

    Friends and I used to sit around and watch the Norm's guitar-of-the-day vids and we all came to the conclusion that Mark was intentionally trying to play like a dentist.

  13. #12

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    "I am a motorcycle leather-jacketed (Lewis Leathers as Gawd and The Ramones intended), T-shirt jeans, and boots guy myself"

    Just when ya think you know someone

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon View Post
    "I am a motorcycle leather-jacketed (Lewis Leathers as Gawd and The Ramones intended), T-shirt jeans, and boots guy myself"

    Just when ya think you know someone
    Showing my age here, however Norm has always priced his inventory on the high side.However usually has exceptionally nice stuff. I had a High School friend, Bob November (RIP), and back in the early 70's we would visit Norm when he was operating out of his house South of Ventura Blvd. Bob went on to be a vendor and expert in Vintage Instruments, founded MacKinzie River Music in Eugene OR. Bob and I would hit all the shops on "Guitar Row" in Hollywood, Sunset and Gardner, then over Laurel Canyon to the Valley and Norm's. I bought a '49 Epiphone Triumph Cutaway from Norm in the 90's, it's pictured in his book. He gave me a small discount after I played a requested song by his friend he was playing cards with-Long Ago and Far Away.

    Guess I turned out to be a Dainese kind of guy, but I do wear the appropriate Ducati T-Shirt, just like Rossi intended!

    Norm's has some beautiful Gibson archtops ...-dainese-jpg

  15. #14

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    I endorse motorcycles & guitars.

  16. #15

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    I also have encountered guys like Mark Agnesi when buying guitars. Usually in NY City but other places as well. Always the same m.o. as well Usually not very good players and trying to be a Rock Star wannabe.
    Sorry to be so harsh,but being originally from N.Y. as well as of Italian descent, it's fairy easy to spot.

    On the other hand dealing with Dave Rogers (Dave's Guitar Lacrosse Wis.) And Peter Wagener (Lavonne Music Savage, Mn.) is the exact opposite !

  17. #16

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    Mark Agnesi is a decent player when he does demos--I never met him in person, though.

    The people working the floor at Norm's were actually very nice to me and helpful.

    However, Norm is caught up in his Youtube online persona and that of the store. I already said before that I got mixed feelings about Norm's. I wasn't crazy about the whole "quiet on set, we're demo'ing guitars for Youtube" when I wanted to try out some old archtops myself. The store wasn't for me, in the same way that Rudy's downtown shop wasn't for me (I kept getting pestered when I was trying out an AER 60 with my own archtop guitar).

    A shop that is more my speed was Lou's Guitar's n' Jazz in (Summit?) New Jersey. You set up an appointment and Lou makes sure it's only you, and maybe one other customer in his shop. It's small, but you feel like you have a chance to really get to know the guitar (as much as you can in one sitting) before figuring out what's right for you. There's a reason why I still have Lou's number in my phone, and I live across the country right now. I feel like he was personally invested in me leaving his shop happy (and my dad loved that he owned the pharmacy next door, Lou is a character in the best sense of the word). When I found out that my first Eastman 803 was defective, Lou contacted the rep and switched out the guitars without any judgement. From what I've heard, I don't think that would happen at Norm's.

    Norm might be a swell guy, maybe if you went to his shop a couple of times a week to get to know him and his staff. But Lou, he was warm from day one. Especially for someone who was new to the world of archtop guitars at the time--Lou's warmth was definitely appreciated.

    Jads, since you are of italian descent and from NY... have you found any pizza that meets your standards? I'm not saying that in an offensive stereotypical way. It's just that... well, I grew up in NY and I miss legit pizza, and bagels with lox. Thin crust, a nice sooy-iss, and some anchovies... mmm.

    Screw guitars and all that, I endorse NY pizza

  18. #17

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    I've been to the shop. I watch their youtube videos and didn't expect to like the vibe of the place, but everyone there was really cool. I spoke with Mark briefly...didn't see Norm. I wouldn't hesitate to go there again. There was nothing off-putting about it.

    The prices at Norm's seem a little on the high side, but I think it's probably worth it for selection and the opportunity to compare multiple instruments.

    I've been trying to find the right player-grade 60's tele for a while. Over the last 3-4 years, I've found one for sale in my county.

    I could spend an entire day at Norm's playing guitars that fit my exact criteria. To me, that opportunity has value and I would be willing to pay for it.

  19. #18

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    Irez87 : Like almost everything these days it's hard to find what we use to take for granted as kids. Like a great slice of N.Y. style pizza. They are out there ,but more wannabes then the real thing.

    Marketing seems to be the order of the day, wether it be Beer or Music. And with it being so crowded in every area, Facebook marketing has taken over. Instead of true word of mouth, which we relied on in old days.

  20. #19

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    If you go to Norm's, play some guitars, indicate some serious interest, and chat with the guy directly, you can get a highly competitive price out of him on archtops. It's really not complicated.
    "Somebody get me out of this chair." - BOB WILLS
    Hammertone is a registered Hofnerologist.

  21. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by jads57 View Post
    I also have encountered guys like Mark Agnesi when buying guitars. Usually in NY City but other places as well. Always the same m.o. as well Usually not very good players and trying to be a Rock Star wannabe.
    Sorry to be so harsh,but being originally from N.Y. as well as of Italian descent, it's fairy easy to spot.

    On the other hand dealing with Dave Rogers (Dave's Guitar Lacrosse Wis.) And Peter Wagener (Lavonne Music Savage, Mn.) is the exact opposite !
    I will second that Dave’s and Lavonne’s are top-notch shops. I have spent many quality hours in each. Also Willie’s Guitars in St. Paul, although the next-door icon Snuffy’s Malt Shop is moving, so visits there will be less enjoyable than before.

    However, sometimes people in such a business can be abrupt or come across as rude. (A place in Madison comes to mind.) When you have great products and know your stuff, it is annoying that there are so many people who walk in unknowledgeable, or want to get 25% off so they can brag about it on the internet. Sometimes big stars walk in and start acting entitled (interesting rock star story I won’t elaborate on right now). If these places didn’t have some standards, they wouldn’t be around for 40 years.

    If you want a bargain, buy from Craigslist or try your luck on EBay. If you want quality and a reputation behind it, that costs extra.
    “Without music, life would be a mistake”--Friedrich Nietzsche

    Current lineup: Gibson ES-135 ('02), Peerless Sunset, Harmony Brilliant Cutaway ('64), Godin 5th Avenue, Alvarez AC60 A/E classical, Kay K37 ('56), Fender Squier VM Jazz bass, several ukes. Amps: Fishman Artist, Fender SCXD, Pignose 7-100.

  22. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by jads57 View Post
    ...Sorry to be so harsh,but being originally from N.Y. as well as of Italian descent, it's fairy easy to spot...
    Sir, we don't use such language these days. Not in Central Park nor in MacArthur's.
    Great Deals with Great Folks: max52 (Guild-Benedetto Artist Award); prickards (Ribbecke GC Halfling); Cincy2 (Comins Concert)

  23. #22

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    My first buy with Norm's was in 1974 when his tiny shop on Reseda was in business. I got a great old 1937 Martin 00-17 that was beat, but within my price range

    He's used to dealing with deep pocket people and professional musicians come through to see what he's got. As for Mark, I never dealt with him but I'm sure some of his vibe is defensive - if you wanna deal with sharks (the know it all buyers) you gotta be a shark... This is him on my Citation that I scored on Heritage Auctions in 2017.




    If I was in the area you know I'd stop in there - he carries really nice stuff. And via the stars and connection he has he gets some very wild stuff...






    Quote Originally Posted by morroben View Post
    I've been to the shop. I watch their youtube videos and didn't expect to like the vibe of the place, but everyone there was really cool. I spoke with Mark briefly...didn't see Norm. I wouldn't hesitate to go there again. There was nothing off-putting about it.

    The prices at Norm's seem a little on the high side, but I think it's probably worth it for selection and the opportunity to compare multiple instruments.

    I've been trying to find the right player-grade 60's tele for a while. Over the last 3-4 years, I've found one for sale in my county.

    I could spend an entire day at Norm's playing guitars that fit my exact criteria. To me, that opportunity has value and I would be willing to pay for it.

  24. #23

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    He had Mike Post's very-well-played late '40s blonde L-5 for sale a couple of years back - I'm still kicking myself for not buying it - it was a superb guitar. It's the guitar Mike kept in his studio - lots of very well-known music was written on that thing, I bet, and it was played by every guitar player who passed through the joint. What a cool guitar.
    "Somebody get me out of this chair." - BOB WILLS
    Hammertone is a registered Hofnerologist.

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hammertone View Post
    If you go to Norm's, play some guitars, indicate some serious interest, and chat with the guy directly, you can get a highly competitive price out of him on archtops. It's really not complicated.
    I agree completely. And that is from recent, personal experience.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hammertone View Post
    If you go to Norm's, play some guitars, indicate some serious interest, and chat with the guy directly, you can get a highly competitive price out of him on archtops. It's really not complicated.
    It may not be complicated, but he's 2100 miles away. So yes absolutely, if I'm in the area I stop in, which I'd already have done a long time ago.

    But now I'm just another 'guy on the phone from who-knows-where', ' asking about - - ', so how's that going to go ?

    Oh well.....

  27. #26

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    I can't imagine any New Yorker not using such language. And no matter what park or where you park. You got that Jabberwokky, Lol!