The ethics of buying a bass with scratched off serial number.

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harmonyriver
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The ethics of buying a bass with scratched off serial number.

Post by harmonyriver » 12 Aug 2017, 15:00

Hi everyone, just starting this discussion due to a recent ad here:

1) Even after released by police as unclaimed, is it still ethical to contemplate buying it?
OR
2) Should we, just on principle, refuse to buy it?

I ran into a similar problem a few years ago - I bought a bass from a used dealer in USA. He is quite a well-known dealer and sells many basses. On this occasion, I was advised that the bass was being sold on consignment for a local doctor.
When it arrived in Oz, the first thing I noticed was that the serial number was sanded off! So I immediately contacted the dealer and he was apologetic, said he failed to check the serial number and will be more vigilant next time. He contacted the doctor who apparently said that he was definitely the owner and bought it from another person - it was stolen from the previous owner but was apparently recovered, before being sold to the doctor. The dealer offered to refund me the money if I sent the bass back to him. In this case, the shipping to and fro USA / Australia, would have cost the same as what I paid for the bass. Money was pretty tight so I didn't send it back to USA. However, I am now stuck with a bass that has an obviously sanded off serial number which I may have trouble selling in future. I have now learnt my lesson and if, in the future, I am making an overseas purchase, I am going to insist on a photo of the serial number. Sigh...
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Ox Boris
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Re: The ethics of buying a bass with scratched off serial number.

Post by Ox Boris » 12 Aug 2017, 15:07

I'm not going to second-guess the provenance of an item I buy legitimately.
I'd like to know about it for consideration when deciding whether to purchase, but I doubt if the story will ever be anything other than what you were told. Or, put it this way, the explanation is never going to be, "Yeah, it's filed off coz I stole it."

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BazzBass
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Re: The ethics of buying a bass with scratched off serial number.

Post by BazzBass » 12 Aug 2017, 15:29

too late now, but at the time i wonder how you'd go asking the dealer to ask the doctor to provide you with the police report and any other photos etc from when it was stolen? I know, too late now, far too late. That is, IF the doctor asked for this from the original seller who had it stolen, of course :)
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ozrider
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Re: The ethics of buying a bass with scratched off serial number.

Post by ozrider » 12 Aug 2017, 15:53

harmonyriver wrote:
12 Aug 2017, 15:00
Hi everyone, just starting this discussion due to a recent ad here:

1) Even after released by police as unclaimed, is it still ethical to contemplate buying it?
OR
2) Should we, just on principle, refuse to buy it?

I ran into a similar problem a few years ago - I bought a bass from a used dealer in USA. He is quite a well-known dealer and sells many basses. On this occasion, I was advised that the bass was being sold on consignment for a local doctor.
When it arrived in Oz, the first thing I noticed was that the serial number was sanded off! So I immediately contacted the dealer and he was apologetic, said he failed to check the serial number and will be more vigilant next time. He contacted the doctor who apparently said that he was definitely the owner and bought it from another person - it was stolen from the previous owner but was apparently recovered, before being sold to the doctor. The dealer offered to refund me the money if I sent the bass back to him. In this case, the shipping to and fro USA / Australia, would have cost the same as what I paid for the bass. Money was pretty tight so I didn't send it back to USA. However, I am now stuck with a bass that has an obviously sanded off serial number which I may have trouble selling in future. I have now learnt my lesson and if, in the future, I am making an overseas purchase, I am going to insist on a photo of the serial number. Sigh...
Just being pragmatic, I wouldn't buy a bass without a serial number just on the basis of never being able to prove that it wasn't stolen, when at some point in the future I may want to sell it. Ethically, it would bother me no end, such that I'd be happy to see the back of it even if I had to stick it in the bin to be rid of it, but that's just me.

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BassLine
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Re: The ethics of buying a bass with scratched off serial number.

Post by BassLine » 12 Aug 2017, 16:27

I bought an amp that had the previous owners drivers licence number engraved on the chassis at the back (serial number intact). Advice was to leave it as is - trying to remove it or cover it up would appear dodgier than simply saying "the previous owner did it".
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BassLine
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Re: The ethics of buying a bass with scratched off serial number.

Post by BassLine » 12 Aug 2017, 16:50

On the practical side:
A stink-load of unclaimed goods are auctioned each year by Police. If 100% legit, I have no issue buying one provided they are upfront and documentation is supplied.


The example the OP stated had several interesting aspects:
- purchased unseen/undisclosed.
- cost of return shipping
- dealer & previous owner "didn't notice".
- no supporting documentation.
Had any of those been different, it wouldn't have happened.

We kept track of the serial numbers of every item in & out of Dad's Music Store. Listed them on Invoices too. Matt @ Saltmine Repairs also writes down serial numbers/models of all basses too.
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Re: The ethics of buying a bass with scratched off serial number.

Post by aphekgreg » 12 Aug 2017, 17:40

Always get and keep a receipt. If anybody ever tries to accuse you of having stolen good, you can show that you bought it legitimately.

A mate had a top of the line Yamaha drum kit stolen from his van after a gig. Fortunately the band was well managed and it was replaced under insurance. About a year later he had a call from the police saying they'd found the kit and he'd need to appear in court at some point to identify it. The reason it was recovered, was that someone broght the kit into a drum shop and asked if they were interested in buying it? The woman in the shop noticed that all the serial numbers had been filed off, so said "That shouldn't be a problem, but I need to let the boss see it before giving you a price. Can you leave it overnight?". She rang the police right away and it matched the description of my mate's kit, so got it back. In this case, the insurance company owned it, as they'd already replaced it. If the person bringing it in to sell had a receipt, they wouldn't have been charged.

If the kit still had the serial numbers, the woman in the shop wouldn't have questioned where it came from.

A few years later we were doing a gig and the drummer in the other band had this kit. He was quite interested to hear the full history of the kit.
Greg

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harmonyriver
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Re: The ethics of buying a bass with scratched off serial number.

Post by harmonyriver » 13 Aug 2017, 01:52

Thanks for all the viewpoints so far!
BassLine wrote:
12 Aug 2017, 16:50
On the practical side:
A stink-load of unclaimed goods are auctioned each year by Police. If 100% legit, I have no issue buying one provided they are upfront and documentation is supplied."
This is one of the issues I was wondering - should we, as fellow bassists, on principle, refuse to buy unclaimed basses without a serial number, coz being unclaimed from the police doesn't detract from the fact that it may have been stolen in the first place?
There was a bass recently listed here in our classifieds that was exactly that.

Or has it been 'whitewashed' as OK, since unclaimed and resold "legitimately"?
"Guitar is for the head, drums are for the chest, but bass gets you in the groin."
- Suzi Quatro

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ozrider
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Re: The ethics of buying a bass with scratched off serial number.

Post by ozrider » 13 Aug 2017, 10:12

harmonyriver wrote:
13 Aug 2017, 01:52
Thanks for all the viewpoints so far!
BassLine wrote:
12 Aug 2017, 16:50
On the practical side:
A stink-load of unclaimed goods are auctioned each year by Police. If 100% legit, I have no issue buying one provided they are upfront and documentation is supplied."
This is one of the issues I was wondering - should we, as fellow bassists, on principle, refuse to buy unclaimed basses without a serial number, coz being unclaimed from the police doesn't detract from the fact that it may have been stolen in the first place?
There was a bass recently listed here in our classifieds that was exactly that.

Or has it been 'whitewashed' as OK, since unclaimed and resold "legitimately"?
As you point out morality/ethics and procedural fairness isn't necessarily the same thing, although there will be those who argue that social institutions like the redistribution of stolen goods is 'legitimate'.

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BassLine
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Re: The ethics of buying a bass with scratched off serial number.

Post by BassLine » 13 Aug 2017, 16:36

Similar ethics to ivory. Dads music shop would come across pianos with key tops made from genuine ivory. If too far gone to repair, he'd remove the ivory before discarding it. He didn't sell them, but would use them to replace damaged ones on repairable pianos. You can't undo the past, but being a careful steward of what's left is one way of showing respect.
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slowlearner
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Re: The ethics of buying a bass with scratched off serial number.

Post by slowlearner » 13 Aug 2017, 18:36

harmonyriver wrote:
12 Aug 2017, 15:00
So I immediately contacted the dealer and he was apologetic, said he failed to check the serial number and will be more vigilant next time. He contacted the doctor who apparently said that he was definitely the owner and bought it from another person - it was stolen from the previous owner but was apparently recovered, before being sold to the doctor. The dealer offered to refund me the money if I sent the bass back to him.
I know it's water under the bridge, but I suspect a quick phone call to his local cops might have fixed this... or at least threats to that end. That way, he'd have to do the running around and secure the appropriate documents and provenance from former owners. Coz it sounds to me like he was thinking, "outta sight, outta mind". I'm pretty sure his local authorities would take a dim view of this. What does surprise me is that Australian Customs didn't pick up the discrepancy.

Just BTW, I'm also guessing your bank wouldn't mind chasing this sort of rubbish if you paid using a credit card. They have whole departments for chasing down dirtbags. ;)
Bassline "I'm not arguing.... I'm just explaining why I'm right."

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aphekgreg
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Re: The ethics of buying a bass with scratched off serial number.

Post by aphekgreg » 13 Aug 2017, 22:51

One of the reasons stolen goods go unclaimed, is that people don't report the theft to the police. I'm amazed how many times I've asked people if they've reported something stolen and discovered they haven't bothered.

I have found two stolen instruments. A guitar and a bass. In both cases, they were unmistakable one offs. Because they had been reported to the police, both my friends were able to get them back.

I know with Pawn Brokers, any goods that go through them, have to be held for a couple of weeks, so a police check can be done. They send in a description and any serial numbers and the police check it against their data base, before giving the ok to sell.
Greg

Ibanez Musician, MusicMan, Dingwall Z3, Rickenbacker, MIJ Fender Precision & Jazz, Warmoth/Musikraft P/J-bass, Danelectro Longhorn.
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slave
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Re: The ethics of buying a bass with scratched off serial number.

Post by slave » 14 Aug 2017, 07:27

Anyone who bought/sold a few things over the years will tell you, re-sale is something to consider.
No serial means you might limit how much you can ask for an item, and how many buyers you might attract.
An example of this could be finding it hard to prove your MIA Fender isn't just a MIM poser....

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Aussie Mark
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Re: The ethics of buying a bass with scratched off serial number.

Post by Aussie Mark » 14 Aug 2017, 09:52


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Re: The ethics of buying a bass with scratched off serial number.

Post by PilbaraBass » 14 Aug 2017, 10:27

:lol:

I wonder if I buy one of these and put "000001" on it and then stick it on a bass if I can then sell it for $100,000 as the first Fender bass ever produced... :lol: :thumbup:
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