We all love and cherish our instruments. Musicians often feel a unique connection with the instruments that they play. That is why it is such a tragedy to us when we have an instrument stolen. Having anything stolen is a terrible thing, but having something as personal as one’s guitar taken from them so callously is especially tragic. Back is September we shared a post about Bobby McManus, a teacher at the Grosse Pointe Music Academy, and Detroit musician, having his guitar stolen. In fact, this is a very common thing. Since I went to school for lutherie, I’ve stayed in contact with many of the students that I graduated with. A few years ago, I was very sad to learn that one of my classmate’s student guitar, the first instrument that he had ever built by himself, for himself, was stolen at a gig he was playing in Mesa, Arizona. I couldn’t imagine how he felt.
Of course, having your guitar swiped at a gig isn’t the only way that an instrument can be stolen. With technology improving, and sales being done across state borders, there is another kind of theft that is becoming prevalent. Stories of check fraud, and theft by various scams are now becoming more common. Kenny Hill of the Hill Guitar Co. has posted on his site, his story about theft by counterfeit certified checks. The story dates back to 2009, but still, it shows a good example of something that any person selling a guitar should look out for.
It seems that there is little that we can do to protect our instruments from theft, but what we can do is attempt to make the instrument easier to recover, if ever this terrible situation occurs. Firstly, you can register with stolenguitarregistry.com. They are a free resource that is made available to players so that they can have some sense of security about recovering their instruments. If ever the serial number of a guitar that you have registered is run, the site notifies the owner of the name and location of the person running the number. Secondly, I would recommend inserting a label into your guitar. Place it in an inconspicuous location. On an acoustic guitar, I’d suggest sticking it to the inside of the soundboard. In an electric guitar place a label either in the neck joint (in the case of bolt-on necks), underneath the pickups, or underneath the truss rod cover. Please do not scratch your name into your guitar, or write it in permanent marker, as this can greatly reduce the resale value of your instrument. You can use a sticker type label that can be easily removed, or you can make your own label by dipping it in hide glue. Do not rub the label when putting it in with hide glue as it can shred. This kind of label can be removed easily at a later date with a warm damp cloth. If the guitar is taken to a repair tech, like myself, it is likely that we will find it.
Sometimes it can be very difficult to prove ownership of an instrument, and these techniques can help. Besides that, just be mindful of your instrument, and make certain to keep it in a safe place whenever you are out with it.
Grosse Pointe Music Academy Staff/ Certified Luthier