Long time lurker, first time poster. i see a lot of vendors of CBG on places like eBay, Etsy, etc. Not being a long time CBGer, I have to ask the experienced sellers here; Is the market in the USA on the upswing, down swing or still untapped potential?
Is CBG market saturated or is there enough demand to increase the supply and still hope to make a buck or two?
market trends anyone?
I think you make a key point here in that there is a learning curve, look at your basic entry level acoustic or electric guitar, is the market saturated with them? there's no shortage of makers churning them out in (literally) boat loads.But that's basically what the world knows as a guitar. The cbg is probably looked at as a novelty, As a fan of the show shark tank I've heard more than one of them say that if you have to educate the world as to why they need or want your product you have a real challenge ahead. Now DON'T GET ME WRONG, to those of you who have found whatever level of success you have worked for I truly commend you, I have seen stunning craftsman (and women) work here. I'm just stating that it's still somewhat unknown compared to the "guitar"
all i know is , it's a good time to buy .
get in on it now ,
here's my site http://swampwitchguitars.weebly.com
see what i did there ? ;-)
Here's the deal from my perspective... Sure, the market on eBay and Etsy is flooded in general with all sorts of craft related items (... and yes, I am sorry... I may have just lumped Cigar Box Guitar building in with making crafts... but the crafts your Mom/Grandmaw, kids/grandkids make are nowhere near as sophisticated as some of the most simple of Bottle Lamps sold on Etsy/eBay (let alone the simplest of Cigar Box Diddley Bows)).
I make and sell all sorts of stuff on Etsy (shameless plug here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/FunEclecticHF). There are plenty of people taking old-looking books and cutting them into block letters, but that doesn't stop me from selling a ton of them. The same goes with hollow book safes, vinyl record bookends, and Cigar Box Guitars (and related items).
Now... for my super secret, secret to being marginally successful ('cause let's face it... I don't make enough on Etsy to live off of, but enough to be able to stick back half of my profits, and have fun buying more stuff to make more stuff with the other half)... You ready for that secret now? ... Be Different...
Now how different you are is up to you, but I find simply trying different things than others... or even taking others ideas and trying to put my spin on it... that makes things somewhat unique... and unique (or nice) enough someone is willing to pay for yours versus someone elses.
The other thing is not to gouge your prices. No one knows me. Because of this I can't command big bucks for my items unless I have something truly special (and even then... I have been trying to get $200-$250 for this Lightsaber Lunchbox Guitar since I built it last year and have only had one offer for $100: https://www.etsy.com/listing/235397482/cigar-box-guitar-style-star-...). The neck freaking glows in the dark people!
To better answer your questions in a shorter, more succinct fashion...
It all depends on your demographic. Where I am in NC (near Charlotte) not many people have ever seen a CBG. Some folks have heard of them, but not ever played or seen one. Craft markets for me (selling crafts and not CBGs) have not been a good use of time for me (I waste 3 days of the Craft Fair, and months of work in prep) to make $150 to $200. Because of this my "Boss" (wife) prefers I make things to order.
Online is sporadic and inconsistent, but has been much more profitable (an not such a waste or time). Also, you can pace yourself, experiment, and find your niche.
Bottom line: These guitars (and amps if you are thrifty) don't cost hardly anything to make. If you are thrifty, and make good use of your chargeable time, you can still make decent profit on a guitar you charge $75 to $100. Your profit margins may not be huge, but what's the matter with making 1½ to ? times what you have into the project. You're guaranteed not to lose any money. The flip side is you have to enjoy doing it. Unless you become famous and are able to command high dollars, or sell a lot, then this isn't a "get rich quick" system.
If you want to try it out, you almost owe it to yourself to at least try it.
Here's my humble opinion. For over three years I've never been able to keep up with the requests I receive for guitars. Most of my customers are first-time buyers (the others are folks looking to upgrade). So I have to assume that the market continues to grow.
I don't do Ebay, Etsy, craft fairs, sell out of the trunk of my car, etc. and sell exclusively through my website (www.biglerguitars.com). Don't just think "USA market". Probably about 30 percent of my sales are to overseas customers. A website allows you to reach that increasing market as well.
If you build what people want there is enough demand to sell guitars and make a buck. But as already stated here, it needs to be a hobby you love first. The rest will follow.
I'm going to "chime in" again on this thread. TattooedAxe says that cbg's are looked at mostly as a novelty. I believe he is absolutely right. And us builders are mostly to blame. I'll probably ruffle some feathers here, but as long as we continue to build guitars out of poplar sticks glued to old kitchen appliances, car parts and other objects de junk they will remain novelties. I'm sure the first violins were "novelties" until Stradivari and his folks started to take them to the next level. It takes me about 40 hours labor to build a guitar. But I've seen folks brag here about how they built ten guitars over the weekend. What could they possibly be building other than novelties? In fact, I saw a guy on ebay once who is building guitars that you don't have to worry about putting a scratch in it because they are already beat to shit. He also claims that his kits are provided with plenty of "wiggle room". I guess we all know what that means.
I know by the amount I charge for my guitars ($260 to $320) and the fact that I have to turn people away that there are a lot of people who want to take CBG seriously. I've tried in the past to find someone here who builds guitars of similar quality and design as mine who I could confidently refer people to, but couldn't. Now don't get me wrong. I am by no means claiming to be any sort of "craftsman" or building anything better than anyone else. I'm just a guy with a hobby making a lot of saw dust. I'm just saying that if we as builders took it a little more seriously, then maybe other people would as well.
As much as I like to play Devil's advocate I can't think of any argument with what you say. It helps when the "rock and movie stars" are seen with a CBG, but cigar box guitars will probably always be a niche market. That's the bad news. The good news is that the world's population grows daily so the niche will theoretically grow as well.
Well, got to get back to photoshopping a picture of David Gilmour with a Bigler guitar.
Thank you all. This has been an interesting discussion. As with selling anything, know the market, find the niche, try to grow the niche. Unlike other product categories, the CBG community seems like the type where expanding the pie rather than fighting for a piece of it is the way to go. Support each other and all CBG vendors benefit.
Hey Wayfinder, while I respect and agree with a lot of the points you make on your posts here I'd like to ask you this: Is a guitar over $150 just fancy, or is it craftsmanship? I turn people away constantly that are willing to pay $300 or more for a guitar. As a hobbyist myself, I couldn't possibly keep up with the demand those people unless I turned it into a job and hired some help. Are folks who choose a Les Paul over a Walmart Chinese Epiphone just looking for fancy? Or are they just obsessed with quality? Maybe they just take their music serious enough to buy the best they can get.
Like you, I'm retired. I collect some Army retirement, some social security, married a young wife who likes to work and makes a pocket full of money and I'm doing ok. This is just a hobby. My main goal is to get my guitars in as many hands world-wide as I can, so when long after I drop dead somebody might still be playing a guitar with my signature on the back. That can only happen if I build something of quality. I don't want my guitars to turn into $10 yard sell finds that somebody turns into garage wall art.
I'm constantly asked by the customers that I have to turn down if I can recommend them to someone who can build something similar to me in craftsmanship. I'm still looking. Are you that guy? Or do you just want to build $100 guitars? And believe me, I don't mean that in any negative way at all. Everybody build what they want to build. I'm just asking if you'd like to step it up a notch. There's a market out there that I can't fill myself.
Excellent then. I'll start referring folks to your link. Also, I like the looks of the six-strings that you are building.
My 2 cents....
Yes....the market is "saturated", if you're building 3 string fretless, stick in a box, slide CBGs like everyone else is.
No...the market is no where near saturated if you differentiate yourself from the herd by building something unique , of better quality and you market you butt off.
That's what I think. I could be wrong, but I'm usually right on Tuesdays. LOL
the best, Wichita Sam