Used music gear is always a crapshoot — buyer beware and such. Sometimes you get a real find, something you’ll play or use forever. And sometimes you get something less valuable than what you pay for it. There are reputable shops around town from which to purchase used gear as well as some where you’re probably better-suited going to one of the roulette tables at a Valley casino and putting all your gear money on 23 black.*
Here are some of the best places to find used gear in the greater Phoenix area, especially if you like a little more human interaction than eBay provides, and perhaps safer than Craigslist. They are in no particular order.
1. Guitar Gallery, at Scottsdale Road and Shea, is an excellent place to find that special guitar or bass you’ve been dreaming about, as well as the perfect boutique amplifier to go with it. Owned by Valley music veteran Michael Parkin (Blanche Davidian), you won't get steered wrong, no matter what you are looking for or your price range. Guitar Gallery is a great place to shop for used gear, even if you’re just looking for something well-loved and gently used to learn on (and the guys also provide top-notch lessons, regardless of your experience level). This great little shop near longtime (albeit it off and on) punk venue/killer Japanese takeout Chop and Wok is the place for you, aspiring rock ’n’ roller.
2. Guitar Tree is still new to the scene, but it is a fabulous place to find used gear. Easy to miss if you blink while driving down East Osborn Road near Seventh Street, although the giant guitar out front has probably got the attention of a few aspiring gear heads who might one day make up the Valley’s next great rock 'n' roll band. Guitars, basses, amps, and hardware — whatever you need — you can find it at Guitar Tree or they can find it for you.
3. Cash America Super Pawn on Central, which was the former home of Music Brokers, still has a top-notch selection of music gear. As with all the local pawn shops mentioned in this list, there are no guarantees it will have what you are looking for at the time you are ready to buy, but many of them will work with you on payment terms. During a recent visit, Super Pawn also had a great selection of old Sesame Street vinyl for about a dollar each.
4. Glendale Pawn and Jewelry has a nice revolving selection of gear, especially acoustic guitars, and has a heart to boot because the store donates a portion of its profits to Ear Candy, which provides musical instruments to needy kids. Located in one of the more charming areas of the West Valley, near 59th avenue and Glendale in historic downtown Glendale, this definitely is a place to check out when hunting for gear. Right now, it has a ton of great Fender Stratocaster-style guitars, including a couple of really nice knock-offs.
5. Guitar Center has used gear. It has new gear, of course, but it also has a fantastic selection of used gear. Because of its huge buying power and stores across the country, working with Guitar Center is one way to find exactly what you are looking for if new stuff isn’t up to par or if you are looking for something special and don’t want to take chances with eBay or other online options, .
6. Bizarre Guitar on Seventh Avenue is a long-running option for used gear as well. One of the more impressive walls of guitars to check out, especially if your budget is large, Bizarre is a truly a Phoenix institution, and owner Bob Turner has one of the best eyes for great used gear in the business. While the guys and Bizarre are not known as the friendliest music store dudes in town, the reputation is not founded on fact at all. Give ’em a try, especially if you are looking for something rare and beautiful.
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7. Guitar Pickers in Scottsdale is another place where you can find some truly awe-inspiring vintage guitars and basses. Unlike some of the other shops on this list, Guitar Pickers also has an onsite luthier for any repairs or tuneups your favorite ax may need. Owner Al Lieberman left a successful business career to work in another successful business somewhat more pleasing to his soul. To chat with Lieberman about guitars, especially the interesting instruments he typically has in stock, is real treat.
8. Bookmans Entertainment Exchange has multiple locations around the state and over the last couple of years, they have started carrying used musical gear as well as the books, videos, records, and toys they also specialize in. Over time, the selection of gear, which includes all the usual suspects (guitars, drums, and amps) the stores also have some of the harder to find instruments, at least from a used perspective, such as mandolins, ukuleles, banjos, and bongos. One of the coolest things about Bookmans — outside of all the interesting finds you might discover in addition to the gear you seek — is the folks who work there. They always have good stories to share.
* Yes, I know, there is no 23 Black on a real roulette table.