Dave Schaefer: I'm in my early 50's but I started playing guitar when I was 14 years old. I played lead guitar in a couple of popular top 40 bands when I was in high school and it was then that I caught the "buying-and-selling guitars" bug. Once word got out that I had instruments for sale, bands touring the midwest would stop by my parent's house to see what I had. I was still just a teenager and the whole thing has evolved from that point.
VG: How did you get into business as Overland Express?
DS: I was working my way through college with some retail jobs, and guitar hustling on the side. I opened a music store in Iowa in the late '70s but I soon found money, and most of the fun was in chasing the old stuff. So after a couple of years I sold the store and bought a large home here in Overland Park, just outside of Kansas City. I got busy looking for vintage guitars. Around then I started doing the guitar show circuit, which was pretty small, and just worked on building up my customer base. I officially started Overland Express Guitars in 1985. Since I always liked the photo of the Pony Express rider, and me being in Overland Park, why not Overland Express Guitars ,with that same logo?
VG: When did you begin advertising in Vintage Guitar magazine, and how have you found it to work for you?
DS: I can't exactly remember when I started advertising in VG, but it was fairly early in my business development. By advertising in the magazine and on the VG website, I've developed many more new customers than I could have ever reached on the show circuit. Frankly, it's to the point that most of the guitars I acquire are sold before I have a chance to advertise them. Sometimes it seems like my ad in the magazine is getting smaller but my business is getting larger!
VG: What makes you different from other guys or shops doing the vintage thing?
DS: I've always tried to buy extremely clean, completely original guitars for my clientele. Any guitars I get that don't meet my high standards are wholesaled to other dealers. I have developed a very large finder and dealer network throughout the country that keeps me in quality inventory. Over the years I have found that if you are honest and fair with the people who locate the great old guitars, they will continue to call when they have something to sell. It's also very important for me to accurately represent an instrument when I sell it and I want to make sure a customer knows exactly what he is buying. Dealing in this manner has been a success. I've only had two instruments returned since 1985. One was too heavy and the other was a wife problem.
VG: How does your customer base use your services? Do you take consignments?
DS: Over the years I've developed a very large and loyal international database of customers, so when I acquire a particular guitar I usually have several people in mind who would be interested in buying the instrument, and they often do so within 48 hours! I do handle quite a few consignments, particularly from some of my collector customers, and I do local appraisals, as well.
VG: What is your philosophy of guitar shows? How many do you do each year?
DS: It has gotten to the point recently where I only plan on doing the two major Arlington and Dallas shows. In general, shows are a great place to meet with other dealers and have fun. But I really like to take my time and fully examine an instrument when I buy it. I can't tell you the number of times over the years that I've seen dealers line up at the front door and hurry to buy a "walk-in" guitar, only to find out later it had changed parts, routes under pickguard, or the PAFs were removed from a Les Paul. And, of course, the owner was already paid and is nowhere to be found.
VG: Where is the future of the vintage market headed, in general and for you, personally?
DS: There is still a strong demand for quality vintage guitars and it should continue into the near future. I was initially concerned over the Asian economic crisis of 1998 and my Japanese business certainly slowed down. But the American and European demand have continued to be fantastic. Like most vintage dealers, I worry about the shrinking supply of good old guitars along with shrinking profit margins. But I have to say the last five years have been really great for me, with each year bringing an increase in sales and customers. I think to be successful in this business, like any business, you need to treat your customers as you would want to be treated yourself. And you need to work, work, work!
Contact Overland Express Guitars at (913) 469-4034 or at email@example.com