Miscellaneous Rumbles

Ever Purchased Stolen Gear Unknowingly and Gotten Busted?


I think one thing that can go terribly wrong for those of us who buy and sell a lot of gear is that we may receive stolen goods unknowingly. It's not a legal problem until you try to sell it and you may try to sell it to a store and with the "police hold" it may come up that you have received stolen goods. Each state has a statute of limitations and it may vary from state to state but if you buy goods and sell in a short amount of time this can come up.

I have had no problems because whenever I sold to a store it wasn't often and the circumstances were once it was a Mosrite style by Zen-On that was shipped to me from Japan and the other instance was the Kay Swingmaster I bought from GC about 10 years ago. I sold both at an independent guitar shop but since one was from overseas and the other was from GC it was already cleared to be not stolen. Other gear I sold over eBay or Reverb and these were to private parties.

I often try to sell over eBay or Reverb or people I know but once in awhile to sell quickly I may sell to a store. I would get more for my items if I sold to an independent guitar shop than I would GC. That last experience trying to sell to GC sucked bad so I'm not going that route anymore.

Some may say if you get caught trying to sell stolen goods and you didn't steal it it should be no problem, but ignorance of the law is no excuse from what I understand. Maybe if you can prove you bought it from someone else but that's hard to do at times. I think maybe if you bought something 20 years ago and sold it today it would not be on the "hot sheet" any longer and the statute of limitation would be in effect but what if you bought something last year and grew tired of it and sold it to a shop and they do a check and it's on the hot sheet. Busted? Probably.


A dear childhood friend of mine had three guitars stolen as he was dying of cancer. It took a year to get them all back. All were in pawn shops, and at least here in Florida you have to pay the shop to get them back. It still sticks in my craw , one robbed by stealth, the other with a pen.


Nope, but I've seen bandmates steal other bandmates' gear and pawn it for drug money. We had a drummer who did that. The other two guys in my band had to buy my Les Paul back for me. The vocalist/rhythm guitarist lost his Bassman amp for good. He actually saw it in the pawn shop and tried to get it back (he was told to bring proof that he was the owner), but somebody else bought it. Our bass player lost some of his cymbals for good (he owned the drum kit that we used). Our drummer stole all of that stuff. This all happened in Colorado.

Ironically, our bass player was a drug dealer....


When I was Sales Mgr for Gretsch in the 70's, I lived in Northeast Philly, in an urban community (Mayfair) that had its share of typical city crime (petty stuff, burglary, robbery, etc). Philly is a big enough city (#4 largest in US, at the time) that the 17,000 street cops only dusted for fingerprints and did extensive crime fighting for things like murder and rape, certainly not guitar theft. I traveled extensively for Duke. I was literally never home. UPS came to my apartment almost weekly to drop off another White Falcon or Country Club or Country Gent, because some lunatic at 1801 Gilbert Ave in Cincinnati thought I needed more guitars in my "sample account", even though I already had 20 and (did I mention) WAS NEVER HOME. So, my roommate would take delivery and set them just inside the front door. I'd get home from a 2 week tour thru the northeast with 8 guitars in my car to find 3 more inside my front door. I pleaded with them ... PLEASE ... NO MORE ... I HAVE NO WAY OF KEEPING ALL 20 SAFE!!! I came home from a trip to find my front door unlocked (door knob broken off) my roommate at work at Univ of Pa Hospital and my house virtually empty ... no TV, no recliner, no stereo and "at least" 17 guitars gone (16 Gretches, all brand new, all top end) and my personal '71 Les Paul Black Beauty. I called to cops. They showed up, wrote down a few notes, didn't take pictures, no fingerprints, gave me a business card with a case # and left, never to return. I created an itemized list of all the guitars stolen with description and serial #, printed out 100 copies, and mailed one to ALL the music stores within 75 miles. A year later, (I'm no longer working for Gretsch at this time) I saw my " Les" hanging in a window at a tiny music store on Main St in Yardley, and walked in with my copy of the "official" list with PPD case #. I asked the proprietor if he knew the laws regarding selling stolen guitars and showed him my list, verifying the serial #. Not 2 minutes went by and he ran in the back, grabbed a Les Paul hard shell (cheap) case, took the guitar out of the window and put it in the case and asked me which car was mine, he carried it out to the car, and put it in the back seat! At that moment in my life, I had no relationship with Duke Kramer or Gretsch / Baldwin, I certainly wasn't gonna find my TV or missing furniture, and I had just gotten my '71 Les Paul back, without an argument. I kinda fumbled with my vernacular but ended saying a hesitant ... Well, THANK YOU, I GUESS! The guy said PLEASE DON'T MENTION IT, ... REALLY ... DON'T MENTION IT!!! To be honest, I don't remember if I dropped a dime to the cops regarding that event (I probably did, but they probably weren't interested in a year old guitar cold case). When I got involved with the Gretschpages 10 - 15 years ago, I considered posting the guitars and serial numbers, but then decided that would be wrong. But then I also realized I no longer had "the list", due to my vagabond lifestyle through the mid 80's. But, I still have Lester and a great story ...


Some may say if you get caught trying to sell stolen goods and you didn't steal it it should be no problem, but ignorance of the law is no excuse from what I understand.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse, but ignorance of the facts definitely is. Intent is an element of virtually every criminal offense in every jurisdiction in the US. Nobody would get charged with receiving or passing stolen goods unless there was solid evidence that they did so knowingly. You might have to forfeit the goods (which would obviously suck) depending on local law, but you're not going to be charged criminally. You're one of the victims of the crime.

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