Write these numbers down: Modern Fender instrument serial numbers are often on the back of the headstock (above); amp serial numbers are often on a plate on the rear panel (below).
If Tech Talk had to guess, it’d say that well more than a million musical instruments are stolen each year. That includes loads of guitars, basses and amps, very few of which are ever recovered.
In fact, it seems like almost every avid guitarist and bassist—novice, semi-pro and pro alike—has had an instrument or amp stolen at one time or another. And once a guitar is in the hands of the bad guys, it’s usually gone for good. Compounding this unfortunate truth is the fact that police departments generally don’t assign very high priority to recovering musical instruments—it’s just too much of a needle-in-a-haystack situation. The odds of them actually catching the crackhead who took off with your Strat® before it winds up on Craigslist or eBay, in a pawnshop or crossing the state line are depressingly slim.
Nonetheless, in a small percentage of cases (and let us emphasize that we are talking eensy here), instruments are recovered and returned to their rightful owners. There are a few things you can do to increase your odds of falling into this extremely lucky category.
- Write down the serial number. In the small percentage of cases in which police do recover instruments, their systems are based on identification by serial number. It’s probably on the receipt if you bought the instrument new, but write it down separately anyway along with the make, model and year. And definitely write down the serial number if you bought used. Keep this info in an easily found location that you won’t forget about—it won’t help if you can’t find it.
- Keep the receipt. Speaking of the receipt, make sure you keep it—it’s proof of purchase for gear bought new. If you buy used, you can ask the seller to write out a receipt noting the make, model, serial number (make sure it has a serial number), date and amount paid; or you can write it out and ask the seller to sign it.
- Take pictures. Photographs of you with the instrument help, as do close-up photos of the serial number, dings, dents, scratches and other readily identifiable features. Video works too.
- File a police report immediately. If your gear is stolen, call the police and file a report immediately—not the next day or a couple days later or next week. Don’t expect immediate results; in fact, don’t expect any results, but do this anyway—it’ll prove invaluable should your instrument be recovered.
- Canvass pawnshops and resellers yourself. Within a day to a few days of having your gear stolen, take a day off from work and spend it driving around to pawnshops and resellers in search of your stuff. If you find something that was stolen from you, remain calm and do not present the issue yourself; call the police immediately and let them do the rest. Gear has been recovered this way.
These steps are suggested in addition to maintaining the general care, common sense and watchful vigilance that would prevent your stuff from being stolen in the first place. But even the most careful players find themselves in situations where their gear is unattended and unguarded, and no one is immune to the audacity of those with bad intentions. OK, lecture over, and let’s be careful out there …