My dad bought a guitar from EBay recently. It's an old Fender Jazz Bass from the 70s and it's beautiful. It's battered, worn and the paint is flaking off. It sounds absolutely amazing.
It's exactly because it's an old guitar, because it's been used by lots of people that it's desirable. It has history.
I think he told me that he checked that the serial number was a genuine one online. I think you can get the serial number and pop it into a website to find out the guitar colour and age and stuff and you can see if it's been resprayed etc. A good idea.
This made me think about other similar items - things like cars where there isn't really any desire to own a pre-owned car. Unless it's a classic, buying a second-hand car is a necessity of cost and perceived as a risk. Again, you try and find out about the history of the product to check what you've been told but you'd probably buy a new one if you could.
I remember going to a talk a few years ago and some chap from Howies was there talking about a coat you could hand down to other people when you'd finished with it. I like this. The problem for brands, though, is that it goes against exactly what they want. They want people to buy something, and wait for it to become redundant so you have to buy it again. Some even plan this very process into their products.
All this got me thinking about how we could start to track the history of items for both rational reasons but also emotional reasons.
My dad was interested in whether his guitar wasn't the original thing from a value point of view. Whereas I'd love to know what kind of music it's played, the places on earth it's been and the people that have used it. That stuff would really give it a rich history me and turn a functional item into an item with soul.
This could be done with unique identifiers such as Serial Numbers but you could also do it with something a little more dynamic. If we could start embedding intelligent chips into items we could track so many different things.
Think of this.
If a chip in a guitar could collect location information for example, we would be able to find out what venue the guitar was at. Cross reference that a couple of times with the venue website and we'd be able to tell which band it was in. Then we'd be able to tell the kind of music it was playing. Even link it to a specific person. A guitar owners family tree as such. All we need is a small chip in the guitar that is charged by the amp and shares its info when it is in a wifi area.
I think that kind of rich information gives a product a history, a rich history that adds value to the item, not takes value away from it.
If this is the kind of information that adds value to a second-hand guitar, then what kind of information could we collect to add value to second-hand clothing, second-hand cars, second-hand anything?
If we think about it properly could the addition of some key bits of information move second-hand items from a rational necessity to an emotional want?