How much damage is too much?

Based on photos I've seen as reference on this forum I'm afraid the damage is more extreme than superficial. Supposedly it happened from one fall. The bottom side has a hole that's been repaired and the face/soundboard has two cracks below the bridge on either side. It's a TW15H Tanglewood Ill

Here's the story: I'm trying to buy my husband a guitar for Christmas. He played in college but has only picked up a guitar a handful of times since we've met. He's 34 now and we have a soon-to-be 2yo son who is captivated by the guitar (and another son due in 2mos). My husband has been hinting on wanting to start playing again so I thought it would be the perfect Christmas gift.

I don't have much to spend and really don't want an all laminate plastic piece of junk. I don't know much about guitars but I recognize when I hear sound quality I love - rich, full bodied, well balanced sound that resonates with a person. Not that tinny twang I hear from some guitars without that depth of sound.

I was at a local music shop this morning that pointed me to a damaged TW15H Tanglewood Ill He told me it's solid wood construction with ebony and bone. Sounds beautiful. I believe it was a dreadnought. (Sorry if I sound naive...picture a hugely pregnant lady shopping in a guitar shop with a toddler. I assure you we look as naive as I might sound). The problem is that the TW15H Tanglewood Ill is damaged. It's been dropped. The face is cracked in 2 places and there was a hole at the bottom.

If I can post photos here I will.

The owner has repaired the damage. Says it was his own guitar and he loved it but a friend dropped it soon after it's purchase and despite being repaired he gets upset whenever he sees it and no longer wants it around to remind him. The damage is quite visible but it sounds lovely. My question is how much damage is too much? Will it hold a tuning etc? He told me it's a 3000k guitar and is asking $375 for it. I only saved $200 to buy a guitar which I realize is laughable for a decent one. I'm thinking of putting the rest on a credit card if I can find out it's worth it. Can anyone help advise me here? The shop says he'll back the guitar for a year.

The other option he suggested was a Sammick - Greg Bennett (which I've never heard of) for $250

I'm trying to decide if I should buy the damaged TW15H Tanglewood Ill or look for a new beginner guitar.

Please help

  • 3
    Photos definitely needed I think - if he's not trying to pull a fast one the owner should understand!
    – Mr. Boy
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 21:30
  • 1
    Second the recommendations to have a luthier evaluate it. Side note: some of us (aka cellists :-) and the like) find it hard to sympathisize with "only" spending $3k when we can easily spend more than that on the bow alone, let alone the instrument! Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 21:48
  • 1
    If you are buying it as a gift, I would advise against buying a used damaged guitar. If it is a $3,000 dollar guitar being sold for $375, that means that it is quite damaged. Why else would its value depreciate by nearly 90%? As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. I would advise against purchasing both of these. You can buy several new guitars from reputable makers that are both affordable and of high quality.
    – MrTheBard
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 13:16
  • Here's a question and answers on how to generally identify a good acoustic guitar. music.stackexchange.com/questions/1496/… You mentioned dreadnoughts. My acoustic is a dread, and I like it, but it's big. This is needed for projection and fighting fiddles and banjos for volume, but I'm finding smaller guitars to be enticing, and would help your husband introduce your sons to guitar music too. Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 17:06

5 Answers 5


"The owner has repaired the damage" does not sound reassuring. Make an appointment with a luthier and ask to lend the guitar out for testing.

Basically there are several questions to ask:

  1. How likely is the guitar to degrade without additional repairs? Over which time span?
    This is important because it determines what you need to invest now in order not to make this a waste of money.
  2. Which repairs would be warranted for securing its state and sound quality?
    This is important for figuring out how much will get dunked into this instrument before it will hold up for a decade or so.
  3. Which repairs would be warranted for getting good looks back?
    This will basically only become relevant when your husband falls in love with the instrument to a degree where he would consider a body job for it, and then this should not become similarly expensive as a new one would.

You really need to get a verdict from a luthier to figure out whether this instrument will hold up and is not substantially worse in its structure due to the damage.

If it's reasonably salvaged, then a $3000 guitar should be quite more enjoyable to play with than a $300 guitar.

But you are not likely to figure this out on your own (and the price ranges of several followup options), and from the description alone, nobody here is going to either.


I question the price that the owner stated, that is at least a red flag. The price at TangleWood is listed in the link at about 800 pounds (roughly $1250). It could still be a nice guitar, but if you find one lie then there is a greater chance of more.



I was given a guitar kit as a gift, and because I don't have tools and a workbench, it has stayed that way for almost a year. Give a gift of an instrument, not a project.

Nice guitars are nice, but we live in the age of CNCs and the like, where a cheap guitar is no longer a monstrosity, like my first metal bridge, zero fret Harmony. There are guitars within range of $200 that are perfectly good guitars. They may not have the beautiful voice of a high-end hand-built instrument, but they are a lot better in the last 15 years than when I started playing in the 1980s, and at a price where you won't cringe when your children knock it off the stand.

In fact, a $200 guitar is probably more survivable than the bargain. Look at bigger names, hope for but don't require a solid spruce top, don't worry about electronics, and you'll do just fine.

  • 1
    CNC = Computer Numerical Control (a machine that cuts and or drills based on computer instructions) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numerical_control. It really is a golden age of guitar. Look for a solid top guitar as a minimum though.
    – amalgamate
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 13:44
  • I was on the fence, but yeah, I'll go with amalgamate. Solid top is a requirement. Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 15:14
  • It's just that the laminate tops are too close in price to solid tops, not to go for the solid tops. I have played some perfectly good laminate top guitars, but solid tops win in most instances.
    – amalgamate
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 15:26

The term "Too much damage" really depends on why you want the guitar. Most of my guitars are damaged and one has been through so much that the wood has worn thin in spots. But that one guitar is my favorite and sounds the best. So for your husband who, I'm assuming, wants to play as a hobby, It might not matter as much, about damage.

That being said, here are a few good things to consider when buying a guitar.

  • Look for splits in the wood. If there are major holes or splits in the wood, be careful. These can sometimes make the guitar much more fragile although the sound may still be good. As a rule, I generally don't by guitars that have actual holes in the wood. Splits are ok, though.

  • Ask if it holds a tuning. Fixing up some things on a guitar is sometimes quite simple. Other things (like tuning issues), not so much. If it doesn't hold a tuning and aren't willing to work hard on your guitar, don't buy it.

  • Strings, Bridges, and Nuts are replaceable. These are parts of the guitar that wear down with some regularity and are easy to get replaced. It's usually cheap to get them replaced so factor these into your cost if you plan on buying a guitar. You may need to replace these.

  • BE WARY OF "BARGAINS"! If the original price of the guitar far exceeds the current price, be careful. This "bargain" may be someone's attempt to get rid of a sub-par guitar. But I've seen it go the other way and be a wonderful deal. Either way be careful.

  • Do your homework. Look up information about the guitar you're looking at if you can. This is easily the best advice I can give someone when buying an instrument. Know what you are buying.

Here is a guide for guitar values. I hope this helps. :)


This is an answer to an old question but new readers will come along with the same concerns I'm sure.

A non-player will never be able to buy a good instrument except by luck. I've played expensive guitars that were rubbish and cheap ones that weren't. Comparison is really important. It allows you to factor out the acoustics of the shop.

If the guitar has been dropped and doesn't have any actual buzzing noises then the worst problem isn't the tone, it's the tuning. The structure and integrity of the sound-box is vital to support the tension of the strings. A tell-tale is if the guitar goes out of tune on the higher frets.

The rule is, if you can, take an experienced player along with you and listen to what they say.

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