The personal website of Chris Coyier

The Case of the Missing Guitar and the Idiot Who Didn’t Even Realize it was Missing

Weird story! Sometime in 2014-15, my friend Mark wants to sell me this very nice guitar. It’s spendy, and I’m not sure I should do it, but Mark really needed the cash so he could do something very nice for his family, so I pull the trigger. I pick it up from him later that year at a festival.

Over the years, a dark creeping feeling started settling in with me. Is the guitar I bought still the guitar I have?

Whenever I’d get to talking instruments with people, I’d bring up my little guitar story here, since it’s among the nicest instruments I own. It was made by Dennis Overton who apparently is a high-end maker who isn’t building anymore. It’s modeled after herringbone dreadnought Martins. It’s straight-grained Brazilian Rosewood, which was rare even in the 60’s and is outright banned from international shipments now. I guess it’s like tortoise shell picks in that way. What’s with guitar people and illegal stuff? Anyway, that much I knew about the guitar.

But I’d look up at the guitar on my wall, and right on the head: YAMAHA. The sticker inside the body? YAMAHA.

By the time I’m having this feeling, it’s been so many years, I can’t really remember all the exact details of the guitar I bought, let alone exactly what it looked like on the day I bought it. Yamaha makes some pretty damn nice acoustic guitars too, even sometimes with guest makers. Maybe this was just that. Based on the basic look, feel, and (I hate to say it) even the sound, I always assumed this guitar on my wall was the one I bought. Until that feeling kept creeping up more and more in my brain.

I even mentioned the YAMAHA on the head to Mark one time, but it was just in passing, and I remember him giving me a weird smirk like he assumed I was kidding, and I didn’t take it any further.

So just a few days ago, I get up the balls to just take a picture of the guitar on my wall and send it to Mark and just see if this was the correct guitar or not. I hesitated for so long because it’s embarrassing. How do I not even know?

Chris... that picture you just sent me is a Yamaha Guitar. You should have an original Overton Brazilian Rosewood Herringbone Dred custom built. It’s priceless at this point because Dennis Overton doesn’t build any Guitars anymore. Those are going for $10 grand now if you can find one. He only built a handful of guitars.

I get this text (see screenshot from iMessage).

Welp. There it is. The nice guitar, the one I bought for $5,000, is gone. And I didn’t even realize it until now. Wait. How long has it been exactly?

Well, I was able to do a little light detective work thanks to Google Photos. There must be fancy machine learning stuff built into Google Photos such that you can search for stuff and it’ll find pictures of that stuff. “Guitar” as a search works great!

So I end up finding pictures from mid-2016 where I have the right guitar, and by mid-2017 I have the wrong guitar.

2016: Correct Guitar
2017: Wrong Guitar

My mind was reeling with thoughts about someone having stolen it. Perhaps at a festival or jam. I was looking the other way and they swap guitars, maybe right inside the case. I walk away and by the time I notice, they would be long gone. They would be smart too, because apparently I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t notice for years.

I mention my little sad story to my wife, including that timeframe, and she’s like “we were in Miami during a lot of that time, you should see if Andrea has it.” Andrea is our friend and was our next-door neighbor in Miami, who had an acoustic guitar too and both guitars would occasionally travel back and forth between houses. We have a shared WhatsApp, so I message the gals and see if they’ll send a picture of the guitar they have…

LOOK AT THAT HEADSTOCK. D. Overton. That’s it! I had switched guitars with Andrea! No crimes! Neither of us realized what happened all this time.

I still feel like an idiot for not realizing for so long. Honestly, that little $150 Yamaha sounds pretty damn good if you ask me. But I’m so glad the mystery has been solved and very much look forward to getting the guitar I bought back. We haven’t quite sorted it out yet, but I think it’ll be hand-escorted all the way from Miami to Bend!