How To Avoid Buying Oly’s Stolen Musical Instruments

Olympia, WA (11-23-14) — Homelessness, drugs, @narchists, poverty, hunger, street violence…they all make for a volatile mix when it comes to public safety and hanging onto the blood of one’s labor. There is a nexus involving the above and a property theft network that stretches throughout the Pacific Northwest, including Olympia–perhaps especially Olympia, when it comes to the spike in car prowls, burglaries, bicycle thefts and related crimes. Professional car thieves…move over! Automobile chop shops now have competition in the form of stolen bicycle chop operations hidden in covert wooded encampments operated by gangs/’families’ of the homeless seeking an income from bicycles stolen from area residents, college campuses, shopping malls, and city streets. Even locked bicycles are not safe in public venues. It’s the new gold rush among the more criminally inclined poor and dispossessed. A surfeit of hypodermic needles gives stark silent testimony of how bad lawlessness in Olympia’s tenderloin district has become. City police seemingly are not able to control it. Area merchants complain, but some may be encouraging or even participating in the problem behind the scene.

Not only is heroin (now cheaper per day than marijuana or booze) plentiful on the city’s streets along with commercial sex, but stolen items hawked by many street denizens. Unfortunately, this includes expensive musical instruments and bicycles. Nor are the merchants of crime’s ill gotten gains necessarily homeless or poor. Some are shop owners, tavern proprietors, and landlords. Huh? Yeah–you heard right: Some of the master thieves are fences and business owners, even musicians and well known personalities familiar to the community.

Here’s how it typically works:  A self absorbed miscreant raised by indulgent parents/grandparents who was never held accountable for his/her actions as a child grows into a deplorable adult who thinks nothing of indulging him/herself at the expense of others. In a community over saturated with misapprehensions of entitlement, it’s easy for these grifters to delude themselves into believing all property is ‘theft’ and, thus, they are merely ‘liberating’ it. A habitual burglar in Brinnon, for example, will steal from homes only occasionally occupied in this remote rural area to fence the stolen goods to his pals in Lewis County who will pay him with drugs he then sells when he returns to Brinnon, etc. They, in turn, will transport the goods to a gas station, et al, in Portland where the stolen merchandise is sold to buyers who have a touch of larceny in their own heart. Today, the internet, Craig’s List, E-Bay, Amazon, and many other online auctions are used to fence the goods to unsuspecting buyers using the shield of anonymity or frequent name changes to shield the criminals from discovery. Sometimes the items, especially music instruments, are destined for Olympia, not Portland. There are 2nd hand stores in the State’s Capitol that knowingly sell them. Again, look for any buffed out or filed identifying marks, brands, make, labels, etc.

These operations needn’t be isolated to only fencing stolen goods, but can involve alternative payment in the form of drugs, alcohol, forged identity documents, marijuana, counterfeit currency, guns, and even other stolen goods. And, they sometimes involve business owners/shop keepers who appear to be simple proprietors manning tattoo shops, 2nd hand music shops, and internet traders. Evidence of identifying trademarks, brand names, and serial numbers being removed/defaced should be a red flag for any honest customers. But, the vendors of these purloined items count on the larcenous client as well as the fatuously ignorant.

How To Determine If A Musical Instrument Is Stolen:

Musical instruments can be large investments or have intensely sentimental value. With such an investment, it can be heart breaking when an instrument is stolen. It can also be a major headache to purchase a musical instrument only to find out later that it was previously stolen and must be returned, often for only a limited refund if a refund is available at all. This article lists the steps necessary to avoid the purchase of a stolen musical instrument.


    • (a)

      Buy from reputable sellers to avoid the purchase of a stolen musical instrument. This is one of the most important steps in the avoidance of stolen goods. If an instrument seems too cheap, there is a possibility that it may be stolen. However, do not turn down a good deal if the serial number checks out. But, a sophisticated well heeled fence may simply evade this kind of reasonable suspicion by refusing to discount the going price too deeply.

    • (b)

      Locate the serial number on the instrument. On most wind instruments, the serial number will be printed on the instrument near the mouthpiece. On string instruments, the serial number is typically printed on the inside of the main portion. String instrument serial numbers are typically visible through the left F-Hole if you are facing the front of the instrument. You may need a magnifying glass to see the serial number on some wind instruments. It is likely that you will need a flashlight to see the serial number printed inside most string instruments. The serial number will be a set of numbers containing anywhere from 2 to 6 characters.

    • (c)

      Write down any specific remarks about the instrument in addition to obtaining the serial number. For example, if a string bass contains a band sticker on the back, write down a description of the sticker. You should also record the brand, model and other distinguishing features of the instrument.

    • (d)

      Enter the serial number at, if you obtained it, to check if the instrument has been stolen in the past. Otherwise, this website also lists distinguishing features about each stolen instrument. People whose instruments are stolen often offer rewards for the safe return of their property. If an item has been stolen, it cannot legitimately be resold by even a shop or store owner. You cannot sell, in law, what you do not own. Once stolen, ownership NEVER transfers until the item is returned to its rightful owner. Like counterfeit currency, if YOU get caught holding it, YOU LOSE! This is a wager you don’t want to place.

    • (e)

      Check the website to see if anyone in your area has reported a musical instrument stolen. If their description matches the description of your instrument, you may want to investigate the matter further with the dealer and the person that reported the instrument stolen. People that list their instruments on this website typically offer rewards for the return of their property.

    • (f)

      Check with the dealer of the instrument should you discover that the musical instrument is stolen (whether or not you purchased it). The dealer from which you made the purchase will be able to find out who sold the instrument to them and further action can be taken. If your purchase was made from a private seller, you will need to contact your local police department to report the crime and take further action against the seller.

Tips & Warnings

  • Report stolen instruments as soon as possible to make it more likely that you will receive a refund.
  • If you buy a musical instrument, always register it with your school or through the dealership in case it is stolen from you.

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1 Response to How To Avoid Buying Oly’s Stolen Musical Instruments

  1. Thanks for mentioning ScreamingStone! Hopefully more people will search when buying used. You can search by serial number, model, instrument type, city…

    Thanks again for spreading the word. The more people know, the greater chance we have at getting back more stolen gear.

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