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Custom Cue Buying Guide


Table of Contents   

     
Chapter 1: Why We Buy Custom Cues
Chapter 2: Custom Cue Buying Skills
Chapter 3: Custom Cue Makers
Chapter 4: Custom Cue Dealers
Chapter 5: Tips and Suggestions
 
Forward:


For 54 years I have been buying factory manufactured and custom handcrafted cues from American cue makers. Some of the import cues made today are of average quality implying that the same level of work is in their cue. After further research, I was able to find that the cue is painted and not made of an exotic wood, has no or limited inlays and utilizes decals/transfers applied to the cue in place of inlays. I buy cues for many of the same reasons that you do. I love the true quality of craftsmanship, the beautiful look and the feel of the hit which differs in each cue. For many years I have heard “Is there a book on how to evaluate and collect custom cues?”  The book that will answer these questions would be Brad Simpson’s Blue Book of Cues. Just remember the price of a particular cue would be the cue maker’s best evaluation of his work and to what the cue should sell for, not what it would sell for in the marketplace. 

This information was written to be a guide.  The intent is to help you become a more educated cue buyer.  These ideas and concepts derived from years of experience are offered to you so you know which questions to ask and how to determine which cue will be best for your use or collection.

We all want to decide what is best for our collection. My best advice is to always buy what you like and invest in a cue that will maintain or increase in value. The value of your investment will depend on many factors: the cue maker, number of cues crafted each year by the cue maker, materials, difficulty of construction and imagination of design. Having made a substantial investment in collectible cues it is important to insure your collection. To protect your investment; contact your insurance company and let them know that you have purchased a cue of significant value. Ask if your cue would be covered under a homeowners or rental policy. Ask if the cue is stolen from your car, home, hotel room or at a tournament, would it be covered. Take pictures of your cue and keep a receipt to show proof of purchase to the insurance company. If the insurance company questions the value of the cue, have them contact the cue maker to validate the value. I hope you never have to go through this procedure; but taking the time to ensure replacement of your cue will provide some peace of mind.

Preface:
Having visited cue makers shops, I have seen cues being made in each stage of completion.  I have developed a great appreciation for what it takes to create a custom cue.  Every cue user or collector should try to spend some time at a cue makers shop. Understanding the process of creating a custom cue will help you appreciate the quality or the lack of quality, in your final investment.

As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. Bad decisions can be eliminated through education.  This education can be gained through several sources; books, attending cue shows and tournament, vendors, talking with cue makers, cue dealers and collectors, surfing the web and most importantly, always asking questions. You will always learn something new or at least a variation on a way a cue maker creates his cue.

Chapter 1: Why We Buy Custom Cues

 
For most of us, the first time we become aware of a cue is when you enter your local poolroom, attend a tournament or watch pool on television. As you observe, players are using their own personal cue. Our first exposure to a cue is generally not a custom cue.  It is usually some mass-produced cue provided in poolrooms or an entry level cue purchased at the poolroom pro shop or billiard supply store.

Buying that first cue generally puts you on the collector’s path.  Players and collectors are, without a doubt, the most important people in the custom cue market. Without players and collectors, the custom cue market would not exist. New designs, features and options get the best of us and lead to additional purchases and before you know it a Cue Collection.

Collector knowledge is the core of custom cues.  This knowledge is where you begin to understand the terms and construction. You can look at a cue and begin to understand why a particular cue cost's what it does.  Terms like:  Ivory joint, silver inlays and Ebony forearm will mean something to you. You will be able to tell if the cue shafts are straight and if the maker crafted the cue to the best of his ability.

Perhaps the most pleasure in being a collector is found in knowing you are getting what you want.  If you have the time, money and patience you can get just about anything you want in the way of a custom cue. This is probably the main reason people elect to purchase custom cues over factory made cues. 

 

As you spend more time researching custom cues, you continue to gain knowledge and experience. This will make you feel more comfortable about spending additional money on a custom cue. What you have started to develop is collector’s pride.  Collector’s pride includes several factors:  

 

  • the cue you purchased is from a well-known cue maker
  • the cue you purchased is from a well-known cue maker that has passed away
  • the cue is a prototype
  • the cue is number 1 in a limited series
  • the cue is one-of-a-kind

 

Collectors take pride:

 

·         when the materials used in the cue are rare

·         the cue was featured on the cover or in a magazine

·         the cue was made to your specifications



Recently, another reason for buying custom cues has started to come into play.  That is to buy custom cues for investment purposes.  But let’s be realistic. You should not plan on using the money you make from investing in custom cues to fund your retirement.  This does not mean that you cannot make money from your purchase of a custom cue.  However, to do so you will have to adopt a different mind set from that of the true collector.

If you are going to consider this aspect of collecting custom cues, let me make the following suggestion.  Start out with cues you are familiar with and go for quick turn around and smaller profits to build an investment reserve.  This type of investment will have the least amount of risk. This should generate a better return than the interest your bank is paying you while increasing your knowledge.

The Internet is another tool available to buy and sell custom cues.  Many of the true custom cue makers have their own sites and refrain from selling on certain large all product sites as they feel this lessens the value of the limited product they make. As ways of payment there are the on-line third-party companies to handle the transactions. This will help eliminate some of the doubt of doing business over the Internet.

As with any investment, it is always best to do as much research as possible.


A custom cue is one of the few custom-made items in life that almost anyone can afford. 
The truth of the matter is that if you don’t sell your investments, you are merely looking after them for the next generation to admire and cherish.


Chapter 2: Custom Cue Buying Skills:

 
Determine the maker’s versatility.
When at an event know what cue makers you are interested in and visit them first.  Also try to look at as many cue makers as possible so that you can become more knowledgeable of their product. Listed below are questions I would ask cue makers to help me determine their versatility.  Based on their answers, I could determine whether to pursue their work. 

 

·         Do you use a CNC machine in making your cues?

·         Do you use a pantograph to make your cues?

·         What woods are available in make your cues?

·         What type of pin is available?

·         Do you only make pocket inlay cues?

·         Do you make a full of half spliced point cue?

·         Do you make a traditional V type spliced point cue?

·         Are you limited to certain joint material?

·         What types of inlays are available?

·         Do you make cues with ivory ferrules, joints and butt caps?

·         What types of wraps are available?

·         what is the standard length of your cur?

·         Do you make longer cues? Not just a longer shaft?

·         How are your shafts constructed? Solid or spliced?

·         What type of finish is applied to the cue?

·         What type of guarantee comes with the cue?

·         Can you work from a customer’s design?



Most cue makers respond in one of three ways:

1)      Some answer yes to all questions
2)      Some give reasons why I would not want the cue done that way.  Sometimes reasons are legitimate.  (Example: It is not recommended to put an ivory ferrule on a cue that you will only be using for breaking the balls.)  However, instead of trying to work with me and provide me with alternatives I got reasons with negative implications: I do not, cannot, will not, should not.  A small number of these cue makers had difficulty grasping the concept that I was the one paying for the cue; therefore, wanted it crafted to my desire.
3)      The last response contained a statement to this effect: I have not tried that before, but I would be willing to spend some time to work out the details.  This was good for me in that I can now purchase a cue from a desired cue-maker with my specific requirements.

By your willingness to place an order for a cue the cue maker has never made before, you have given the cue maker a reason to create something new and add to his portfolio.  Be careful at this point. Be sure the cue maker is comfortable doing what has been requested.  Do not extend their abilities too far, allow the needed time to create your cue. Most of all we want to avoid both parties being disappointed with the cue.  This can also be very frustrating for both parties.  You may feel you have not spent your money wisely and the maker may feel embarrassment and that valuable time was wasted on this project.

It is at this point clear communication cannot be stressed enough.  The cue maker needs to fully understand what you want. Document your requirements. This next point I can’t stress enough. You, in turn, have to listen to the cue maker when he tells you what he can and cannot do. Most of the time, I found these projects to be a great experience, benefiting both the cue maker and myself.  The cue maker learned or improved on a set of skills.  I received a one of a kind or an exclusive cue made just for me.  Additionally, by talking in detail with the custom cue maker I received a very valuable education in what it would take to create that kind of custom cue.

Needless to say, when the results were less than satisfactory, it is safe to say that a lack of communication was the primary reason.

Determine the cue maker’s position in the current market.
 
Several people do not view their cue collection as an investment.  Many of you would contend that you do not buy custom cues for the purpose of investment.  That may be true. However, I suggest that your cue collection is an investment, an investment, not only in terms of money, but of your time and other resources, as well. Therefore, on many levels, you are an investor.

Many are under the false impression that their cues should not retain their value.  Are you one of these collectors?  If so, why would you buy a cue that you expect to go down in value?  Would it not be of benefit to consider your purchases with a little more thought?

Given the choice, I am sure you would prefer to have cues you love, as well as cues that will be loved by others.  This way, if you were to sell one of your cues in the future, you would get your money back or maybe even more.  Should you decide to trade your cues, this could be done easily at a fair market price.  Either way, determining the cue maker’s position in the market will help you to upgrade or change the direction of your collecting with minimal financial impact. You can help yourself accomplish this goal by understanding the cue maker’s position in the market.

Position in the market may not be important to the cue maker.  It may not be important to you, but it should be.  A cue maker’s position (perceived or actual) will directly influence your ability to sell or trade any cue, whether short term or long term.

Once you have purchased the cue, you are now at the mercy of the cue maker as to whether that cue is going to lose its value, hold its value or go up in value.  In business they tell you that the three most important things for any business are: location, location and location.  Very few custom cue makers or cue dealers have an established storefront. Many work out of their homes or have a shop at home. Some do have industrial space but still do not really have what would be called a storefront. So, with that in mind, where is the location, location, and location for a custom cue maker?

Location #1: Advertising:
In addition to making cues, advertising is the most important thing a cue maker must do.  Sometimes advertising takes alternative routes. The word of mouth, lack of public advertising and backlog of orders method sometimes adds to a cues value and mystic. After you buy a cue from a cue maker, this advertising becomes important to you as well. 

Various forms of advertising provide a cue maker with several options that help the cue maker and, in turn, help you as the collector.  Advertising keeps the cue makers name in front of not only the established collectors, but all those new collectors who did not know who they were until they bought their first billiard related magazine.

Advertising allows the cue maker and the magazine to become partners in promoting both cue makers work and the magazine.  If the magazine can help promote the cue makers work and improve their position in the market, the maker can reciprocate.  They can do this by providing exclusive articles and by continuing to provide the advertising dollars, every magazine needs to exist.

Basic business practices indicate that most magazines will give preferential treatment to those who help support them.  This may be done with extra articles or by putting their cue in an article featuring the maker.  One of the best benefits that not enough cue makers take advantage of is the press release.  This is the equivalent of a free ad.  Press releases allow the cue makers a great way to announce new cues to collectors who may not know about them yet.

Cue makers who actively advertise will always be improving their position in their market(s).  As the demand for their cue increases so will your ability to favorably sell or trade your cue by that cue maker.

Location #2: Attending Shows and Tournaments:
Custom cue shows are few and far between. I wish there would be a show on a monthly basis. Currently there are a few wholesale trade shows and a couple of retail shows a year. Because of the lack of cue shows across the United States and the world, it is my opinion that attending custom cue shows is a must for custom cue makers. An alternative to cue shows would be pool tournaments which provide areas for cue makers to display.

By a cue maker attending a show or a tournament, I mean the cue maker has a table and is at the table to talk with customers and potential customers. This does not mean walking the show for 2-3 days and making deals in the hallway.

Many cue makers currently have a waiting list with delivery times from several months to several years.  So, the question is, if the cue maker is so far behind, how can they bring cues to the show to sell off the table?

While it may be a great ego boost, the fact is that a 2–3-year wait is, at best, a guess for most cue makers.  There are only a small number of cue makers that have orders 2-3 and even 5 years into the future.

This list of orders could, in fact, be much shorter than it appears.  People today are busier than ever.  The list of things that can change a collector’s mind that placed an order 2 years ago is endless.  With this in mind, for those of us who do wait months or years to receive cues, it is in our best interest that this cue maker continues to produce cues in a timely manner. 

The more shows the cue maker attends or fulfills his orders, the more time he spends in contact with potential customers.  These individuals are also potential customers for your cues in the aftermarket.  The aftermarket, this alone is a unique situation. I will address this later in the book.

So, it is necessary for the cue makers to bring cues to the show that are for sale.  When he displays his cues in his booth this accomplishes several things.  First and foremost, the sale of these cues will help the cue maker pay for the expenses of the show.  Custom cue shows and tournaments can be very expensive to attend with booth fees, travel expenses, lodging and meals. Second, this allows potential customers to a first-hand view and a chance to hit a few balls. NEVER BUY A CUE WITHOUT HITTING A FEW BALLS.

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