I Found My Stolen Guitar By Accident

Warning: although Photoshop was used to identify the guitar, this isn't really photography-related, but this story is too good not to share. 

20 years ago, during my freshman year of college, I worked all summer to afford a Taylor 414ce guitar. At the time it was the most expensive thing I'd ever purchased and it has a lot of sentimental value to me. For the last 3 years, while I was renting a house in Puerto Rico, I left my guitar locked up in a closet in a rental property in the states. Last week, after 3 years, I went to pick up my guitar and it wasn't there. 

I assumed I had moved the guitar and it would eventually turn up but out of curiosity, I decided to see how much used Taylor guitars were going for on Facebook Marketplace. The very first guitar for sale had been posted earlier that day and it happened to be an almost identical Taylor 414ce guitar. At first, I just thought it was a coincidence but after comparing it to an old blurry picture of my guitar, I started to suspect that it could actually be my missing guitar.

I won't spoil the story for you here. Watch the video above to see one of the strangest, luckiest, coincidental stories of my life unfold in 48 hours. 

I've recently started my own personal Youtube channel and I'll be posting stuff there, like the video above, that isn't photography-related. If you're interested, subscribe

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Chris Rogers's picture

Get that guy in the slammer. Nothing chaps my ass like a thief. Glad you got your guitar back.

Lee Morris's picture

It's particularly frustrating to think I was paying this guy $50/hour to rob me. Plus I've noticed a few other things missing and I assume it was him but I'll never be able to prove it.

Jerome Brill's picture

I'm very familiar with the Pawn Business. It's different for every state but filing a police report for the stuff you know is missing may force the police to pull the file on that guy and see what else he pawned. You'll need serial numbers or receipts though. Although since they already know this guy stole from you they may be more lax. Some police stations get reports from pawn shops called an APS report. This contains all the sold and pawned items, including serial numbers they can search. If any shop does have those items still, they'll confiscate them. If the item is already gone they'll just add the total up in the file against the perp. If it's really expensive, they may track down the new buyer and work something out like you did. In general though, a pawn business has to give up the item to the police.

I'm actually surprised how much info they gave you when you talked to them. Pawns and Buys are protected my privacy laws. They shouldn't have told you anything but to file police report. Women often pawn their rings after a breakup and you would be surprised how many guys head to the shop to trying to get info. That's where the police come in. They'll be the mediator if something was stolen. Pawn business really don't want stolen goods. It's a big burden actually.

Fun fact though, if a pawn business still has the item when it's confiscated, they may show up at court to get restitution from the seller since they're out also.

Chris Rogers's picture

GEEEEEEEZE Dude throws away good gig like that just to steal some stuff. He could have just bought a guitar. Damn. If I was getting paid $50 an hour I'd be working to keep the gig not bite the hand that feeds. Some times peoples action just make no sense.

Naruto Uzumaki's picture

Hopefully they catch that criminal. Beyond that, the pawn shop should be responsible for the cost and should have given the person a full refund. If anything make sure it isn't a case where the person got a refund and then got you to pay money on top of that.

The responsibility falls on the pawn shot owners for cases like this ass that is the only way to prevent them from acting as a fence for stolen goods. If they are able to profit from stolen goods without any criminal or financial liability, then they will be encouraged to accept stolen goods, as there is no downside for them.

Tony Clark's picture

A little time in the Graybar Hotel will give him time to think about his actions. Glad to see that you have the guitar back.

Barry Strawbridges's picture

Extremely odd story. Do you know if there is anything else missing?

Lee Morris's picture

There are a few other things. I assume it was the same guy but we’ll never know for sure.

Steve Vansak's picture

About 20 years ago I was on the way to a gig with PA equipment and my acoustic guitar in the back of my truck. I had a cap on it and somehow the guitar in a case slid and opened up the back just enough to fall onto the road unbeknownst to me.

The cap door even closed back up and I unloaded for the gig like normal and discovered no guitar. Obviously, my gig was done before it even started that night.

I drove back the same route and looked but it was dark. Got up early the next morning but it was nowhere to be found.

Two weeks went by and I considered it gone. Then I got a call on my landline (remember those) with a sweet old lady on the phone. Was I missing a guitar? Yes, ma’am I sure am. Apparently on the back of a lyric cheat sheet in the case was an old flier promoting a different gig. It was torn, but my phone number was there. Whew - I was getting my axe back!

She had been driving behind me and saw it fall out.

So, cherished guitars do have a way of making their way back home. Glad you found yours.

And yes, I still have my black Alvarez acoustic here with me today!

Lee Morris's picture

You are also very lucky

Studio 403's picture

Great story, well done

Bill Metallinos's picture

I thank that the guy from Maga Pawn has has responsibility about that, he is the receiver of stolen goods.
I don't know that the law says in your country but.... anyway.
Nice that you have it back.
Also for other stolen goods etc Camera or lenses is goot to check online or onywhere to find them.

Steve Sucsy's picture

Why did Ron tell you, when you called him, that he obtained the guitar from an individual when he actually got it from a pawn shop?

Lee Morris's picture

He also told me he bought it a year ago. I think he didn’t want to admit to a buyer he just bought it for less from a pawn shop a few months ago.

Steve Sucsy's picture

Very nice of you to partially reimburse Ron for his loss. Good video!

Jim Woltjen's picture

I believe in my state of North Carolina that you have to show a govt. photo i.d. to sell something to the pawn shop, and they have to keep a record of that i.d.

Lee Morris's picture

Ya they did

William Faucher's picture

This video was so expertly put together. Kept my attention the entire time. So glad you got your guitar back man, and really good on you for splitting it 50/50 with the guy who had it. You were under no obligation to do so, yet you did it anyway. Respect.

Lee Morris's picture

Thanks! I spoke to the pawn shop and they said they do want to refund him but need to first wait for the guy to get picked up.

Gregg Shipman's picture

That sucks that you have to go through all that, but in the end, getting it back and having a great story to tell about it may even make it more of a sentimental heirloom for you and your family! As a guitar player myself I hate to think of a thief taking something that means so much.

Ken Lamb's picture

What a great story, adds such color to life of this guitar and can pass the history down as well. And of course is totally a Lee Morris adventure, '...the moment look for it, the guitar shows up on FB Marketplace...' what are the chances.

Michelle Maani's picture

I read about a guy that used the posted EXIF data on Flickr to locate his stolen camera. He suspected who was the thief, but couldn't prove it until he looked at the EXIF data in the posted photos. The owner of the camera had put his name in the data as the photographer/copyright owner.

Robert Nurse's picture

I don't understand why you're paying anything. That pawn shop need to pony up for accepting stolen merchandise, not you. It's a nice gesture, but, ...