Guitar stolen in 2005 turns up on eBay

  • Article by: MATT MCKINNEY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 16, 2011 - 12:14 PM

Someone stole the six-stringed love of Eric Malmberg's life in 2005. But then it turned up on eBay.

You never forget a great love, and Eric Malmberg never forgot his. He spent about six years tracking down his Fender Telecaster after the guitar was stolen from a practice room.

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii, Star Tribune

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One of the last times he saw his guitar, Eric Malmberg was telling a friend this was the one. "This is the guitar I will play for the rest of my life,"' he said.

Two days later, it was gone.

It was June 5, 2005. Someone had slipped into a band rehearsal space at 2921 2nd St. N., a warehouse where bands and musicians hang out, and walked off with Malmberg's guitar, a top-of-the-line American Deluxe Telecaster made by the Fender Musical Instruments Corp.

The Fender guitar is a classic in American rock bands, and Malmberg's guitar is emblematic of the type, with a yellow body that fades to deep orange and then black, what's known as a "sunburst" pattern. Malmberg made one change: he replaced the original off-white pickguard, a plastic shield that rests beneath the guitar strings, with a black one.

"I bought it at Willie's American Guitars in St. Paul. I was looking for that particular type," Malmberg recalled. "I played it for a good couple of hours in the store before I decided to buy it."

He played the Fender as the lead guitar for the rock band Attention, which has toured internationally and released several albums, including last year's "Through the Wire."

Then it was stolen and Malmberg, now 33, settled into the routines of a determined man. He made fliers and put them up in music shops. He searched online. When he was on eBay looking for something to buy, he'd take a minute and enter "American Deluxe Telecaster," just to see what would come up.

And then, finally, something did.

On Nov. 5, he spotted his guitar on eBay. It had the sunburst pattern, the black pickguard and, most importantly, the serial number matched.

"It just makes me sound like Rainman, but I could remember the serial number," he said. "It's like 10 digits. I had searched for it so many times it had stuck in my brain."

The seller said he lived in Minneapolis.

Using Facebook, Malmberg asked if anyone knew a Minneapolis police officer. Soon he was talking to Minneapolis officer Jessie Garcia, who knew some of the staff at KQRS-FM, where Malmberg works a weekend DJ gig as "Dead Eric."

If Malmberg hadn't known the serial number, Garcia said, chances are he wouldn't have been able to retrieve his guitar, worth an estimated $2,000. It would have been his word against the guitar's eBay seller.

Using his personal eBay handle, Garcia contacted the seller and offered him nearly the full asking price for the guitar if the seller would meet him at a downtown bank last Wednesday.

He did, and surrendered the guitar, which was returned to Malmberg within an hour.

No charges will be filed against the seller, who said he bought it from a guitar shop in Blaine several years ago. That shop has since gone out of business. "He, in a sense, was a victim himself," Garcia said.

Malmberg says the guitar has two new nicks, but otherwise is the same classic instrument he remembered.

He said he's already played it for hours.

Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747

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