Buy and Sell Musical Instruments

Musical instruments are some of the most valuable personal possessions that many people own. They give people endless joy through music-making. A quality musical instrument also can be worth a lot of money, whether a stringed, brass, or woodwind instrument. To assess the value of your instrument, visit an appraiser. Then use online and print resources to market your instrument for sale. If buying, start your search by determining the price, model, and age of the instrument you wish to purchase.


Buying a Musical Instrument

  1. Craft a budget. Decide beforehand how much money you are willing to invest in your instrument. If you are a beginning player, perhaps plan to spend a bit less. If you are a professional player, you likely will want a high quality instrument. In that case, your purchase is an investment in your career and future.
    • If your child is in a first year music class, you might consider spending less money on her first instrument and then if she sticks with it, buy her an upgrade later.
    • For children starting to play, renting an instrument is also an affordable option. Even pianos are available to rent. Check your local music stores or ask your child’s music teacher for more information.
  2. Decide whether to purchase used or new. Based on your budget, think about the pros and cons of buying a previously used or brand new instrument. For example, a new instrument should be in excellent condition, not be tarnished or scratched, and function well. It also will cost more than the same model that is used. Used instruments might have slight cosmetic defects but could function just as well.
    • Some used instruments, such as valuable, historic violins are actually considerably more expensive than new violins.
    • If you are a period player (e.g. play mainly Baroque music), you might seek an instrument from that period. This likely will be more expensive but can be worth it if you play at an intermediate or professional level.
    • If the instrument in which you are interested is vintage, you likely will pay a higher price.
    • For beginner players, used instruments are a great idea. Children particularly will feel less pressure if their parents have not invested a significant amount of money in an instrument for them.
  3. Determine which model to buy. When looking to buy an instrument, there are numerous manufacturers, models, styles, and materials. Based on your budget, available space, and living situation, seek the best option for you. When deliberating, the following considerations might help:
    • If you live in a small apartment, you might prefer to buy an electric keyboard that you can place on a table.
    • If you plan to place your piano in the living room, see how much available floor space you have. If you have a very large room, you could potentially purchase a baby grand or grand piano. For smaller rooms, an upright piano might suit you well.
    • For pianos, you can purchase regular upright pianos with the option of listening to the sound via headphones. These pianos are ideal for dense living situations.
    • When purchasing a drum set, consider whether you have space and sound protection for a full set. If you live in an apartment building and have lots of neighbors, you might buy an electric drum kit instead.
    • Silver trumpets are more valuable than brass trumpets. Similarly, flutes with gold mouthpieces also have a higher value. If you want to resell your instrument in the future, consider the values of the materials.
  4. Shop around. In order to get the best product and price, look at all the available options. Check for online retailers that specialize in your instrument. Also, visit local music stores and consignment shops. If your area has a service like eBay or Craigslist, inquire into listings there as well. Your local flea market also might have some instruments on offer.
    • If possible, always try out an instrument prior to purchase.
    • If buying a more expensive used instrument at a pawn shop, flea market, or through an online site, ask for a certificate of authenticity.
    • Do not send any money for an instrument through an insecure format (like international money transfers).
    • Ask your child’s music teacher for a recommendation.
    • Inspect instruments before purchase if possible. For brass instruments, check the valves. For pianos, lift up the lid and check the strings. Check for any noticeable defects.
    • For tips on buying a piano, see Buy a Piano.
    • To learn more about buying a violin, read Buy a Violin. For a cello, see Buy a Cello.
    • For advice on buying a beginner's trumpet, see Buy a Beginner Trumpet.

Selling a Musical Instrument

  1. Get your instrument appraised. In order to know how much your instrument is worth, you can visit an appraiser. Some music stores offer cost-free verbal appraisals. The price for an insurance appraisal can vary. For example, it can cost from $75 to $250.[1]Alternatively, you can estimate your instrument’s value on your own.
  2. Examine the market value of similar instruments. Each instrument has its own unique value based on several characteristics (age, quality of craftsmanship, condition). Nevertheless, you still can get a gist of the local market. Visit online sites like eBay or Craig’s List to see what prices other people are using.
  3. Assess the condition of your musical instrument. Are there any cosmetic issues like scuffs or marks? Is there a problem that makes your instrument function less well, such as missing or damaged keys on a piano or a damaged bow for a violin? Does the instrument still play normally and completely? Any factor that diminishes the condition of the instrument will lower its price. Full functionality is particularly important.
  4. Determine whether your instrument qualifies as antique. The best way to do this is by visiting an appraiser. Still, you can do a bit of research to determine this factor yourself. Do you have the original case? Are there etchings on the instrument that note a manufacturer or year?
    • Once you locate a manufacturer’s mark, perform an online search to see what information you can find.
    • For example, if your piano is a Steinway, locate the serial number by lifting up the cover. Once you locate the number, you can contact Steinway for all the available details (place of sale, age, model, etc.). This service costs $50.[3]
    • For tips on determining the date of your guitar, see Find Out the Age and Value of a Guitar.
    • Use industry periodicals to find out about common pricing for collectibles.
  5. Set a price for your instrument. Based on all the information you have gathered, formulate a price range in your mind. You will want to set your price towards the higher end of your scale because people likely will negotiate your price downwards. Don't just accept any price that someone offers.
    • When selling on an auction site like eBay, you might consider having a lower starting price to accrue more bids.[2]
  6. Find a proper place to sell your instrument. The quality of your instrument might determine what portal is best for you to use. For beginner to intermediate level instruments, online sites like Craigslist or eBay can be great. For intermediate to expert level instruments, ask at your local music store whether they buy instruments. Auction houses often will sell higher quality instruments as well. Use your local newspaper’s print and online classified sections to advertise. If you belong to any musical professional associations, their magazines also might have classified sections.
    • For tips on selling your piano online, see Sell a Piano Online.
    • Auction houses are particularly interested in very valuable instruments like Stradivarius violins.
    • Ask instrument repair people if they buy instruments. Some repair technicians will buy used instruments for their parts.[4]
    • Use a consignment shop. The shop displays your instrument in the store and receives a commission for the sale.
    • Consider selling at flea markets. If you have older instruments for which you don't want to fetch too high of a price, consider selling at your local flea market.
  7. Advertise effectively. In your print or online listing, provide photographs of your instrument from every angle. Make sure your photo background is professional and the room is well lit.[2] In today’s digital age, you also might be able to upload a sound file of your instrument being played. Give relevant information about the quality of the instrument, its manufacturer, age, condition, functionality, and quality. Mention your instrument's dimensions and weight in the listing. Offer interested parties the chance to play the instrument before purchase.
    • Make sure your listing is easy to read, clearly spaced, and printed in an easy font. Use bullet points for organization.[2]
    • Provide relevant details about the instrument that can enhance its value.[2]
    • If you are willing to deliver, specify that as well.
    • Use listing title keywords wisely. When advertising online, use the listing's title's keywords to attract the right customers. For example, if you have a beginner's trumpet for sale, rather than writing "brass trumpet for sale" as a headline, try, "beginner's brass trumpet for sale--good condition, perfect for a middle schooler starting band class." If listing a piano, mention the brand name, condition, and the size in your listing. For instance, you could write, "Baby grand, black Steinway piano: gently used condition."[2]
  8. Seek buyers. Find places where others look to buy instruments and advertise yours for sale. For example, you might advertise at a local school, church, or community center on a bulletin board. Ask friends for recommendations of people who might be looking for an instrument. Follow up with any interested buyers and offer a brochure on your instrument with all relevant information (make, age, condition, etc.).
  9. Ship instruments carefully. After you have sold your instrument, be sure to pack it with bubble wrap and other products like foam that can protect the instrument. Tightly pack the instrument so that it cannot shift in the box. Ensure that the instrument will not be damaged by water.[2]

Retaining an Instrument’s Value

  1. Take good care of your instrument. If you plan to sell your instrument in the future, it is wise to protect it now. Perform regular cleaning, oiling, and maintenance of your instruments to ensure longevity. If you have a large instrument like a piano, keep it in a climate controlled space. Large fluctuations in temperature or humidity can harm your instrument.[5]
    • Always shut all the latches on instrument cases so your instrument doesn’t fall out.[6]
    • For brass instruments, do not set your instrument on its bell. Instead lay it on its side with the valve side facing upwards.[6]
    • Clean brass mouthpieces weekly with a mild soap and mouthpiece brush.[6]
    • Oil brass valves and lead pipes weekly.[6]
    • Bathe brass instruments two to three times yearly.[6]
    • Oil the insides and outsides of wooden instruments.[7]
    • Keep drinks off any instrument with a wood finish.[5]
    • Clean wooden instruments with a dry or damp cloth. [5]
    • Swab woodwind instruments after each use, to remove moisture from condensation.
  2. Conduct regular maintenance. Have an expert inspect your instrument periodically for any defects or problems. Think of this as a regular check-up. Also bring your instrument to a specialist if you notice it is sounding differently. If you damage any part of the instrument, bring it in for service.
    • Service your pianos two to four times per year.[5]
  3. Use the instrument regularly. If you have an instrument, play it. While this might seem simple, it is essential. You will notice problems with your instruments sooner if you are using them. Particularly for brass and woodwinds, regular playing and maintenance will keep your instruments fitter.
    • If you no longer play your instrument, consider loaning it to a neighborhood child or giving it to an instrument drive (if it is not extremely valuable).
  4. Store instruments well. If you must store instruments for a long period of time, cover any larger instruments like pianos with cloths. Place instruments in their intended cases if applicable. Cover instruments with protective cloths or blankets. Look for a storage space with a constant temperature. Avoid direct sunlight.[8]
    • Store violins in rooms with medium humidity and a constant temperature.[8]
    • Avoid storing instruments in damp basements or hot attics.
    • Remove mouthpieces from woodwinds or brass instruments.

Related Articles

  • Promote a Musical
  • Rent a Musical Instrument for Your Child

Sources and Citations