What Decides a Musical Instrument’s Value?

Image by Pierre Prégardien from Pixabay

The Hard Baroquer is a home musician that has pursued music as a hobby for nearly 20 years. An intermediate guitarist, beginner bassist and even sometimes dabbling on the harmonica, he is always learning something. In his free time, he runs The Hard Baroquer blog.

By The Hard Baroquer

How much is your musical instrument currently worth? As much as you bought it for? Probably not and it’s likely worth less since very few instruments increase in value. If you’re hoping to part-exchange your musical instrument in order to upgrade it’s value could limit what you upgrade to.

Follow the steps below to make sure your musical instrument retains as much of it’s initial value as possible so that you can get the highest re-sale price for it when it’s time to part ways.

Why do musicians sell their instruments?

Many musicians don’t see their equipment as magical items or works of art. They see them as tools of the trade. And while collecting noteworthy musical instruments will always be part of the music world, where over time instruments achieve vintage and even antique status which will see their value soar to tens of thousands of pounds and more (some violins have auctioned for millions of US dollars), the majority of instruments, lose their value over time as they degrade and the cost of repairs exceeds the re-sale value of the item, making its maintenance an exercise in sunk costs and at that point it makes more sense to sell it and purchase a newer instrument. The result of collecting instruments that are losing value is simply clutter.

So unless the musical instrument has sentimental value (perhaps it was your very first instrument, or handed down to you by a parent or grandparent), it will make sense to part ways with it in order to avoid cluttering your home.

Factors affecting a musical instrument’s value?

Re-sale value of anything pre-owned (from music gear to art to trainers) is decided by similar sets of factors, these being:

  • Initial value
  • Scarcity
  • Age
  • Condition
  • Demand
  • Relevance

Let’s take a look at each one of these six factors and how they impact how much your gear is when worth. Then you can learn how to keep that value as high as possible.

Initial value

Simply deals with how much was your trumpet, harmonica, keyboard etc. worth when it was new? If it was entry level and worth the equivalent of £150 in the UK, that’s the base price that a valuer will look at, if it was £1,500 they’ll work from there

Scarcity

Another important factor – how many of these were made? Is this model with these specifications still in production? Or is it discontinued? Has the manufacturer closed up shop?

Age

The age of the item is another factor that comes into consideration, as it usually indicates how much wear and tear will have occurred. It will also speak as to how in-demand those specifications will be. Older technology is not always considered better technology. Not always.

Condition

Condition speaks for itself. If the instrument needs to undergo any degree of refurbishment or repair, that will eat into the selling on price, and so it will impact how much you can ask for our instrument.

Demand

Is this instrument in demand? If it’s discontinued, it could still be sought after by musicians. Combine this with scaricity – if it’s the only one available on the market, then you have control over the price. Likewise, if demand is low because the market has other preferences, then that will reflect in your instrument’s re-sale value.

Relevance

Some instruments are timeless and will always be in demand. Violins and their relatives have been played for centuries; piano’s will always be something people want to learn. Oversupply aside, there will always be someone keen on the guitar, be it classical, acoustic or electric. However, some instruments are less timeless. Perhaps it was a novelty of its time, perhaps it was a product of limited technology that can easily be surpassed. This is the final factor of resale value.

An example:

If someone owns a a 10-year old entry-level electric bass guitar by a well-known and respected manufacturer, how much would you expect this instrument to be worth in order for you to upgrade?

New, the instrument retails for £170. Pre-owned mass-produced instruments are usually sold as a good value for money alternative, so you can expect it to sell for less. In pristine condition, you’d expect a small reduction in value since demand prefers newer items. With wear and tear private sellers on Reverb ask for around £125. If you’re part exchanging at a retailer, you’d do well to receive £100 for it, which can go towards your next instrument.