If you have an old musical instrument and are wondering about its value, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Prepare yourself for the very strong possibility that it has little or no monetary value. The vast majority of musical instruments don’t increase in value over time.
- For most instruments there’s not a reliable “blue book” kind of value. The monetary value is what you can get someone to pay for it.
- You can check an auction site like eBay to see what people are paying for instruments like yours. (Search for auction listings that actually sold.)
- Note that sometimes brand and model names get reused over time, and your instrument that has a similar name to an expensive one might not really be the same thing.
- Condition is very, very important. In the extremely rare case that you have a model that has some significant value, that value usually drops a lot if the instrument isn’t in playing condition. High-level players will usually want to try the instrument before buying, and if it’s not playable then they can’t make sure it’s worth the price.
- Note that an instrument’s condition may require more than a visual inspection—just because it’s shiny and not visibly damaged doesn’t mean it’s ready to play.
- Donating an instrument to a school, etc. might be possible if the instrument is of decent quality and in playable condition. If it’s going to require a few hundred dollars’ worth of repair before a student can play it, it may not be worth it to your school’s band program. In other words, if you can’t sell it, it probably doesn’t have value as a donation, either.
An instrument that can’t be sold or donated for playing might be destined for the garbage. (They often can’t be easily recycled.) If you’re determined to find a new life for it, a local theater might want it as a prop, a thrift shop might accept it as a decorative item, or an instrument repair shop might throw it on their scrap pile to scavenge for parts.
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For instruments that can’t be donated or resold, there’s a lot of other good uses for them:
1) You can turn them into woodwind lamps! (Or make jewelry with the keys).
2) You can practice repairing them and get to learn the instrument more fully by taking the keys off and putting it back together.
3) If they are passable in making a sound, I’ve used old student clarinets and flutes as trial instruments for “instrument demonstrations”, trial lessons, or classroom show-and-tell.