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More eBay oddments


PhilEdwards
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I'm currently saving up for my first concertina, mainly by selling stuff on eBay; I know exactly what I'm going to buy (a Jackie), who I'm going to buy it from (Celtic Chords) and what it's going to cost.

 

But where's the fun in that?

 

While I'm on eBay I sometimes have a look at the concertinas people are selling, and some of them are seriously intriguing - particularly the prices.

 

Here's a 48-key Lachenal treble - a 'tutor' by the look of the buttons - described thus:

This instrument is in good working order,and in concert pitch. It has brass reeds but is responsive and quite loud for its type. It is air tight.it is showing the signs of being played but has no cracks or bellows holes.In short a reasonable playing instrument of its type.With original case and key.

Here's a Wheatstone tutor ("This box has had a lot of restoration work on it as all pads have been professionally replaced as well as valves etc")

 

And another Lachenal (with an impressive array of pictures)

 

I'm not going to bid for any of these, just on the general principle of not buying second-hand sight unseen. But still... the thought of putting down the price of a new Jackie and getting (say) a 48-key Wheatstone is awfully tempting.

 

What do people think - are these boxes likely to have some serious drawbacks that I'm missing? (Does 'tutor' mean 'played to death'?)

 

PS And now for something completely different (18 buttons and 11-fold bellows?)

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What do people think - are these boxes likely to have some serious drawbacks that I'm missing? (Does 'tutor' mean 'played to death'?)

 

 

Sometimes played to death, but in my experience the problem is more often that the concertina was not very good to play when new, and so has lain unplayed for decades. During that time valve leather stiffens, moths eat the felt from the pads, wood can crack, and the reeds may not be in concert pitch anyway. All these things can be put right, but the cost can easily run to several hundred pounds.

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Whilst the idea of saving up to buy a Jackie could be viewed by many in the Concertina world as a little strange, where paying out a couple of thousand plus is more the norm, it is still spending money. Whereas the purchase of an old Wheatstone or Lachenal is more like an investment.

 

When you come to sell on your 'used' Jackie you are unlikely to get your money back, or at least not all of it. If you invest in a vintage concertina you might even make a little profit when the time comes to move it on, as long as you have not paid over the odds for it in the first place.In forty years of owning Concertinas I cannot recall any that I actually lost money on.

 

Theo's point is very valid here, you could spend as much in getting one of these 'tutor' models restored as you would for a much more up-market model. As a collector's item these 'tutors' can be nice but would have to be in mint condition and/or be from the very early years ( 1840-90's)when the production standards were the very finest. In later years the Tutor model was relegated to the cheap end of the market and it would be hard to find one that was worth playing.

 

Geoff.

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When you come to sell on your 'used' Jackie you are unlikely to get your money back, or at least not all of it.

 

 

True, but the resale value of the Jackie is better than for the very cheap chinese instruments.

 

If you want a Jackie keep an eye on the buy and sell section here. Thet do get offered second hand reasonably often.

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Whilst the idea of saving up to buy a Jackie could be viewed by many in the Concertina world as a little strange, where paying out a couple of thousand plus is more the norm,

Begging your pardon, guv, I had no idea I was aspiring to play such a rich gentleman's instrument. Pardon my pauperly presumption - it's back to the old comb and paper for me...

 

Actually it's temperament as much as necessity - I could find £300 if I wanted to, but years of part-time & temporary employment have told me that there's always another rainy day round the corner. (A couple of years ago, when things were even tighter, I watched my bank balance for months before I spent £20 on a Tony Dixon whistle. (Well worth it.)) So I'm selling off bits of my record collection and earmarking the proceeds as the Concertina Fund. If, in a year or so's time, you see a hard case with an Aphex Twin sticker on it, that'll be why.

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More seriously...

 

the purchase of an old Wheatstone or Lachenal is more like an investment.

...

In later years the Tutor model was relegated to the cheap end of the market and it would be hard to find one that was worth playing.

This is what puzzles me - looking at it as an absolute beginner - about these eBay listings. They've got the names, basically; some of them have even got serial numbers. They generally say they've been at least partially restored & come with lists of all the bits that have been replaced. And yet, I get the impression that people here generally wouldn't touch them with a bargepole, except possibly to take on as a restoration project.

 

Is 'tutor' (and the black buttons) a red flag? Would you distrust the list of replaced bits - or would you work on the assumption that everything that hadn't been replaced was suspect?

 

I'm also curious about that little 18-button thing - small, big bellows, weird (English-like?) layout, little finger straps...

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And another Lachenal (with an impressive array of pictures)

 

 

well, it's apparent that that one needs a lot of work - just look at the feeble attempts at fixing split bellows...

 

Phil, I'm not quite sure what you are getting at. We had the same debate here: http://www.concertina.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=13287 , and several well respected and respectable forum members (plus me) have pointed out to you that there is always a risk involved in bidding on instruments on ebay unless you are sure that the seller has a good reputation in the field.

 

There is no way to tell whether a given instrument offered on ebay is a good bargain or not just by looking at the auction details; you would have to listen to it and have an understanding of the pitfalls and weaknesses of concertina construction to be able to assess the value and the possible work ahead. Plus, as also pointed out, antique concertinas on ebay are VERY closely being observed by a good number of professional and semi professional restores and resellers; I find it very unlikely that a little treasure goes under value under all this scrutiny. So answering to your question "should I bid or not" - of course it's up to you, but my suspicion is that if you do get a decent instrument that way, you'll end up paying about the same as you would when buying from a reputed seller/restorer - whereas in the latter case, you're not left on your own when any problems occur. If you do, however, win a bid with what looks like a bargain price, be prepared (as Theo and Geoff already pointed out) that you'll spend a few hundred pounds more for restoration, regardless of whether you do it by yourself or have it done.

 

Of course, if you're interested in concertina repairing and restoring yourself, there's nothing wrong with getting a cheapie and trying yourself on it - but if your expectation is to find a great instrument at a bargain price and be able to unpack and play it without further ado - well, good luck...

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More seriously...

 

...

They generally say they've been at least partially restored & come with lists of all the bits that have been replaced. And yet, I get the impression that people here generally wouldn't touch them with a bargepole, except possibly to take on as a restoration project.

 

That's because any repairer worth their salt will be unlikely to do a partial restoration. Usually what these statements meant is that someone has done a quick patch up, or the seller knows nothing at all but sees signs of some repairs. My view is that unless the seller is naming the repairer, and has receipts for the work done then such assurances of repair work done should be ignored. Most sellers are not setting out deliberately to deceive, but simply don't have the necessary knowledge to make a detailed assessment of the instrument.

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the purchase of an old Wheatstone or Lachenal is more like an investment.

...

In later years the Tutor model was relegated to the cheap end of the market and it would be hard to find one that was worth playing.

As far as I know, the "tutor" term is a modern invention. Was that term ever used by Wheatstone, Lachenal, et al in their records or advertising?

 

It seems that many folks (including or especially many of us?) seem to think that vintage concertinas with colored buttons (black for the accidentals, red for the C's, white for the rest), many of which also had the letters of the notes stamped into the tops of their bone buttons, were deliberately inferior instruments, intended for beginners who would trade up to something "better" when/if they became proficient. Holding a place in their market similar to that of the Jackie or Stagi today?

 

As Geoff notes, in later days that style does seem to have been relegated to that market niche, as other styles or aesthetics became more the norm, but at its earliest appearance it was used broadly across many different ranges of quality, or "models". I might even speculate, though I don't really know (perhaps someone else here does?), that at its first appearance it was considered a "deluxe" attribute... like the first use of chrome trim on automobiles?

 

My experience, limited though it is, has included a couple of concertinas with colored-and-stamped buttons that were of high quality. They had ends of rosewood, with generally better workmanship, and though their reeds were brass, they were of longer scale and higher quality than in their run-of-the-mill mahogany-ended siblings.

 

But what matters in the end -- at least to most of us here -- is the current playability of the individual instrument, and how much can you tell about that from an auction with only a couple of external pictures and text which includes, "I don't know much/anything about concertinas"? Without knowing more, the probability of an instrument with colored buttons needing significant work before it becomes "nice to play" are much higher than for the later upper-tier models. Or maybe the restoration cost would be the same, but the end result of the latter would be worth more.

 

This is what puzzles me - looking at it as an absolute beginner - about these eBay listings. They've got the names, basically; some of them have even got serial numbers. They generally say they've been at least partially restored & come with lists of all the bits that have been replaced. And yet, I get the impression that people here generally wouldn't touch them with a bargepole, except possibly to take on as a restoration project.

I always wonder when someone says an instrument has been restored, but they don't say by whom. Was it done by one of the A-list concertina makers, one of concertina.net's respected contributors, a local accordion repair shop, or by themself or their amateur-handyman neighbor? Or for that matter, are they just reporting that it looks like someone has done some work on it sometime after it was originally built. Yep, at least without a generous selection of relevant photos inside and out, I would leave my barge pole hanging on the wall.

 

I'm also curious about that little 18-button thing - small, big bellows, weird (English-like?) layout, little finger straps...

That's a different kettle of fish altogether. It's a modern hybrid concertina, a "miniature" model by Stagi, and it does look to be in "as new" condition.

 

But it is only 18 buttons, not 48 or even 30. Its range is just under 2 octaves (from middle C to the B just under the C two octaves higher) and it's missing most accidentals: It has two F#'s, but only one C# (no C# next to middle C), one Bb (none next to the higher B ), and no D#/Eb or G#/Ab at all. In an old post by Del Blackketter there is a link to a note layout (as a Microsoft Word document) showing how the range of the 18-button miniature compares to a standard 48-button English.

Edited by JimLucas
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That's because any repairer worth their salt will be unlikely to do a partial restoration. Usually what these statements meant is that someone has done a quick patch up, or the seller knows nothing at all but sees signs of some repairs. My view is that unless the seller is naming the repairer, and has receipts for the work done then such assurances of repair work done should be ignored. Most sellers are not setting out deliberately to deceive, but simply don't have the necessary knowledge to make a detailed assessment of the instrument.

That makes a lot of sense - thanks.

 

Ruediger - sorry if it seemed like I was asking the same question again. There just seemed to be something 'obvious' in people's replies that wasn't obvious to me. (Thinks: "that's a tenth of what you'd pay for something with a similar name from a good restorer... and it's had some work done... how bad can it be?") Getting it now, I think.

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Plus, as also pointed out, antique concertinas on ebay are VERY closely being observed by a good number of professional and semi professional restores and resellers; I find it very unlikely that a little treasure goes under value under all this scrutiny.

A dealer wants to make his turn on reselling the instrument. So there is a gap between what the dealer will pay, and what the instrument can be resold for. So whilst we can be reasonably sure that a concertina won't go on ebay for £1000 less than its resale value (except in rare cases where hardly anyone can tell what they are looking at except one expert who spots it), we can be reasonably sure that if a dealer buys it, it is going for at least £100 less than its resale value (for concertinas valued as at least several hundred pounds that is). Dealers can probably also commission the restoration of a concertina more cheaply than you or me, because they supply a goodly stream of work to the restorer, know exactly what needs doing, and probably do some of the lower skilled tasks themselves.

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Plus, as also pointed out, antique concertinas on ebay are VERY closely being observed by a good number of professional and semi professional restores and resellers; I find it very unlikely that a little treasure goes under value under all this scrutiny.

A dealer wants to make his turn on reselling the instrument. So there is a gap between what the dealer will pay, and what the instrument can be resold for. So whilst we can be reasonably sure that a concertina won't go on ebay for £1000 less than its resale value (except in rare cases where hardly anyone can tell what they are looking at except one expert who spots it), we can be reasonably sure that if a dealer buys it, it is going for at least £100 less than its resale value (for concertinas valued as at least several hundred pounds that is). Dealers can probably also commission the restoration of a concertina more cheaply than you or me, because they supply a goodly stream of work to the restorer, know exactly what needs doing, and probably do some of the lower skilled tasks themselves.

 

Right. By "value" I simply meant "market value" which apparently is not the same as "resale value." Thus, if, say, an old 20 button Lachenal in completly beat up condition goes for 100-150 BP (which is a typical ballpoint figure for that kind of instrument) it means that some restorer will either use it to stock up on reeds and other spare parts or expect to fix it up for another 50 (given the circumstances that you describe) so he can make another 100 when reselling it for 300 in a playable condition. We're perfectly in sync here; my point to Phil was simply that if he wins an auction on such an instrument for 150, it means that that instrument wasn't attractive enough for one of the pros at that price, and as a corollary, he shouldn't really expect such a deal to gain a playable instrument. Which is the same that you write, only formulated the other way around.

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Coming back to the original post, I too went against the advice and bought an (equivalent) Rochelle instead of a "better" box. I will lose money on the Rochelle when I sell it, and it was top price (exchange rate :() when I bought it.

 

But I felt a lot more comfortable going down that route, I didn't know how to best sell a more expensive box, and the cost of selling a dearer box is much higher. Losing £200 selling a £2000 box doesn't seem a lot, losing £200 selling a £400 box seems awful, but it's still £200 either way.

 

I have bought a couple of cheaper Ebay boxes since, but did so with my eyes open and with the expectation of having work done (or doing it). Won a few, lost a few, that's my fun, and I still had the Rochelle.

 

I now have a better (and much more expensive box) and understand why they are more expensive, but I would suggest you stick with Plan A until your skills and, with luck, finances improve. If neither happens you have a playable, sellable box for not a huge amount of dosh.

 

A final point, as I'm sure is observed elsewhere on CNET, the prices you see on Ebay may not be anyway near the final price. That usually increases significantly in the last five seconds. You have to watch a few go through to get a feel for what they really go at.

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Thinking about this 'tutor' concept I'm sure Jim must be right and it's a new term; I suspect at the time Lachenals would have said something like 'the colour coding makes it particularly suitable for a new player'.

 

Anyway; it seems to me that in the duet world Wheatstone left the cheap starter instrument field clear for Lachenals. The most basic 39 and 46 key models always seem to be Lachenals; I've come to expect that these sizes will be higher quality if they have Wheatstone written on them. I'm not saying all small Lachenals are rubbish; they made better ones too, just that they gave the customer options to compromise between cost and quality that go further to the cheap side. Is it the same for Englishes? Are all the clunkers Lachenals, or were Wheatstone more willing to take the war to the enemy's door with these?

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Thinking about this 'tutor' concept I'm sure Jim must be right and it's a new term; I suspect at the time Lachenals would have said something like 'the colour coding makes it particularly suitable for a new player'.

 

Anyway; it seems to me that in the duet world Wheatstone left the cheap starter instrument field clear for Lachenals. The most basic 39 and 46 key models always seem to be Lachenals; I've come to expect that these sizes will be higher quality if they have Wheatstone written on them. I'm not saying all small Lachenals are rubbish; they made better ones too, just that they gave the customer options to compromise between cost and quality that go further to the cheap side. Is it the same for Englishes? Are all the clunkers Lachenals, or were Wheatstone more willing to take the war to the enemy's door with these?

 

Greg Jowaisas pointed me to a 35-button Wheatstone Crane (c 1934) that he worked on. I've yet to catch up with the owner to try it but Greg says the reeds are pretty nice. I konw tha tthe 35 button Lachenal that I bought from Dr Bones sin't up to my Wheatstone 55 but perhaps the economiy of the 30's had them making some smaller instruments?

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Thinking about this 'tutor' concept I'm sure Jim must be right and it's a new term; I suspect at the time Lachenals would have said something like 'the colour coding makes it particularly suitable for a new player'.

 

Anyway; it seems to me that in the duet world Wheatstone left the cheap starter instrument field clear for Lachenals. The most basic 39 and 46 key models always seem to be Lachenals; I've come to expect that these sizes will be higher quality if they have Wheatstone written on them. I'm not saying all small Lachenals are rubbish; they made better ones too, just that they gave the customer options to compromise between cost and quality that go further to the cheap side. Is it the same for Englishes? Are all the clunkers Lachenals, or were Wheatstone more willing to take the war to the enemy's door with these?

 

Greg Jowaisas pointed me to a 35-button Wheatstone Crane (c 1934) that he worked on. I've yet to catch up with the owner to try it but Greg says the reeds are pretty nice. I konw tha tthe 35 button Lachenal that I bought from Dr Bones sin't up to my Wheatstone 55 but perhaps the economiy of the 30's had them making some smaller instruments?

 

I haven't seen enough Cranes to have an idea, Rod; (and very, very few small ones; do you think any were made speculatively at all?) I'd be willing to bet a modest amount that my assessment of the Maccan situation is right. I should have said that I assume that all these 'starter' Lachenals were made speculatively rather than to order like all (?) other duets of the period.

 

I just wondered if this also applied to Englishes; I've seen loads of 'tutors' but never paid them much attention for obvious reasons! Are they ALL Lachenals?

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Greg Jowaisas pointed me to a 35-button Wheatstone Crane (c 1934) that he worked on. I've yet to catch up with the owner to try it but Greg says the reeds are pretty nice. I konw tha tthe 35 button Lachenal that I bought from Dr Bones sin't up to my Wheatstone 55 but perhaps the economiy of the 30's had them making some smaller instruments?

 

I haven't seen enough Cranes to have an idea, Rod; (and very, very few small ones; do you think any were made speculatively at all?) I'd be willing to bet a modest amount that my assessment of the Maccan situation is right. I should have said that I assume that all these 'starter' Lachenals were made speculatively rather than to order like all (?) other duets of the period.

 

I just wondered if this also applied to Englishes; I've seen loads of 'tutors' but never paid them much attention for obvious reasons! Are they ALL Lachenals?

 

 

No, there are Wheatstone 'tutor' type EC's but perhaps these are mostly from the 19th century. It would appear that Lachenals did do more in the cheaper ranges.

 

One would need to make a lot of modifications to a cheap-end Lachenal 'Tutor' to bring it up to a fine playing standard. With Brass reeds and cheap wooden interiors they just ain't going to sing well.

 

Perhaps the 35k Crane Wheatstone (from circa 1934) is a Lachenal original that was finnished by Wheatstones after their take over of lachenal?

Edited by Geoff Wooff
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