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Wheatstone Baritone - Sell "as Is" Or Refurbish?

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A friend of mine has owned this instrument for many years but never learnt to play it. Now he wants to sell it to help fund a building project. I’ve offered to help him. My question is should he sell it in its current condition or refurbish it first? Normally my advice would be the latter since most people want an instrument they can play without the delay and uncertain cost of repairs etc. In this case, though, the instrument seems to be virtually untouched since the day it was made. It might be more attractive to buyers in that condition.

The serial number (11432) suggests it was built in about 1860. Wheatstone’s sales ledger shows that it was sold in July 1862. It’s the most expensive intstument on the page which presumably gives some indication of its quality. It seems to have spent most of its life in its tea-caddy case in benign environmental conditions. There’s no sign of cracking, warping or swelling in the woodwork. The bellows are pristine. There are no nail marks round the buttons and the buttons show no signs of wear. The end bolts are undamaged and there’s no damage to the wood round them. Open it up and the inside is as clean as the day it was built. All 96 reeds play. The only two issues are one broken thumb strap and half the valves curled up from being stored on its side. The broken thumb strap was almost certainly caused by pulling it out of the case after someone jammed it in by not aligning the knurled thumb screws with the groove in the case.

Tuning: It sounds pretty good. I’ve been able to check some notes against a guitar tuner and these are between about 5 and 25 cents sharp. The D# is different from the Eb and likewise the G# and Ab. So it is probably in old high pitch and some sort of meantone tuning - possibly never touched since it was made.

I’d welcome any advice before putting it up for sale.

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My vote is for selling as is. A minimal and sensitive restoration for a new owner at his/her discretion is surely preferable.


It looks as if a pair of thumb straps and the valves replacing is all it needs. It would be most ideal to sell it so someone who wishes to retain the Meantone temperament as this is a very nice element of this instrument.

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I'd suggest selling as is. I wouldn't even replace valves. Replacing valves is very simple in practice, but there are pitfalls and a good set of reeds can have their volume and response significantly dampened by over heavy valves. Easy enough to replace again, but why make extra work? On the occasions when I buy an instrument to renovate and re-sell I will always prefer one that has bit been touched, unless the work has been done by someone with a good reputation as a repairer.

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It’s the most expensive intstument on the page which presumably gives some indication of its quality.


I'd see it as an indication of the hand-made nature of a baritone like this at the time, when all the new treble concertinas were already being manufactured with Louis Lachenal's machinery - but evidently he hadn't tooled-up to make the much smaller quantities of speciality instruments like this that were being sold.


Hence this instrument (for example) has intricate hand-cut fretwork, whilst all the contemporary trebles had a much simpler design cut by a pattern-following spindle cutter machine.

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What a gem! I am very impressed by the condition of this instrument.... If it was mine I would certainly get the valves and thumb strap sorted, as I would want to be able to play and enjoy it myself (at least for a while, before selling). However, I would not try to adjust the tuning, unless there were reeds which were obviously out. I have two old trebles which are close to 'old philharmonic pitch', where A = 452 hz, these concertinas are also in 1/4 comma mean tone tuning, which is an unequal temperament system. I have recently been investigating this tuning system and started a topic on this forum about it http://www.concertina.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=18238


Thanks for posting these pictures, the leather work on the bellows is stunning!

Edited by banjojohn
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