How Do I Value My Wooden Recorders?
In March, we presented you with information regarding properly insuring your recorders. Based on feedback we received from you, we want to help you answer the question: how do I value my recorders? Knowing the value of your wooden recorders not only helps in properly insuring them, but also in pricing them to sell.
For insurance purposes, you first need to determine whether your policy will let you insure the instrument at replacement value, current value, or purchase price. If it is insured at current value, then answering the following questions can help you determine its value.
  • How old is the instrument? In general, wooden recorders do not increase in value with age.
  • Who made the instrument? Is it a factory instrument or handmade?
    • If it is handmade, start by contacting the recorder maker. They can help determine its current worth.
    • If it is a factory instrument, then a good starting point is ½ the original purchase price. Of course, the age of the instrument and identifying the answers to the following questions may increase or decrease the value significantly. At the end of this article are websites where you can compare new and used prices for currently selling instruments.
  • What was the original purchase price? If you do not know the original purchase price and it is a handmade instrument, contact the maker and they will have records. If it is a factory-built instrument, the manufacturer may have pricing information if you know the year or a timeframe of purchase.
  • What wood is it made from?
    • Some popular woods for recorders are maple, pearwood, rosewood, and boxwood. If it is made of boxwood, it is helpful to know if it is made from European boxwood or Asian boxwood. Unfortunately, the latter tends to crack.
    • Some woods are more valuable than others and each produces a unique sound. If you can identify the wood, then making comparisons to other sold instruments, or talking to a recorder dealer can help in identifying its value.
  • How is the instrument finished?
    • Does it have an oiled exterior, a wax-impregnated wood, or heavily varnished?
    • The type of finish will determine the upkeep for the owner. A wax-impregnated wood will not need regular oiling (or oiling at all), but an oiled exterior will. If the instrument has not had proper regular care or upkeep, then the value will decrease.
  • Does it use the baroque fingering system? If the recorder uses the German fingering system, it is only sentimental in value.
  • Does it have a curved windway?
    Straight  vs. Curved
    • A straight slot at the windway entrance indicates an instrument with only sentimental value. Inexpensive recorders are machine slotted, which is easy and inexpensive, but results in a recorder that clogs easily and has had very little time spent on voicing.
    • A curved windway is more valuable. A well crafted windway, including "mid level" Moecks and Mollenhauers, has a curvature the length of the windway both on the block and on the roof, so that the windway channel is larger in the center of the windway than it is at either the blowing or exit ends. All recorder roofs will sag over time, and this curvature means that there is some leeway in the windway to account for this. It also allows for the moisture to have more room to run off so the windway doesn't clog as quickly. An instrument where care has been taken in the windway design will also reflect care in the voicing and tuning.
  • What is the pitch of the instrument?
    • Have someone else watch the tuner and play the lowest note to identify the pitch (this includes the tuning; e.g. is it at 415 or 440?).
    • It is best to have a second person look at the tuner to ensure accuracy because you as the player can easily manipulate the breath control to achieve a certain pitch.
  • How is the tuning of the instrument overall?
    • Playing each note with a tuner, particularly focusing on intervals such as fifths and octaves, will help determine if the instrument is well-tuned. A well-tuned instrument will have more value. Once again, it is best if a second person is holding and viewing the tuner.
    • Handmade instruments will likely be much more evenly tuned throughout the range of the instrument than factory instruments. Minor adjustments to breath speed or fingerings are common, especially for factory instruments, but if there are many notes or intervals that require manipulation, the instrument's value will be affected.
Once you are armed with this information, you can:
  • Research sites like eBay or used instrument sites to find a similar instrument. Be sure to look at sold prices, not asking prices. For used instrument sites, a few examples include:
  • Call or send your instrument to one of the above dealers or another recorder dealer that sells used instruments for further assessment. Since they see used instruments frequently, they have a greater knowledge of what they are currently worth.

Recorder dealers can help you sell your instruments as well, but keep in mind that they will collect a commission. For some, it is worth the commission price to have someone handle the sale. For direct sales, being able to assess the value of your instrument using the guidelines above and comparing them to instruments through sites like those listed above will help you determine a fair price. 

American Recorder Society

ARS NOVA is a communiqué of the American Recorder Society to its members and others who appreciate and support the world of recorders.

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