Where to sell a relatively valuable musical instrument in New York City
August 16, 2015 10:47 AM   Subscribe

I have an alto saxophone that I would no longer like to keep lugging around as I move over and over again. It is worth more than I am willing to deal with myself: I've never sold anything worth more than $200 on ebay/craigslist. I can easily reach anywhere in New York City or environs, so I imagine there are a lot of places that would buy it from me. Is there any place in particular I should go? What should I expect their markup to be? Is this even a good idea?

The horn in question is a white-lacquered Selmer Super Action 80 Series II made in 1987. I bought it in 1994 from the original owner via a classified ad in the newspaper (!!). It's in good shape with no dents or damaged moving parts; but it is missing a bit of lacquer on the back side of the bell. It also needs new pads after having sat in a case for over 15 years. I am very likely never going to play the saxophone again; if I ever do, I certainly do not need an instrument of this quality. I have no sentimental attachment to it, but I would also like to ensure I get a fair price.

Are there any reputable woodwind shops I should bring it to? Is this a bad idea, and should I simply have it tuned up and sell it myself?
posted by q9f9A to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Huh. That's very interesting. White lacquer on a Selmer. Apparently these are fairly hard to come by these days. You should try to find a shop that also does repairs and is well-known for catering to serious musicians (unfortunately, I don't live in NYC, so I'm not sure what shop that would be). They might know someone who's in the market for a sax like that or be willing to buy it for more than you can get on Craigslist.
posted by limeonaire at 11:08 AM on August 16, 2015

or be willing to buy it for more than you can get on Craigslist

...really unlikely, for any category of used goods. You will get a fairly small per cent of its retail price. If it made sense for stores to source goods for more than Craigslist prices, stores would...source from Craigslist. That's really uncommon.

It looks like they sell for $2-$3k on eBay, depending on condition, though I can't figure out if the lacquer is much of a value add.

CL prices are never eBay prices because the marketplace is so much smaller and buyer protections are fewer. If you are not already an established eBay seller I would not bother trying to sell an expensive item on eBay; people will note the lack of feedback and go on to the next listing.

Personally, I would float it for $1k on CL (or a bit more if you have the repairs done) and offer to meet up in a public place -- people into scamming via CL are after electronics that can be easily pawned, not rarer specialty items; this should be an easy transaction. I fear, especially with its needing repairs, you would be looking at a $200 offer from a shop. As with so many used goods, the value is not really a fixed one; the value of the thing depends heavily on its being nicely presented and easy to purchase from a reputable dealer. It is an expensive instrument in a reputable shop, but its shop price has little bearing on its private seller price, if that follows.
posted by kmennie at 11:20 AM on August 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

You could consider taking it around to more than one reputable shop to see what it would sell for.

Note that some music stores won't buy it from you outright - they may want to take it on consignment, and so they will take a percentage (can be up to 10%) once it sells, so from that standpoint you may be better off selling it yourself once you're certain what the fair market value is.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:28 AM on August 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

I play sax (in fact, I have an SA80II of similar vintage). It's a common enough horn (valuable, pro line, but not exoticly old or rare, although the white/silver finish does make it a little unusual) and NYC is a big enough market, that you shouldn't have a lot of trouble finding an interested buyer. Like a car, you get more by finding the right individual, but if it needs parts or pads you might find it easier to just sell it as-is to a shop.

A great online community for selling, buying, and selling: http://saxontheweb.net/ (note .NET not .COM).

As a data point, I researched the value of this horn before buying from a friend, and "retail" used for a typical gold-tone brass one was about $2,500 3-4 years ago.
posted by randomkeystrike at 11:31 AM on August 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

Woodwind and Brasswind had a relatively quick quote system, at least as of a few years ago. I got a quote from them for maybe 1500 for a Series III tenor (brass lacquer), which is probably half its value if I tried to sell it myself. Worth a shot.

But if I were still trying to get rid of it, I'd probably do EBay with every possible shipping insurance and seller protection possible. Be sure to read the fine print and specify as-is condition. I'd probably simultaneously list it on Craigslist for a little less.
posted by supercres at 11:44 AM on August 16, 2015

You might also consider selling it on reverb.com. Reverb.com is sort of an "ebay for musicians", with lower fees and a fixed price, but as the seller you can choose to haggle if you want to.

My experience is primarily with gutars, amps, and effects pedals, but all of my buying and selling experiences on reverb.com have been drama free. Not affiliated with them except as a user.

Looks like a nice sax. I am sure you'll find a good buyer.
posted by mosk at 11:57 AM on August 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

consignment, and so they will take a percentage (can be up to 10%)

10% would be very rare and an extraordinarily good deal for the seller. Consigning gets you 40-60% of the selling price for a lot of merchandise, but a cursory Google suggests 25% is not unusual for musical instruments. They will definitely take a good cut for restoring it to saleable condition, though.

Another good sales venue could be a specialized Facebook group. Or even a non-specialized one; with an audience as large as NYC a well-heeled parent with a kid into playing the sax might thrill to scoring a higher-end instrument at a perceived bargain. FB for-sale groups can be great for impulse buys, and you might luck out and find a parent thinking "Betty's birthday is coming up and she's doing so well in music and OMG, that sax sells for way more usually!" (Tip: link to the listing for the sax at an established on-line store which is asking $6k or something similarly inflated with a little "for more technical details, check out this link" line.)

FB for-sales are also pretty low-sketch as you often get quite a bit of info about the buyer. Rule of thumb for avoiding sketch in in-person on-line sales which has been working great for me since I sold a television for $25 on Usenet in 1992: good spelling, grammar, and manners in the communications = easy, pleasant sale. If it is an account with no real info and "School: Hard Knocks" and "Workplace: My GF's Bed" and a message saying "yo u take $500? can b there with cash 2day," delete.
posted by kmennie at 12:09 PM on August 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

J. Landress Brass, 646-922-7126, 36th Street, has a good reputation for appraisals and general consulting on matters of brass.
posted by JimN2TAW at 1:20 PM on August 16, 2015

Re: J. Landress, you might call them first to see whether they only do work with "brass" instruments (i.e., trumpets, cornets, tubas, trombones, Sousaphones, mellophones, French horns), which is what it looks like on their website, or whether they also deal with any woodwinds made of brass (i.e., saxes). It sounds like the owners have worked in shops that do woodwind work, so maybe they could recommend a good place, even if they don't deal in woodwinds themselves.

Also of note is that famed jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman played a white-lacquer sax, so that might be a tidbit to mention in any ads ("Ornette Coleman–style white lacquer" or similar wording). He didn't play this model, but he did play a Selmer alto sax.
posted by limeonaire at 1:31 PM on August 16, 2015

Limonaire: Ornette Coleman is the reason I have a white saxophone.
posted by q9f9A at 1:57 PM on August 16, 2015 [5 favorites]

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