We receive inquiries nearly every day from people searching for information and/or a value on their old accordion. The most common story is that an old accordion was found in a relative's home (usually an attic or basement) after the relative passed away, and they "just can't find any information about it online." We direct such inquiries to this page, which explains why it is nearly impossible for us to offer specific information or values without seeing the accordion in person. We hope this information will be useful to those searching for guidance, especially if you want to try and sell the instrument yourself.
Before we begin, we will say that we do offer sale/trade/consignment for used accordions. If your aim is to sell the accordion and you are interested in working with us, please send us an email with pictures and as much information as you can about the instrument. If you can follow our guide for checking out the condition of a used accordion and report what you find, that's even better.
Though we do offer sale/trade/consignment for used accordions, at this time we are only considering used accordions for sale from local customers. We are not accepting shipped accordions for sale. If you are local to our shop and would like to sell your accordion, please email us first with some photos and any details you can provide on the instrument (such as how long you have had it, where it was purchased from, what kind of condition it's in). We will then let you know if you can bring the accordion in for further evaluation. We may need to send the instrument to our repair shop before we can make you an offer.
"Why can't I find any information about my accordion online?"
There were literally hundreds of accordion companies and associated brand names during the "Golden Age" of accordion manufacturing in the mid-1900's, mostly in Italy. The majority of these companies stopped manufacturing decades ago, and there is little historical information left about most of them.
We have compiled a list of brands that we have run across over the years but new ones pop up all the time that we have never heard of. There are a handful of brand names that are still being manufactured today, and these will generally have more intrinsic value.
But in most cases with these older accordions, the name itself isn't going to mean a whole lot. Some accordions might have serial numbers, but in many cases there is no record of serial number dating that we know of, so it isn't possible to find out exactly how old the accordion is.
"I don't play accordion, but this one I found looks like it's in perfect condition."
Has it been sitting unplayed for many years? (especially in an attic or basement where humidity and temperature are not optimal) Has it had any routine maintenance done in the last 5 years or so? If not, then it probably isn't in perfect condition. Accordions need regular maintenance every few years to keep them in good playing condition. There are many moving parts inside, some of which involve leather, glue and felt. These parts deteriorate over time or can need re-aligning.
Repairs by a trained expert can end up being very costly if a complete overhaul is needed. This is why the potential value or selling price of an accordion is based largely on its playing condition, and what repairs it might need. Almost every used accordion that we sell has had some type of repairs done to it before it goes up for sale.
Sometimes, when repairs aren't financially feasible, we might sell it as-is at a substantially lower price. You can use our guide to check out the condition of a used accordion and look for potential repair issues.
"How much is my accordion worth?"
Accordions do not generally have a "Blue Book Value" like other instruments such as guitars. We've explained above the difficulties involving brand names and playing condition. The short answer is, it's worth what someone is willing to pay for it. This could vary widely depending on where -- and by what method -- the accordion is being sold. (By an individual on Craigslist or eBay, at a pawn shop or antique store, by a reputable accordion shop, and also by geographic region; the same instrument might fetch a higher price in New York City than it would in rural Arkansas.)
You'll also want to identify specific features on the instrument, such as how many bass buttons it has, how many sets of treble and bass reeds, register switches, musette tuning, whether it has a tone chamber, etc. These features can play into value. See our chart of desirable features. Also see our list of used accordions for sale to see what we might be selling comparable instruments for.
"OK, I don't want to ship my accordion to you for potential sale - how would you suggest I sell it myself?"
If you don't have a music store in your area that deals in accordions, you can always try a pawn or antique shop, though you probably won't get much for it at those places. With a little effort, putting it up for auction on eBay is probably the best possibility, and one that we've had success with ourselves.
Check out other listings for sale to find accordions similar to yours, to help determine what you might want to start the bidding at. Include several pictures of the accordion and as detailed a description as you can about its features and playing condition. In our experience, the more detailed description we provide, the more bids we get -- even when we note that repairs are needed. There are lots of accordion collectors and people who do their own repairs who look for good deals on eBay. They'll know what they're looking for and will bid on the accordion appropriately. Set a low starting bid and see where it goes; you might be surprised! You also may get a fair amount of interest from international bidders. Shipping accordions internationally can be fraught with difficulty -- so if you don't want to bother with that, specify US bidders only on your listing.
If you are more interested in the
history of your accordion than its value, here are some web sites to check out:
Desirable Features for Piano Accordions
Next to great tuning, fantastic sound and playability, the
number one thing to look for is a respected brand name (see
List of Accordion Brands). But beyond
that, there are a number of things to look for that make for
a more popular accordion, at least here at HMT. Each one of these
features you can identify on your accordion increases its salability
in our market, assuming of course there are no negatives to
it, such as wheezy reeds, a leaky bellows or cracked keytops.
Some of these features are rarely found on modern accordions
and are unusual even on older ones -- I have italicized
Thus, from looking over this chart, one could assume that
a plain-looking 41/120 piano accordion with only 2 reeds
in octave tuning and 3 or fewer registers, with either no brand
name or an obscure brand, with plain white ladies size keys,
old straps and a beat up case, and none of the other special
features mentioned, will not command much of a price even if
it seems to be working OK.
| Design Features
|| Cosmetic features
| 48 (4x12
only), 60, 72, 80, or 96 basses, min. 34 trebles
| 3 or 4 treble reeds (voices)
|| Pearloid keys
| Musette tuning (2 or 3 reeds)
|| Pearloid outer shell (body)
|5 or more treble registers
|| Wood, esp. carved or figured
| Rocker registers (dual function)
|| Inlays or decorations
| Palm master shift (keyboard)
|| Fancy binding or trim
| Full size keys (3/4" width)
|| Diamante (rhinestones)
| Waterfall keys (sloped ends)
|| Deco or "diner" style grille
| functional bellows lock switch
|| "Antico" grille scrollwork
mic; onboard controls
|| Bass scrollwork
| Lightweight (17 lbs or less)
|| No missing pieces
| Heavy duty straps, backstrap
|| Case in good condition
How to check out the condition of a used piano accordion:
Except for the section about registers, this advice also applies to button accordions and concertinas that have no switches. Have a notepad and a pencil handy, so you can take notes as you go along, especially when you get around to checking out the reeds.
- Check the condition of the carrying case. Look for
broken or missing hardware. A musty smelling case or bellows
is an indication that the instrument may have been improperly
cared for and stored, probably in a damp basement. Not only is this smell difficult
to get rid of, but it's possible that mold has caused damage to
the wood and leathers on the interior, and the reeds may be rusted.
- Check the body of the accordion, looking for chips
missing from the corners, cracks in the celluloid or wood, scratch marks
indicating abuse, etc. Check the condition of all the leather
straps, particularly the ends that go through the metal
holding brackets on the accordion, top and bottom. If the straps are
very worn, it's safer to remove them entirely than to risk their breaking while you are wearing the accordion.
- Check for missing or broken hardware -- bellows clips, bass feet, strap hardware, register switches, etc.
- Check the bellows all around, look for signs of
wear, especially on the folds at the bottom and facing the chest
of the player (belt buckle wear). Check the bellows corners,
look for metal corners that are missing or coming loose.
Depress the air release button and open the bellows, looking for
dirt, dust, and lint deep between the folds, and also in the inside
corners. The air release button on a piano accordion is found poking
through the bass cover at the left hand side, towards the top of the
accordion when held in playing position.
- Check the Compression: Unhook the bellows clips
(usually, 2 metal or leather straps that hold the bellows closed, top
and bottom of accordion. On some button accordions, these are on the
front and back).
Hold the instrument, or strap it on, and pull gently
on the bellows without depressing any buttons or keys. There should be a very strong
resistance. With a concertina, it is safer to hold the instrument by
one end and allow gravity to open the bellows, which should happen very slowly.
If it is easy to open the bellows, or if you hear or feel air hissing out anywhere, you have a problem with leaks.
There will not be enough compression to drive the reeds properly. It
may be the bellows themselves, or the gaskets, or a loose
reedblock, or something else internal, such as your air release button being stuck or the
valve pad not seating properly. Obviously, if you also hear notes sounding and you
are not depressing a key or button, the instrument needs repair.
- Look at the keyboard edge on, particularly the white
keys. What you're looking for are keys that are out of level.
A properly levelled keyboard is unusual in a very old instrument,
unless it has been well cared for. If you rest a ruler flat across
the tops of the white keys, it may make it easier to see the ones that
are off level. If the keys are only very slightly out of level,
it may still be playable, but in most cases, the irregularity
will impede performance.
Very old keyboards may have crazing, cracking or chips missing from the
keytops, so that you can see the wood beneath. While this may
not necessarily hamper every player, they do reduce the value of
- Strap on the instrument so that you can play it and check
the reeds. Put your arms through the shoulder straps (one
strap goes over each shoulder) so that the piano keys are to
your right and you bear the weight of the accordion on your shoulders,
and slip your left hand through the bass strap so that your wrist
is between the strap and the left side of the accordion (take
off your wristwatch first). If it is a button accordion, the
side with the most buttons is usually the right hand side.
- Your goal is to listen to one treble reed at a time, if you
have a separate register for each voice. Often the single-reed
registers (switches, couplers, stops) will have a single dot
on them, like this one below, which denotes the "clarinet"
- Some 2-voice accordions have no registers at all, because
they only make one sound: 2 reeds together (either musette or
octave tuning). That makes
your job a little harder, because you have to listen very carefully
for problems as you play each note. If one note sounds much
thinner than all the rest, it is probably because one of the two
reeds that should be speaking are silent.
- If there are
the treble side, you can start by activating the lowest voice
first (usually the "bassoon" register, if your
accordion has at least 3 treble registers). For register
identification, see Treble Voices - How to Tell
What the Switches Do. An abbreviated chart is given below. This
is a typical bassoon register marking:
- Let some air into the bellows with the air button on the
left hand side, which should be near your left thumb.
- Now play the lowest note on the treble side by itself, first
by pushing in on the bellows, then by pulling out. Try this
at different pressures. Listen for
any funny sounds, squeaks, buzzes, spitting, hesitation or
sourness. Listen also for the relative tuning of the push and pull
notes - they should sound precisely the same. If you
hear a problem, write down the note name and number of the
key (for example,
F-1, if this is a 41 key accordion, or C-1, if it is a
typical 12 bass accordion with 25 keys) and which bellows direction
has the problem. If you don't know the note name, just give
- Proceed all the way up the keyboard in this manner, until
you have checked every treble note on this register in both
bellows directions, both white and black keys.
- Now find the register that plays the middle voice (often
called "clarinet"), and do the same thing as you did
with the bassoon register. It may look like this:
- Then repeat with the high register ("piccolo"),
if you have one. You can expect to hear some problems on the
higher notes in the piccolo register, on an old accordion. It
may look like this:
- If you have 2 (or 3) middle voices,
you need to also listen to the musette register (it often has
2 dots side by side), like this:
- After you've checked out all the individual treble reeds,
activate each of the switches above the keyboard to see
that all the different registers are working. Besides the 2-reed musette shown above, you might have any of these (with other possible nomenclature):
Now set the bass switch (on the left hand side of the instrument)
to the "master" setting, if you have bass couplers,
and do the same thing with each button: hold down a single
button, pull out with the bellows, push in, listen
for problems. There probably won't be any, but there may be some
sticking buttons, that don't pop right back up after they
are pushed. It's also very common to have a bass note that sounds
all the time. Obviously, this is not right and will need to be
repaired, not to mention that it will make it impossible for you to
verify any of the treble notes or check on bellows compression.
Accordion (external link)
- You're all done checking it out as far as its physical
condition goes, but if you're a player, you'll want to play
it for awhile to listen for the intonation, overall tone, volume,
dynamic range, balance between the left and right sides, and
especially the action.
Do the keys spring up smartly at the end of the notes, can you
do rapid staccato triplets or is the action too mushy, are they
quiet or is there a lot of clicking, is the action too high or
too low for your style, is the key width comfortable for you, are the
black keys too thin, are the white keys too short, etc.
If there is another person with you who can play it, sit a few
feet away and listen to them. Often an accordion sounds quite
different when you're playing it yourself.