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Squeezebox Info > ID, Evaluation & Appraisal updated March 31, 2014

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.

We are especially interested in accordions between 48-80 bass sizes, in good condition. We may consider 120-bass sizes if they are in good condition. send us an inquiry for potential sale/consignment.

Once we receive the email, we will let you know if we are interested in having you ship the accordion to us for further evaluation for possible sale. Shipping is not without risk, and you must understand that we cannot make you even a rough offer until the accordion has gone to our repair shop for a complete evaluation (this process may take several weeks).

When a local customer brings an accordion to our shop that they want to sell, it goes to the repair shop first, and once we receive their evaluation/repair estimate, we can then communicate offers and selling possibilities. If you are looking to obtain a formal, written appraisal, our accordion repair shop can provide this for a $50 fee. It will include specific notes on condition and a replacement value for insurance purposes. To write such an appraisal, they must have the accordion in person. Contact us if you are interested in getting an accordion to us for a formal appraisal.

"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.

History

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 counterbalance 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 these.

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. Such an instrument might retail at HMT for about $200 unless it was reconditioned at our repair shop, in which case we would add on for the servicing cost.

 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
 Internal mic; onboard controls  Bass scrollwork
 Lightweight (17 lbs or less)  Engraving
 Visual shift indicators  No missing pieces
 Heavy duty straps, backstrap  Case in good condition

How to Obtain A Formal Appraisal

Our accordion repair shop can provide a formal, written appraisal on your accordion if delivered in person to HMT (sorry, we don't accept shipped accordions for appraisal). The charge for the appraisal is $50. If your main purpose is getting a repair estimate, this is provided (verbally) at no charge.

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 the accordion.
  • 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" reed.

    • 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 registers on 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 its number.
    • 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):

 

LM

MH

LH 

LMH 

 LMM

 harmonium  celeste  organ  accordion bandoneon

MMH

LMMH

MMM

LMMM

musette master musette master

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.

  • 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.

Don't need a formal appraisal, but want to consign or sell an instrument?
Try our Used Instrument Services page.

Shipping an Accordion (external link)