First off, I think that the main things that drive value can be broken down into 3-4 main ideas – which are as follows:
- Supply & Demand
- Functional Value
- Condition & Originality
- Provenance & Historical
Let me break those down a bit further……..
Supply & Demand: This is the basic Economics concept of if you have limited supply and high demand you can command a premium price as you have multiple parties interested in the same object/instrument. Likewise, if you have low demand and an ample supply then your market price is bound to be low.
I think the key word here is essentially desirability. Just how desirable is the instrument that you have in the market when you are considering to sell it?
As with anything collectible there are trends, and aspects go in and out of style (think 10 or so years ago with the heavyweight instrument fad – are they still desirable today, or are manufacturers making instruments that are lighter?, 100 years ago the Cornet pretty much ruled supreme – that is not the case today)
This would apply in general to various collectibles – but we also have some other factors at work here.
The nice thing with brass instruments is that they in basic terms have a Functional value – in that they are built to make and perform music. The easier it is to create a certain tone, pitch the notes of the scale, flexibility in colors of sound and durability of the item all create their own sets of values within this one area. If we take the Olds LA Ambassador Bb Trumpet as an example – this instrument was mass produced in great quantities to serve the student market – however tick all the boxes on durability, ease of use, sound quality this drives the value up and down on a frequent basis as people fall in and out of love with it’s affordability vs. functional value.
Condition & Originality: This could be argued that it really falls into the subject of supply and demand – but it needs to be spoken about separately in this instance. Bottom line is players and collectors alike try to look for original examples that are as close to new as possible. Collectors more-so will want everything completely original – where a player might regard a certain small tweak as being more desirable if it adds a functional value. Factory modified items that were ordered as a custom job at the time may also be more sought after. Conditions can vary greatly and are highly subjective from person to player to collector to retailer. This is one of the reasons I created my own guideline to assist myself and potentially those I deal with so we have an established understanding of how I value conditions of items
Provenance & Historical value is absolutely a thing! If you have an instrument and the documentation, photographs, letters that match the horn with a Historical/Cult Icon of the era then people will seek that out also. They will do this for multiple reasons 1) It will make them feel more connected to that player in some way 2) It makes a great story and talking point (we all like to talk right?) and finally it has a cultural significance that connects us with our past.
So there’s my quick snapshot on what I think in terms of valuing an item. Ideally you’d want something that ticks all four areas.
- IS MY INSTRUMENT RARE & DESIRABLE TO THE MARKET?
- WHAT FUNCTIONAL ASPECTS OF THE INSTRUMENT ADD TO THE DESIRABILITY?
- WHAT CONDITION IS THE INSTRUMENT & HOW WILL THAT AFFECT PRICES?
- IS THERE A STORY WITH THE INSTRUMENT, AND DO I HAVE PROOF?
As with anything these values will tend to ebb and flow up and down depending on larger trends and what is in demand.
If you want an informed opinion about current value I would recommend you seek out the people who specialize in your particular brand for help and to help maximize your returns and educate you on the real market value at the time you are ready to sell.