Buying a Vintage Melodica

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    Alan Brinton

    Thought I’d start this topic with just a few comments. The primary source for most of us in Western countries is eBay, though there are other auction sites. If you have a particular instrument in mind, say a Hohner Piano 36, you might just do an image search in Google (or whatever your search engine), trying it with and without the word “vintage.” For Japanese instruments, try Yahoo.Japan and Buyee, which is a service that monitors Japanese auction sites and arranges shipment, attaching a fee of about $8. I don’t mind paying the fee since they ensure that you don’t get ripped off on shipment and handling. On eBay and other auction sites, be sure to pay attention to the cost of shipping, which varies between free and the sky. Within the United States, shipping for a melodica should be about $10-15. Shipping from Europe to the U.S. seems to run pretty high, in my limited experience $50+. One seller from Spain was vague about shipping, which ended up being $80. The prices for vintage Japanese pianicas or melodions tend to be very low on Japanese auction sites. I have made bids of about $20 on three and have won all three auctions with no other bidders. Japanese shippers are especially good about protective wrapping that pretty much guarantees that your instrument will not be damaged. Shipping from Japan (for new or vintage pianicas/melodions) is typically $30-40, and my packages have arrived within two weeks or so (add a week for Buyee). Buyee and/or other Japanese sites will prevent or advise you against buying items from sellers who are not trustworthy. But the Japanese seem to be especially scrupulous about how they do business.

    When bidding on a vintage melodica, examine the photos very carefully, for cracks or other signs of abuse and for accessories, including mouthpieces, tubes, and brochures (which can be informative and interesting and may indicate what other models were being marketed at the time). Sometimes there are extra mouthpieces or other items included.

    There are other auction sites, etc. that I will not mention so as not to give what might be anyone’s secret sources away. Part of the fun is finding some of your own sources where prices are lower, the bidding light, or especially rare instruments available.

    There is always some risk involved, but there are also pleasant surprises, such a a Piano 36 I got for $12 that was hardly used and in very good condition. In the photos it looked like a junker I could use for parts. Old melodicas can be like old motorcycles with low mileage; to the astute buyer they may be worth much more than their selling price or market value.

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