Welcome to the Buyer's Discussion Page!
There are several different ways of buying a button accordion, the most common are listed here:
- From a retail accordion shop
- From an online or mail order accordion dealer
- Direct from the factory
- From a custom maker
- From a private individual
- From an auction or other private sale
- From an online auction site such as ebay
Each of these methods has its advantages and disadvantages, some of which we will discuss here. Bear in mind throughout this discussion that there is great variability in the process depending on the individuals that you will be dealing with. As in all industries, there are good guys and bad guys, and you should bear in mind that if you are uncomfortable with the company or the individual, there are always other ways to pursue getting your accordion.
All else being equal, it is probably best to buy your accordion from a local retailer of button accordions. You can talk to the dealer, ask questions, try out the instrument. If the instrument has problems, they can often be addressed by the dealer. He or she can also put you in touch with repair persons, teachers, and possibly other players. If the dealer has a large inventory, you can often leave with the box on the day of the purchase. In the event that you have major problems with the box that might warrant a return of the instrument, the person you need to talk to is right there. The problem with this scenario is that very few of us are fortunate enough to have this kind of shop anywhere near us. I think our comrades in Britain, The Netherlands, France and Italy are a lot better off in this way. I know that where I live in the US, there isn't a retailer within 500 miles of my house. Other potential problems might occur if the dealer only offers a limited selection or won't custom order to meet your needs. The price can also be higher, since there is more overhead in a brick-n-mortar retail setup. Quite often, diatonics are offered as a sideline by piano accordion dealers. In some cases, diatonic players aren't taken seriously by the sales staff who regard diatonics as toys, and they may not be very knowledgeable about the diatonics. It is expensive to keep a large inventory of accordions, so if you want anything out of the ordinary, you may end up needing to special order anyway....though the shopkeeper should be willing to handle all the details for you.
So lets say that, like most of us, you don't have a local dealer. Your next step is probably to go with a mail order dealer or an internet dealer. There are several good ones out there, and they are available to anyone. In the USA, I can heartily recommend;
The Button Box
The Erin Breeze
In Germany, I have had good experiences with
These dealers offer good prices and excellent selection and are staffed by very knowledgable and helpful people. The main disadvantage here is that you can't easily try the instrument before you buy it. So if you aren't sure what you want, it can be a difficult way to go. Sometimes the instruments must be ordered, so there can be a delay before you get your instrument. Some people are uncomfortable with ordering online. If that describes you, I think all of these shops will make arrangements to allow you to order through the mail. If the instrument needs repair or return, then there will be extra time and shipping costs to deal with as well.
If money is a big concern but you don't mind a long wait and the potential for a lot of hassle, you can order directly from the factory in most cases. You might save a significant amount of money...sometimes as much as a couple hundred dollars. In exchange for this savings, you must get contact information for the factory, try to explain to the (probably) Italian guy on the other end of the phone exactly what you want (tuning, tremolo, etc.), arrange a method of payment, arrange shipping, and then sit back and wait.....for what could be a long time. Let's face it, you're small time, your order goes to the bottom of the list. The factory is going to take care of their dealer's orders first. You might wait 6 months or even more. You don't have an opportunity to test drive the instrument, and what if it is damaged during shipping, or the instrument is not what you expected? Sorry, you are on your own. Find and pay for your own repair person. If there are major problems with the instrument, maybe you can talk the factory into taking it back, but you are still out the overseas shipping both ways.....and that could amount to well over $100 on its own.
Not all accordions are made in factories. There are many individual makers out there who do small volume, custom, individually crafted instruments. Some of these deal over the internet, others do not. Sometimes the prices and the instruments are very attractive. Sometimes its the only way to get exactly what you want in an instrument. There is a special joy in owning a unique handcrafted instrument. Some of the makers that I'm aware of are; Bernard Loffet, Stormy Hyde, Bertrand Gaillard, Franz VanderAa, Marc Savoy, and Karel van de Leeuw. I think Jorgina instruments could also be classified this way. But this is just scratching the surface. The downsides are similar to ordering from a factory, although you should get a lot more individual attention. Still, the wait can be long, and shipping damage is a possibility. Repairs on a unique instrument can be difficult to arrange, and you most likely won't have an opportunity to play one before you buy it, so you have to have faith in the maker.
Above, we have discussed ways of acquiring a new instrument. Although many shops also offer used instruments, if you are amenable to the idea of buying a used instrument, there are several other options. The first and possibly best alternative here is to buy the instrument from an individual....preferably somebody you know and trust. If its somebody you know, chances are good that they will allow you to try out the instrument extensively before you buy. They are also more likely to be honest about the condition of the istrument and any problems that it might have. Price is often flexible. I have bought and sold instruments in this way with complete satisfaction. Just be aware that there is the possibility of undisclosed problems with the instrument.
You can also sometimes find melodeons at estate sales, garage sales, flea markets, auctions, and other local sales. Sometimes there are good deals to be had, since most people aren't all that familiar with melodeons and what they might be worth. By the same token, these instruments may have serious undiagnosed problems with them, and may have been poorly maintained. Personally, I have never seen one for sale that didn't have serious problems. If you're adventurous and don't mind some do-it-yourself work, you can sometimes rescue one of these boxes for little more than pocket change. If things don't work out, you have an interesting decoration for your mantle.
An online auction site like Ebay is probably the easiest place to find a used accordion. It can be fun to bid, but don't expect that you are going to get a real quality item for little money. Often, the accordions that are for sale are offered by people who know next to nothing about them other than they look "neat". Many are offered by antique dealers who figure that they are nostalgic decorator items rather than an instrument that somebody intends to play. Further, many of the buyers on Ebay are pretty sharp and anything of quality that comes up for sale will attract the attention of the serious buyers, and this will be reflected in the price. In my experience, every quality accordion that I have seen for sale on Ebay has commanded a price very much in keeping with what one might pay for the same used accordion at a retail dealer. Very rarely one goes for somewhat less than that, but as a trade-off you really don't know what you are getting until the box shows up on your doorstep, and by then, its usually too late to back out. On the other hand, I have seen accordions go for as much as twice the price of an identical model bought new. I have both bought and sold accordions on Ebay, and I have always gotten what I consider to be a fair deal - not outstanding, but fair, but then, I have taken the time to educate myself about accordions, and I have a pretty good idea of what to look for and what that item might be worth elsewhere. I also have a lot of self control when it comes to bidding on such items. In these cases, you must make an impartial decision on how much the accordion is worth...factoring in the risk....and under no circumstances must you exceed that amount. I usually just put in my maximum bid and then completely ignore it until after the auction is over. If I win, then great, if I lose, then thats OK too. Nine times out of ten, I lose, because somebody else thinks it is worth more than me. Also keep in mind that the less the seller knows about the accordion, or accordions in general, the greater your risk of getting a piece of junk.
So, those are the major options. I have either tried, or know somebody who has tried, each of those options with more or less success. Which one you choose is up to you, depending on your comfort level, and your geographical situation. Good luck on your purchase!
I'd love to hear what you think of this page,