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Investing in vintage/collectable instruments--a good idea?


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markp
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 09, 2017 1:33 pm    Post subject: Investing in vintage/collectable instruments--a good idea? Reply with quote

I don't really think so, but what do you think?

Many believe that the current booming stock market is in a bubble that is due for a collapse, or at least a strong correction. Where to put your funds if not in stocks and bonds? Real estate? I'm not good at cleaning tenants' toilets and kicking them out for loud parties and non-payment of rent.

I tried to convince my wife that buying vintage trumpets is a sound investment--but I really just want to buy them because they are cool to play and own.

An instrument may be "valuable," but if you can't find anyone else who values it as much as you who is willing and able to buy it, is it really valuable? I guess the term to use is "liquid." That Olds Super Recording trumpet currently up for sale on a well-known website is worth $4,500 to someone, maybe even me, but how many buyers are there in the community willing and able to buy it right now?

My wife is a sax player and has a vintage Selmer alto and tenor that have gone through the roof in value over the years. I think they may be more liquid because there are more sax players out there than trumpeters.

I hear that guitars and violins also make more sense in this regard.

So, is it wise for an investor to have a significant chunk of his/her net worth tied up in cool, old horns when the Zombie Apocalypse arrives?

And, what particular trumpets, cornets and flugelhorns might be considered the best investments?
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JoeLoeffler
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 09, 2017 4:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No Don't buy trumpets as an investment. The market (people who care) is shrinking (dying off). Yes I know this is pessimistic, but when was the last time you were at an orchestra or concert band concert? The audience is not getting any younger.

Buy/collect trumpets/cornets to use and enjoy, not to invest. It is not clear that people will want whatever you have in the future. Just because there is some financial interest in a specific few models (really, of trumpets only) from a small number of makers now, does not guarantee any interest in the future. The best investment might be in a time machine where you could go back and pick up NYNY/Mt Vernon Bach large bore C trumpets and Martin Large Bore Committee trumpets to sell now. There is no buy-and-hold long-term, investment-quality money to be made purchasing those trumpets at current market prices (to say nothing of the freefall in the value of cornets...)
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Croquethed
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 09, 2017 4:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I consider trumpets to be at least as depreciable as cars if not worse. The minute you walk out of the store with a brand new axe you've just lost a ton of money on 99% of horns, and 98.9% will not recover.
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MrOlds
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 09, 2017 7:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bach Loyalist indicates the price of a lacquered Strad was $130 in 1935. The US CPI Inflation Calculator indicates this would be $2322.79 in today's dollars.

A really nice 1935 NY Bach today would probably cost at least $2300 so they might keep pace with inflation or exceed it by a little over a long horizon (80 years).

Other brands might perform better depending on their rarity or other factors.

If you are squirreling them away for your grandkids they might have more value as a keepsake than as an investment.

But if collecting old instruments is enjoyable, why not go for it? There are plenty of worse ways to have fun.
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nieuwguyski
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 09, 2017 8:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't think of collecting trumpets as a money-maker, think of it as minimizing your losses!

I used to buy and restore old cars. Then I bought a house. Then I got married. I continued the car thing long enough for both my wife and me to realize that it was an unsustainable money-sink.

17 years later my wife still doesn't have much of a problem with my much cheaper trumpet fixation.
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royjohn
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 09, 2017 9:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's very difficult to invest in any collectible and make money because you tend to have to buy at retail and sell at wholesale or wait a long time for a buyer. I haven't seen that prices on vintage horns are appreciating that much. Another problem is that vintage trumpets are often not that playable because they are from a different period with a different tonal ideal. I have a 1928 Holton Revelation in gold plate and a 1940's King with a dynamite Art Deco engraving, but both have a brighter tonal palette than is in vogue now. Certain horns from a bit later, like Callets, are in vogue and in demand, but they are high now and IDK that they will go that much higher. It is tough to beat the dividends available with stocks along with their appreciation.

Of course, all the above noted, if you are well acquainted with vintage horns, you may occasionally come across examples which are for sale at low prices because someone is not aware of their current value. Then they are a good deal and you could hold them if they keep appreciating.

In general I think gold, silver and gems beat trumpets as investments. I have a few that I bought cheap that I am unloading at a profit now, but a lot I am not making anything on beyond inflation...
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Trumpets: 1928 Holton Llewellyn Model, 1957 Holton 51LB, 2010 Custom C by Bill Jones, 2011 Custom D/Eb by Bill Jones
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scottfsmith
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2017 4:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lots of good points above. I especially agree with the lack of interest the next generation will have. My son is an avid collector .. of old classic computers and game consoles. Thats what I would stock up on now to make $$ down the road.

To add more fuel to the fire, there is also the cost of restoration. That old Strad is only worth two grand if its in great shape and the horns that have lower price tags are often cheaper due to the restoration needed. And, its easy to under-estimate the cost of restoration. I've been blindsided several times by the need for a valve job.

The only thing I would disagree with is the depreciation / retail / wholesale aspect. Today you can buy used classic horns here or on eBay etc for not much if any mark-up - often you are buying directly from another collector. If you don't like it you can always flip it and just lose a bit on shipping / fees / hassle.

I still greatly enjoy my little collection habit, I love seeing all the different ways cornets and trumpets have been designed over the years and how differently they play. And I can justify it by the fact that while its a money-losing proposition its not a sink-hole.
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Don Herman rev2
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 10, 2017 7:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

To paraphrase an old saw, the best way to make $1000 collecting trumpets is to start with $2000...
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BGinNJ
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 11, 2017 8:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think the same rules apply to trumpets as any other investment. You have to know your timeframe, how much you're willing to risk, and when you'll sell (how much profit or cutting your loss).

Auctions & sites like this have taken most of the inefficiencies out of the market, so finding bargains is a lot harder.

You need an exit plan, too. Trumpets are not a very liquid asset, with a limited market. Selling is not easy, and unless you find a Martin Committee at a yard sale, there's not much money in it.

It's funny you mentioned guitars- the people in the guitar forums are complaining they can't sell nice, boutique ones at a decent price, and it takes a long time.
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EdMann
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 11, 2017 9:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mark, as you know, I'm into it, and I would have done better with it if I held onto my stuff longer, but I don't. Who's to say they won't keep going up-- for Olds, Bachs, and Martins, it's been straight up for most of the best vintage models. Conns, not so much. Cornets, not at all. Kings, THAT'S a mystery-- those older Libertys are some of the best horns ever made. Even Zig Kanstul, after seeing my 1928 model said, "this is one of the best designs in brass history." You can still grab one for a few hundred bucks and if you get lucky with the valves, that's your bargain.

ed
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Bflatman
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 5:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good investments
Land Property stocks shares commodities gold silver platinum jewels coins art sculpture

Bad investments
Cameras cars boats aeroplanes shoes trousers kittens trumpets
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king leopardi
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 5:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don Herman rev2 wrote:
To paraphrase an old saw, the best way to make $1000 collecting trumpets is to start with $2000...


I always refer to that as the "reverse profit" principle!
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king leopardi
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 5:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just to add my two cents to this topic. I never got into collecting trumpets and cornets to make a profit. I picked them up here and there because I was interested in exploring the various makes of the vintage ones. Before I knew it, I had a BUNCH.

And to be perfectly honest, I've gotten to the point in my life where there's just one I am interested in playing seriously.

It's been fun, but I've also spent a boatload of money over the years on this hobby. My advice would be to think long and hard before getting into collecting these as an investment. You're better off to find one that works for you and stick with it.
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pinstriper
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 6:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There was a magic word in the OP. Liquidity.

Any investment or business asset has to have a level of liquidity. The opposite of which is risk.

Put it this way: Can your business model tolerate extreme variability of cash flow ? Meaning, long spells of no sales, interrupted from time to time by a windfall of large profit, or more regularly, dumping your stock at lower profit or even a loss ? To do so, you will have lots of money tied up in operating capital, doing nothing to earn a return. Or, you end up with cash flow pressures to turn your inventory over. Are you going to be investing in instruments that you can flip quickly ? Can you find a buyer fast enough to dump them if the value starts going down ? Or will you be stuck with an inventory you can get rid of, that is worth less and less every day ?

The answer to the basic question is, is it possible to construct a business model around collectible instruments ? That answer is no. Not in isolation of other inputs. It CAN be a profitable part of an overall, more diversified business plan. Even where you can specialize and do it profitably, it takes a lot of capital that could - and therefore SHOULD - be put to more profitable uses. So even when it CAN be done, it probably SHOULDN'T, from a business perspective.
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markp
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 7:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have a couple of friends who are actually "collectors" of vintage instruments. They aren't really players at all, and all of their special pieces from the Civil War and turn-of-the-century play like crap!

I've played lots of 100-year-old bugles, and I'd get better results from a garden hose!

These are the guys I don't understand. I mean, unless you can prove that you own Teddy Roosevelt's childhood trombone, why would you pay money for a nasty green piece of brass that can't make a decent musical sound?

In my mind, they have to play great AND be rare for me to invest. At present I have a Dominick-made Calicchio and a really great Couesnon flugelhorn. They both play great. And if I decided to sell them, which I won't, I bet I could get all my money back.


Last edited by markp on Tue Sep 12, 2017 7:48 pm; edited 1 time in total
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razeontherock
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 12, 2017 7:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I sure hope cats like Trent and Landress don't read Pinstriper's post.

My "collection" was just an attempt to find 'the one.'. I'm pretty loyal to that axe, most of the time. Trying to sell off the others hasn't gone so well.
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GordonH
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 4:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

With bank interest rates being 0.5% here I took 1000 of my savings and used it to buy a number of vintage instruments over the period of a year, that I was able to get at lower than normal prices for one reason or another. Not only do I have some fun things I know I would get more than 1050 back for them based on the going rate for them second hand. I think they would fetch about 1200 which is a 20% gain in a year.

It is just a bit of fun really, but justified by the low interest rates.
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Bflatman
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 6:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The contention that old often means crap and unmusical is illogical to me. In civil war times every town and village had a band and these guys were not fools playing on rubbish making squeeks and farts they knew a good instrument from a bad one and chose good ones.

I have heard civil war instruments played, cornets saxhorns rotary brass instruments of all types and they sound musical and lyrical. So what is going on.

Maybe some collectors are paying as little as possible to get a bargain and they are hitting those crap instruments that nobody played because they were crap and went into storage while the decent players were played to death and are long since gone. Maybe there are a lot of crap horns in as new condition lurking in attics.

I have bought cheap horns that should be crap, my last horn cost me 60 dollars the one before 15 dollars. Every instrument I have ever bought has been excellent and a good player and not one cost me more than 80 dollars.

That 80 dollar horn was a conn 80a and is magnificent. I would estimate its value today after 8 years as around 500 dollars thats a 600% rise when inflation over the same time has been just 200%. It is possible to make profits from musical instruments but pinstriper has it right, there is no reliable business model there.

If you insist on taking this on I would caution against buying for cheaps because nobody will buy unknown instruments from you, only go for well known and respected makes that have a ready market and occasionally turn up for at low price in pawn shops garage sales and auctions..
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jetjaguar
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 10:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Most people, on these sites anyway, value old horns for how they play for the owner more than as investments. As an aside, a lot of people seem to think trumpets go backwards in quality or sound each year they are made, which is not logical.

Sure it's possible to make money investing in old horns. But since not many people are doing it, you will have to figure it out as you go and wont get much help from others. And you may have to rely on selling them to those who value them for their sound quality and playing feel, rather than those who see them as investments.
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McH
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 13, 2017 11:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

GordonH wrote:
With bank interest rates being 0.5% here I took 1000 of my savings and used it to buy a number of vintage instruments over the period of a year, that I was able to get at lower than normal prices for one reason or another. Not only do I have some fun things I know I would get more than 1050 back for them based on the going rate for them second hand. I think they would fetch about 1200 which is a 20% gain in a year.

It is just a bit of fun really, but justified by the low interest rates.


Do you still have that lovely time capsule Blessing Artist Long Cornet?
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