Unlike baseball cards and precious metals, no exact pricing system exists for the value of an antique accordion. Further, there is not an exact distinction between what constitutes an "antique" versus a "used" accordion (though common sense dictates 40 years as an adequate rule-of-thumb). Rather, factors such as playability, complexity of design, and whether it was built for student or professional use will play a role. Generally, you will need to get an appraisal from a musical instrument dealer to determine its value, although you may be able to make some preliminary determinations beforehand.
A major criterion of antique accordion value is whether it can be played. A playable accordion is generally worth more money than one that is out-of-tune or completely broken. The instrument consists of many parts. For example, a full-size professional accordion has as many reeds as a grand piano has strings. These reeds are often held together by a combination of beeswax and pine rosin. These materials decay over time and must be replaced in accordions that are more than 40 years old to make them playable.
Accordion Reeds & Tuning
If an accordion plays out-of-tune, the problem usually can be traced back to the reeds. The solution varies with the specific type and model of accordion. Sometimes, only a few individual reeds need to be fixed, but more often the best solution is to do a complete reed overhaul. An overhaul may cost anywhere from $250 to $1200, depending on the number of reeds and keys. Keep this in mind when buying accordions. Whatever your decision, do not attempt to tune the accordion yourself. You risk ruining the reeds altogether and lowering its value.
The bellows are the pleated pieces of cloth-covered cardboard between the button boards on either side of the instrument. These bellows tend to deteriorate over time and leak air, resulting in loss of sound. Though the holes may be patched, accordion specialists usually recommend that you the replace the old bellows with new ones. The replacement cost is around $500, but varies according to the complexity of the instrument. Thus, a bellow without holes has a higher value than one with holes.
Types of Accordion
Accordions can be divided into four general categories. Diatonic accordions are popular with many folk and dance group with buttons on both the bass and treble sides. They tend to be simpler and cheaper than other models so their value may be less. Concertina accordions have keyboards on both sides and no fixed chords. The chromatic accordion is similar in look to the diatonic, but has a much greater range of treble notes. Piano accordions have a bass keyboard with a set of buttons for treble. They are essentially the same as chromatic accordions except for the different layout with the keyboard. Though accordion type is not an accurate predictor of its exact value, "concert quality" piano and chromatic accordions can fetch higher prices.
Accordion prices are all over the map. “Accordion Apocalypse” sells a simple used student model with 25 keys and 12 bass buttons for $329.95. For the “serious musician,” the website sells a Black Hohner Amica IV series 96 bass accordion for $3095.00. Castle Accordions sells a variety of button and piano accordions from anywhere from $700 to several thousand dollars. Generally, the exact ages of the instruments are not noted by vendors nor does "antique" status confer a special value upon them. Interestingly, the most expensive accordions are new models such as the Supita premiere concert accordion, which sells for $17,472. As a general rule, the greater range of notes it can produce, the more valuable the accordion.
Noel Lawrence has written on cultural affairs and cinema for Release Print and OtherZine since 2000. He holds a graduate degree in Russian literature from Stanford University and currently lives in Los Angeles.