Cheap Trumpets- Are there such things?

Trumpets on Clearance

Photo Credit: roland on Flickr

Many people are in need of information on what trumpet would best suite their needs, whether it be for their child or for their own use. For that reason I have previously posted information on selecting a new instrument. This posting was written to help the individual who may not want to buy a new instrument and would like to know where and how to look for a used instrument. There are several areas one could search for a trumpet and I will try to list these areas as well as cover the advantages and disadvantages of each source. In order to best serve my readers, I have spent time searching as many locations as I can to find out which would be the best place to look for the purchase of a used trumpet and these are my findings.

Pawn Shops

The online pawn shop can utilize search engines like Google, articles from around the web to give them further information about the demand for a product, and more to the point, the price of the product if it were bought new. Using these resources, an online pawn shop will determine how much the item is worth and then pay a certain percentage of this to a customer for immediate use.

Endorsement from a happy pawn shopper:

“Sometime around 1993, while on the road on business, I stopped into a pawn shop in Augusta, not really expecting to find anything. They had a mid-late 80’s Model 37* lacquered Bach Strad that had a few minor dents, but otherwise pretty decent. The price? $200!
I put on my usual “poker face” as I looked all over the store at OTHER things . .all the while hoping that no one would come in and snatch it up until I finished my “bluff.”
My heart was beating pretty bad, as I asked ’em about other things I really wasn’t interested in. Then I got to the Strad and said, “My son needs an old trumpet to play, what would you take for that old dented trumpet?” “Oh, we’ll take $150 for it,” they said. I replied, “Nawwww, it has some dents in it.” I then made my “offer” . . . and GOT ‘EM DOWN TO $125 ON THAT STRAD! . . . then bought it without playing in or anything!
THE BEST PART . That ol’ “ugly duckling” Bach turned out to be incredible . . . one of those “1-in-a-100″ Strads that would slot accurately well past double C and play effortlessly!!!
I spent only $25 getting the dents out . . . then another $250 getting it prepped and silver plated (at Andersons). It was the best Bach I’ve ever encountered . . . and now was beautiful too, so it became my main horn. I later put a gold trim kit on it and a custom Pilczuk pipe that opened it up to Triple C.”

As indicated by the excitement in this owner’s voice, his purchase was a big success. Searches through local pawn shops can in some cases uncover a real buy. This is what we all hope will happen and in some cases; it ends with a happy ending. However in most cases, the shop owner is more knowledgeable about his trumpet than you are which gives him a definite advantage in the transaction. If you know the history, reputation, condition and realistic price of an individual trumpet and you are good at bargaining, the pawn shop might be the place to look. For most people, when searching for their first instrument, the advantage will most often be in the shop owner’s favor. My suggestion would be to stay away from these stores if you are not comfortable with your knowledge of the instrument.

Sam’s Club

Discount stores are now offering everything from banking and barbershops to baby beds to basketballs. The “all inclusive” stores are contributing to the end of specialty shops as the economy continues to decline. We will all begin to lower our quality expectations as we search for the lowest price on every item. This is apparent in the current trumpet offerings in discount stores today. Imports from third world countries are now the norm in many of our stores across the country. Imports from China, Japan and other countries are flooding the market. To the untrained observer, there appears to be little difference between the low cost import and the high priced manufactures’ offering. The most glaring difference is the price. I address write about what to consider when buying a trumpet.

Endorsement from a happy Sam’s Club shopper:

“This is a great beginner trumpet. The case is great and better than the usual black plastic. Way cheaper to buy this than rent”.

Music store rental programs

Most school systems endorse local music stores who offer instrument rental programs to both students and adults. Usually local band directors will advise music stores on which brands and quality they will prefer. Music stores know the value of satisfied customers for most beginning level instrument will eventually be upgraded to more professional horns and they would like the sale on these as well. I have included one such music stores which is located in Springfield, Missouri and the opening video explains their rental policy.

How does our (their) plan work?

  • No required deposits. Our agreement is simply month to month. Cancel at any time.
  • Great monthly rental rates
  • Director recommended instrument brands
  • Maintenance and replacement plans give you peace of mind
  • Expert repair staff on-site at each location
  • Weekly road service to school with free delivery
  • Apply payments toward purchase or step up to an advanced instrument!

The renting process is a very good way to see if your child or you would eventually want to continue playing the trumpet without the expense of purchasing an upper level instrument.

Music Stores

Music stores usually have in stock used trumpets which have been taken in trade. I have found that the asking price is usually on the high side and seldom have I found a real steal on their shelves. They also know much more about the instruments than you do.

eBay Classifieds

The popularity of eBay is well known to most people and is another source for the purchase of a used instrument. These entries were collected from the eBay used instrument section and will give you an accurate representation of used trumpets offered this afternoon. Most listing are accompanied by photos and if there are no photos, don’t even consider buying the instrument.

Craig’s List

My comments made for eBay classifieds also applies to Craig’s list. Don’t buy what you can not see. As more families deal with their financial problems, we will continue to see instruments hitting the classifieds. The seller is facing the reality of selling to make money but from the buyers stand point, it opens additional opportunities for good deals on instruments.

Goodwill and Salvation Army

The chances of finding a trumpet for sale at a Goodwill location would be very slim. If you have a friend who works at such a store, you might ask them to be on the lookout just in case one would wander in.

Auctions and Estate Sales

The only way I know of finding a trumpet at these sales is to check the local newspapers. This can be very time consuming as well as unproductive. If you happen on one, you need to be very couscous for they will have a cash only, no return policy.

Friends and Relatives

Many times you will come across someone who used to play trumpet that has no use for it any more. In most cases you will be able to purchase or even be given the instrument free. In this situation you will be obligated to use and perform on that instrument even if it turns out to be a “lemon”. Be couscous when accepting anything free.

In closing I would like to say that for buying a used trumpet, you should consider Craig’s List as well as eBay classifieds for real buys. Also be advised that the more information you possess, the better your chances of getting a good deal rather than getting a bad deal. Remember, “Let the buyer beware”.

Where did you get your used trumpet?  Let us know your experience when buying a used Trumpet by adding a comment below.

Bruce was a member of the faculty at the University of Northern Iowa, School of Music in Cedar Falls from 1969 until his retirement in 1999. He has performed with many well-known entertainers such as Bob Hope, Jim Nabors, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Anita Bryant, Carman Cavalara, Victor Borgie, the Four Freshman, Blackstone the Magician, Bobby Vinton and John Davidson.

2 thoughts on “Cheap Trumpets- Are there such things?

  1. Jorge Milian

    The trumpet message boards have been a good source for me. Many players there will add or subtract from their collections, and members who teach will often have consignments from students moving up.

    • Bruce Chidester

      Good information. I actively post on three as often as I can.
      They also help in keeping up on what is happening in the trumpet world.
      I”m still having problems getting back on TPIN. Any suggestions?

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