How much is my used oboe worth? Oboe Depreciation Ins and Outs

As I prepared for a big audition, a mentor suggested that upgrading to a new instrument may improve some facets of my playing and take me to the next level. I was discouraged by the prospect of having to absorb such a huge expense, but decided to research how much I could resell my oboe for to offset the cost of a new instrument. 

 

A general rule to determine the resale value of your oboe is to subtract $250 dollars from its original price for every year of age during the first five years and $150 for every year after that. Of course, cracks and other wear and tear issues may further reduce the resale value of your instrument. 

At the professional level, the oboe has a much shorter lifespan than other instruments. Unfortunately, it also happens to be on the expensive end, which means that there is a high turnover rate for good instruments, and it is worth knowing how much you can get back for an oboe that you may have used for only a few years. Luckily, the best oboe brands tend to keep their value fairly well, and upgrading to a new instrument does not have to break the bank. 

Lets look at the data!

This is a very broad statement that will almost never work perfectly, so I looked at over 200 listings of new and used oboes and took their age and average prices to find out what to expect in the oboe resale market. I also asked many professional oboe vendors for guidance. I focused on the three most common brands in the United States: Lorée, Howarth, and Marigaux. While my methods and data are far from perfect, I hope my conclusions can help you make better financial decisions when trading up to a new instrument. 

Here is a chart of my results followed by some conclusions. 

The data listed are averages of over 200 oboe prices researched.

Some Conclustions

While the data supports the rule  described above, there are several variables that will affect the resale value of your instrument. I feel it is important to mention these after presenting some surprising conclusions the data illuminated. 

Conclusion Number One: Only rent beginner oboes, otherwise buy a used pro-instrument. Skip over intermediates for best economics.

Professional oboes are a much better value than student oboes. Because of the market forces of supply and demand, you will almost always be able to resell a high quality oboe that has been well maintained. Lower quality intermediate or student oboes may not hold up to wear and tear as well and will be harder to sell once you are ready to upgrade. It is almost always better to buy a lightly used professional oboe than a brand new student oboe. 

Conclusion Number Two: There is a chain to oboe ownership

Professional oboists demand a lot from their instruments and upgrade to new oboes frequently. Some oboists of large professional orchestras upgrade to a new instrument every year. These oboes may be excellent instruments that just don’t have the “magic” required to play in high-stake settings like the the Houston Symphony but may make excellent instruments for college students or young professionals, who in turn may sell their own previously loved instrument to a high school senior about to major in oboe, who in turn may sell their instrument to a non-major. 

While peer-to-peer oboe sales are becoming more commonplace, the standard is to use one of the vendors I used in my research for this article, like Hannah’s Oboes, Carlos Coelho, Aria Double Reeds, Charles Double Reeds, Innoledy, Midwest Musical Imports, and Mark Chudnow Woodwinds. They connect people with new and used instruments and help transfer instruments between buyers who may not know each other, and provide technical and repair expertise (for a fee, of course). 

To find out where you might fall in this chain of oboe ownership, or if you decide to sidestep the chain altogether, read the article I wrote to help guide you to the appropriate instrument by clicking here. 

Conclusion number three: While old (25 years old or more) may not depreciate further they often have too much wear and tear to justify the purchase for a serious player.

Do not purchase an oboe that is more than 25 years old. While the price of a vintage oboe may be more attractive, the keywork and integrity of the bore will not hold up as well as a trombone might after 25 years of wear. While these vintage instruments can be fine collector’s pieces, they have a hard time making a tight seal and are more difficult to play well. Additionally, manufacturing technology is always improving, and the standard keywork that was in place 25 years ago may not be as clean or efficient as that on a modern instrument. 

While a skilled technician may be able to install new keywork, this may not be worth the cost, and you would be better off paying a couple thousand dollars more for an oboe that will actually feel good to play for 5-10 more years into the future. While there are some vintage gems that sound great, they are few and far between, so be wary of old instruments. 

To learn how to tell how old an oboe is, check out the article I wrote on the topic by clicking here.

Which brand of oboe should I buy?

When it comes to holding value, the data shows that Loree oboes on average hold their resale value most strongly. The resale value also seems to level off before 5 years while the other brands lose more value initially and then continue to slope downward as time goes on. Loree is also the lowest price point on average. 

However, you should choose the oboe you feel and sound the best on and that may mean deciding to keep the oboe as a spare instead of selling it down the road. For more on how to choose an oboe check out this whole article that goes through the process step by step by clicking here.

Variables that will affect the resale value of your oboe

 

  • Cracks

 

Most oboes crack during the first few years of playing, but can be easily repaired and will continue to sound great. However, some oboes never crack, and this seems to be a selling point for most oboists and vendors. An oboe that has never cracked will sell at an additional premium. 

 

Common lore among oboe vendors is that Laubin oboes crack less than other brands. Perhaps they are more selective with their wood pieces because they make so few oboes every year. Either way, there are too few to make a statistical comparison. 

 

 

  • Heavy play time

 

Many professional oboists assert that an oboe will become increasingly difficult to play well, which may cause strange compensations in reedmaking or playing habits. The truth is that playing an instrument for several two-hour rehearsals and three concerts per week is going to wear it out faster than playing it for the occasional rehearsal and weekly church service. This heavy wear and tear will be evident in the appraisal process and will make the oboe more difficult to sell at a higher price. 

If you are planning on using the instrument heavily, it may be a good financial decision to upgrade after a few years to ensure that you can recover some of the value toward your next upgrade. 

 

 

  • Demand for the brand (photo of bells side by side)

 

Some oboe brands are simply easier to sell than others. Lorée and Howarth are more popular in the United States than Buffet. Keep this in mind when purchasing an oboe, but do not let it deter you from the instrument your heart truly desires. 

 

 

  • Speed at which you need to sell the oboe

 

The higher the price for which you want to resell your oboe, the longer the sale may take. If you need to urgently liquidate an instrument, reducing the price will speed up the sale. The laws of economics apply to beautiful instruments as well as anything else. 

The best time to sell your instrument is after you have already purchased your next one. Of course this is not always possible with cash, so purchasing your upgrade with a zero interest promotional credit card may be a good option. Selling your instrument during the summer months, when the demand from students is higher but the demand for you to perform is lower, may also be a good option.

Purchasing or selling an oboe can be stressful but hopefully you find this guide useful. Please comment bellow with your oboe trading experiences and share this article on social media to help more oboists. Good Luck! 

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