The concertina is one of the little wonders of the music world. There are an amazing amount of buttons, levers, reeds, and mechanics stuffed into a small and portable box. They’ve been particularly popular in Irish and English folk music, and have a strong association with sailors. When it comes to buying one, there are plenty of sites that offer concertinas for sale.
Not every site is made alike, however. Since they are complicated instruments, it’s good to buy a concertina from a seller who knows them inside and out. There are also many cheap concertinas on the market that play poorly and will fall apart quickly. While a good concertina may seem expensive, it can and will last a lifetime of music-making.
Here’s a guide to the best places to find concertinas for sale on the web, whether you’re looking for something, new, used, or antique. And while calypso may not be the first genre you think of when you think “concertina,” here’s Harry Belafonte with some inspiration!
Where To Find New Concertinas For Sale
Most concertina makers have a website where you can order, ask questions, and view details about the models that they make. While instruments are usually made to order, they may have a few concertinas ready for sale. It certainly doesn’t hurt to ask!
There are also plenty of website that have new concertinas for sale. It’s very important to do research about brands and makers before you buy. Luckily, there are some sellers with intimate knowledge of concertinas who can help you out. But first, there’s one caveat about the concertinas you may find for sale all over the web.
Beware Cheap Concertinas
There’s not way around it: concertinas are expensive instruments. A good one will usually cost at least $1,500, with $2,000+ being more likely. This means that plenty of people are looking for a deal. There are lots of seemingly inexpensive concertinas available on Amazon, eBay, and similar sites. But it’s important to recognize that in concertinas, you almost always get what you pay for.
Concertinas aren’t just arbitrarily expensive. They are very intricate music-making machines, with lots of small moving parts. Any time you play a note, an intricate set of levers has to coincide with the proper bellows movement in order to make a sound. This means that there’s plenty of room for failure.
Cheap concertinas usually have one or more of the following problems
- Accordion reeds – You won’t get the classic concertina sound out of these reeds, which are cheaper than concertina reeds.
- Leaky bellows – These are often made out of paper or other flimsy materials, and are easy to rip or puncture.
- Stiff bellows – Another bellows-related problem, the stiffer they are, the harder they are to play.
- Fewer buttons – Not a deal breaker necessarily, but you’re very limited in what you can play, since you’ll be missing important notes.
- Breakdown prone – Even a good concertina will need maintenance now and then, but cheap concertinas will often degrade significantly after some playing time.
The Button Box is based out of Massachusetts, USA, and has a variety of new and used concertinas for sale. They also make their own under the “R. Morse & Co.” name. Since they’re makers as well as players, the staff are very well-versed in what makes a good concertina, and happy to answer any questions you may have. They also have a “trade-up” program for the popular starter concertinas made by the Concertina Connection. Buy one from them, and when you decide to upgrade you can trade it in for a discount on your new concertina equal to the price you paid.
Liberty Bellows is based in Philadelphia, and specializes in anything and everything with a free reed. They sell button and piano accordions, harmonicas, and melodicas, alongside concertinas. Their stock is mostly Stagi, but they do have Concertina Connection and Hohner concertinas for sale as well. Like the Button Box, their specialization means that they’re very knowledgable, and willing and able to answer any questions.
Directly From The Maker
There are many concertina makers out there, and each has their fans. New makers are popping up all the time, while others have retired (or gone to the big session in the sky). This list is very much a partial list, and doesn’t represent an endorsement of any particular brand. These are just some popular concertina makers who have easy-to-access websites, so you can check out their models for sale.
- Concertina Connection (Washington, USA) – They make a very popular line of starter concertinas that cost the same as the cheap, crappy brands but play much better. When you decide to upgrade, they also have plenty of higher-end models as well.
- Irish Concertina Company (Dublin, Ireland) – Another shop that makes affordable beginner concertinas, with a higher-end line as well for more advanced players.
- Carroll Concertinas (Kentucky, USA) – Wally Carroll has been making concertinas since 2002, and currently has three Anglo models for sale. His website features the great Noel Hill playing one of Carroll’s concertinas, so you can hear the true potential of the instrument!
- Dipper Concertinas (Wiltshire, England) – Another Anglo maker, John Dipper’s concertinas are highly sought after in the Irish concertina community.
- Wheatstone & Co. (Suffolk, England) – Steve Dickinson bought the iconic Wheatstone brand in the 1970s and continues to make great concertinas.
- Wakker Concertinas (Washington, USA) – Wakker is another highly-regarded name, with a fairly long waitlist. Like Wheatstone, Wim and Karen Wakker are one of the few shops that have English and Duet concertinas for sale as well as Anglos.
Where to Find Used Concertinas For Sale
Buying a used concertina is a great way to save some money. Buying from another player can also be a good way of knowing that your concertina is in good playable condition. But buying used does have its downsides, and it’s important to do your due diligence before sending any money over.
The best way to buy is from someone who knows the instrument and can play it. Ask for sound samples along with the pictures. That way, not only will you get a sense of the sound, you can hear how good a player the seller is. A better player will have a better sense of the pros and cons of the instrument.
The concertina community is relatively small, and any frauds are usually sniffed out pretty quickly on the various online discussion boards. But it still pays to be careful. When sending money, use a credit card, Paypal, or other payment system that has fraud protection.
As you might imagine from the domain name, Concertina.net is a website dedicated to the concertina. It’s very active, and there’s a wealth of information in its archives. Since Irish and English music are the most popular genres played on the concertina today, a lot of the discussion is focused on Anglo concertinas. But there are plenty of poster who play in pretty much every genre and on any configuration out there. The “Buy and Sell” section has concertina regularly posted for sale. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, a “want to buy” post will probably turn something up.
Chiff and Fipple is a site dedicated to traditional Irish music and its instruments. It was originally started as a tin whistle site, and there’s a definite bent towards the whistle, flute, and pipes. However, the “Squeezebox” forum gets some attention, and used concertinas come up for sale pretty regularly in its “Used Instrument Exchange.” A “want to buy” post may get you the concertina you’re looking for.
The Session is another site dedicated to Irish music. It has a remarkable database of traditional tunes, and is a great resource for learning. There’s also an active discussion board, and postings with concertinas for sale are common.
Where To Find Antique Concertinas For Sale
Many antique concertinas have been well-maintained and cared for by players throughout most of their lives. They are in good working order, and in many ways are very much like used concertinas in that you can be reasonably sure that they work. When in doubt, of course, ask as many questions as you can before putting any money down. Still, even after 100+ years, a well-made concertina can sound and play great. It may even play better than it did new!
There are also a lot of vintage and antique instruments that have been sitting around unplayed for years, possibly even decades or centuries. Be very careful about these instruments. Concertinas are incredibly complex, and there’s plenty that can go wrong. If you know how to restore and repair concertinas and see an intriguing one for sale, that’s one thing. But if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can end up just throwing your money away for something that won’t play.
The usual caveats apply to buying from eBay, but you can find some great deals if you know what you’re doing. Unfortunately, many of the concertinas for sale are listed by people who don’t know anything about them. If you’re new to the concertina, it’s probably best to skip eBay, because you never know what you’re going to get. But if you have experience repairing and restoring concertinas, you can often find antiques for sale from sellers who are just trying to unload them. Ask lots of questions, examine every picture you get, and don’t fork over a lot of money for an unknown quantity.
Barleycorn Concertinas is run by Chris Algar in Cheshire, England. It mainly has antique concertinas for sale in very good condition, and they do expert repairs and restorations on what they get in. Their prices are fair, and they often get 20-button and other more affordable concertinas in. However, the definite focus is on the usual makes like Wheatstone and Jeffries that will cost upwards of £1,000. If you’re looking for an antique in tip-top shape, this is a great site to check. They will ship all over the world, but do not that the prices are in British pounds, so make sure to do your conversions so you won’t be surprised!
Paraic McNeela runs his shop out of Dublin, Ireland, and has a variety of traditional Irish instruments for sale. While he does sell new concertinas, he often has a good selection of antiques as well. Wheatstone, Jeffries, and Lachenal concertinas all commonly show up for sale in fully restored and playable condition. While McNeela is based in Ireland, they can ship all over the world, and their site will do currency conversions automatically.