It’s possible to find some fantastic used French horn deals on eBay, but with any large purchase, due diligence is critical. After buying a number of horns over the years, these are some specific tactics we recommend:
1. Scope out the seller. Every eBay listing links to the seller’s page, containing detailed reviews. Anything under 95% is a red flag, especially if the seller is working at a high volume.
2. Send seller questions. Important things to ask include: What is the serial number? Why are you selling? What is the ownership history (was it ever a school-owned horn)? Do the values move freely or are they at all sticky? What is the last time it was played regularly? How much repair work has been done on the horn? When is the last time it was professionally serviced?
3. Use PayPal & clarify return policy. PayPal offers important buyer protections. Make sure you also clarify what the seller’s return policy is up front which should save significant hassle if it’s not the right horn for you. You should negotiate at least two week long trial period.
4. Watch for red flags in item description. “I don’t know anything about French horns,” “selling as is,” or any strange grammatical errors.
5. Inspect images. Look for any imperfections such as dents, misaligned keys, bent lead pipes, or patches that are not already addressed in description. If there is only one image, ask for more!
6. Know the horn’s value. Used horns typically sell at a significant discount to the retail price, but some models depreciate more quickly than others. To better understand the market, use eBay’s left-hand navigation menu and select “completed listings” from the “Show Only” heading near the bottom to see what horns are selling for.
7. Buy a brand name horn that’s widely available and avoid the cheap imports. Some well-known French horn brands in rough order of average market value include Alexander, Hans Hoyer, Yamaha, Conn, Holton, Reynolds, King, Jupiter, Bach and Olds.