Many harpists need their instruments appraised, either for insurance purposes or to help with a sale. As a technician, the job of doing these appraisals falls to me. Unfortunately it’s the job I dread the most, since I have no hard data on actual sale prices to support any claim of an instrument’s fair market value. I have often wished a resource existed that would help harpists and technicians better estimate the value of their harps based on documented sales.
Anyone who has asked for an appraisal from the harp’s manufacturer knows that all they will do is send you a letter saying what a new harp of the same or similar model would cost. But based on my limited discussions with insurance companies, they want a fair market appraisal of the harp’s actual value based on condition, demand, etc. They don’t want to insure a sixty-year old Style 23 that needs major work at the same value as a new 23.
I am thinking of starting an online resource dedicated to tracking used harp sales, and I am reaching out here to start a discussion about the topic, to see if others have thoughts or opinions about this. As I said, such a resource would be invaluable to technicians, but it would be of value to all harp owners as well in understanding what their instruments are worth. I’ll list some additional thoughts below, so if you’re interested in this topic, please read on.
1. Unlike the car or housing markets, which are regulated and sales prices are documented, the harp market is completely private. Obviously any resource like this would be on the honor system, and thus vulnerable. Is there anyway to prevent possible fraud or gaming of the system?
2. Buy in. Something like this would depend on buyers and sellers voluntarily submitting information. Would they bother? Would you as a harpist see the value in this? If you’re a teacher, would your encourage your students to report on any harps they bought or sold, just for the good of the community? Along the same lines, would dealers and manufacturers be willing to participate?
3. Confidentiality. In order to insure some accuracy of the information, some personal information on who is buying and selling might need to be disclosed, not publicly, but to an administrator or such. For instance, if someone reported selling a harp for a certain price, it would be advantageous if the buyer could be contacted to confirm or deny the details. While any public facing website could let people remain anonymous, someone behind the scenes would probably need documentation.
4. Harp Condition. There are a lot of variables here. A fifty year old harp may have all original parts, some of which may need major repairs, or it may have already been rebuilt. Could variations in condition be included in a database? Who would determine the harp’s condition?
I have discussed the idea of writing a Sounding Board column or article with the editors of Harp Column on this topic, but thought I’d start with a forum post to invite folks to share their ideas and thoughts. Please join me if you’re interested in discussing this.