buying/selling a harp at a distance

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    How can both buyer and seller be protected when purchasing an instrument from a private individual in another state? Are there escrow services which will hold the buyer’s payment until the seller delivers the buyer’s purchase? I’ve never had a problem navigating the harp world on pure trust, but there must be a protocol for this.


    That’s a really good question. I’m usually the one selling an instrument. People know who I am and my reputation for total honesty. So when someone agrees to buy a harp from me, they send me the full payment and then I deliver the harp. No one has ever questioned that situation to me.

    But in a private sale a number of issues could come into question. Is the seller the rightful owner of the harp or is this stolen property? If the buyer has not personally examined the instrument nor had someone qualified examine it, is it what the seller says it is?

    When I have bought used instruments, I have always examined the instrument first hand and have spoken to the owner and thereby evaluated the general situation and circumstances of the instrument and sale. I have always paid by check. I have always paid at the same time that I went to pick up the instrument.

    I know for a fact that at least on one occasion in the past someone has lifted pictures and the description of an instrument I had for sale on my web site and used it as if the instrument was theirs. So there is something to be worried about here, particularly in internet sales.


    I’m reminded of a story that happened to a friend of mine a number of years ago. She regularly rents harps, and rents them so cheaply that people tend to keep them for years. She had rented a 23 to a college student who was pretty unstable. This girl would live someplace without paying rent or the bills until the point came that everything was about to crash in on her. Then she would disappear in the dead of night and start the whole thing someplace else. She sporadically pay the harp rent, just enough to not loose the harp. But my friend had to constantly chase her down and figure out where she had moved to. Finally the girl just disappeared. When my friend finally located the landlord who had rented her the last place, he told my friend that the girl had (again) left in the dead of night, but hadn’t taken any of her possessions. The landlord had sold them off to try to recoup some of the money she owed him. He had sold the harp! My friend tracked down the harp, which by this time was in a repair shop getting rebuilt. The litigation went on for 2 or 3 years until a settlement was reached.

    I had an almost identical situation. College girl, moving in the dead of night, etc. Each time I found the next place she had moved to(always a house with other room mates), they were ready to kill her because she had stuck them with her share of the bills. But each time, someone in the house was able to give me a forwarding address. This went on for maybe a year through 4 or 5 addresses. I was always one step behind her. Then I called the number I had been given as her next address and the woman who answered told me the girl was gone and she had no idea where the girl was. I was about to hang up when she asked me why I was calling about this girl. I told her about the harp of mine that the girl had. “So YOU’RE the one who owns the harp!!!”

    She then told me how the girl had left in the dead of night and taken all of her stuff except the harp. She didn’t even have the decency to leave a note on it saying who the owner was. The woman on the phone had called the symphony, music schools, music stores, etc. looking for the owner of the harp. In this day and age I would be very very wary about buying a harp from someone I had not checked out thoroughly.


    I had a friend buy a harp long distance and, if memory serves me right, the harp store where the origianl owner had purchased it served as an intermediary.



    Carl, I am delighted that you responded, because I was actually considering phoning you to ask this question! I would have no problem buying through a dealer, from a builder, from a local person, or from someone well-known in the harp world. The questions come when buying from an unknown individual seller in a remote part of the country or world. (Though on the one occasion I did this, it worked out beautifully). I tend to trust my instincts about people, but instincts are not infallible. The same could apply to buying a car in this manner, or anything expensive really. Without the benefit of an intermediary or the protections that are built into a process such as making a purchase on ebay, I just wonder what people have done to protect themselves, whether on the selling or buying end of the transaction. It is grim indeed to have to deal with being scammed. I’m glad you re-connected with your lost harp. What a chilling story, glad it ended well!


    Jennifer, that’s another interesting solution, one I had not considered. When buying a harp from someone who had purchased it directly from Lyon&Healy or another builder, I doubt the builder would get involved in its resale. Might work, though, in the situation you described where the harp was bought through a small dealer.


    Eliza, I have


    Thanks, Patricia! Very helpful.

    Dwyn .

    I expect that with authorization from the seller, any of the major builders or any of the major harp dealers would be willing to verify to a prospective buyer that they had sold the harp to the person you’re considering buying from.


    Perhaps you could each drive half-way and meet at a hotel or other somewhat public venue where you would feel safe and the buyer could play the harp to see if it’s “as represented.” If there’s a branch of the buyer’s bank nearby, you both can go there so the bank could issue a check that you would know is good.

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