Flip a Horn, Make Some Bank
A large part of our business is selling second hand instruments and a proportion of those we sell on behalf of our customers on a commission basis. Despite having literally hundreds of very satisfied customers who have sold second hand instruments in our shop on commission, we still encounter people who seem slightly sceptical at the prospect of letting us sell their horns on commission.
So here’s the full disclosure on commission sales at Headwind so you can fully understand the benefits.
For us, the name of the game is transparency. If we say we’re going to sell your horn for £2,000 at 15% commission, that’s exactly what we’ll do. You’ll see it advertised as such and then 7 days after it sells we’ll transfer you 85% of the sale price, and that’s a clean 85% with no hidden charges, listing fees or VAT added on top. No strings, no small print, just a straight up bank transfer that you can instantly spend in Waitrose, TK-Max or the pub.
Why is transparency important? Firstly because it’s the right thing to do! but also because musicians (and especially sax players) are a relatively small community and at some point someone will be on a session and say “hey that’s my old horn you’re playing!”, so if it transpires that we sold the horn for more than we said we would and pocketed the difference, that would make us look REALLY bad, that’s not being a cheeky Del boy.. it’s just straight up theft, and we’re not down with that.
So what exactly are our rates? There are three levels of commission based on the sale value of your instrument:
Sale price below £1,000: 20% commission
Sale price between £1,000 and £1,500: 17.5% commission
Sale price over £1,500: 15% commission
Something else which crops up rather often is people’s reluctance to sell through a shop as opposed to selling it privately. As much as I commend the ‘get up and go’ attitude of trying to flip your own horn (we’ve all done it!) it might not be as straight forward as it seems, here’s a few reasons why:
Private buyers want a REALLY good price
More often than not people who are buying privately want to grab a bargain, otherwise they’d stroll right into a shop and pay the going rate, right? So if you’re advertising your horn for people to come over to your house and try it, expect some on the spot haggling, and it’s hard to say no to a deal when someone is waving a fistful of fifties at you…even if it is less than you were looking to get.
Like most things, musical instruments are much easier to sell when they’re in tip top condition (imagine trying to sell a car that won’t start!?). Therefore we’re happy to undertake all the necessary servicing to your horn without charging you a penny up-front for it, you can settle up for that once your horn has sold, this way you aren’t having to fork out cash up front just to sell your horn. Also, you’ll often find that the increased value of a fully serviced horn is actually more than the cost of the service itself! ….especially when we do you a really good deal on the repair cost ;) …which we always do because we will both benefit from the swift sale of your horn! You sell your horn ASAP, we make a modest commission and another happy customer gets a gig-ready tooter. EVERYBODY WINS!
A few people think they’ll make more money selling an instrument themselves on eBay and I fundamentally commend the motivation to do so. However, this is almost always a far more difficult and less lucrative way of selling your instrument.
Once you’ve paid the eBay and Paypal fees you’re looking at parting with 13-14% of the sale value, which is barely any less than our commission (15-20% depending on value), and then there’s all the work of photographing the item, listing it, answering questions from potential bidders (usually a lot of questions if it’s a high value item) and then having to adequately package and ship the instrument once it’s sold and have insurance in place in case of transit damage.
…but here’s the kicker. eBay is not a marketplace of ‘sold as seen’ items which are purchased at the buyer’s risk similar to physical auction houses when you have an opportunity to inspect the instrument before the auction to carry out the necessary due diligence. eBay is well and truly a buyers market these days, and savvy eBayer’s are fully aware of this. eBay’s buyer protection policy protects the buyer’s interests at all times, to the point that if there is any possible grounds for a buyer to claim that the instrument is not ‘as advertised’ they can claim a full refund or a partial refund to correct the issues which they claim were not advertised. For example, if you sell an instrument (let’s say a saxophone) in good faith as ‘in good working order’ but after receiving the sax the buyer takes it to their tech who goes over it with a fine tooth comb and finds play in the keywork, damaged tone holes, bending of the main tube etc, they can legitimately claim a partial refund via eBay/paypal for the cost of addressing these issues, which for the aforementioned points could cost as much as £500. At this point you can either cough up the partial refund for the repair work or authorise a full refund and pay to have the instrument shipped back to you, then you’re back to square one. The only way to avoid this as a seller is to advertise items as ‘sold as seen - no returns’ which is very off-putting to buyers and they won’t be willing to pay anywhere near as much.
By having a broad selection of instruments, a 6 month warranty on all second hand goods, 7 day approval period, comprehensive returns policy, a free service after 6 months and as much after sales support as my waking hours will allow, people are generally happy to pay a little bit more in our store than savvy eBayers are willing to pay at auction. So if the buyer is completely satisfied you might be paying up to 7% less in fees vs selling through a shop but when you consider that an item is likely to sell for easily 10% less on eBay than it will in a shop, that saving is swiftly negated… which leaves you with just the hassle and risk! Ba humbug.
Just to be clear, I’m not on a complete downer about eBay, I absolutely love eBay (mostly for buying not selling), but due to the nature of my work it’s a bit easier for me to suss out the bargains, and the inherent risk of each purchase is spread across our whole business and not just one horn and my personal bank account (been there, done that…still harboring regret).
The one good thing about eBay though is that if you’re in a rush to get the cash and willing to let something go for slightly less than it might really be worth, then you can set up a quick auction or ‘buy it now’ item and get it sold within a week. If the price is attractive enough you can sell something on eBay in a matter of hours.
Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace and other free listing platforms
When people don’t want to part with 15-20% of the sale price, I often encourage them to try one of the free listing platforms where you pay zero fees and if you're lucky can get close to the full value of your instrument. There is of course the hassle of liaising with and meeting potential buyers but if you’re sociable you might enjoy this! You are however faced with a certain amount of financial and physical risk in an unregulated private selling environment. I could try and cover all these risks and give you some tips I’ve learnt on how to minimise them but Gumtree have already done a better job of it than I think I could, so I encourage you to read this section of their website before going down the free listing route: Gumtree Safety Guidelines
You could of course read into this as me doing my best to discourage you from selling your horn privately and instead sell it through us which broadly speaking is what’s going on here, however my intentions are honest, my reasoning is accurate and any of our regular sellers will confirm that selling through us is certainly easier and usually more lucrative than going it alone…. and you get to come and hang out in the shop with me, sweet deal right?!
P.s. I'm aware that this blog post is not exactly riveting, so I'll just leave this photo here to make it a bit more interesting...