How Much Is My Accordion Worth?

Far and away, the most common email we receive is from someone who’s found or inherited an old accordion — often stashed away in a closet or garage — who wants to know how much it’s worth. I’ve probably answered this question a hundred times, a hundred different ways. But now I save myself the trouble and refer them to this handy guide on Jeroen Nijhof’s excellent Accordion Links site. Jeroen’s guide covers the basics (condition, brand, size) along with two pieces of advice I often give: that “vintage” doesn’t mean much unless it’s playable (or festooned with diamonds) and it’s only worth what someone will pay for it.

With that in mind, I should really ask: “Why sell this accordion when you can learn to play it?” Instead of dumping it at a garage sale for a few bucks, you could have countless hours of enjoyment by playing cumbias or mazurkas on your porch. Maybe the next time someone inquires about their grandfather’s old accordion, I’ll just reply with a list of accordion teachers in their area…

Quick Links: Maple Leaf Edition

In honor of our neighbors to the north, we present an all-Canadian batch of links:

Quick Links: Cumbia, Polka, and the Righteous

  • Cumbia, My Lord, Cumbia
    You may be familiar with cumbia, the traditional Colombian (but now spread throughout Latin America) folk/dance music that prominently features the accordion. The Guardian looks at the latest cumbia innovation — Argentina’s “nueva cumbia,” where DJs are mixing cumbia with house, dancehall, and other genres. To hear it, check out El Hijo de la Cumbia or Oro11.
  • Polka for the Next Generation
    A fun, charming story by Leigh Ann Henion about her quest to learn to polka and her young niece’s blossoming into a polka princess. Art’s Concertina Bar — now Kochanski’s Concertina Beer Hall — makes a cameo appearance.
  • Featured Music: High Times
    The Fort-Worth Weekly introduces Mount Righteous, a Texas ten-piece with “feverish handclaps, helium-happy choir vocals, and dizzying bursts of trombone, snare drum, and accordion.” Imagine Mucca Pazza meeting The Polyphonic Spree, if you’re the type who enjoys defining new bands in terms of bands you already know. (And I am.)

Quick Links: El Parche, Amoriental, and Revolution

  • Live Review: Steve Jordan Tribute
    Austin360 reviews Sunday’s Steve Jordan tribute concert in Austin. Despite recently undergoing treatment for liver cancer, Jordan played a rockin’ 45-minute set; check out a clip of him performing with Little Joe.
  • Amoriental Accordion
    My French is rusty — Sylvie, can you help? — but the Amoriental appears to be a brand new accordion created by Thierry Bénétoux, who’s trying to bring the best of Eastern and Western music together in one instrument (note the unique button alignment). The site is short on details, but promises an unveiling next month at the Festival Des Nuits De Nacre.
  • Accordion Revolution
    This fun video slideshow, put together by Abbie Stillie and Katey Gries, includes interviews with members of Accordions Anonymous and the Bad Mitten Orchestre about the accordion’s resurgent popularity.

Quick Links: Jazz, Idi Amin, and… Insurance?

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Quick Links: Lone Star Edition

Today’s links are sponsored by the great state of Texas, home of Flaco Jimenez, Brave Combo, and the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders.

Quick Links: MySpace Roundup

One of the benefits of having a MySpace page for Let’s Polka is it helps us keep tabs on tons of artists that might otherwise fly under our radar. Here’s are a few that have recently caught our ear:

  • Piñata Protest
    We’ve seen a few punk/polka bands, even some punk/zydeco, but San Antonio’s Piñata Protest is the first punk/Tejano band we’ve come across. An answer to the traditional Tejano music its members grew up hating, this is what would happen “if Ramon Ayala and Sid Vicious had a baby.”
  • Amber Lee and the Anomalies
    Accordionist Amber Lee Baker, accompanied by banjo and fiddle, sings of rodeo clowns and whaler’s wives while leading this charming acoustic group from Anna’s old stomping grounds (Santa Rosa, CA). Their debut CD, Estuaries, is due out next month.
  • Accordion Death Squad
    Armed with an excellent name, the Accordion Death Squad plays “gypsy music from Ratsylvania,” which is apparently near Charlottesville, Virginia. Swirling accordion and violin guaranteed to keep you dancing.

Are you in a band we need to hear? Add us on MySpace.

Quick Links: Keepers of the Flame

No matter how many times the accordion is counted out, it just keeps coming back. Here are some recent articles highlighting the brave souls who just can’t stop squeezing.

  • Still Squeezing By (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
    Part of the Journal-Sentinel’s “Vanishing Wisconsin” series — a look at Wisconsin traditions on the verge of disappearing — this piece focuses on the Milwaukee Accordion Club’s efforts to keep the accordion alive. “The accordion is a secret handshake,” says Don Turner, 43, a board member for the club. “If you play accordion, and someone else plays, well, you’ll help one another.”
  • Accordion Revival (Calgary Herald)
    North of the border, the Accordion Association of Calgary promotes accordion awareness and provides a venue for performers young and old. According to Association president Beverly Fess: “The last five-plus years we’ve seen a steady increase in people picking up the accordion. It’s seen more use with more young people picking it up and not just adults that have had it in the closet.”
  • Putting the Squeeze On (Prague Post)
    Even in the Czech Republic, the accordion had been pushed out of music schools and concert halls by the communists. But the tide is turning, as evidenced by the return of the European Accordion Festival to Prague late last month. According to the article, “at least 70 percent of festival participants are under 16 years old, suggesting a widespread and growing interest in the accordion among adolescents and young adults.” Watch out — the next generation of accordionists are on their way!

Quick Links: Videos Around the World

  • Weltmeister Accordion Factory
    In this excerpt from Steve Mobia’s accordion documentary, Behind the Bellows, our friend Kimric Smythe visits the Weltmeister factory in Germany and gets a fascinating look at accordion production.
  • Accordion All-Stars at NAA 2008 Convention
    Missed the National Accordion Association’s recent convention in Texas? Luckily for us, YouTube user limbery has uploaded several videos of the event, including this jam by the Accordion All-Star band.
  • Russian Skydiving Bayan Player
    How do you combine your love of skydiving with your love of the accordion? By doing both at once, of course! Or maybe this is an elite Russian commando unit that parachutes into hostile territories and subdues them with accordion music…

Quick Links: High-Tech Edition

After posting about the mysterious pianaccord earlier this week, I ran across some more examples of cutting-edge accordion technology:

  • Roland FR-2 V-Accordion
    Roland unveiled their latest MIDI accordions, the FR-2 and FR-2b, at last month’s NAMM Show in Anaheim. Their biggest advantage over other Roland digital accordions is weight — each are about 10 lbs. lighter than the FR-7.
  • South Branch Inventor Presents Twinkling Accordion
    Newfoundlander Wallace Gale has modified his Hohner Corona so that each time a button is pressed, a corresponding light illuminates. Much cooler than the battery-powered Christmas lights I used to attach to my accordion.
  • Big Accordion Worked With Pedals
    Reader S.A. Heistand pointed out this possible precursor to the pianaccord — shown here in a December 1933 issue of Popular Science. It’s basically an accordion set up so you can play while sitting down and manipulate the bellows using foot pedals.

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