Generally once an accordion gets to be 25-30 years old or so, you can count on major maintenance items. Generally this is about the life span of the wax that holds the reeds in and may dictate a rewaxing job. In addition, no accordion that is 30 years old is going to be very in tune. Other things that are quite likely to pop up are mold in the accordion, rusty reeds, worn-out/damaged bellows, bad reed leathers.

All of these things tend to run the cost of that “cheap” accordion up rapidly.

My advice is that if you decide to buy a cheap accordion, you consider the hidden costs and decide up front whether it is of a quality that would warrant any outlay of money. Often if you get a cheap accordion and you can live with its defects and only want it as a knock-around accordion or a student instrument, you might be able to use it for a while… just don’t rely on it for any heavy duty use.

If you are considering purchasing an old accordion, a couple of tests you can do to see if it is facing impending doom are:

  • Check the bellows for leaks.
  • Listen for any rattles when playing … this could be a sign of a reed that has broken free of its wax.
  • Play every note comparing the push stroke sound with the pull stroke sound. If it is out of tune it will be fairly obvious even if you don’t have a particularly great ear.
  • Play an octave of each note … for instance low C and the C an octave higher at the same time. They should be in tune to each other.
  • Smell the accordion and its case. If it has a musty smell there is a good chance it has mold, rusty reeds, etc. Rusty reeds are bad and throw the accordion out of tune and make it impossible to re-tune without a major maintenance job … if it is even possible to resurrect it.
  • Stay away from any accordions that have been used on ocean going boats or stored in very humid climates … rusty reeds and mildew are likely.
  • Accordions that have been played all the time are generally the best deal since they are likely to have been better taken care of. The worse deals are the accordions that “Johnny” played 30 years ago and stuck in the garage when he lost interest.