Buying an antique flageolet is often problematic. People interested in flageolets frequently frequently hear about instruments being bought very cheaply from dealers who had mislabelled them as something else. Unfortunately, these incidents are not as common as one would hope, from the flageolet-player's point of view, and prices for flageolets elsewhere fluctuate frequently. Hopefully this guide will help resolve some problems!
Buying a flageolet from an auction (particularly internet ones) or from an non-specialist dealer (e.g. a general antique shop) is often the cheapest way to buy an instrument. However, the instruments are often not in the best condition and the prices can fluctuate from the very cheap to the excessively expensive. Prices from specialist antique music shops are generally higher but the quality of the instrument is often better and there is the increased security available when dealing with an established musical instrument dealer.
There is often great variation in the quality of flageolets offered for sale, especially when buying from a non-specialist. There are four main factors which should influence your decision:
This has great bearing over the value of the instrument, perhaps disproportionately so, as instruments made by famous manufacturers are collected not just by those who are interested in flageolets but those who are interested in woodwind makers. A stamp of a famous maker, such as Godfroy, Lot of Bainbridge will at least double the cost of the instrument, in comparison to an unmarked one. Therefore, it is advisable, if you are on a budget, to look at unmarked instruments first as these will almost always be of an acceptable quality but far cheaper.
With regards to dates, the majority of flageolets which are offered for sale were constructed in around 1850-1900 (an exception must be made here for the double flageolets which are generally about 50 years older: 1800-1850). Flageolets which predate this tend, therefore, to have a higher value because of their scarcity. Flageolets from the 18th Century and earlier are very rare on the open market and their prices reflect that.
Flageolets, due to their elongated shape, are frequently damaged when offered for sale. A completely intact instrument therefore commands a premium. Thankfully, most damage encountered when dealing with flageolets is not important and can easily be repaired.
The most common problem is a missing ivory beak. Most woodwind makers and repairers who are used to working with antique instruments should be able to fashion one fairly easily and the instrument is still fully functional without it (the beak's effect on tone is slight). Occasionally one comes across an instrument missing the barrel and/or conical windway. Again, the instrument is not greatly affected but replacements will probably have to be constructed before it is usable, this time at greater expense.
Damage to the bottom two joints is more serious and, in general, one should avoid instruments which are missing keys, are cracked, or otherwise damaged in the bottom two joints. Although most problems can be repaired by an experienced repairer, the cost will often exceed the value of the instrument.
With all flageolets, the more keywork available, the better and more valuable the instrument will be. For English flageolets, the 5-key model is most desirable as the instrument is only truly chromatic with this. The issue is less serious with French flageolets, as the keyless instrument is as sophisticated as the recorder. However, for beginners, the 5-key model is the simplest to play and also the most common. Special mention must be made of the Boehm-system French flageolet. This instrument, with its 13 keys, was always the most expensive form of French flageolet and therefore it still commands the highest prices. With double flageolets, 4 basic keys are required for the instrument to function, with each additional set of keys increasing the chromatic range available. It is worth noting that with double flageolets, there is less correlation between price and the number of keys than with other flageolets. Therefore, it is worth looking around before purchasing.
Of utmost importance, this is something which rarely can be assessed when buying a flageolet, except from the most specialist shops. If giving a chance to try an instrument before purchasing, consider the main four characteristics of the instrument. Firstly, is the instrument easy to play throughout its entire range (particularly the lowest and highest notes)? Is the instrument in tune with itself, particularly when changing between octaves? Does the instrument possess a good dynamic range which is not detrimental to its intonation? Finally, is the sound suitably sweet and gentle (the two classical qualities of a good flageolet)?
The question of price is always tricky with antiques and musical instruments. With the flageolet fluctuations in price are often extremely wild due to a lack of specialist knowledge and understanding amongst those dealing with them.
|Type of flageolet||Specialist||General|
|3-5 Key French flageolet 1850-1900||£200||£100|
|As above but without ivory beak||?||£70|
|French flageolet 1800-1850||£300||?|
|Boehm-system French flageolet||?||£1,000|
|English Flageolet 1850-1900||£100||£75|
|As above but without ivory beak||?||£60|
|Basic double flageolet, unstamped||£1,000-1,500||£500-1,000|
|Double flageolet with more keywork or by a famous maker||£2,00-3,500||£1,000+|
For bargain prices, ebay is a good place to start and there is, on average, at least one flageolet for sale at any time. Specialist sites which sell flageolets include: