Tag Archives: Cheap Music Gear

How to Buy Used Music Gear

Or: Scoring Used Gear for Less Than it’s Worth

I have a lot of people telling me that I am SO LUCKY to have scored some of the gear that I’ve collected for good prices. While luck is certainly a factor, strategy is also a major factor. Here’s a few of the tips ‘n’ tricks I’ve learned over the years that I’ve been hoarding strange music gear.


I would say that 80% of my scores have been had on Craigslist. If you’re online, I’m going to assume you’re familiar with Craigslist. I often search my local musical instruments section of Craigslist for keywords beyond what instrument or device I’m looking for – I also search for “rare” and “weird.”

Google. And Craigslist. If you’re open to having something shipped, and can find a seller willing to do so, consider using Google instead of Craigslist’s default search. Using the following terms, you can search all of Craigslist, not just your local chapter.

“Drum Machine” site:craigslist.org

Google Alerts.

Rather than checking Craigslist over coffee every day, put Google to work for you. It can search your local Craigslist every day, and e-mail you when it finds a new posting that matches your query.

Head to http://www.google.com/alerts. In the “Search Query” field, enter what you’re looking for followed by:


So, for a drum machine in Seattle, a query could be:

“Drum Machine” site:seattle.craigslist.org

Note that putting the search in quotes will return results for “Drum Machine”. Not putting it in quotes will return searches for both Drum AND Machine, which is likely not what you’re after. Choose how often you want to be e-mailed, and what address you want the e-mails sent to, and you are good to go! You can also use the minus sign to remove elements from your search. So, if you were looking to buy a drum machine that wasn’t a Korg, you could search for:

“Drum Machine” –Korg site:seattle.craigslist.org.

Set “how often” to “As it happens.” If you have your e-mail sent to your phone, you can almost always be the first respondent to the posting. Also, and this goes for any search: include common misspellings of the product name.

Chocolate Google.

A vanilla Google Search for a product you’re after will yield many non-shopping results. But using Google’s “Search Tools” to constrain returns to “within the last week” is a great way to find listings for gear that are recent. You can get many returns for mom ’n’ pop shops all over the place that have just posted something new. You will also likely get a lot of forum posts, but that’s OK, as folks list their used item sales in forums frequently, and you will learn more about what you’re after by perusing these forums while shopping.

Ebay Alternatives

There are many more auction sites out there beyond ebay, and because they are less popular, there are generally fewer users to attempt to outbid you.

ShopGoodwill.com Has a diverse musical instruments section. Note that items are often mis-categorized. Expect to find plenty of electric guitars in the “Electronic Instruments” category. Some real gems end up here, especially older synths. I can begin to understand how this happens. Some poor guy dies, and his non-musician family says “Nobody wants Uncle Daniel’s electric organ, right? It’s old, just give it to Goodwill,” and that’s how a Roland Jupiter 8 goes to the Value Village. Not kidding, I saw one on ShopGoodwill once, and also once purchased a Roland PG-300 from there.

PropertyRoom.com: Police seizure auctions from drug busts and the like. Check the DJ and Pro Audio section as well as musical instruments. While their selection of audio and music stuff is rather Spartan, this is a great place to find “Commercial Nursery Equipment.” Wonder why that is?

Government auction sites: Lots of public school music stuff can end up here, as can… well, anything really. Not unusual to find PA stuff here, power amps and loudspeakers.

Local University surplus sites: Your area may or may not have a University, let alone a university surplus site, but you can occasionally find musical instruments and can frequently find PA gear.

PawnShopper: I don’t have first-hand experience with this site, but it seems cool.

Specialty sites: SphereMusic.com is more or less like ebay, specifically for audio gear. Everything I see posted here is in Europe. Some of it is very high-end or rare.


Bellingham Pawnshop, AKA “Sharkys.” My favorite pawnshop.

This is my second-most common source next to Craigslist. When it comes to musical instruments, pawnshops are wiser in this post-ebay world, and scores here are less common than they used to be. They are not gone altogether. It used to be that Pawn-X-Change (Now Cash America) had their entire inventory searchable online. I searched it weekly for stuff that was mis-priced, and once got a Roland RC-2, new in the box priced as if it was an RC-1.

A pawnshop typically makes more from the interest on loans than via merchandise, so they are generally content to price high and wait for an idiot/enthusiast. That’s fine. My experience has consistently been that haggling is tolerated in pawnshops, especially if the item has been on the shelf a while. I’ve also had better luck at pawnshops that are out in the county, away from bigger cities. In particular, pawnshops that specialize in tools and consumer electronics don’t tend to know so much about musical instruments, and often don’t have the clientele for it. As such, music gear often collects dust at these shops for some time, which makes discounts common, and haggling easier.

Test anything you get from a pawnshop thoroughly in-store. I got a Roland Alpha Juno 2 for $135, with a case, because I found that two keys were broken when testing in-store. They knocked $60 off.

Lastly, with pawnshops, you simply have to be there. I used to have a commute that took me past a Pawn-X-Change on the way to and from work. I stopped in once a week and got some great stuff.

Also, try showing up on or around the first of the month. More stuff hits the floor around this time, as folks often pawn stuff to make rent around the first of the month, The merchandise then goes on the floor exactly 90 days later. This may vary by store and/or perhaps by regional law.


Search for a Facebook Group concerning local used gear. Seattle has a very active one with lots of kind folks offering both gear and sound advice. Maybe your town does, too. Don’t feel like you have to wait for something you want to show up—ask if anyone is selling what you’re interested in.

Estate/Yard Sales: Go for it. I once got a mint condition Leslie speaker for $235, and the score of my lifetime, a Sequential Circuits Drumtraks, for $2. Show up early.

That’s it! I hope you find this info helpful. Stay tuned for insights on how to sell used gear once you have a few too many successes with the above tips.

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