Q. How much is my beloved Benge trumpet worth? Can I sell it and retire?

A. No.

I should write a whole page of disclaimers here. I haven't seen your horn, I haven't played your horn, I don't know how badly your spouse wants you to sell it--I don't really know enough to be saying. But keeping in mind all that stuff and that it is just one guy's opinion, here is my guess. This is based on how much you could sell the horn for to a willing buyer.

Bizarre things happen from time to time, especially on eBay. Isolated extreme transactions can be tantalizing, but they certainly aren't what one should expect. They can easily mislead--either way. Most sales are near the average. Obviously.

There are many many (even more) variables, but generally the range of values for used Burbank Benge trumpets is around $600 to around $1200, depending on:

Burbank Benge trumpets which are virtually new, undamaged, unmodified and unrefurbished, could attract a greater price by a couple hundred dollars. People do occasionally spend crazy amounts for them, but the operative word is crazy.

Burbank Benges are still sold primarily as players, i.e., to trumpet players who intend to play them, not store them in their cases as collectors items. They are viewed as hand made trumpets, equal in quality to Schilke trumpets and the pre-Selmer Bachs, the performance of which is still greatly desired.

For Chicago era Benges, the range is closer to $800 to $1500. They play great too, but because of their small numbers and their history, they have a high coolness quotient and a few people are always willing to pay a premium for cool. This is where the weird things happen most often.

For Los Angeles era Benges, the range is $400 to $900. Because of their much great numbers, their value is less. They are perceived to be of less quality than the Burbank horns because the production was so much greater. They are however, in my opinion, seriously undervalued as players. One can often pick up an LA Benge trumpet (lacquered usually) for around $500 or $600 which be a fabulous horn at that price, the perfect answer to a progressing student with very serious budget limitations. You can't buy a better horn for that money.

For UMI era Benges, subtract a couple of hundred dollars from the Los Angeles range. At least that's what I think they are worth.


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