Last Saturday, while running an errand for a family friend at the Oldsmar Flea Market, I noticed an accordion in one of the swap shops that seemed to be in unusually good shape. Its striking blue color caught my eye and it was surprisingly not dusty, in contrast to just about everything else in the shop, which could easy be summed up by this graphic:
Taking a closer look at the medallion, I got a sense of deja vu. I remember seeing the slogan “The jewel of the good music” before, but where?
I checked my phone and in a few seconds, the answer came up — I’d seen the same make and model of accordion while idly Googling a year or so ago., and it’s the junior version of this model. It was a Valanti, which was confirmed by the marking “G. E. & figli” (figli means sons in Italian).
I gave it some basic tests:
- The carrying case: An old suitcase-like affair made out of that cardboard-like material that mid-20th-century suitcases all seemed to be made of. I was surprised that it didn’t have a musty smell, which is the first sign that the accordion has been sitting in a damp place for a long time. Long-term storage in a moist environment will damage the wood and leather parts in the accordion’s innards, and can lead to mold.
- The body: No structural damage, chipped corners, cracks, or scratches beyond what you’d expect from regular use. There was no missing or broken hardware.
- Keys and buttons: I tried every one, using every register. They all worked, and none of them were sticky. The keys and buttons were all level, too.
- Bellows. This is usually the dealbreaker. An accordion’s bellows are essentially a big bag that you squeeze to force air through tiny holes that are plugged up until you press one of its keys or buttons. Many accordions that you find in pawn shops have very leaky bellows from age or poor maintenance. You test bellows by pulling on them gently without playing anything — if you encounter strong resistance and don’t hear the hissing sounds of escaping air, it means the bellows are good. This accordion passed the test.
- Registers: The accordion had two treble registers and two bass registers. I tried both, starting with the lowest-frequency ones and working my way up. They sounded decent!
My final test was to play a couple of quick tunes — Plush by Stone Temple Pilots and Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy — and decided it was time to check out the price tag. It was marked $200. I make more than that every year in free beer as a result of playing “Happy birthday” on accordion for random strangers in bars.
I looked around for the “Jerry”, and when I found him, said “If I give you cash, will you take $150?”
“Sure!” he said without any hesitation. I’m now the owner of a new, more portable accordion that fits more easily in most airlines’ overhead compartments or under many exit row seats.
I took it home, and with 20 minutes’ work with some Windex and a soft cloth, I had a very shiny, ready-for-public-performance new accordion!
The old leather straps, while serviceable, were on their last legs. Luckily, Amazon carries some very nice padded “pleather” straps (pictured above) that I find very comfortable, and they arrived the day after I ordered them. They probably had another pair sitting at the local fulfillment center from my last order!