It’s no mystery, handpans are expensive instruments and the initial investment of getting your first handpan can often be enough to scare off beginners. “Well if I can’t afford a brand new handpan I can buy one second-hand for like half the price, right?” Well, unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. While the global second-hand market is beginning to change slowly often times second-hand handpans will still sell close to the same price that they did when they were new even if they were built years ago. This phenomenon is due to three main reasons.
Let’s take a look.
Reason #1: Handpans Don’t Wear Down
The most obvious reason that second-hand things are often so cheap is the fact that over the years they've seen some wear and tear. The 2005 truck that needs new brake pads and an airbag replacement, the hiking backpack with a small tear, the acoustic guitar with some wood warping and a busted tuning peg, etc. The simplistic design of the handpan leaves very little room for problems like this, after all, it’s just two pieces of metal and a strip of glue! Unless a handpan is out of tune or has rust damage (both of which are fixable issues) chances are it sounds just as good as it did the day it was created.
Reason #2: The Technology Hasn’t Really Changed
We’ve all been there-- you rush out to the store eager to get your hands on the brand new smartphone, computer, gaming console, etc. only to realize within a month your new device has already been replaced by the newer, cooler, faster, better model and what you have is now nearly worthless. When thinking about the economics of the handpan it might be better to think of these instruments like a piece of fine art rather than a new iPhone. While there have definitely been some significant technological advances in the creation and design of the handpan throughout the years, the overall concept of the handpan remains largely unchanged. This means that unlike your iPhone, a handpan that was built 10 or 15 years ago is just as relevant today as it was then. In fact, older instruments can often be even more desirable than some handpans being built today, due to their scarcity. Want a batch 2 Halo? Or a 2012 SPB? Maybe a 2nd Gen Hang? These instruments will never be built again so the only way to get one is on the second-hand market and these highly sought after handpans often go for top dollar.
Reason #3: The Handpan Market is Unique
While getting a handpan is nowhere near as difficult as it once was, buying a handpan is still very different from buying most other musical instruments. Still to this day, many handpan builders have waiting lists that can sometimes be several months long, and even if they are ready to take new orders, it can be weeks before your new handpan is built, shipped, and in your lap. This is a disadvantage that doesn’t come when buying a handpan second-hand. So if you're looking for a handpan in a hurry and don't want to wait in line buying secondhand might actually be the better option.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, not all used handpans sell for their original purchase price (or close to it) and in fact, some lose their value a lot quicker than others. This brings me to my last point, and it’s a bit of a prediction for the future of this market. If there is anything that history has told us (in both the handpan scene and not) it’s that the purchase of high-quality items is always worth the initial investment in the long run.
When you look at the used handpans being sold today, an interesting pattern arises. Handpans that are built exquisitely with individual attention to detail can hold their value near 100 percent for several years. On the opposite end of our spectrum, handpans that are built with production speed as the number one goal, drop in value dramatically once they’ve left the factory.
If there is anything you can take away from this article let it be these three things.
1. Don’t expect good quality used handpans to be dirt cheap. (At least not yet.)
2. A high-quality handpan is always a good investment and the best instruments should hold most of their value for long periods of time.
3. Do your research and keep your eyes peeled because you never know when you might just find a great deal on a used handpan!