As a collector of vintage brasswinds for about 4 years now - and as someone who started from scratch - I will start by saying that there are no rules, standards, fixed guidelines, firm prices or any other highly tangible information that one would consider "Gospel" in this little nook of the collectibles universe.
With that said, there is much INDIRECT information available. But you have to look for it, collect it, save it, study it, cross-reference it and basically be your own detective to arrive at conclusions that are sound and reasonable.
Its like the X-files, "The Truth is Out There"....you just have to find it. But it ain't easy. And it takes TIME. No quickie answers here.
Its understandable that people entering this hobby uninformed want to buy the definitive guidebook on the topic. It doesn't exist. Why? This hooby's too esoteric - the market's not big enough. In other words, its not coin collecting where you have those nice little blue books that everyone follows like sheep heading for the barn. The good news about this is that there are bargains to be had. The bad news - you guessed it - overpayment is common.
OK, so what are thos indirect sources? To name but a few:
* Vintage brass dealers - Steve Dillon, Robb Stewart, Fred Oster etc. all publish "for sale" lists and are a wealth of information once you build a relationship with them. Granted, they cater more to serious collectors but what do you expect, its their business.
* Museum curators like M.D. Banks, Al Rice etc.
* Old instrument company catalogs - hard to find but they're out there
* Text books about brass instruments - there are probably a dozen or so good ones but be prepared, they're GENERAL in nature (no serial number stuff) The Langwill Index is a must but again, its DIRECTIONAL, not conclusive (and costs about $125)
* Organizations like the Historic Brass Society
* Other collectors - network, network, network!
* Instrument makers/companies - ironically, the worst sources because of so many acquisitions, divestitures and factory fires - their information is generally weak.
* Libraries - yes, no one ever said it would be easy!!!
I hope this doesn't discourage anyone wanting to do more collecting but also that it points out that a labor of love is just that....labor. But you'll get no complaints from me. I have met more wonderful people and learned more as a collector than I ever would have imagined.
The best things in life may be free, but they typically take some effort and time to be worthwhile.
From the Heartland,