What is the Most Expensive Kind of Horn?

A question that frequently comes up with younger and even more advanced students is “how much does a good horn cost?”  At that point we usually have a discussion about some of the common makes and models of horns, along with the different markets that various horns and brands are geared towards, like students, professionals, etc.  After we tackle this question, often their second question is “What is the most expensive kind of horn?”  An interesting part of trying to answer this question is watching students’ eyes get big when they hear how much a top of the line custom double or triple horn can cost. Of course, even the priciest horns are quite inexpensive when compared to violins.  Looking at the list below, compiled from current figures and advertisements as of this blog posting, you can see that many horns are now in the $10,000+ range. The make, model, and price in U.S. dollars for each horn is listed, along with the source where I found the quote.  Please note that many of the prices for horns built overseas will vary depending on exchange rates.  I did the currency conversions using the XE Universal Currency Converter.

Alexander Universal Horn (Horn Matters) ca. $45,000-$50,000

New E. Schmid Full Triple F/Bb/high Eb, with detachable bell, lacquered (Houghton Horns) $15,800

Used Berg Double (Pope Instrument Repair) $15,500

New Thein Double Descant Bb/high F (Thein Brothers) $15,294.94

New Thein Model R Double Horn, Silver Plated (Thein Brothers) $15,236.93

New E. Schmid Full Triple F/Bb/high Eb, with detachable hand-hammered bell, lacquer finish and Bonna MB-5 case (Wichita Band Instrument Company) $14,799.73

New Paxman Model 75 Full Triple, with titanium rotors (Wichita Band Instrument Company) $14,618.19

Used E. Schmid Full Triple F/Bb/high Eb, with detachable spun bell (Hornplayer.net) $14,000

Used Rauch Double (Pope Instrument Repair) $14,500

Used Geyer Double (Pope Instrument Repair) $11,000

For additional information on E. Schmid horn prices, check out the Englebert Schmid Horn Price List on Osmun Music’s website.  It gives a very nice breakdown on how Schmid horns are priced.

What makes these horns so expensive?  Well it is usually a combination of things – see the following list of factors, in no particular order.

  1. Low production numbers/long production time:  Because so many of these horns are handmade – often by no more than a few people at a time – the waiting list for a new one can be several years.  Naturally the long waiting period means that there are very few of them on the used market.   In some cases a used horn will actually go for a higher price than new.
  2. Extremely high quality components/quality control: These are incredibly important factors in horn design, and the top makers don’t skimp when obtaining their materials. Because of the exacting standards by which custom horns are made, the quality from one to the next is usually very similar.
  3. Exchange rates/VAT: As mentioned above, fluctuating exchange rates can increase or decrease the cost of a horn significantly.  Additionally a V.A.T. (Value Added Tax) may or may not be included in the price of an instrument.
  4. Rare/Antique/Heirloom Status: In the case of “vintage” horns, the age, serial number, and other factors are very important in determining a selling price.

I encourage anyone interested in these and other horn makers to conduct your own research – although the price of these horns is high and continues to rise, you can sometimes find exactly what you are looking for at a great bargain. One final resource to check out is a list of horn makers on Wikipedia. The list is quite comprehensive, and includes links (where applicable).  Happy hunting!

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