Editor's Note: This story was provided by a user of my website who recently purchased a euphonium from eBay. There were a few complications in the process, and her story may prove instructive.

We were in the market for a good quality used King 2280 for my 8th grade son. Per Dave Werden, it's very difficult to find 2280's in great shape and so when this one listed on E-Bay for $1,699 under the category of "New: A brand-new, unused, unopened, undamaged item in its original packaging..." [eBay's description of what "new" means] - well, that was hard to pass up. The seller was very new to E-Bay (so no way to check him out) nor did he offer a return policy. However, the E-Bay money-back guarantee seemed to be enough protection for us given the stated condition of the instrument. Not a lot of wiggle room over the exact interpretation of "brand new, unused, unopened, undamaged in original packaging." I bid 90% ($1,530) and to my astonishment, the seller immediately accepted. It was shipped the next day and arrived at our place 5 days later as expected.

Immediately upon opening we noted a few small dings and a little scratch or two. I discovered a tarnished mouthpiece - not the mouthpiece with the horn but an "extra" - had been lying loose in the case and of course that could easily have dinged it up during transit. Otherwise the instrument did appear brand new with the King brand clearly visible. The case itself was completely unscuffed and had that "new" smell to it. My son loved the sound and feel of the horn and the valves appeared completely dry rather than oiled, again giving it that "new" appearance. I planned to let the seller know we received the horn and ask about the dings and the mouthpiece.

But about 20 minutes later my son noticed a large circular stain - a paint job of some sort - on the case. Very clearly visible from the indoor lighting in our house were some words and numbers etched into the case: the serial number, some name of some sort, "High School". and some initials ending in "PS".

Uh oh - was this thing stolen from a school district? Suddenly the entire history of the instrument was called into question. Was this an older instrument refurbished to look "new"? Had it been legally owned prior to us? What musician would toss an old mouthpiece into the case and risk damaging his horn anyway? The whole thing started to look really bad in our minds. We contacted the seller about the possibility of opening a Money Back Guarantee case. (We had video-recorded everything just in case there were to be any "issues").

Fortunately, Dave provided me with some great advice:
  1. Make any decisions within the timeframe of E-Bay's buyer protection term - sooner rather than later;
  2. Get the horn inspected (by someone who can also tell if it's been re-finished and if so how well);
  3. Take a step back from the irritation factor and ask: If I had known exactly what I was going to receive would I still have bought it?;
  4. If it passes muster, remember that a good horn is a good horn;
  5. If I don't feel that I got what I paid for then can always ask for a price reduction;
  6. Keep in mind that there simply aren't a lot of good-condition 2280's on the used market;
  7. If my son is happy with it that's obviously a factor.

To summarize, I had some excellent options beyond invoking the E-Bay Money Back Guarantee.

Boy with His King 2280 EuphoniumAnd very fortunately, everything resolved by the next day. An internet search turned up NO indication that this had been a stolen instrument. The seller responded immediately with profound apologies for inadvertently misrepresenting the condition and assured me we could return the horn if we wanted to. He provided lots of detail about the horn, how he ended up with a new school instrument, when and for how long he played, how he cared for it, why it never occurred to him not to classify it as "new", etc. Do we know for sure whether this is really the story? No. But it was helpful information to have because we could check it against the condition of the horn as inspected.

We actually had two inspections done. My son's instructor got a good look at it that morning and showed me where you would see the "wear" first. There was a bit of wear right in that spot but otherwise it was clean and in fantastic shape. He was pretty impressed and congratulated my son. Later that day a tech recommended by Dave gave it the once over and played it to make sure it was in tune. Again the conclusion was that it was a genuinely fine horn in fantastic shape. Hadn't been re-finished, HAD been extremely well cared-for. Everyone thought the price was a pretty good deal.

After receiving all this information I then asked myself: Would I still have bought it? The answer: Absolutely. And would I have paid $1,530? Absolutely. So I notified the seller that all was well and thanked him for his information and for making the horn available to us.

By the way that extra mouthpiece was his "good luck" mouthpiece from his previous horn. He forgot to take it out before shipping. I'm mailing it back as a keepsake from his musician days. No one should be without their good-luck mouthpiece. And it hadn't just been tossed into the case. It had been stored in the little compartment where you put the valve oil and had escaped during transit in order to commit mischief on the horn and mess with our heads.