Used Saxophone Buying Guide
How can you shop for a used saxophone without being disappointed in what you buy? The most critical aspect of buying a used sax is that you know what to look for as far as damage and wear are concerned. A sax can look great with the finish still shiny and the pieces all there. If you find out, however, that some of the levers don't work, or the pads need replacing, you could be looking at a sizable repair bill just to make the horn playable.
When a used saxophone has been sitting for decades in someone's attic or closet, chances are some damage has resulted. A common problem is that the saxophone leaks air where it should not. The chance of getting a used sax that looks good and plays great is pretty rare.
When you're in the music store or shopping online, and you run across a used saxophone that looks pretty good, there is another consideration. Is it possible this saxophone was stolen? There are some signs that will tip you off to this situation.
One is that the price seems too low, especially for a brand like Selmer. Another is that the seller doesn't know much about saxes, and the instrument is a pro level sax that appears to have been played recently. Of course, strange behavior on the part of the seller is a tip-off, particularly if they are anxious to sell it. Check to see if the serial number is filed off or missing. Finally, if the case has a school name printed on the outside, it may have been stolen from the school.
If the saxophone you are looking at has these suspicious characteristics, just think how happy the former owner will be to get the sax back. Saxophones are expensive to start with, and musicians become fondly attached to their instruments. Report it to the police if you think a used sax might have been stolen.
Further reading on Used Saxophones.
Used Saxes Homepage.