There are many kinds & many sizes of accordions. They range from small concertinas to full size & piano keyed. Some play different notes depending on whether the bellows is stretched or compressed & others always play the same note off the same key. For Irish & folk music, you may want a button accordion with 2 or 3 different scales. French Cafe music of the 1930's has many fast transitions & will require a piano keyed (or chromatic button) accordion. If you want the full range of music including Russian, Gypsy and others using minor key, you will need a piano keyed (or chromatic button) accordion to access the sharps & flats of the minor key. If you are uncertain, please hit the "back arrow" and then click the "Types of Accordions" web page link.
In all things, new usually works better than old & this is true of accordions. They have many failure modes (see failure modes web page) & shipment only aggrevates the weaknesses of an old instrument. If you want to buy used, I recommend either examining the instrument carefully or buying from a reptuable dealer who insures & guarantees the instrument. On the positive side, I have bought a couple of lovely used instruments which "ballanced out" the "pigs" that I also bought. If you are on a tight budget & need to hit it right the first time, I recommend paying a bit more & buying from a reputable dealer.
Currently, accordions are manufactured in Germany, Italy & China. Concertinas are manufactured in Germany, Italy, China, England, & the U.S.. I have not owned a Chinese accordion, but there seems to be skepticism regarding the quality. Some are touted as being of good (Hohner & Concertinas Jack, Jackie & Elise) but I recommend calling a reputable dealer on the telephone for a discussion. Alternatively, buy an instrument manufactured in Europe from a long established manufacturer.
Of particular interest is the Weltmeister. It is made in the former East Germany by a 100+ year old company. I have one & it plays well, sound good & is well built. The cost is reasonable. Weltmeisters (either Piano Keyed or Button Boxes) can be purchased in the U.S. from Liberty Bellows (see below). Liberty Bellows also sells a range of European & higher quality Chinese made accordions. I have not bought from Liberty Bellows but their web site looks reasonable.
An Internet search will identify many suppliers for accordiions, but here are two.
An Internet search will identify multiple suppliers for button accordiions, but here are two:
Concertinas can be purchased from a number of sources including the following:
There is a certain romance that comes with old accordions; however, there is also considerable risk in their purchase. Accordions have many failure modes & often do not ship well. For those who like to tinker with old equipment, they are interesting & often quite repairable. But unless you like this kind of activity & are willing to invest in a few basic tools & supplies, I would recommend buying an accordion guaranteed to be in good working order. Some of the more common accordion failure modes & things to look for when handling a used instrument are found here: failure modes There are a number of places to buy used instruments.
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Paul F. Watson