Original 8-key Flute Prices

How much did the original flute makers charge for their instruments?  What did you get for your money.   And what is that money worth today?  We dig into some old catalogues to find out ....

Purchasing Power

The original prices are quoted in Pounds Sterling.  An "equivalent purchasing power" figure has been estimated using the calculator at http://eh.net/hmit/.  It gives a figure in US Dollars for the year 2001.

Nicholson's Improved Flutes

from an advertisement by Clementi & Co in the Fourteenth Edition of Wragg's Improved Flute Preceptor, Op. 6, 1818.



Elegant Cocoa or Ebony (Nicholson's Improved) Flutes, with Patent Tube head, Silver Tips, Elastic Plugs, and Double Springs to the Keys, &c.
with 8 Silver Keys 10 10  0 $636
with 7 Silver Keys 9  9  0 $573
with 6 Silver Keys 8  8  0 $509
Elegant Ivory Flutes, as the above, at additional prices.

Rudall, Rose, Carte & Co, c1855

These prices and details are extracted from an advertisement that appeared in Carte's Sketch of the Successive Improvements in the Flute, 2nd Ed.  As much as possible I've retained the wording of the original.  My notes are in square brackets.




THE ORDINARY EIGHT KEYED FLUTE, Boxwood, German Silver Keys and Mountings, Tuning Slide, Single Springs, without Case

[Note boxwood and nickel silver used for cheapest flutes]

4  4  0 $305
DITTO, Cocoa, Boxwood, Ebony

[i.e. cocus or ebony with nickel silver keys.  Surely boxwood is included here in error?]

6  6  0 $458
DITTO DITTO, with stronger Silver Keys and Mountings than the above, Superior Wood, Double Springs, in Case, complete, with Fittings

[Presumably "stronger Silver" means sterling.  Note that double springs were only fitted to the better class instruments.]

11 11 0 $840
DITTO, with extra Key to shake B flat (9 Keys)

[Presumably duplicate touch and shaft for right hand index finger]

12 12 0 $916
DITTO, with extra Keys to shake B flat & C sharp (10 Keys) [C# shake key gives D when open?] 13 13 0 $992
DITTO, with extra Keys to shake B flat, C sharp and the upper E with D (11 Keys) [i.e. add an E trill] 14 14 0 $1068
DITTO, with Keys for lowest B and B flat (10 keys)

[Foot extension to B and Bb]

15 15 0 $1145
DITTO, with Keys for lowest B and B flat, and with extra Keys to shake B flat, C sharp and the upper E with D (13 Keys)

[with the lot!]

18 18 0 $1374
The above Flutes, with the Keys acting on Silver Pillars, at an extra charge according to order.
Any of the above, with Silver Sockets and Cork at the Joints, extra each joint [rather than thread] 10  6 $38ea
Any of the above, with Patent Tuning Head, extra 2  2  0 $153
Silver plate, half round the head at the embouchure [i.e. half lip plate] 10  6 $38
DITTO, entirely round the head [full lip plate] 1  1  0 $76

Military flutes

These are listed separately.  Note that ivory wasn't mentioned as an option above.  Note that a normal military (marching?) flute has only 4 keys, but that a military concert flute has the full 8.



BOXWOOD, with Four Brass Keys and Ivory Tips,
E flat Flutes [Brass to give the soldiers something to polish?]
1  6  0 $90
DITTO DITTO Concert Flute [i.e. D] 1  10  0 $104
All the above with tuning head, screw cork, cup keys, extra 12  0 $42
BOXWOOD CONCERT FLUTE, Eight Silver Keys and Mountings 5  5  0 $381
COCOA WOOD Concert Flute, with eight German Silver Keys and Mountings 4  4  0 $305

Rudall, Carte & Co, Ltd.

List of Concert Flutes and Piccolos, September 1922

This catalogue is devoted mostly to Boehm and the competing keyed systems of the time.  The back page however includes "Concert Flutes", available in conical or cylindrical bore.  A cylindrical 8-key is illustrated, with post-mounted keys and a Boehm style foot.


41.  Cocus or Blackwood, with 8 German Silver keys on pillars and modern foot joint. 12 17 0 $712
42.  Ebonite, ditto ditto 12 17 0 $712
43.  Cocus or Blackwood, with 10 German Silver keys on pillars and modern foot joint, the 9th and 10th keys being for the third fingers of each hand.  [ie the Siccama system - interesting when they turned Siccama down in 1847] 16  2  0 $892
44.  Ebonite, ditto ditto 16  2  0 $892

Hawkes & Son

From a catalogue marked in pencil: "Visited their establishment, 1905"



SIMPLE SYSTEM FLUTE, FIRST CLASS, in Cocoa Wood, with Tuning Slide, Eight German Silver Keys mounted on Blocks, Large Holes and Bore 3  3  0 $295
THE SAME INSTRUMENT, SUPERIOR CLASS, in Cocoa Wood, all Keys on Pillars 4 14 6 $442
THE  SAME INSTRUMENT, in Ebonite, extra 1  1  0 $98
THE SAME INSTRUMENT, EXCELSIOR SONOROUS CLASS, in Cocoa Wood, Eight German Silver Keys on Pillars, Large Holes and Bores, Tuning Slide - specially made for Artists and Professionals, with Improved Foot Joint, as in design ... 7  7  0 $688
In Ebonite, extra ... ... .., 1  1  0 $98
With Sterling Silver Keys, extra... 5  5  0 $492

If you know of or have access to any other catalogues or advertisements of the times, I'd like to be able to add relevant information to the list above.  Your help will of course be acknowledged.


The catalogues from which this information was taken were located in the Dayton C Miller collection at the US Library of Congress.  

Thanks to Canberra flute player Tim Shirley for bringing the EH.net purchasing power calculator to my attention.

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