Having been in the saddlery trade for over twenty years, one of the more basic and often asked questions is how to price used saddles. While this process is certainly far from an absolute science, there are a few guidelines that will help you determine a value. First, however, let me share two perspectives I have as a saddler before I apply these three guidelines. The first perspective I have is that it is a piece of equipment. Simple enough, but surprisingly I often encounter customers who think that the saddle will hold that new price value for years. Reality, however, is that no other piece of equipment ever holds the new price value because its purpose is to be used. In the course of being used, the lifetime of the equipment starts to decline. My second perspective is to follow a general “depreciation rule of thumb” and that is that depreciation is $150-$200 a year under normal use. Start here then answer these three questions (guidelines).
Who made it? Answering this question will quickly tell you what it was worth when it was new. A factory saddle will be worth less money due to simple supply and demand principles. Meaning, because there are ten thousand saddles made by XYZ Company it is relatively easy to find another one. A reputable custom saddler works off of the same principle. If you find a saddler you like or that the market place likes it can be hard to find one, therefore the value stays up. Lastly, the answer to “who made it” will give us an idea of the quality of craftsmanship that went into it. The quality of work that went into the saddle will determine the longevity of the saddle.
How “used” is it? There should be an expectation that the saddle should take on a certain amount of abuse. What hurts the saddle value is use that is excessive for the age (beyond a normal $150-200 annually) and use not addressed. For instance, a two year old car with 100,000 miles is worth less than a two year old car with 25,000 miles on it. Another example would be a car that only gets an oil change every 12,000 miles. Eventually this neglect will accelerate the car’s decline and depreciation. For a saddle, not cleaning and oiling it will hurt its value. The grime acts just like sandpaper grinding away on everything. In addition to cleaning and oiling, putting a sealant on it helps protect the leather. In a saddle that hasn’t been cared for, the leather swells with sweat then shrinks as it dries. As this process is repeated over and over again, it dries the leather out cracking it and making it weaker. In some places this is not a big deal. Around riggings, billets and stress points this is not something you want to see. Unfortunately, this is irreversible. One other telltale sign of how the saddle has been cared for is leather that is curling or is abnormally hard. Sometimes this can be reversible.
What body type does the saddle fit? If you know who made the tree and what the specs are on it you can determine how it will fit your horses. The main specs are the bar angle and gullet measurements. Every tree maker is a bit different making this an inaccurate science, but it gives a potential customer an idea if it will work for them. This matters in value because a saddle on either end of the extreme will not be worth as much. A saddle that fits the largest cross section of horses should appeal to more customers making it more valuable.
Answering these three questions should give you an idea how to price your saddle or give you some insights into purchasing a used saddle.