We’ve often discussed the cost of fencing equipment, where to buy, and how to make the right choices at any particular time in a fencer’s career. I’m passionate about making fencing as cost-efficient as possible so that the most people are able to participate and parents aren’t overly burdened by the cost. Nonetheless, fencing is a sport that requires some investment and parents are understandably interested in ways to save money.
In this post we want to look into a question we often get from the parents at our club: “Should we buy our fencer’s equipment second-hand?”
First, second-hand can mean two basic (and very different) things:
- buying from an unknown third-party on craigslist, eBay, or a similar site, and
- buying from someone you know like a friend or clubmate.
For me, the first option is a definite NO. You don’t know what you’re getting as far as quality or wear-and-tear. You don’t want to compromise your child’s safety and you may end up wasting money if people misrepresent what they’re selling. It’s just not worth it.
The second option is something to consider, but not without caution. You still want to inspect the equipment and ask the right questions before agreeing to buy. If you ask the right questions and look for the right points of quality, you very well may be able to save money by buying used equipment from people you know. Plus, it’s nice to work together with fellow fencers to trade equipment or help your fellow parents recoup some costs.
Second, as with all things fencing, you should always take any advice or guidance from your coaches: ask for help if you have questions.
So what are the right questions and what should you look for specifically when buying used equipment?
You want to ask some important questions about how long the piece of equipment has been in use, and how competitive was the fencer who used it? More competitive fencers tend to take more abuse in their bouts due to an overall increased level of intensity, and also perhaps frequency of competing. Second-hand equipment coming from a highly competitive fencer might have some hidden issues. Also, make sure to ask about any known issues. People you know will generally be honest if you outright ask about the history of the item.
These equipment items might be appropriate to buy second-hand, depending on the answers to your questions:
– Chest protector: Chest protectors may have internal cracks. Of course, a protector used by only your child could also have internal cracks. If it looks to be in relatively good shape from the outside and has been used by a low- to medium-level fencer, it’s probably a good bet. If a highly competitive fencer has used it, I’d move on.
– Mask: Masks have to meet specific safety standards and a used mask may fall short. Also, a used mask may fail the tests that checks if it can withstand the required force. If a highly competitive fencer has used it for any amount of time, I would move on. For foil masks, make sure to check that the conductive bib is in working order.
– Lame: Lames often develop dead spots. Check for existing dead spots, but also know that they could appear soon after you purchase the lame if it wasn’t handled very well in the past. How a lame is handled is a critical factor in its lifespan. If it’s someone you really trust and their child isn’t highly competitive, perhaps you could consider buying second-hand. In all other cases, I suggest buying a new one and then taking good care of it.
– Weapons: Every time a weapon bends during a touch, the metal weakens. Every weapon will eventually snap after enough use. If it’s relatively new and you know the seller, you can give it a try. If it’s not relatively new or you don’t know if you can trust the seller, I would be wary that it’s been used quite a bit and may snap shortly after you purchase it.
These equipment items are a lower risk to purchase second-hand:
– Body cords: If it’s in working order and looks okay from the outside, these are a low-risk to purchase second-hand. Give it a try if you’re looking to save some money. Even when body cords break, they are relatively easy to fix.
– Jackets and knickers: Uniform items have the least safety concerns and you can mostly view the wear and tear from the outside. If they look very beat up, they probably weren’t well taken care of and I would skip these items. If they are in decent shape, go for it. This could be a quick way to save money with minimal risk.
– Equipment bag: Obviously no safety issues with a bag, so just use your own judgment of the quality and appearance for the price.
Regardless of the type of equipment, the best place to buy second-hand is at your own club. You are likely to know more about the fencer, their track record of taking care of equipment, and their level of competition. Especially at the younger ages as children quickly grow out of certain items, whether it be a jacket getting too small or a fencer graduating to a new weapon size.
Often the best time to purchase second-hand is when a piece of equipment is outgrown or a child decides to try a different sport, because the person isn’t selling it due to issues but just because their child has moved on. Plus, same club means same guidelines from club leadership, so you’re likely to find what you need right at home. Regardless, I still recommend having heightened awareness and asking good questions whenever you buy second-hand!
We’ve covered some ways to buy second-hand from an educated place, but at the same time, it’s worth mentioning some of the benefits to new equipment that go beyond safety or value. There is a certain joy in having new equipment that is yours alone: shiny, no defects, something you were able to specifically select for you. Equipment is a key element in many sports and in fencing it can play an important role in a child’s enjoyment of the sport. If your child is serious about fencing and dedicated to continuing, your choice to invest in new equipment is one way of showing support and adding to their joy. To be honest, buying equipment can be one of the least expensive parts of fencing if you follow some of our other guidelines and take good care of things. Something may seem expensive in the moment, but think about the lifetime of the item and the investment in your child as an athlete and future adult.