FAQS – Antique Piano Shop

how to cheaply learn piano

How to cheaply learn piano

HOW OLD IS MY PIANO OR ORGAN?

The most frequently asked question we receive is

“How old is my piano?”

Dating an instrument by serial number and brand name

The most accurate way to determine the specific age of your instrument is by cross-referencing the brand name with the serial number. There are a handful of historical publications that can be used to cross-reference brand names with serial numbers in order to determine specific dates of manufacture. While most major manufactures are listed in these archives, some smaller and lesser-known firms may not be listed. Sadly, the history of many obscure firms has been lost over time.

Estimating the general age of an instrument

In cases where a manufacturer is not listed in our archives, we must “guesstimate” the age of an instrument based on the evolution of design and construction. Our experts are generally able to estimate the age of an instrument within a 5 – 10 year period based solely on design and construction.

You may also get a general > page on this website.

Where to find the brand name and serial number

In most pianos, the brand name and serial number can be found inside the instrument near the soundboard or strings.

  • Upright pianos usually have the brand name and serial number located inside the piano, on the back near the top of the strings.
  • Grand and square grand pianos usually have the brand name and serial number stamped on the soundboard or plate, as well as stamped on the top of each leg, pedal lyre, etc.
  • Organs and melodeons usually have the brand name and serial number stamped inside the cabinet, sometimes on handwritten tags or stickers.

It is important to identify the brand name located inside the instrument on the soundboard or harp. While most instruments have the actual brand name label on the keyboard cover, some instruments have the name of the original retailer or distributor listed on the keyboard cover instead of the actual manufacture’s name. The manufacturer’s label is generally cast into the harp or stamped on the soundboard inside the instrument.

If an instrument has ever been non-professionally stripped or refinished, chances are that the original name label above the keyboard was lost with the old finish (these name labels are replaced when professionally refinished). If the manufacturer’s label is missing from the keyboard cover, it will likely be found inside the instrument on the harp or soundboard.

Once you determine the brand name and serial number of your instrument, email us at info@antiquepianoshop.com and we will gladly assist you in determining the age of your instrument. Note that in some case when instruments are more rare or obsolete, we may require photos in order to help establish the age of your instrument.

Note: While searching for your brand name and serial number, you will likely find establishment dates and patent dates inside your instrument. It is important to point out that these are NOT manufacturing dates.

WHAT IS MY ANTIQUE PIANO OR ORGAN WORTH?

Sadly, we see original unrestored antique instruments selling for only a fraction of their potential restored value.

Restoration is not cheap, but it is necessary to make an instrument worth top dollar. For example, consider an antique automobile that has been sitting on blocks, forgotten and unused for decades. Rusting and ruining due to neglect, you wouldn’t expect this old car to fetch a very high price in unusable condition. However, if you invest in having the antique automobile restored to pristine “show-car” condition, you would then expect it to sell for a tidy sum – likely at a nice profit after your investment.

Antique pianos and organs are the same way in the real market. Pristinely restored, fully functional instruments sell for top dollar in the real market while original, unrestored instruments simply do not.

The term “restored” refers to professional interior and exterior restoration and rebuilding, not just cabinet refinishing and internal cleaning. Many people think that all their piano is needs is a simple “tune up” in order to be worth top dollar, not realizing that a simple service call cannot undo a century of abuse and neglect. Others think that because Grandma painted the family piano or organ in the garage 25 years ago that the instrument is “restored” and worth a fortune – not true!

Like an antique automobile, an antique instrument must be painstakingly restored, both functionally and aesthetically, in order to be worth top dollar in the real market.

Over the past decade, we have seen the value of antique pianos and organs nearly double across the board. Much of the credit goes to awareness and education – folks are now able to go to the internet and learn about what they have and are often encouraged to restore and preserve their heirloom instruments.

The best way to get an accurate value for your antique piano or organ is to get an official appraisal. Appraisals are generally done in person by a qualified appraiser, and a valid appraisal will cost money. While we do offer general value information to the general public, w e do not offer formal appraisal services for antique instruments we have not restored in our restoration shop.

A good way to get a general sense of what your antique instrument is worth in its current condition is by comparing it to the instruments shown in the value carousel below:

– Please scroll left or right to find your instrument’s proper category –

UPRIGHT PIANO

Circa 1850 – 1880

TODAY’S VALUE

$400 – $1,200 in poor condition
$2,000 – $8,000 in average to good condition
$16,000 – $25,000 totally restored to factory-new condition

UPRIGHT PIANO

Circa 1880 – 1900

TODAY’S VALUE

$300 – $1,100 in poor condition
$1,600 – $6,500 in average to good condition
$15,000 – $22,000 totally restored to factory-new condition

UPRIGHT PIANO

Circa 1900 – 1915

TODAY’S VALUE

$200 – $1,000 in poor condition
$1,200 – $4,500 in average to good condition
$14,000 – $20,000 totally restored to factory-new condition

UPRIGHT PIANO

Circa 1915 – 1930

TODAY’S VALUE

$100 – $800 in poor condition
$1,000 – $3,000 in average to good condition
$12,000 – $18,000 totally restored to factory-new condition

PLAYER PIANO

Circa 1905 – 1930

TODAY’S VALUE

$500 – $1,000 in poor condition
$2,000 – $3,000 good, non-functional condition
$3,500 – $6,500 in functional condition
$20,000 – $25,000 totally restored to factory-new condition

GRAND PIANO

Circa 1850 – 1880

TODAY’S VALUE

$1,500 – $3,500 in poor condition
$4,000 – $10,000 in average to good original condition
$35,000 – $75,000 totally restored to factory-new condition

GRAND PIANO

Circa 1880 – 1900

TODAY’S VALUE

$1,200 – $3,000 in poor condition
$3,500 – $8,000 in average to good original condition
$25,000 – $50,000 totally restored to factory-new condition

GRAND PIANO

Circa 1900 – 1915

TODAY’S VALUE

$1,000 – $2,500 in poor condition
$3,000 – $6,000 in average to good original condition
$20,000 – $40,000 totally restored to factory-new condition

GRAND PIANO

Circa 1915 – 1935

TODAY’S VALUE

$800 – $1,500 in poor condition
$2,500 – $4,500 in average to good original condition
$18,000 – $28,000 totally restored to factory-new condition

SQUARE GRAND PIANO

Circa 1840 – 1890

TODAY’S VALUE

$1,000 – $2,500 in poor condition
$3,500 – $6,500 in average to good original condition
$28,000 – $50,000 totally restored to factory-new condition

VICTORIA PUMP ORGAN

Circa 1865 – 1915

TODAY’S VALUE

$1,000 – $1,500 in poor condition
$2,500 – $4,500 in average to good original condition
$6,500 – $10,000 totally restored to factory-new condition

Circa 1840 – 1875

TODAY’S VALUE

$800 – $1,500 in poor condition
$2,000 – $4,000 in average to good original condition
$6,500 – $8,500 totally restored to factory-new condition

SPINET & CONSOLE PIANOS

Circa 1930 – 1985

TODAY’S VALUE

Small spinet & console pianos built after 1930 fall into the “Mid-Century Modern” category. We do not deal with spinet & console style pianos. We suggest you contact your local piano technican for information about them.

IS MY ANTIQUE INSTRUMENT WORTH THE INVESTMENT OF RESTORATION?

Restoration and preservation of an heirloom instrument is generally considered a wise investment.

With the flood of disposable cheap import pianos in today’s market and the exorbitantly high prices of quality new pianos, restoration and preservataion often makes more sense than buying new.

Sure, there are lots of cheap new pianos available everywhere you look, but you need to consider the fact that they are generally poor quality “throw away” pianos that won’t be here long term. Unfortunately, one has to spend a small fortune to get a quality new piano. Restoration of an heirloom instrument will yield much better value for your investment.

Will it cost more to restore my instrument than it will be worth?

How many home renovation or “house-flipping” shows have you seen on TV lately? People everywhere are renovating old homes and buildings so that they can be sold for profit in the end. Much like the real estate industry, restoring a vintage instrument adds real value to the piece, ultimately making the instrument worth more than the cost of restoration in most cases.

Restoration and preservation is an investment.

Like a new car, a new piano will lose value over time. The antique value of an heirloom instrument tends to increase over time, making restoration and preservation a wise investment. Over the past two decades, we have seen the value of heirloom instruments nearly double, a trend that will likely continue long term!

“It seems as if there are two basic mindsets in the piano industry: Those who value their heirloom pianos, and those who think they are junk. It is rare that we encounter those who take much middle-ground on the subject.

I have clients approach me asking, “Is my antique piano worth restoration?” My answer is almost always YES because of what I have seen in the real market over the past several years. Unfortunately, there are a lot of piano tuners and technicians out there who do not believe that heirloom instruments deserve restoration and preservation. Much of this prejudice comes from the fact that many in the piano industry have little (if any) experience with antique instruments and they are afraid of what they do not understand. However, there are also those who love and cherish these heirloom instruments and those who are passionate about restoring and preserving them for future generations.

Being a professional pianist is what got me so involved with piano restoration and preservation. I approach these vintage instruments from a pianist’s point of view first, and from a technical point of view second. I have personally sat down and played Beethoven piano sonatas on a restored pre-Civil War square grand piano. I got chills down my back because of the experience, knowing I was hearing the music the way Beethoven’s audience heard it firsthand. I have played Chopin and Schumann on restored 19th Century upright and grand pianos, the same instruments these masters would have played, and the power and warmth was incredibly moving. I suspect that many new piano dealers have not had the privilege of that experience, hence their prejudice against restoration and preservation . To me, many newer instruments don’t have the “soul” of these heirloom instruments, and they seem almost lifeless and sterile by comparison.

The real market has historically supported antique piano restoration and preservation, and it seems to be a growing trend. As restoration costs steadily increase, values of these antique instruments are steadily increasing as well. How can be that an instrument that cost hundreds of dollars a century ago (the cost of a small house) be worthless today? How can the old-growth wood from America’s virgin forests and the endangered ivory be disposable and tossed as >investments of a lifetime, our a ncestors would have gone to great sacrifice to own a piano or organ, expecting the instrument to be passed down through generations.

While respecting differing opinions, those who prefer new pianos over restoration are simply not our customers, just as those who are passionate about having an antique instrument restored are not likely to go out and buy a new piano. People who love and appreciate their heirloom instruments are the people who create the very real market for these instruments. People who do not share this love and appreciation will tell you the market doesn’t exist, but our extensive clientele proves otherwise .”

-Michael Stinnett, Founder
Antique Piano Shop, Inc.

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