Posts tagged Baldwin

How Much is My Piano Worth?

This is a quick and easy guide to price out what a piano is worth.  But before i get into that, let’s pretend for a moment that i know nothing about pianos… who knows… you, the reader might be in that situation.  Let’s say… i’m shopping for a houseboat (which i know nothing about BTW).  If i started my search, this would be my process:  I’d investigate new ones… I’d search for “BEST OF” makes and models, look at used ones, find out which ones hold value, which are most sought after and above that look at location and condition.  Pianos really are no different. There are about 4-5 parameters that i constantly bear in mind when evaluating instruments:

  1. Find out new value (if at all possible… many pianos have gone out of biz in the last 100 years…more on that later)
  2. Look online to find used comparisons
  3. This will determine what value retention is like
  4. Condition condition condition
  5. Location location location

So… case study #1  Let’s say you own a studio yamaha upright piano (pictured above).  Let’s say you own a model E108.  The new versions of those pianos locally sell for about $4000 CDN.  My rule of thumb is used pianos in mint condition sell for about half what a new one lists for.  Why? Well put the shoe on the other foot being a consumer.  Let’s say you want to buy a piano.  What would motivate you to buy used vs. new? If a new piano is $4000 and a used one is $3500… i’d usually buy the new one for a few more dollars and have warranty etc.  If the used one is $2200 (with no tax being a private sale) and a new one is $4000 plus tax (roughly $4400), the used savings are substantial enough to warrant buying used (at a cost savings of $2000 or more).  Finding out used comparisons… there are ones listed between $1800 and $3200… so you need to decide then what condition your piano is in.  Ask yourself “How close to new does my piano appear?”  Then examine again what other examples locally are selling for.  If yours is a MINT version of what you see locally… you may want to price it a bit higher.  Condition drastically affects piano value.  I’ve had beat up grands and excellent condition grands – same model and have a HUGE price disparity due to condition.  Look for evidence of condition – rust, cracks, chips, scratches.  Generally outside condition is often indicative of inside condition as well.  Finally… location.  I’m AMAZED at how pianos sell for different dollars in different locations.  It’s called supply/demand.  If the demand is higher, the price is according. Locally economic health also affects many used items. 

Case study #2… old piano… a Nordheimer (see below)… you can tell it’s old because of the fact that it looks like an antique.  It looks NOTHING like a new piano.  These are trickier to price in some ways. Some have had new parts, some have been refinished.  But the fact remains that most tall pianos (55 inch) that look kinda crusty are usually better part of 100 years old.  Now before you get all wound up about the fact that you’re holding on to an ‘antique’ artifact, let me dispell the myth that there are only 2 kinds of pianos: modern design and ‘early’ piano.  Early pianos ARE collectable and are specific models made between 1800 and about 1850 but even those aren’t necessarily valuable.   The ‘modern’ piano as we know it almost became standardized by the year 1900.   So… looking online… see the wide range of value? $100 – $3000!  Find some that look reasonably the same.  Quite quickly you’ll realise that value is more a product of supply/demand than condition.  Most old pianos these days are valued locally here at about $500-800.  “But… but… but… we put THOUSANDS into the resoration of our piano” you protest.  I hear ya… and i feel for ya… but refinishing, new parts will only bump up the price somewhat. 

Finally, bear in mind the name… with name is associated price.  Steinway for example fetches many times more than weird and obscure pianos REGARDLESS of quality.  Why? They’ve managed to stay on top of their game (let alone they’re still in business today).  Other names such as Yamaha, Kawai, Baldwin, Young Chang, Samick, Pearl River etc… are also household names.  These pianos will always have better value retention because of the name association.

OK OK OK one last note… if you’re STILL stuck, contact either a store or a technician. I field questions ALL the time about value and what people should price pianos at.  Good luck! And happy selling. Cheers!

Drive the Car

f1I was 22 years of age when i was hired by the local Baldwin piano store.  The owner was a technician and the first words out of his mouth were “Glen, you may be educated in performance but i just want to tell you that because you know how to DRIVE the car, don’t presume that you know how the car works”.  He then proceeded to tell me that the mechanic is not the driver in the Formula1.  And so i took his advice to heart.  I began to learn about the insides of the piano.  I will say however, that being a driver and a mechanic both have distinct advantages.  I remember this boss calling me to his workshop to try out a newly rebuilt piano. He’s all smiles and with big outstretched arms he points to the piano… “VOILA!”  He asks me to play.  I remember not being impressed by the piano and how put off he was because i couldn’t properly articulate what it was i didn’t like about the piano.  And then it occurred to me that regardless of what your thoughts are re: the makeup of the instrument, it’s the driver still that counts – they’re the ones who are going to play this instrument.

grandSo how do you properly test drive an instrument?  It’s funny because i get lots of students through my doors looking for pianos and who do they get to preview the piano? Why, the teacher no less.  But again, teachers are drivers and usually have very little understanding of what is going on in the piano.  They walk around the instrument and give the ol’ inspection “mmm hmmm’s”  but don’t really know what to say.  LOL…ok this is funny – so you know the grand lid on a piano? It’s the 45 degree angled part held up by what is called a prop stick.  After previewing a Steinway grand for her client… she finally said.  “SOooooo, this is one of those ‘one-stick’ pianos”.  (most pianos have 2 or 3) OK ok ok… i thot it was funny… kinda like judging the car by the antennae.  Anyway… here are some tricks and tips on testing pianos:

  1. Test the piano at different volume levels.  My trumpet teacher used to say “any 2 year old can blat a horn – it takes a master to play it quietly”.  Much is the same at the piano.  If a piano is ever going to misfire, it will be at soft volumes
  2. Play each key – find out if there are any sticking or problem notes – listen especially for buzzes and rattles
  3. Find the crossover.  The crossover is the spot where the bass copper coloured strings change to steel strings.  This is usually a problematic place on most pianos for consistency.  Great pianos will have a very gradual change in tone.
  4. Sustain.  Sustain is your friend.  Take one note – moderate volume – play it and listen to how long it takes to die away.  If it’s short lived, quite often the soundboard (the amplifier) is dead.
  5. Excessively loose or heavy action.  Take one key – depress the notes on either side then grab hold of the sides of the key and wiggle it back and forth – left to right.  Does it ‘knock’?  Worn out pianos usually will have a notable ‘click’ here.  As well, lift the very front of the key by the overhang – ever so slightly (you don’t want to rip off the keytop!)  It should rise only about 1/16″ but it should also fall on it’s own weight.  Newer pianos quite often are tight and if there’s too much friction here, they won’t fall back to rest position.
  6. Finally, test the workings of the pedals.  Make sure the damper blocks lift simultaneously and in a comfortable manner.

Oh there are many many other tests you can do… but these will cover the basics. Enjoy!

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