Posts tagged buy
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:
- Find out new value (if at all possible… many pianos have gone out of biz in the last 100 years…more on that later)
- Look online to find used comparisons
- This will determine what value retention is like
- Condition condition condition
- 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!
I regularly get asked this question in my shop. What IS the difference between big pianos and small pianos? Well i’m going to preface this by asking you a question, “Do you ever see small pianos in concert halls?” The answer unequivocally is a resounding NO. Logically then, ALL piano makers have come to the same conclusion that bigger pianos are somehow better. And you could argue that big pianos fill big rooms with sound. And there is a measure of truth to that, HOWEVER… my nephew who is in his 20’s has a stereo system in his car that is a 1000 watts of output. Now when you consider an average home stereo might be 200-400 watts and a clock radio might be 1-2 watts, a whopping 1000 watts seems overkill right? Well the bigger the stereo system, generally speaking, the greater the fidelity. In pianos too, the longer the strings (thus making a bigger piano), the richer the fundamental… generally speaking. The what? The fundamental? What is that? Glad you asked. The fundamental is the base frequency of a note. Within every note on any instrument, there is a rainbow spectrum of harmonic tones. The fundamental then is the base… the one we hear the most – the pitch of the note. So if you play an E on the piano, primarily you will hear frequency corresponding to E. Within the body of that note though are other notes – namely the 5th, the 7th, the 10th etc. So within an E note are also present “overtones” or “harmonics” of B, D and G#. They all are embodied in that same note. A trained ear will hear them. In fact, piano tuners tune a piano way more based on the sonority of the overtones than the pitch of the note which brings me back to the original quest for the truth about large pianos: Large pianos generally have more fundamental and more pleasing harmonics than small pianos. And THAT is precisely why you should always find as BIG a piano as your space and budget can afford. You will be MUCH happier with a taller upright and a longer grand because the fundamentals will be more present and there will be less conflict with ringing overtones.