In the sunny corner of a large Victorian home in Tyronza, AR, stood a mahogany Story and Clark grand piano purchased as a wedding gift for the homeowner’s bride. Bellwood Farrell, M.D., had traveled to New York City to search for the finest instrument he could locate for Beulah Mae, his beloved fiancée. During the early years of marriage, Bell left for work to the lilting sounds of romantic interludes like “Moonlight Sonata” or “The Blue Danube.” When the girls were born, the morning was filled with lullabies. As the years passed, the evenings ended around the piano with Mae, Bell and the children singing hymns, classics or listening to Lila Ruth, the twelve year old, shaking the room with the sounds of jazz.
What is the worth of a piano when its memories reside in the owner’s heart?
Here are five tips to help determine the value of an heirloom piano:
1. Age: Piano age is different from other personal objects, such as an automobile. A car becomes an antique when it’s 25 years old. In order for a piano to be considered antique or vintage, it must be fairly close to 100 years old, but age alone does not make it valuable.
2. Unique qualities: If the piano is constructed of an uncommon wood or other material, has ornate or custom woodworking and/or is of an unusual or interesting design, this adds to its value. Another important consideration involves the instrument’s former owner. If the previous owner was iconic or celebrity, albeit in theater, government or financials, this could also up the value.
3. Brand name: In general, particularly when dealing with pianos made in the twentieth century, pianos that cost more when they were originally purchased are worth more today. In theory, brand names with a lot of name recognition—like Steinway, Mason & Hamlin, Knabe, Story & Clark and Chickering—could potentially have more value than lesser-known brands.
4. Condition: This suggestion comes with a caveat. While a piano that needs a lot of work may not have much “as is” value, it could be worth much more after restoration. However, when determining the value of the piano as it currently sits, certain conditions come into play.
Look for the following flaws:
· Is the finish chipped or peeling?
· Are the pedals functional?
· Are the hammers and strings in inferior condition?
· Are the keys pristine?
· Is the soundboard solid?
The answers to these questions can determine the sale price on a vintage piano. Restoring a fine piano to its original beauty in sound and appearance can add untold worth to the instrument. However, the company that does the restoration should issue warranties ranging from five to ten years, and should include shipping from and back to the owner.
5. Level of restoration: The quality and level of restoration contribute to determining the value of a piano. Check this list of some of the important parts of a piano for restoration purposes: Soundboard; bridges, bridge caps, bridge pins; pinblock; damper underlevers; bass strings; tuning pins; decal; harp; hammers; shanks & flanges; wippins; backchecks; key bushings; and, ivory & ebony keyboard. Updating, overhauling and refinishing a quality instrument to its original glory adds significant worth, and can bring a piano to an even finer tone and condition than when first constructed.