Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today I’m going to tell you about five used pianos you should buy. There are so many different pianos out there that you should buy if you possibly can. There are some amazing instruments, but it’s all about condition. That is the big challenge with any used piano. That’s the caveat going into this. What are some instruments that you should look for? A lot of it depends upon what you’re after.
If you want a solid workhorse upright, there’s always the dependable Yamaha U1.
The good thing about the U1 is that they’re so popular that there are tons of used ones out there. Not only that, but the Japanese tend not to like used pianos very much. There’s a whole cottage industry of people who refurbish them and ship them to the United States to be sold in the used market. These are sometimes referred to as gray market pianos, which you can read about here:
It’s true that an older U1 might not have the same sound and quality as a newer one. It depends upon how much it’s been played, how much wear, the degree of restoration, and many other factors. But since there are so many of them out there, you could probably go to a number of piano stores and find used U1s. Technicians know how to work on them. They are dependable pianos. It’s easy to go with a good Yamaha if you’re looking for a mid-range upright that’s going to do the job for you without breaking the bank.
I’m a real lover of Baldwin pianos.
I grew up with Baldwin pianos. My father, Morton Estrin, was a Baldwin artist. We had Baldwin Grands in our home. In fact, my sister has my father’s seven foot Baldwin, which we restored for her. And I have his Steinway here, which is a whole other story we’re going to get to next. Baldwin, particularly the Artist Series Baldwins, represent tremendous value. Baldwin suffered a bankruptcy in the early 2000s. There was some quality decline towards the end. Worse than that, now there are Chinese pianos bearing the Baldwin name. It has cheapened the brand. Because of that, you can get a piano that’s on a top-tier level for closer to a mid-range price. Once again, it’s all about the condition and which particular years the pianos were manufactured. There are some deals on Artist Series Baldwins that are worth your attention.
Steinway pianos can be a tremendous investment if they’re rebuilt well.
There are a lot of people who just do what I call cosmetic rebuilds because there are so many people looking for Steinways. The smallest baby grand Steinway costs over $80,000 new! So obviously to get a used one in good condition for less than that can be a tremendous investment. So that’s a great used piano to look for. They are very popular. There are a lot of good used Steinways out there. But there also are a lot of questionable used Steinways out there. Once again, if you have questions, you can always hire a piano technician to check the piano for you.
I mentioned Baldwin and Steinway, I must also mention Mason and Hamlin.
Mason & Hamlin still build pianos outside of Boston. You can sometimes find deals on older Mason and Hamlin pianos. Again, some years were better than others, and condition is of paramount importance. But Mason & Hamlins are built so tough that they tend to last longer than a lot of other pianos. They have the tension resonator bracing underneath which supports the soundboard and the rim of the piano. So a lot of older Mason and Hamlins still have a lot of potential, as long as the worn parts are replaced.
One of the great uprights of all time were Baldwin Hamiltons.
The Baldwin Hamilton used to be the most popular upright in America. In fact, that was a piano I grew up with! My father bought my sister and me a Baldwin Hamilton as our practice piano. They were workhorse pianos. They were in schools and churches and homes. You can still find some of them out there. The furniture style isn’t quite as modern as pianos today. Often, they are in oak or other lighter woods. They are kind of industrial, but they were great practice pianos. If you find one that isn’t worn out, and if the furniture doesn’t bother you, it could be a tremendous piano to get.
Those are five pianos that are worth looking for on the used market.
I mentioned those five pianos, but honestly, any American made piano that’s not worn out, that has been well cared for, could be worth your while. Whether it’s a Knabe, a Chickering or a host of other brands, the methodology of many of these pianos is very similar to what Steinway and Mason & Hamlin make today. But because some of these brands are lesser known, you can get them for so much less money. If they’re not in bad shape, they could be worth putting some money into to get them on a high level. They can last a very long time.
What about other Asian pianos?
Asian pianos tend to not age as gracefully. More than that, let’s say you want to rebuild the action on a low end Chinese piano, for example. Well, maybe that piano only costs $10,000 new. Are you going to spend $5,000 to rebuild the action? It’s kind of questionable. However, sometimes you can find Asian pianos, whether they’re made in Indonesia, Korea, China, or even a Japanese piano that sat in somebody’s home as a furniture piece, rarely played, and everything’s in good shape. It probably needs tuning, regulation, lubrication, and a host of refinements. But maybe it’ll cost you less than $1,000 to do the work on it. If the piano has never been played, you can have a perfectly good instrument for a fraction of what it costs new. So you can’t leave out Asian pianos completely, as long as they don’t need much work. They can be worthwhile for you for the right price!
If you have questions about specific pianos that you’re looking at, you’re welcome to email me Robert@LivingPianos.com. I hope this has been helpful for you! Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.
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