We get this question all the time. So many times people call up and have old pianos they think are valuable. The first question isn’t: What’s the brand or what’s the size? It comes down to one thing: condition. Condition is everything with pianos. You’d think that a piano that dates back a hundred years or more would have some antique value. You hear about people who find treasures on Antiques Roadshow and they find out things they own are worth a lot of money. Not so much with pianos.
Now there are some exceptions. First, if for example you had one of the very first Steinway pianos ever made or maybe even another manufacturer, one that’s truly historical in its significance. For example, if Chickering only made half a dozen of a certain model and you had one of the last one’s made in the 1860s, there could be some antique value. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I would say maybe one out of 10,000 pianos might fit into that criteria. It’s a rare thing to have true antique value. Another example might be a piano that was owned by a famous person. That’s a whole other area, and as a matter of fact, for appraisals you have to find the right appraiser who can take that into account because it is really hard to assess value based upon a piano’s lineage.
Other than that, what other things are there to look for? There are certain brands that have more stature than others. Naturally, Steinway is the most well known brand of any piano. So, older Steinways can retain value even when they need rebuilding. There’s a market for them because used Steinways can command much more money than other pianos because everybody knows the name. Still, the condition is so important because the cost of rebuilding a piano can be very expensive. It can cost $20,000 – $30,000 to rebuild a piano that has been neglected or has seen much use over the years. You have to ask yourself what the piano would be worth after restoration. If the answer is less than the cost of the work that you’re going to put into it, you’ve got a negative net worth which is obviously no value.
So that’s the long and short of it. There really isn’t antique value in pianos generally with the exceptions I articulated at the beginning of something truly rare, something where only a handful were ever made from a respected manufacture. Otherwise, sadly, there are a lot of old pianos out there that go begging and we do our best here at Living Pianos to provide a new life for some of the magnificent instruments of years past. Robert Estrin info@LivingPianos.com 949-244-3729