What Is My Piano Worth?
What is my piano worth?
We are contacted everyday by people asking the value of their piano. Usually this is a piano that they have either recently acquired (or are considering acquiring) or are planning to relinquish. Pianos are large and often difficult to move, so this question often comes from people with an imminent or recent real estate transaction.
Top reasons people ask this question:
“I’m downsizing and can’t take my piano with me”
“I’ve just moved and the previous owners left this piano in the living room”
“I’ve just inherited my family’s old piano.”
“I’ve just bought a new house and am considering buying a used piano.”
If this last one is you, please read our article What is the Best Piano for a Beginner
In this article we’ll discuss what factors contribute to a piano’s value (hint… it isn’t antiquity) to help you determine the best next steps for you and your piano. Is your piano something that could net you some extra cash or is it something you’ll need to pay to have disposed of?
M. Steinert & Sons has been in the piano business for 160 years and has experienced almost every age/condition/piano imaginable. The first thing we like to let people know is there isn’t a credible “Blue Book” for piano values like there is for cars, coins etc.
The most important thing to understand is that a piano gains the majority of its value from it’s musical quality. This has been true throughout the piano’s 300+ year history with very few exceptions. Age does not make a piano worth more; it makes it worth less. We expand on this in our New Vs Used Steinway article.
What Factors Contribute to a Piano’s Value?
There are 3 main factors that determine the actual value of a piano (in order of importance):
- Musical Quality
What factors affect Musical Quality?
1. Manufacturer’s Design/Construction:
Did you know that there were over 1000 piano manufacturers in America during the turn of the 20th century? Today there is only one of significance; Steinway & Sons. Most American piano factories were located on the eastern seaboard between Washington DC and Boston. There were many tens of thousands of pianos built between 1890 and 1940 and a number of those pianos still survive today in some form.
Then, as now, there were builders of varying quality; Steinway & Sons in New York and Chickering & Sons from Boston were some of the high quality builders. There were many others of differing quality including our own firm M. Steinert & Sons which built pianos in two factories in Leominster MA under the names Jewett, Hume, Woodbury and Steinert.
Manufacturers and brands that retain the most value and are most re-sellable on the open market:
- Steinway & Sons pianos less than 40 years old (30 years old is the cutoff to be considered for the Steinway Certified Pre-Owned Program)
- Yamaha and Kawai pianos less than 15 years old
- Steinway Designed Boston and Essex Pianos less than 15-20 years old
- Samick pianos (including Knabe, Kohler & Campbell, Pramberger, Seiler etc) less than 15 years old
- Pearl River pianos less than 10 years old
- Higher-end European Manufacturers less than 20 years old, such as Bosendorfer, Fazioli, Bechstein, to name a few.
European Made Pianos and Grey Market Yamaha
While on the subject 0f European-Made pianos, it is important to understand the effects of ambient climate on a piano. Seasonal and daily changes in temperature and humidity will have dramatic effects on a piano. Many of the more expensive European brands utilize native European lumber and are designed for the European climate, which tends to be more mild by comparison to much of North America, particularly when compared to the Northeast United States. This is why antique European furniture often experiences rapid deterioration when moved to the more hostile New England environment.
Also of note, many Asian-built pianos are also less resistant to seasonal climate variations of North America. The construction process of a budget-conscious piano values cost and speed of construction over high quality materials/woods and curing time of woods. As a result many Asian built pianos deteriorate rapidly in the North American climate. In fact, Yamaha notes on their website that it builds pianos “not suitable for the US Market.” https://www.yamaha.com/ussub/pianos/SerialNumberlookup.aspx
Experience has suggested many of the used Yamaha pianos being brought to North America today are pianos that were manufactured for the Japanese market…also known as the grey market pianos. Based on Yamaha experience with pianos not seasoned for the US market, we strongly discourage the purchase.
As you can glean from the above, even more critical than Manufacturer to the value of a piano is the Condition. Over time, as a piano is subjected to its ambient environment, the materials (wood, felt, wire) degrade and the design either allows for upgrading/replacement of components or it does not.
The majority of pianos over 40 years old have zero or negative value. Negative value would be due to the cost of removal and disposal of non-functional pianos.
One exception to this rule; Steinway & Sons grand pianos retain some residual value in advanced age and poor condition. This is a testament to the Steinway design and the longevity of Steinway & Sons as a company. The design allows the piano to be rebuilt, have components replaced and be restored. The longevity of the company means there is access to parts and expertise to allow high quality restoration. Rebuilding a Steinway & Sons piano is not an inexpensive or easy proposition. As such, the residual value is fairly limited for these pianos. For more information on rebuilding Steinway pianos, please see our articles:
3. Furniture/Style effect on value
Pianos of the past are often appreciated for their esthetic value as furniture pieces. Some styles of furniture are less popular today than in the past and don’t fit with current preferences in décor. For some, these styles are preferred. Taste is always in flux.
Today, there is a general trend away from wood grain exterior veneer to a preference for ‘classic’ black. This preference shifts over the years – and has been tilting towards black polish finishes. A flawless black polish finish increases the value of the piano.
We understand that many instruments are imbued with a sense of history associated with long term family usage and joyous moments spent around an instrument. This becomes a sensitive and difficult part of the valuation process for many. It also leads many into search for rebuilding or restoration services that will often cost more than the instrument could ever be worth. See our article on Pros and Cons of New vs Rebuilt Steinway
Nostalgia and emotion have historically prevented non-functional pianos from being disposed of. As a result, living rooms, dens, basements, attics, and parlors in America are still populated by old pianos in poor condition with no real monetary or musical value.
SO – What’s my piano worth?
Here’s a simple chart that gives you a range of possibilities based on our experience for piano values:
|Piano Type||Age||Approximate Value Range|
|Steinway & Sons|
|Steinway & Sons||40+ years||$1,000- $15,000 “shell value”|
|Steinway & Sons||5-10 years||Around 80% of new $60,000 to $90,000|
|Steinway & Sons||10-20 years||60-70 % of new
$45,000 to $70,000
|Steinway & Sons||20-30 years||50% of new
$40,000 – $60,000
|Yamaha/Kawai/Samick||30+ years||Zero to -$400|
|Yamaha/Kawai/Samick||20-30 years||$0 – $5,000|
|Known European Make|
|Known European Make||40+ years||$0 to $20,000|
|Known European Make||20-40 years||$1,000 to $20,000|
|Known European Make||5-20 years||$10,000 to $50,000|
|American Piano No Longer Produced||40+ years||$0 to $5,000|
Will You Buy My Piano?
M. Steinert & Sons will occasionally consign a good used piano and less frequently purchase a piano outright. We have been selling and servicing pianos for 160 years and are aware of the market for certain brands and models.
If after reading this article you determine that your piano may have sufficient monetary value – complete our piano evaluation form and we’ll let you know our interest in purchasing within 7 days.