When shopping for a piano privately you should hire a professional piano technician.
In today’s economy everyone is looking to save money, people are looking for tag sale pianos, Craig’s list Pianos, e-bay classifieds etc. Unfortunately many customers wind up taking away a cheap piano or free piano from a tag sale or Craig’s list to find out there was nothing free or cheap about it.
Piano Moving costs money, so does piano tuning and piano repairs, in many cases you’d be better off purchasing from a reputable dealer who will properly repair, prep, and tune the piano to A -440 pitch and provide, warranty and moving services, many (like us) include it..
A pretty typical scenario: True story…
Mrs. A has a 5 year old who wants to learn piano, and she decides she doesn’t want to invest much money. Mrs. A’s neighbor hears that she is looking and says she has a free upright and is willing to do her a favor and give it away. The piano is not very nice on the outside but Mrs. A figures she will put it in her basement. Delighted she jumps on the opportunity because it’s free. Next she decides to call a piano mover and arranges it to be picked up and delivered to her house without consulting a technician. Mistake # 1.
1. The mover quotes $450.00 because there are stairs coming up from the basement, but she is ok with that because remember- it’s free. Mistake # 2.
2. After the piano has been moved she notices that there are some notes that do not play right, so she figures she will have the piano tuned. Again, she is okay with this because it’s a “free piano”. The piano tuner shows up takes a listen and one look at this antique mess and thinks to himself, “Oh my god… another ‘free’ piano…”. He opens the piano and checks it for pitch evaluation and mechanical repairs.
3. This is what he came up with. The piano hadn’t been tuned for almost twenty years (should be done at least once per year) and it’s no mystery why because the piano has loose tuning pins and will not hold tune, in addition the piano has a brass flange action, with some broken flanges (they are very difficult and expensive to repair because they are nearly extinct). She finds out that in order to make this piano play and hold tune it will require $ 1,500.00 but the worst part is, it is an extinct no name piano that will not be worth more than $200 – $300 when done.
The total cost of her mistakes:
•Piano Moving: $450.00 plus tax $483.75
• Re-pin the piano with oversize tuning pins and repair the action so the piano will play: $1,500.00 plus tax $1,612.50
Total cost: $2,096.00
Total value of piano: $250.00
The moral of the story:
She lost almost $500.00 has to pay again to remove this one and junk it ($300) and she still needs another piano approx. $800 – $1,000, she could have purchased a nice one tuned and delivered with a warranty for less than a thousand dollars. She received a very expensive free piano!
Who did who a favor?
There are good used pianos out there, however the above scenario takes place all too often, don’t roll the dice like Mrs. A. Be smart hire, a qualified piano technician, not a teacher. You are only talking between $ 75 – 100 dollars. The best decision that you can make. Piano teachers, while they mean well, are not qualified in the mechanical aspect of a piano, it take years of special training and work in the field. Keep in mind they also want you to subscribe for lessons and unfortunately some will take advantage of the opportunity.
Insurance and purchase appraisals:
Steve Oliver has been in piano his families stores and factories since the age of 10. Coming from a family with over 100 years of experience, Steve is familiar with all piano manufacturers many that are no longer listed today.
Do you know how many US piano companies were in business in the early 1900’s? There were hundreds of piano manufacturers, many of them in New York, Boston and Baltimore. Before radio or television were invented, the acoustic piano and player piano were the most popular forms of entertainment in the home in the early 1900’s.
Since piano values are based primarily on age, condition and piano manufacturer, there is no way a Blue Book or pricing guide can be accurate. It is important to have an appraiser who is very familiar with all older brands and their characteristics. Whether good or bad, the overall value and decisions about whether to keep, repair or rebuild should be made by a professional.
- A visual inspection of the cabinet, finish, veneers.
- A visual inspection of the piano interior to determine condition of harp, sound board, bridges, strings and dampers.
- A “bottom-up” visual inspection of the underside of the piano including sound board, ribs, body, lyre, pedals and trap work (mechanism).
- The piano action is then removed for inspection.
- The condition of the hammers and all action components, including keys, shanks, wippens, felts, springs, and bushings, are checked for wear and deficiencies.
- Random tuning pins are checked for proper torque. Please note all tuning pins can not be checked unless a piano tuning is requested.
- The serial number is noted, and in most cases, the age will be identified. (Our reference library contains some of the oldest listings of pianos.)
- A verbal consultation is included to discuss the overall condition of the piano, any recommended repairs and costs, and the current wholesale and/or retail value of the piano.
- A written appraisal and evaluation can be provided for a nominal additional fee. Insurance replacement costs can also be provided.
- If you have Angie’s list, check out our reviews, Steve Oliver is on the Honor roll.