Over the years, I have facilitated the remanufacture of many 85 note Steinway B(s). This is the realistic scoop as for whether one should consider this acquisition or not. Does the partial restoration of a 85 note Steinway B make sense ? . The vintage Steinway B was of 85 notes up till around 1889. They were originally of Victorian art cases. Most were with the Steinway flowerpot leg styling,reeded pedal lyre and the filigree music rack etc. The 85 note Steinway B in that era is considered of a modern scale design when compared to that of a modern B. An 1889 B is near identical to that of a modern B scale with a very slight variation to the tenor duplex scale bar. Other than that it is as modern as a newer Steinway B. Bass strings are the same etc. One can't compare the B with the evolution of the 85 note Steinway A from the A-1 to the modern scale A-2.
If the prospective buyer puts precedence on the Victorian case, than this piano has retained it's vintage value whether 85 or 88 notes.
If one is thinking in the mindset of it's high level performance potential than this piano CAN BE a good choice ONLY IF one is planning on restoring the piano in it's entirety. A new soundboard,bridge caps and ribs is warranted along with the normal procedural rebuild. /action stack,damper action,pinblock,restring,repin etc. The piano is 120-130 years old so therefore there is nothing one can salvage in this "core piano" as for future remanufacture.I'm sure there are a few exceptions to my soundboard assumption though I have not seen any.It really depends on one's scrutiny as for whether a piano warrants a new board or not.
In the piano rebuilding industry, these 85 note specimens are discounted considerably compared to those of 88 notes, though restoration is NOT discounted for the lack of those 3 keys.
Personally. I think they are a great value in that a spec remanufacture of a 85 note B can be the same $ as a 88 note M.What would one rather have a remanufactured 85 note B or an 88 note restored M ?
Though some are in need of those 3 high treble notes but than again some can do without at maybe a savings of $3500 a key.
That is the 85 note B in a nutshell.