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#264807 - 12/29/04 09:07 AM Antique Pianos -- worth it??  
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 7
zzipidy Offline
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zzipidy  Offline
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Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 7
Denver, CO
I'm thinking about getting an Emerson Upright piano -- circa 1893. It's beautifully ornate and has all the entact ivories. The story is that it sat in a basement for over 40 years untouched. Apart from that I don't know anything about it. This would be our family's first piano -- is this something worth restoring, paying maybe up to $3K on fixing?? My husband, who has never played an instrument in his life, is sceptical, but I want a nice sounding piano for my kids to learn on, and I want something attractive in my house... any help!?!?!?

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#264808 - 12/29/04 09:14 AM Re: Antique Pianos -- worth it??  
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Larry Offline
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Larry  Offline
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3K won't "fix" it, it will just put a pretty face on it and patch up things enough for you to *think* it's fixed.

Old uprights might be "antiques" from the standpoint of age, but they have absolutely no antique value. The cost of properly restoring the piano and making it a dependable instrument will be 3 times what you've quoted, and it will be worth about 1500 bucks after you spend all that money.

Short version - if you just have to have it to look at, consider it a decoration in your home, not a piano. Then go buy a piano to play on. Just don't pay more than 100 bucks for the thing.


Life isn't measured by the breaths you take. Life is measured by the things that left you breathless
#264809 - 12/29/04 09:31 AM Re: Antique Pianos -- worth it??  
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Fan of the Bösendorfer Offline
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Fan of the Bösendorfer  Offline
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I second Larry's post. Verbatim.


Sarah
#264810 - 12/29/04 09:37 AM Re: Antique Pianos -- worth it??  
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BruceD Offline
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BruceD  Offline

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What Larry said and what we also said in the other thread where you asked the same question!

Cheers!


BruceD
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#264811 - 12/29/04 10:05 AM Re: Antique Pianos -- worth it??  
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Steve Cohen Offline
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Steve Cohen  Offline
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What Larry said, and they aren't even really considered antiques.

An antique is generally considered something that is double its life-expectency. For example, in most states a car can get "Historic" or "Antique" licence plates when the car is 25 years old.

With piano having about an 70 year life-expectency, an real antique piano would be one made around the Civil War!


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Jasons Music
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Since 1937.

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My postings, unless stated otherwise, are my personal opinions, not those of my clients.
#264812 - 12/29/04 10:07 AM Re: Antique Pianos -- worth it??  
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Paul Spitzer Offline
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Paul Spitzer  Offline
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Old pre World War One pianos offer beauty, rarity and a history that is hard to attach a value to. They do have a market value, nonetheless. You may get an idea of how much that is by looking at what is available at vintage piano dealers.

New instruments lose a huge chunk of their price just leaving the dealer. From there on they will continue to depreciate while some old pianos in good condition will hold their own.

Price is everything to some. Tone is to others. To those who appreciate old pianos the decision involves some further intangibles.

A piano technician with a vintage piano experience can give you a good idea of what expect from your Emerson.

#264813 - 12/29/04 10:29 AM Re: Antique Pianos -- worth it??  
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Larry Offline
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Larry  Offline
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Deep in Cherokee Country
A good piano technician is going to tell you not to spend a dime on a piano that old, because the cost of turning it into a dependable instrument is going to be far beyond reasonable. "Vintage piano dealers" is a term used to describe hack piano rebuilders who deal in junk.


Life isn't measured by the breaths you take. Life is measured by the things that left you breathless
#264814 - 12/29/04 10:39 AM Re: Antique Pianos -- worth it??  
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zzipidy Offline
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zzipidy  Offline
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Posts: 7
Denver, CO
Thanks for all the input -- I just think it's such a shame that a lot of people think such a beautiful piano belongs in the dump!! I guess it's just a symptom of our throw-away society nowadays.... I, for one, think an old mahogany piano I can fix up for two grand was probably built far better than some cheap chinese knockoff for the same money. I am having a piano restorer look at the piano this afternoon -- I'll let you guys know what he says about it! I will, however, walk away if the soundboard is shot and it is a total basketcase!
Thanks again!!

#264815 - 12/29/04 10:56 AM Re: Antique Pianos -- worth it??  
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Larry Offline
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Larry  Offline
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Deep in Cherokee Country
An old late 40s TV set in a nice mahogany cabinet with lots of trimwork looks neat too. Should we fix those up even though it will cost 20 times more than a new TV? What do you expect a piano rebuilder to tell you, other than what will put money in his pocket? I can tell you before he even gets there what you'll hear - just exactly what you want to hear, and what will line his pockets - give him a couple thousand bucks, and it will be a beauty!

We tried to give you advice that will keep you from losing your shirt. What you do with that information is up to you.


Life isn't measured by the breaths you take. Life is measured by the things that left you breathless
#264816 - 12/29/04 10:59 AM Re: Antique Pianos -- worth it??  
Joined: Jan 2004
Posts: 95
Gene Grant Offline
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Gene Grant  Offline
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Posts: 95
I hate to rain on anyone's parade, but please be very skeptical. We deal in restored pianos as well as new ones, and except for the premium names, there is very little value in old pianos.

Also, remember that a restoration is a complex project. Generally, the full amount of the required work cannot be measured until the project has actually commenced. Therefore, even as professionals, whenever we approach a piano as a restoration project we typically double the estimates in terms of time and money. Whereas this approach may seem overly harsh, it prevents unpleasant surprises and ensures that we only select projects that are economically viable.

It always saddens me to see customers purchase an old piano with dreams of restoration, and then learn from them some time later that they spent much more than they expected and the pianos still does not meet their expectations. Current economics dictate that it is far less expensive to purchase a good new piano than it will cost to restore an older piano – especially for upright models!


Gene Grant
#264817 - 12/29/04 12:04 PM Re: Antique Pianos -- worth it??  
Joined: Sep 2003
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Del Offline
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Del  Offline
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Posts: 5,521
Olympia, Washington
Quote
Originally posted by zzipidy:
I'm thinking about getting an Emerson Upright piano -- circa 1893. It's beautifully ornate and has all the entact ivories. The story is that it sat in a basement for over 40 years untouched. Apart from that I don't know anything about it. This would be our family's first piano -- is this something worth restoring, paying maybe up to $3K on fixing?? My husband, who has never played an instrument in his life, is sceptical, but I want a nice sounding piano for my kids to learn on, and I want something attractive in my house... any help!?!?!?
May I perhaps put another perspective on this.

Emerson upright pianos were designed to the standards of the day, structurally well made and often, as with this instrument, “beautifully ornate.” They can usually be remanufactured to perform at least as well as they did when they were originally built. Sometimes, with some scale updating and soundboard design tweaking, much better.

So, where is the catch? It’s in the dollars. And in the expectations. You are looking for a piano you can put into nice, playable condition for “maybe up to $3K.” We’ll assume this includes casework, finish and interior work. As others before me have so eloquently pointed out this isn’t going to happen. At least probably not. After all, by next week this thing is going to be 112 years old. But, only your technician can tell for sure. And you’d be very wise to have a good technician — one very familiar with this kind of work — look it over carefully before proceeding. Even if it is being offered to you “free.”

Upright pianos can be remanufactured but, just like grands, it does run into some money. The action is going to have to be rebuilt with some or all of the parts being replaced. It’s going to need new strings and a new pinblock. The soundboard assembly is probably toast. In the end the cost of fully remanufacturing this Emerson upright might well run, if not in upwards of $20K, certainly in the high teens. The very high teens.

Now when it’s finished the performance of this instrument will be fully competitive with anything available on the new market at any price. In addition its appearance will be spectacular! Unmatched by anything being made today at any price. But here things start to get a bit blurred.

On other PF threads the relative costs of new high-end upright pianos has been discussed. These things are not cheap either with many running well upwards of $20K. Most of these new high-end vertical pianos will also deliver, if not great, certainly very good acoustical performance. Not quite the same (especially in the bass) as the remanufactured Emerson, perhaps, but it will very good each in its own unique way. Plus, their actions will also be very good and they will be very reliable. (Traits you should also expect from the remanufactured Emerson.) What will be lacking is the massive bulk and solidness of the Emerson. And the beautifully ornate casework of the Emerson.

So why isn’t this done regularly? Sounds like a good way to go to get an outstanding upright piano. Again, it’s in the dollars. If you buy a new vertical piano for $20K and decide to sell it a year or two later you’ll still get a fairly good price for it. You won’t make any money on the deal, but you shouldn’t lose a lot either. On the other hand if you decide to sell your remanufactured Emerson a year later you can probably expect to get between $5K and $10K. Maybe. Depending on your market area. We just don’t value this kind of thing much in our country. We’d much rather throw it away and start over even if the new does not come even close to the standard of the old.

The few pianos of this type that we have remanufactured have mostly been for the owners of homes which simply cried out for one of the beautifully designed and crafted upright pianos of yesteryear. Places where a polished plastic, slab sided rectangular box would have been an affront both to the eye and to the ear. Sadly, the fact that they were also excellent musical instruments has often been a secondary consideration. If it was a consideration at all.

So, for $3K you should probably look for a lightly used modern piano and leave the beautiful old Emerson where it is. It's the prudent thing to do.

Del


Delwin D Fandrich
Piano Research, Design & Manufacturing Consultant
ddfandrich@gmail.com
(To contact me privately please use this e-mail address.)

Stupidity is a rare condition, ignorance is a common choice. --Anon

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