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Is a never used 50 yr old piano worth buying?
#2828051 03/18/19 12:31 AM
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I stumbled upon a Howard 550 and have asked about buying it - the owner passed recently. I should find out in the next two weeks if the family will sell. It's been in a house nearby, wonderful California microclimate that my piano did well in all these years. But, it's been open and is filthy, and the sun through a skylight hit a fist sized bit of the interior (can't see anything wrong but faded red felt). The hammers have no grooves, the keys look factory new save for the dust. It's a bit out of tune but felt rather nice when I played it. What I could see with the knowledge I have it looked good enough to have a piano tech check it for me and be fairly certain I'd get the go ahead.

1. At 50 years old but unused will it need new strings? Anything more major?
2. I'd have no clue what to offer, and I'm sure they'll not have a price, and the move and tuning/ repairs will eat most of what I've budgeted thus far. Im hoping it's just an albatross for them.
3. A good guess it's never been cared for, doubtful it was ever tuned, so will it tune?


I want a baby grand, have a Kawai CA98 I adore, but have kept my eye open for an acoustic I'd enjoy playing that is just this type - seemingly good shape but needs some elbow grease and can be tuned and brought back to life without $$$$$. Not hanging my hopes on this, but it does at first glance look like what I've been waiting for.

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Re: Is a never used 50 yr old piano worth buying?
rederin #2828057 03/18/19 01:11 AM
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It could be a good piano. It is basically a Kawai 500 (KG 2) with some refinements added by Baldwin, which I like better than the Kawais. With a little clean-up, tuning, and regulation, it could last you quite well. I have tuned several of the Kawais from that period, and a few of the Howards, and they are still quite usable pianos, except for the wear, which this may not have.


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Re: Is a never used 50 yr old piano worth buying?
BDB #2828124 03/18/19 06:09 AM
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Originally Posted by BDB
It could be a good piano. It is basically a Kawai 500 (KG 2) with some refinements added by Baldwin, which I like better than the Kawais. With a little clean-up, tuning, and regulation, it could last you quite well. I have tuned several of the Kawais from that period, and a few of the Howards, and they are still quite usable pianos, except for the wear, which this may not have.


BDB,

In my estimation the Howard WAS a Kawai. What are the refinements by Baldwin that you speak of? Thank you in advance.


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Re: Is a never used 50 yr old piano worth buying?
rederin #2828196 03/18/19 09:44 AM
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I owned one in the past. It's the piano I got when I was 15 and beginning to get decent at playing the instrument. It is indeed a Kawai, and it was a steal in those days. I'm not aware of any Baldwin refinements.

The piano should be sold at a very reasonable price. If it checks out, and the needed work on it is minor, it could be an excellent opportunity to have a decent little grand in the house without paying an arm and a leg (or even just an arm!).

Re: Is a never used 50 yr old piano worth buying?
rederin #2828216 03/18/19 10:11 AM
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I too own an older Howard/Kawai 550 that wasn't played much. It is a 1969 model. It's one of the best sounding/playing pianos I've ever owned. It could use some new bass strings that do deteriorate due to age, but that is not something that is a must. The hammers had almost no groves in the strike point.

The action is a tad heavy, but so are most Kawai grands... but I tend to like a heavier action.

I have given the piano to my oldest granddaughter, but my son has yet to find room for it in his house, though he is working on an addition and says they want the piano. But for now I'm still housing it and playing it.

As others have said, it was/is a very nice piano, although time and age alone can take a toll on an acoustic piano. If not too expensive, it would/could be a fantastic piano despite its age.

Good luck!

Rick


Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel
Re: Is a never used 50 yr old piano worth buying?
rederin #2828239 03/18/19 10:53 AM
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I too service a few of these. Very good. The KG2 was a great piano.

You will need to put some into it regardless, and you should have it inspected by a competent tech.

Just offer what you feel you can knowing that there are some question marks. Often under the circumstances it is more important to get the piano gone over getting top dollar for it.

Personally I wouldn't go more than $1k

Pwg


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Re: Is a never used 50 yr old piano worth buying?
Rickster #2828244 03/18/19 11:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Rickster

The action is a tad heavy, but so are most Kawai grands... but I tend to like a heavier action.
Rick

The action felt heavy, but I was afraid to play too much and grind dust into the works. I wasn't sure of how much of what I was feeling was just the condition of the piano but maybe it was fairly accurate of this action. I mostly checked all the keys and they were even and each felt the same with no stickin or wiggling.

I don't know the people, but I'm gathering the man must've been in his 80s at least and lost his wife years ago and stopped cleaning. This isn't the dirty Craigslist type of piano. I found a pearl head pin in there along with a few pine needles that get blown in my house too when our winds kick up, and the grit that comes from that. Apparently it was very special to him, and the bench has some nice Debussy books in it, so I can't fathom how it doesn't show use.

At least it's giving me more frame of reference for future searches if I can't get this. Really, anyone have a price idea? I figure between moving, tuning, light repair I'd be around $800 just to get it home - the exact reason it's so hard to give away an old piano. Not to mention I still need to get my old upright to the dump which is not cheap either.

Re: Is a never used 50 yr old piano worth buying?
rederin #2828311 03/18/19 01:18 PM
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I have one, too. It has served me well and is just too good to get rid of. 😁

Teflon on the knuckles (in the action) helps. I just had a full regulation done with some touchweight modification, but partial regulation with a tuning might do the trick for you.

Howards might have had slightly different hammers than the KG-2 pianos. There was one having rare carved legs that sold for $11,000, lately. I have seen plain ones as high as $7,000 from dealers if they are a little younger. Those prices are high for a private sale, I gather.



WhoDwaldi
Howard (by Kawai) 5' 10"
Re: Is a never used 50 yr old piano worth buying?
rederin #2828321 03/18/19 02:11 PM
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Isn't just putting "Baldwin" on it a refinement? wink


(that's a joke)



“Sometimes I can only groan, and suffer,
and pour out my despair at the piano.”

-Frederic Chopin
Re: Is a never used 50 yr old piano worth buying?
P W Grey #2828327 03/18/19 02:22 PM
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Originally Posted by P W Grey
Personally I wouldn't go more than $1k


When I read the original post earlier on my phone I was planning to come back and sort of put a "number" out there, because I think that's partly what the OP is looking for, but Peter has beat me to it. smile

In my neck of the woods, most older grands in original playable condition tend to settle into a space between $500 and $1500. Sometimes families sitting on older pianos think they're worth much more than they actually are. Sometimes estate sale folks will take any reasonable offer because they know pianos are hard to move.

If it's been neglected for 50 years, it will likely need some work in addition to tuning. Maybe not much more than a good cleaning and lubrication, or maybe more.

If they agree to sell it, I'd have it checked out by a technician and see what it's going to need.

I'd also let them go first on naming a price. That way you avoid offending them if their expectations are unrealistic. If they insist on you naming a price, just defer and say you have no idea and that you'd like to have it checked out by someone who would know (i.e. your inspecting technician).

btw, don't let the low "value" deter you from looking at it. You could very well end up with a nice piano.



“Sometimes I can only groan, and suffer,
and pour out my despair at the piano.”

-Frederic Chopin
Re: Is a never used 50 yr old piano worth buying?
Retsacnal #2828336 03/18/19 02:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Retsacnal
Isn't just putting "Baldwin" on it a refinement? wink


(that's a joke)



The font used for "Howard" is much better than the 70s version of the Baldwin logo. ha

It's interesting that "Kawai" is all over these pianos, except for "Howard" on the fallboard and the "Made specially for Baldwin by Kawai, Japan" in tiny letters on the treble end. It's said that Japanese companies faced marketing problems from lingering hard feelings after WWII, so the Baldwin connection was a more positive way for them to get into the American market. And Baldwin needed a "second line" of grands.


WhoDwaldi
Howard (by Kawai) 5' 10"
Re: Is a never used 50 yr old piano worth buying?
WhoDwaldi #2828342 03/18/19 03:15 PM
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Originally Posted by WhoDwaldi
The font used for "Howard" is much better than the 70s version of the Baldwin logo. ha


It looks like the same font used on older Baldwins too. I prefer the older one. smile



“Sometimes I can only groan, and suffer,
and pour out my despair at the piano.”

-Frederic Chopin
Re: Is a never used 50 yr old piano worth buying?
rederin #2828374 03/18/19 05:07 PM
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I sold mine for 4K a few years ago. It wasn't unplayed, but it had been maintained VERY well. The tech who checked it out gave it a big thumbs up. Dealers were asking in the 7K range for the same thing.

Re: Is a never used 50 yr old piano worth buying?
rederin #2828388 03/18/19 06:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
I sold mine for 4K a few years ago. It wasn't unplayed, but it had been maintained VERY well. The tech who checked it out gave it a big thumbs up. Dealers were asking in the 7K range for the same thing.

Piano*Dad is right; piano dealers usually ask a high price for these pianos. I've seen them in the Howard version and the Kawai KG2 version this age for upwards of $5K and more.

If you really like the piano and can get it for < $2500, that sounds like a bargain to me. A used piano, any used piano, is worth what someone is willing to pay and a seller is willing to accept... smile

Good luck!

Rick


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Re: Is a never used 50 yr old piano worth buying?
rederin #2828392 03/18/19 06:17 PM
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Only a competent piano technician examining the piano in person can tell you if there are any showstopper problems. Start with Rick's number, $2500, subtract what the tech says it needs, and let that be your limit.


-- J.S.

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Re: Is a never used 50 yr old piano worth buying?
rederin #2828402 03/18/19 06:43 PM
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Rederin, the tech you hire to evaluate it for condition can also appraise its cash value in the present day market in your area (if it were in perfect condition). You can ask for these services when you hire the tech. A brief written report is good enough; you're not taking the matter to a judge.

Within the report, the bullet points that call out areas that will need some repair can also be estimated for parts and labor. Pictures are always often sometimes convincing.

The same piano dealers who will ask for a high price in their shop, will be offering a much lower figure to the seller. It is likely that the seller will have already gotten an offer or two. But in the end, what care the piano will receive from these fellows is much less than what it will get if it comes to you. These guys cruise the obituary notices. No doubt it is a welcome service to some of the recently bereaved.

Your guy may care more about how the instrument will be treated. A new home, a new life, for a beloved friend who is having a chance for a new love under your care and protection. To some people, it would make a difference.

Don't let too much grass grow under your feet. Make some calls, fix the date for the inspection, and bring along your checkbook to offer a refundable deposit, to hold the piano pending the inspection. An ordinary receipt book with NCR paper for the copies for each party--- just note the terms right on the receipt. Your seller will appreciate the respect. It may help a little if you let the seller watch as you pay the tech for the estimate, out of your own pocket.

Best of luck to you. Let us know....

Clef


Clef

Re: Is a never used 50 yr old piano worth buying?
rederin #2828480 03/18/19 11:15 PM
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You are all a wealth of information, thank you! I figure at the least I'm gaining experience and moving toward finding a baby grand. Nobody knows about this piano, and the one thing I know is that it would not be sold for money but love of the instrument. I did what I could do and let my interest be known, and if they call me I'll have all this wonderful advice to help me. Ever since I started playing again last year my life has been full of wonderful things, I'm amazed at the power of music and how it extends into other areas of life.

Re: Is a never used 50 yr old piano worth buying?
rederin #2828489 03/19/19 12:00 AM
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good luck!



“Sometimes I can only groan, and suffer,
and pour out my despair at the piano.”

-Frederic Chopin
Re: Is a never used 50 yr old piano worth buying?
rederin #2828659 03/19/19 12:34 PM
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Hope it works in your favor!

Pwg


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Re: Is a never used 50 yr old piano worth buying?
rederin #2828674 03/19/19 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by rederin
Ever since I started playing again last year my life has been full of wonderful things, I'm amazed at the power of music and how it extends into other areas of life.


Charles Cooke makes a similar remark towards the beginning of Playing the Piano for Pleasure; he cites a propensity of the practicing pianist to attract friends. rederin, could you say more about what playing the piano has done to enhance your life? I'd love to hear more about your adventures in music. Thanks.


"When life gives you a lemonwood Gaveau [piano], make a place for it (or, what is the same thing, find a wealthy foreign collector/enthusiast to sell it to)." --adapted from and inspired by _The Piano Shop on the Left Bank_ by Thad Carhart
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