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Steinway C with ivory keys #2945621 02/11/20 04:32 PM
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Giupi Offline OP
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Hello,

I recently inherited a Steinway Grand with ivory keys, model C, made in Hamburg in 1984. The piano is currently located in Italy and I would like to ship it to my home in New York for my own personal use.

I obtained two certificates from Steinway that describe the history and provenance of the instrument, its replacement value for insurance, and a certification for the ivory keys, indicating the country of origin, the species, and the year that the ivory was imported (1984 from Tanzania).

I was wondering if you had any experience trying to import a piano with ivory keys into the US, and specifically ivory that was acquired from Africa after the CITES cut-off of February 1976. I would be able to obtain a CITES re-export certificate from the European Union, but it seems that the US Fish and Wildlife Agency is more restrictive in that respect. I also understand that the USFW Agency makes a distinction between "acquired" and "removed from the wild" when it comes to the origin of the ivory, but Steinway (the Hamburg factory) has not been able to provide me with the date of when the ivory was actually removed from the elephant, but only the date of import.

I realize that I may not be able to import the piano at all, but I'm just looking for any advice at this point. Also, I was wondering if replacing the ivory with Ivoplast or some other synthetic material would potentially damage the keys. A local Steinway dealer in Italy has offered to do this job, but I'm worried about altering its structure irreversibly.

As you can imagine, the piano has a tremendous emotional and financial value for me, and I want to make sure I’m taking all the right steps.

Thank you.

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Re: Steinway C with ivory keys [Re: Giupi] #2945669 02/11/20 06:26 PM
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OE1FEU Offline
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Somehow my previously reply went the way of the Dodo, so in a nutshell:

* Have the piano appraised in Italy
* Remove ivory keytops and replace with plastic
* Have a European expert with proven track record give you a quote of things that need to be done
* Don't put any NY Steinway parts in there; there is no NY Steinway model C
* If you really want ivory, import an old set from Europe and have it installed by a local piano maker

My recommendation would be to look up Angelo Fabbrini and ask whether he or one of his associates can get the job done.

Re: Steinway C with ivory keys [Re: OE1FEU] #2945691 02/11/20 07:30 PM
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Originally Posted by OE1FEU
Somehow my previously reply went the way of the Dodo, so in a nutshell:

Your previous reply was on the Piano Forum! Still there.



Re: Steinway C with ivory keys [Re: Giupi] #2945712 02/11/20 08:07 PM
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Check with Roberts Pianos in Oxfordshire. They had a similar case and had the ivories removed and somehow was able to send them. Sorry I don’t remember exactly how it all occurred.


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Re: Steinway C with ivory keys [Re: Giupi] #2945721 02/11/20 08:22 PM
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If it were me and I couldn’t figure out another way, I’d remove the ivories and pack them safely in my carry on luggage, and then ship the piano without the keytops, and then have them reattached once it arrived in the US.

For me, despite performing almost exclusively on plastic keys, I’d never buy a piano for myself without ivory keys. I know of some ivory substitutes which are supposedly good, but I haven’t played on all of them. The best I’ve played on are Yamaha’s which are very good but still not as good as ivory.

A Steinway C is a fantastic instrument. I did my master’s in the UK and there was a C there (with ivory keys) which was by far my favourite piano there among a bunch of a A’s, B’s, and a D, in addition to Bosendorfer’s and new Yamaha’s.

Re: Steinway C with ivory keys [Re: jsilva] #2945779 02/11/20 11:57 PM
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Originally Posted by jsilva
If it were me and I couldn’t figure out another way, I’d remove the ivories and pack them safely in my carry on luggage, and then ship the piano without the keytops, and then have them reattached once it arrived in the US.


I understand the sentiment. But there is substantial risk in smuggling undeclared and illegal contraband into the country.
Getting used ivory already int he USA is probably a better approach.
Keytops from cow tibia seems to be a satisfactory alternative.


Keith Akins, RPT
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Re: Steinway C with ivory keys [Re: kpembrook] #2945893 02/12/20 08:26 AM
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Originally Posted by kpembrook
I understand the sentiment. But there is substantial risk in smuggling undeclared and illegal contraband into the country.
Getting used ivory already int he USA is probably a better approach.
Keytops from cow tibia seems to be a satisfactory alternative.


It’s doubtful the workers at the X-ray machines scanning carry on luggage are looking for ivory keytops, but I agree that the risk is serious if not especially high.

I hadn’t heard of cow tibia keytops!

Re: Steinway C with ivory keys [Re: jsilva] #2945899 02/12/20 09:03 AM
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Originally Posted by jsilva

It’s doubtful the workers at the X-ray machines scanning carry on luggage are looking for ivory keytops, but I agree that the risk is serious if not especially high.


The issue isn't primarily the security people. Customs does randomly open luggage when you arrive in the USA and after you pass through immigration control.


Keith Akins, RPT
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Re: Steinway C with ivory keys [Re: Giupi] #2945934 02/12/20 11:03 AM
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For what it would cost to remove the ivory key tops and put them back later, it would probably be cheaper to sell the piano in Europe and buy one in the US.

The only way to be certain about it is to replace the key tops before you ship it. If the job is well done, it should be no problem.


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Re: Steinway C with ivory keys [Re: Giupi] #2945937 02/12/20 11:07 AM
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Here's a PianoBuyer article written by a PianoWorld contributor, Sally Phillips, who is a widely know and well-respected Concert Piano Technician and Steinway Dealer in Georgia.

Transporting Pianos with Ivory Keytops

This is a video on the subject by Robert Estrin of Living Pianos. His company ships pianos all over the world.



I think I'd try to do everything I could to make it legal and clear customs or have the keytops removed and replaced in Italy before I tried to ship the Piano to the US. It would be much worse to loose a marvelous instrument like a Hamburg Steinway C than to just have to replace the keytops with plastic!

Re: Steinway C with ivory keys [Re: Giupi] #2946059 02/12/20 03:23 PM
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Just to further clarify...
The Fish and Wildlife folk have come up with an exemption for musical instruments where ivory is an incidental part of the entire item -- say 1 or 2 percent of the entire product.
Thus, pianos with ivory keyboards can be shipped between states since the ivory represents such a small component of the entire item. But used piano ivory cannot be shipped interstate because the ivory component of the entire item is 100%.

So, once you would get the piano into the US, there wouldn't be a problem. But the critical issue is CITES approval documentation. If you can get that, you're in. If not, you're not.

The Piano Technicians Guild is the organization that worked on this issue for all musical instrument owners (violin bows can have ivory, as well as guitars).
If you go to the PTG website, www.ptg.org and search for "ivory ban" you will find the most authoritative information available for musical instrument owners


Keith Akins, RPT
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Re: Steinway C with ivory keys [Re: kpembrook] #2946082 02/12/20 04:53 PM
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Originally Posted by kpembrook
Just to further clarify...
The Fish and Wildlife folk have come up with an exemption for musical instruments where ivory is an incidental part of the entire item -- say 1 or 2 percent of the entire product.
Thus, pianos with ivory keyboards can be shipped between states since the ivory represents such a small component of the entire item. But used piano ivory cannot be shipped interstate because the ivory component of the entire item is 100%.

So, once you would get the piano into the US, there wouldn't be a problem. But the critical issue is CITES approval documentation. If you can get that, you're in. If not, you're not.

The Piano Technicians Guild is the organization that worked on this issue for all musical instrument owners (violin bows can have ivory, as well as guitars).
If you go to the PTG website, www.ptg.org and search for "ivory ban" you will find the most authoritative information available for musical instrument owners


Good info. I should point out that there's a technician who is no longer a PTG member (nor were they at the time) who actually was in Washington during the hearings and present in the meetings, lobbying hard to assist with this issue so we didn't end up with a ruling that concluded with a bunch of older pianos heading to the dump for no good reason, or as many people being wrongfully harassed by authorities, when not perpetrating the sale and importation of new ivory.


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Re: Steinway C with ivory keys [Re: jsilva] #2946253 02/13/20 06:25 AM
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Originally Posted by jsilva

A Steinway C is a fantastic instrument. I did my master’s in the UK and there was a C there (with ivory keys) which was by far my favourite piano there among a bunch of a A’s, B’s, and a D, in addition to Bosendorfer’s and new Yamaha’s.


We have as a temporary measure a 1980's C (also with Ivory keys) for our 1,200 seat church. We have also found it to be a real player's piano. I apologise for it up front, but then they sit down to play and they love it. Amenable, forgiving, capable of subtle nuance. Nevertheless, in terms of what the audience hears, we remain unimpressed with it. It may be a scaled-down D, but for a larger capacity venue, there is quite a bit of capability that is lost in that foot-and-a-half.


1926 Steinway R (138cm upright rebuilt in 2015)
Re: Steinway C with ivory keys [Re: Giupi] #2946404 02/13/20 01:00 PM
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I've always felt that a C is a B that wants to be a D.

Re: Steinway C with ivory keys [Re: Erchoukyrie] #2946526 02/13/20 06:19 PM
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Originally Posted by OE1FEU
I've always felt that a C is a B that wants to be a D.


I find the tenor region and the tenor/bass break of the C to be much superior to a B, in addition to the lowest bass strings having a clearer fundamental and pleasing tone.

Originally Posted by Erchoukyrie
...in terms of what the audience hears, we remain unimpressed with it. It may be a scaled-down D, but for a larger capacity venue, there is quite a bit of capability that is lost in that foot-and-a-half.


Perhaps it’s that specific piano? I’ve honestly only played the one C at any length (I’ve played a few others here and there that show up in the US) and so I can’t speak with any authority, but I didn’t sense any volume deficiencies. It was next to a 7’ Bosendorfer and sounded quite a bit better (the technician at the school was top notch). Everyone played the C if they had a choice smile

Re: Steinway C with ivory keys [Re: Giupi] #2946764 02/14/20 10:39 AM
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Well to completely derail the thread, here is my Steinway C story. I can't remember the exact year but I think it was around 2009-2010. I had been on a quest for years to find a Steinway that I could afford and saw an ad for a C described as in excellent condition at what I thought was a good price (< 20K). I talked to the seller a few times on the phone and he sent pictures, answered all my questions and was willing to host a technician to examine it. At one point he mentioned that he was the father of a group of 5 famous piano siblings and that they had all grown up learning to play on this piano. At this point I was really intrigued as you might imagine but was curious that he'd want to sell a piano with that history. He answered that he was having difficulties and needed the money. Something about his answer just didn't feel right. I told my wife that it was a good deal and we'd be helping someone out but for some reason I didn't have peace in my heart to continue. It was a bit weird to later read that he'd been sent to prison for abusing his daughters. I sometimes wonder who ended up with that piano.

Re: Steinway C with ivory keys [Re: Erchoukyrie] #2946795 02/14/20 11:39 AM
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Originally Posted by George Smith
Well to completely derail the thread, here is my Steinway C story. I can't remember the exact year but I think it was around 2009-2010. I had been on a quest for years to find a Steinway that I could afford and saw an ad for a C described as in excellent condition at what I thought was a good price (< 20K). I talked to the seller a few times on the phone and he sent pictures, answered all my questions and was willing to host a technician to examine it. At one point he mentioned that he was the father of a group of 5 famous piano siblings and that they had all grown up learning to play on this piano. At this point I was really intrigued as you might imagine but was curious that he'd want to sell a piano with that history. He answered that he was having difficulties and needed the money. Something about his answer just didn't feel right. I told my wife that it was a good deal and we'd be helping someone out but for some reason I didn't have peace in my heart to continue. It was a bit weird to later read that he'd been sent to prison for abusing his daughters. I sometimes wonder who ended up with that piano.


That's an interesting story! I wonder who ended up with that piano too. The children have done remarkably well despite that horrible trauma. I know we're of topic, but don't you now own a S&S B? Are you still enjoying it.

Originally Posted by Erchoukyrie
Originally Posted by jsilva

A Steinway C is a fantastic instrument. I did my master’s in the UK and there was a C there (with ivory keys) which was by far my favourite piano there among a bunch of a A’s, B’s, and a D, in addition to Bosendorfer’s and new Yamaha’s.


We have as a temporary measure a 1980's C (also with Ivory keys) for our 1,200 seat church. We have also found it to be a real player's piano. I apologise for it up front, but then they sit down to play and they love it. Amenable, forgiving, capable of subtle nuance. Nevertheless, in terms of what the audience hears, we remain unimpressed with it. It may be a scaled-down D, but for a larger capacity venue, there is quite a bit of capability that is lost in that foot-and-a-half.


Back on topic so to speak, I find this rather interesting, but I guess not outside the realm of possibility. I've never really considered that a piano might provide a pleasant experience to the performer, but a poor experience for the audience. How does the piano sound to a listener when they are up close vs. what does the audience experience? What are the characteristics that change? Could it be something acoustical about the room itself?

To the OP, keep us posted on your progress. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound like there is a quick easy answer to get your piano into the US. That's very unfortunate!

Re: Steinway C with ivory keys [Re: GC13] #2947001 02/14/20 11:50 PM
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Originally Posted by GC13
I know we're of topic, but don't you now own a S&S B? Are you still enjoying it.


Yes. After 7 other pianos and at 52 years of age I was finally able to buy a 1985 NY Model B. I am (mostly) retired now and play it every day sometimes for several hours. I so enjoy having guests come and play in our home. We have no television downstairs so it is the centerpiece of the living room. After the last tuning, my son's bandmates came over and recorded several songs for their album. So far I have had the keytops replaced, hammers shaped and voiced, action reconditioned and regulated, and replacement of the bass strings with a new set of GC Custom bass strings along with the bass agraffes and tuning pins. The thing that I most enjoy about it is that when I play it, every note feels the way that I think a piano should feel. In other words the action is an extension of me and not a source of frustration. Similarly with the tone. To me it simply sounds the way a piano is "supposed" to sound. I know it's just my opinion but that's what it's all all about right?

Re: Steinway C with ivory keys [Re: OE1FEU] #2947044 02/15/20 03:45 AM
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Originally Posted by OE1FEU
I've always felt that a C is a B that wants to be a D.


Yes, the bass and tenor of the C have the smoothness and clarity of a bigger piano.

Re: Steinway C with ivory keys [Re: George Smith] #2947359 02/15/20 06:48 PM
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Originally Posted by George Smith
Originally Posted by GC13
I know we're of topic, but don't you now own a S&S B? Are you still enjoying it.


Yes. After 7 other pianos and at 52 years of age I was finally able to buy a 1985 NY Model B. I am (mostly) retired now and play it every day sometimes for several hours. I so enjoy having guests come and play in our home. We have no television downstairs so it is the centerpiece of the living room. After the last tuning, my son's bandmates came over and recorded several songs for their album. So far I have had the keytops replaced, hammers shaped and voiced, action reconditioned and regulated, and replacement of the bass strings with a new set of GC Custom bass strings along with the bass agraffes and tuning pins. The thing that I most enjoy about it is that when I play it, every note feels the way that I think a piano should feel. In other words the action is an extension of me and not a source of frustration. Similarly with the tone. To me it simply sounds the way a piano is "supposed" to sound. I know it's just my opinion but that's what it's all all about right?


Yes, it is! I'm thinking about having the bass strings replaced on mine in the near future. We'll see. ;-)

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