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#909000 - 12/14/04 09:25 AM Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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Christopher James Quinn Offline
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What's the best 6 foot piano I can get for around $20,000?

This question seems to appear weekly around here, and a mix of old and new posters offer up an assortment of suggestions. The question almost always implies "NEW" piano, a few of us usually suggest used as well.

20k can get you a dream piano new, but maybe it can get you a used piano you may not have even dreamed of because of the expense of a new one.

What I would like to do in this post, is start a discussion, or poll, perhaps which will be useful as a FAQ item if we get enough input, so we can point the 'new' shopper to it as food for thought.

I'm thinking about used pianos that are new enough that an average consumer does not have to worry about significant service issues, that a competent tech would say "tune it and maybe a bit of regulation and it's as good as new"

I don;t know if that translates into a piano that is less than 20 years old or less than 10 years old, but the point would be that the piano was bought used, needed very little and has performed well. OR maybe it needed hammers but was still worth the expense compared to a new one.

I will re-title the topic based upon suggestions if we get enough responses to make it FAQ worthy.

PLease, only Grands (we'll start a vertical thread if necessary) and only used pianos that saved you a bundle compared to an equivalent new one.

#909001 - 12/14/04 10:06 AM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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I was open to the idea of a used piano in my search, but I only found high-priced Steinways and cheapies that were more suitable as firewood than what the owners thought their "baby" was worth. frown


"If we lose freedom here, there's no place to escape to."
MSU - the university of Michigan!
Wheels
#909002 - 12/14/04 10:20 AM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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irving Offline
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Chris,

Excellent idea. If people here would put some serious thought into this and stay focused on the topic, this could surely turn into a fine resource.

My suggestion would be to look for a 1970's Steinway model L (not quite 6', but pretty close) that has been well maintained. Some of these will have soundboard issues, especially in the Northeast, but many will be fine. The price level should be easily attainable because these pianos have "Teflon" actions which devalue them (hence the attractive price) but they can serve the purposes of many people for a while at least. Eventually, the owner might want to install a new "cloth" action (for about $5,000), but if the Teflon action is good enough when the piano is bought, it might remain good enough for a long while.


Irving
Faust Harrison Pianos
We sell new Bechsteins, Yamahas, Mason & Hamlins, Brodmanns and W. Hoffmanns, and rebuilt vintage Steinways. All rebuilding is done in our own factory. www.faustharrisonpianos.com
#909003 - 12/14/04 10:26 AM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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AndrewG Offline
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If you look in the used market you don't even need $20k to find a VERY nice 6'ish grand. Mine is one proof of this...

#909004 - 12/14/04 10:31 AM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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piqué Offline
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chris, this would have been my first choice, too. i did look at a number of 20 year old grotrians but they had issues i wasn't confident enough to tackle. there is also the perennial problem of the private seller who believes his piano is worth far more than the market will bear.

gently used high end pianos are very difficult to find, in my experience. especially if steinway isn't really your sound.

i was able to find kawais and yamahas, only ten years old, and traded in by people who were trading up to a better piano, but even though the price was right, the piano was not. for me.

now, in retrospect, i think some of my problem in locating this sort of piano is that i didn't understand enough about the role that good regulation and voicing play. that "showroom sheen" on a factory voiced and regulated instrument vanishes after so many hours of playing, and it is hard for the novice to imagine the potential that might exist in a newer piano that has lost it. i can think back on a number of pianos i looked at that this might have been the issue.

but, still, they are hard to find. i fell in love with the charles walter, but couldn't find a used one to save my life. (talking about the grands, now.)


piqué

now in paperback:
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Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey
#909005 - 12/14/04 11:05 AM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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Mikester Offline
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I bought my 1927 Hamburg Steinway M for exactly $20,000.

With total honesty, I can say that it is a better piano than ANY $20,000 NEW piano that I personally, have ever played. The well-maintained, used, quality piano is one of the best steals there is.

#909006 - 12/14/04 11:47 AM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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Christopher James Quinn Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by AndrewG:
If you look in the used market you don't even need $20k to find a VERY nice 6'ish grand. Mine is one proof of this...
Please give details. Thanks

when I was shopping last year I could have recently built Baldwin L's for much less than 20k, so do give details.

#909007 - 12/14/04 12:03 PM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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Nina Offline
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Irving's comment on the Steinway L is exactly how my piano teacher found his Steinway.

It is possible to luck into a good deal on a used piano. I'd have a hard time putting a timeframe on how old a good used piano should be, since maintenance on used pianos is so important. I've seen some 50-year old pianos that were in excellent shape, and other 20-year old pianos that were junk.

However, unless you're in a major market, I do believe it is going to be quite difficult to find a good used European piano. They're uncommon here, even in piano stores. To locate one in Pennysaver, Craig's List or other home sale is even less common. I'd consider major markets to be NYC area, Chicago, Los Angeles and ...? that's perhaps about it.

#909008 - 12/14/04 12:48 PM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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Christopher James Quinn Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by Nina:


However, unless you're in a major market, I do believe it is going to be quite difficult to find a good used European piano. They're uncommon here, even in piano stores. To locate one in Pennysaver, Craig's List or other home sale is even less common. I'd consider major markets to be NYC area, Chicago, Los Angeles and ...? that's perhaps about it.
Good point, I'm so NYC-centric I often overlook the 'market' issue.

But, if some people are going all over to find the best $20k new piano (out of state, even) why not widely expand your shopping area for a 20k USED piano?

#909009 - 12/14/04 12:58 PM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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Christopher James Quinn Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by gryphon:
I was open to the idea of a used piano in my search, but I only found high-priced Steinways and cheapies that were more suitable as firewood than what the owners thought their "baby" was worth. frown
I saw a 14k Steinway M that, quite literally, looked like it spent some time in a lake.

So yes, there's lots of junk out there. That should be part of the the FAQ. IF shopping for a new piano is HARD (and it is), shopping for a used piano is definitely harder.

#909010 - 12/14/04 01:06 PM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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I could have bought a 20 year old Baldwin SF10 that had been in WGUCs recording studio and immaculately maintained for $18K asking last week.

So, yeah.. you can get a great used piano for that price.


Michael

====

He is so solemn, detached and uninvolved he makes Mr. Spock look like Hunter S. Thompson at closing time.'
#909011 - 12/14/04 01:41 PM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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Christopher James Quinn Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by mikhailoh:
I could have bought a 20 year old Baldwin SF10 that had been in WGUCs recording studio and immaculately maintained for $18K asking last week.

So, yeah.. you can get a great used piano for that price.
There were a couple of SF10s on the market last year at <20k. Maybe one of the best ~20k bargains out there if it's a good one. I haven't played one in years, but I remember re-visiting the dealer where I bought my last piano - a Baldwin M - Larkin Piano in Binghampton 10 years ago - and playing the SF there thinking it was incredible. i'd love to play one again soon, and I think I'll have the opportunity since I'm going to visit Rich G and he has one there.

#909012 - 12/14/04 01:43 PM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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Great thread, Chris. On my thread you mentioned:

The lack of name recognition on many quality German pianos makes their resale not so great, and makes them the best buy IMO.

I know you have and enjoy your August Frster (envy) -- what other German brands would you suggest that I look at?

As an aside (esp. for those in the business)-- what is a typical price for a new set of quality hammers/felts installed?

Also, if one broadens one's search -- and once I get on an airplane it can be anywhere in the continent -- would $600 - $800 be reasonable for shipping a grand?

Thanks,

Steve
Phoenix AZ


Estonically yours,

Ivorythumper

"Man without mysticism is a monster"
#909013 - 12/14/04 01:45 PM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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Quote
Originally posted by Nina:
I'd consider major markets to be NYC area, Chicago, Los Angeles and ...? that's perhaps about it.
Judging by ads on PW and PianoMart, the Boston area appears to be a very big market as well. Doesn't help us folks in the South, though. frown


Wynne
#909014 - 12/14/04 01:53 PM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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Christopher James Quinn Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by ivorythumper:
Great thread, Chris. On my thread you mentioned:

[b]The lack of name recognition on many quality German pianos makes their resale not so great, and makes them the best buy IMO.


I know you have and enjoy your August Frster (envy) -- what other German brands would you suggest that I look at? [/b]
Steve:

When I was shopping like mad last year, I saw advertised Schimmels and Seilers in the price range I'm talking about. They were not in my area though. I can only speculate about the other makes, maybe we'll get good feedback in this thread on actual sales data.

Re: hammers. Hopefully Chris W in Dallas will chime in. He bought a Baldwin L and did some work including hammers and is very happy with the piano (it's a beauty too, he posted pics of it).

#909015 - 12/14/04 01:56 PM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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Christopher James Quinn Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by WynnBear:
Judging by ads on PW and PianoMart, the Boston area appears to be a very big market as well. Doesn't help us folks in the South, though. frown
They're ALWAYS somewhere else, aren't they?

#909016 - 12/14/04 02:02 PM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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I agree with Irving & Mikester, though I think a modicum of luck is needed. I got lucky. After wanting to like Vogel or Estonia because they were in my price range, but having difficulty doing so, I ended up with a rebuilt 1920s Steinway M for $18,500. The luck part is that the well-respected rebuilder determined that the board was in good shape and the case had been re-done by others a while ago and was just fine, so the final cost to him was much less than a total rebuild. The piano is way better than I ever thought I would get for less than $20k. As a result the much anticipated piano shopping odyssey I was expecting took a little less than two weeks.

#909017 - 12/14/04 02:52 PM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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Jolly Offline
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Used, 20K and under.

1. Baldwin SF10 - overlooked and underappreciated, a very good piano. May be a bit bigger than desired.

2. Rebuilt Steinway - getting harder and harder to find for the price ceiling. M&H is also rapidly falling into this category.

3. Rebuilt "other" - Knabe, Baldwin, Chickering, Ivers&Pond, Weber, and the like. The names don't have the cachet of Steinway, but they are very good pianos. For instance, you find a lot of Hardmans in New York. Rebuilt, they are a very nice piano.

4. Recent vintage Baldwin L - some gripe about the break in scale, but should easily be found for less than 20K.

5. CW190 - for this kind of money, you're talking 5 years old, or less.

6. European pianos - most folks couldn't come up with the name of one European piano if you held a gun to their head. Think Schimmel, Sauter, Seiler, Bluthner, Pleyel, Bechstein and Schulze-Pollman. Money will depend upon age, condition, and market. Some markets will dictate a high price. In my part of the world, you'd die before you moved a used 20K Bluthner.

7. The top Asians - Shigeru and Yamaha's best. A good Shigeru is a nice piano indeed.

Those are some of the pianos that would be on my list...


www.coffee-room.com

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#909018 - 12/14/04 03:17 PM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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Axtremus Offline
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Quote
Jolly wrote:

7. The top Asians - Shigeru and Yamaha's best. A good Shigeru is a nice piano indeed."
Doesn't even need to be a Shigeru or a Yamaha S-series. An RX-series or a C-series piano, less than 10 years young, a big one, 6'6" and up, should do very well -- will very likely leave enough money on the table for you to put in a Dampp-Chaser and hire a good tech to tweak the heck out of it. Those who picked up used C7's should know very well. thumb

#909019 - 12/14/04 03:35 PM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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Christopher James Quinn Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by Axtremus:
An RX-series or a C-series piano, less than 10 years young, a big one, 6'6" and up, should do very well -- will very likely leave enough money on the table for you to put in a Dampp-Chaser and hire a good tech to tweak the heck out of it. Those who picked up used C7's should know very well. thumb
Axt,

Would you mind giving brief details of your RX find, to stick with this thread forever and ever?

Thanks

#909020 - 12/14/04 03:37 PM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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ChrisKeys Offline
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Originally posted by Christopher James Quinn:
Quote
Re: hammers. Hopefully Chris W in Dallas will chime in. He bought a Baldwin L and did some work including hammers and is very happy with the piano (it's a beauty too, he posted pics of it).
Thanks, Chris. I bought my Baldwin L at a local dealer. The story was that it had been an estate sale acquisition. It was in pretty crummy shape internally: action was way out of regulation, needed tuning badly, chipped ivory keys, hammers needed replacing, etc. (Sound board was OK.) But I bought it on the recommendation of my tech, who knew what my price range was, and he convinced me he could turn it into a top-notch piano. (He did!) Even with all the work my tech did, my total cost was *far below* $20000. As in several thousand below. For that, I got:

- New key tops (not ivory)
- New key bushings
- New hammers (Abel)
- Complete regulation
- Extensive voicing
- New bass strings (only the bottom 8)
- and lots of little things I can't remember.

The piano is about 37 years old. I'm very happy with the sound.

So if you're willing to buy a piano that is kinda beat up, and you can trust a competent tech who tells you he can make it into something you'll really like, you can end up with a real gem.

Chris

#909021 - 12/14/04 03:51 PM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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Christopher James Quinn Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by Chris W:

So if you're willing to buy a piano that is kinda beat up, and you can trust a competent tech who tells you he can make it into something you'll really like, you can end up with a real gem.

Chris
READ: shop for a tech before you shop for a piano like this. Chris W's piano probably required more work than I was thinking about when I started this thread, but his results were very satisfying. Personally, I would not have the courage for something like this, perferring a piano that was "there" already, but if we're talking about bargains, maybe this is the way for the more sophisticated. I recently saw a mid 80s L which needed some going over, maybe bushings and action work. BUt the piano was $7k as is. A trade-in.

#909022 - 12/14/04 03:56 PM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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Christopher James Quinn Offline
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Ok, my turn.

~4 year old August Frster 190 -> ~20k before taxes, from a dealer.

It needed some regulation work and key easing which I paid my tech to do, but basically was as good as new as after that. A chip or two on the corner of the lid were fixed before delivery, almost can;t find it now.

BTW, both my, and Chris W's pianos can be seen in this thread:

http://www.pianoworld.com/ubb/ubb/ultimatebb.php?/topic/1/8765/1.html

#909023 - 12/14/04 04:03 PM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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Ori Offline
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Ori  Offline
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There are some excellent slightly used European pianos that can be had for under 20K.
While only a few years old, and up to 20 years old, they will represent an outstanding value.
The problem is that its hard to FIND pianos like this.
One usually have to spend a lot of time searching.


Ori Bukai - Owner/Founder of Allegro Pianos - NY and CT.

One can usually play at our showroom:

Bluthner, Steingraeber, Estonia, August Forster, Haessler, Kawai, Steinway, Bosendorfer and more.

www.allegropianos.com
#909024 - 12/14/04 04:07 PM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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It's possible to find good used 6' pianos in the USA for ca. $20K, particularly if you're looking for the relatively common brands -- Yamahas, Kawais, Baldwins, and the smaller Steinways & Mason Hamlins. The challenge is separating the wheat from the chaff. It takes patience and a willingness to extend your search beyond (maybe well beyond) your normal stomping grounds if you don't live in a major metropolitan area.

If you have your heart set on a top tier European piano, I believe it would be more fruitful to do your shopping there. Particularly if you're looking for a piano that's being sold privately (not by a dealer).

To be successful, you've got to know what you want, find the right opportunity, and have your finances squared away in order react. You also need the proper mix of decisiveness, caution, and knowledge.

The only way to build your knowledge base on pianos is to play enough new and used ones to know what good is when you play it. You also need to learn as much as you can about pianos in terms of maintenance and servicing so you can identify obvious problems without hiring a tech. You also need to know a good tech that can inspect the piano once you think you've found it. In other words it takes significant effort but it can be done.

JP

Ivorythumper: It cost me ca. 2400 Euro to hard-crate & air freight my piano from Frankfurt, Germany to Washington DC. It would cost considerably less to ship by sea in a container ... but that comes with more risk of damage and a longer shipment time. You also need to consider import duties, taxes, and insurance and most importantly right now ... the exchange rate.


"Piano music should only be written for the Bechstein."
-- Claude Debussy
#909025 - 12/14/04 05:22 PM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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Keith at Piano Craft makes a really nice Maestoso for way under 20K. I have been playing it now for a week and I just got back from my piano class where my teacher has a Steinway M. The bass on Keith's piano is much deeper and more powerful and there was no difference between the actions.

If you count the hours Kieth and Shawn played on it while they were getting it ready for shipping, then I guess you could count it as used! I have just run into so much junk I would be very hesitant to purhcase someone else's problem they never maintained.

David smile smile smile


David Kirkham
Kirkham Motorsports
www.kirkhammotorsports.com
I bought my piano from www.pianocraft.net
#909026 - 12/14/04 07:10 PM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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MaryAnna Offline
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Quote
Originally posted by Axtremus:
Quote
Jolly wrote:

7. The top Asians - Shigeru and Yamaha's best. A good Shigeru is a nice piano indeed."
Doesn't even need to be a Shigeru or a Yamaha S-series. An RX-series or a C-series piano, less than 10 years young, a big one, 6'6" and up, should do very well -- will very likely leave enough money on the table for you to put in a Dampp-Chaser and hire a good tech to tweak the heck out of it. Those who picked up used C7's should know very well. thumb
I'm the happy owner of a used C7. It's older than your preferred 10 years--more like 20 years--but it's in much better shape than a typical piano of that age, according to my technician, who checked it out before I committed myself. My teacher, who's a Baldwin owner, pronounced its tone "warm and mellow." And it was enough under $20,000 to leave a little money on the table for tweaking, if it needs some down the road.

I've had it for five months now, and it seems to play even better now than when I fell in love with it. Or maybe I'm just playing a bit better now...

Mary Anna
http://www.maryannaevans.com


Mary Anna Evans
Author of the Faye Longchamp mysteries
http://www.maryannaevans.com
Blogging at maryannaevans@blogspot.com
#909027 - 12/14/04 07:18 PM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
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Steve Miller Offline
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I have no input on particular pianos, but I have found two things:

1. If you find a white piano and you like the looks of it, you can generally negotiate a killer deal. They're slow movers, so it really doesn't matter what they're asking for it. Bide your time and you could have quite a nice piano for less than might be expected.

2. Remarkable deals on used pianos can often be found in retirement communities.


Defender of the Landfill Piano
#909028 - 12/15/04 03:59 AM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
Joined: Dec 2003
Posts: 2,299
Christopher James Quinn Offline
2000 Post Club Member
Christopher James Quinn  Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Joined: Dec 2003
Posts: 2,299
Quote
Originally posted by Steve Miller:
I have no input on particular pianos, but I have found two things:

1. If you find a white piano and you like the looks of it, you can generally negotiate a killer deal
Good point Steve. I'll broaden this to say that a piano with any cosmetic issues will likely be worth less than the same piano without them. IT's entirely possible that a well maintained instrument has been less well maintained in the purely cosmetic sense.

(slightly off topic: new pianos with 'odd' finishes may sit for years in a showroom somewhere as well, and may offer a great bargain)

#909029 - 12/15/04 07:41 AM Re: Very Low Mileage, Like new, Hardly used at all ...  
Joined: Nov 2004
Posts: 1,085
seebechstein Offline
1000 Post Club Member
seebechstein  Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Joined: Nov 2004
Posts: 1,085
houston
Here's an ad that you think you would occasionally see (but never do) in the local newspaper, pennysaver, greensheet, or eBay:

Hello. I recently lost my grandmother and inherited her furnished home. I'm selling the furniture which includes a grand piano, black, really big. Name on piano something like Borendozer, can't remember exactly; had some funny dots over the letters I think. Looks to be in perfect condition but has an odd shape, not round on the end. I think she bought it new about 5 - 10 years ago. Asking $5000 or best offer.

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