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Posted By: JazzyJamMan Early 1960s Baldwin L - 07/11/16 02:23 AM
I'm in the market for my first grand piano (upgrading from an upright), and I've recently found an early 1960s Baldwin L with an asking price of $9300 + tax (dealer). The piano has had new strings, hammers, and key tops at some point. The piano was also at a university for at least part of its life. The case has some blemishes, but it's in decent condition considering its age. I do detect a little too much horizontal play in some of the keys, but I'm told this can be addressed with new key bushings.

The thing is, I really love the sound and action on this piano.

Am I crazy to consider purchasing this? I want to buy a piano that will last me. My main concerns are that it's just too old, has too little resale value, and isn't worth the cost of rebuilding. And yet, I really enjoy the sound and feel of this piano. Thoughts?
Posted By: ebonykawai Re: Early 1960s Baldwin L - 07/11/16 03:50 AM
That seems high to me. Offer 25% less and see where it goes. If you like it and a tech thinks it's OK, then why not. But I'd get the price down more.
Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT Re: Early 1960s Baldwin L - 07/11/16 04:06 AM
Well I have to disagree with the above advice. You won't know the value of the piano until you know more about the condition. I wouldn't start price negotiations until you have your own technicians, (independent) report. Also, once the dealer knows you are serious about the piano, they are going to get more serious about closing the sale, which means they will divulge during the course of negotiations the real price they need. No salesperson wants to do the work of price negotiations until they are sure you are in a position to buy.
Posted By: Rich Galassini Re: Early 1960s Baldwin L - 07/11/16 10:21 AM
Just a thought,

First, Ed gave great advice.

An additional thought - The Baldwin pianos were really nicely made, but they tend to have lots of cracking bridges due to their design. This may have been dealt with when it was restrung, but perhaps not.
Posted By: terminaldegree Re: Early 1960s Baldwin L - 07/11/16 12:53 PM
Agree with Ed.
Posted By: ebonykawai Re: Early 1960s Baldwin L - 07/12/16 01:34 AM
Originally Posted by Ed McMorrow, RPT
Well I have to disagree with the above advice. You won't know the value of the piano until you know more about the condition. I wouldn't start price negotiations until you have your own technicians, (independent) report. Also, once the dealer knows you are serious about the piano, they are going to get more serious about closing the sale, which means they will divulge during the course of negotiations the real price they need. No salesperson wants to do the work of price negotiations until they are sure you are in a position to buy.


Agreed. I was assuming a tech already looked at it and you were now considering the price.
Posted By: JazzyJamMan Re: Early 1960s Baldwin L - 07/12/16 03:04 AM
Thanks for all the advice, Ed, ebonykawai, Rich, and terminaldegree. I'm now in the process of getting a tech to evaluate it.

Still, I'm wondering (especially to anyone who's owned a similar instrument): suppose the tech says, "Nothing's wrong with it." At that point, is it foolish to purchase such an old Baldwin L, even if I love the sound and feel? I'm most concerned about the potential longevity of the hard-to-service parts (i.e., the soundboard and the pin block). Is there any reason to believe that such a piano wouldn't hold up for another 15 years, assuming regular maintenance?
Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT Re: Early 1960s Baldwin L - 07/12/16 02:17 PM
It all depends on how well the piano was housed and how well made it was. If the housing conditions were climate controlled and the piano was kept clean and away from cooking fumes etc., it could still be good for many years of trouble free enjoyment with normal maintenance. If you can find a technician who is skilled in tone regulation you will have your best hope of great quality results over time.
Posted By: ebonykawai Re: Early 1960s Baldwin L - 07/12/16 07:23 PM
Well, I actually was considering a 1911 Baldwin R for a while until the 1984 R came along that I bought. I'm not even sure it was called an R back then, but it was a 5'8" and looked the same. So no, I don't think your potential piano is too old, just get a good assessment, as others have said, and then you will know what you're looking at, for life of the instrument. Some things are easy fixes, some more expensive.
Posted By: Retsacnal Re: Early 1960s Baldwin L - 07/13/16 02:21 AM
Some people think this is the era when Baldwin was really in its prime!

Pianos are made of organic materials. Things wear out, crack, break, etc. If it gets a clean bill of health, there's no specific reason it couldn't last another 15 years (with regular maintenance, etc). Be sure to ask your technician to assess it's condition and long-term prognosis.
Posted By: Jackie Hall Re: Early 1960s Baldwin L - 07/13/16 10:18 PM
You said the key words, that you love the sound and the action. All else is either fixable or not that big a deal. BTW, I own a 1936 Baldwin 7' Grand (rebuilt 2009). Fell in love with the sound and the action, paid a reasonable price for it, have never looked back.
Posted By: JazzyJamMan Re: Early 1960s Baldwin L - 07/14/16 02:22 AM
Thanks for all the advice, everyone! I hired an independent tech, and the results were illuminating to say the least (and confirmed for me the importance of getting an expert to check things out).

On the plus side, the piano had a new pin block and a flawless soundboard.

But the case and the harp had been refinished. This meant that the serial number was not readily visible. To make a long story short, the serial number stamps inside the piano revealed that this Baldwin was in fact from the 1920s...and not the 1960s, as originally thought!

(N.B.: I personally do not believe that there was any intention to mislead; without going into details, the dealer had good reasons to think that the piano was much newer.)

In any case, today I answered my initial query: that if a 1920s piano can be this nice, then I'll have no problem with one from the 1960s, should I be lucky enough to find one smile
Posted By: ebonykawai Re: Early 1960s Baldwin L - 07/14/16 03:13 AM
Well don't write it off if you still love it! Try to negotiate a lower price with the new age info.
Posted By: BDB Re: Early 1960s Baldwin L - 07/14/16 03:23 AM
If Baldwin serial numbers are painted over, I do not think you can accurately date it from any other number on the piano. A Baldwin C from the 1920s, the precursor of the L, would probably have a bifold fallboard, rather than the one-piece that is used on newer Baldwins. Another indication of age would be holes that line up the duplex scale aliquots, rather than the later ones which just sit on the plate. I would be interested in seeing a picture, to confirm its age.
Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT Re: Early 1960s Baldwin L - 07/14/16 03:42 AM
Many of the Baldwin grands from prior to WW2 had the serial number stamped on the backside of the keyslip and on the lyre top.
Posted By: ebonykawai Re: Early 1960s Baldwin L - 07/14/16 02:17 PM
OP said that "the serial number stamps inside the piano revealed that this Baldwin was in fact from the 1920s". Sounds like the serial number was already found.
Posted By: JazzyJamMan Re: Early 1960s Baldwin L - 07/14/16 02:22 PM
Wasn't actually a stamp but an embossed number in front of the key slip. So, now I'm not sure. Conferred with the tech. He now says that the piano could in fact be from 1960. I believe we've yet to find an actual serial number.
Posted By: Ed McMorrow, RPT Re: Early 1960s Baldwin L - 07/14/16 02:54 PM
The actions in the 1920's had many differences from the ones in the 60's. I and others could probably tell if you post pictures.
Posted By: JazzyJamMan Re: Early 1960s Baldwin L - 07/14/16 08:42 PM
Called the dealer and told them what you all have said. They looked and found the expected 1960 serial number stamped under the piano. Go figure!

Thanks all for the help!
Posted By: BDB Re: Early 1960s Baldwin L - 07/14/16 09:02 PM
It just goes to show that it is difficult even for people in the business to ascertain information about an old piano. We should not be too harsh when they make mistakes.
Posted By: ebonykawai Re: Early 1960s Baldwin L - 07/15/16 01:26 AM
That's great news! Are you getting it?
Posted By: JazzyJamMan Re: Early 1960s Baldwin L - 07/15/16 03:19 AM
Know what, ebonykawai? It's a fine piano, but given the price, my tech was convinced that I could find something with a better finish and a better action. So it's still a potential, but I don't think it would be unwise to give it some more time. In particular, he thought that I would want more from the action in a few years time, and that the cost of new action parts would bring the total price higher than it needed to be.

Another words of thanks to all. This forum is awesome! I'll continue to post, for sure smile
Posted By: Rickster Re: Early 1960s Baldwin L - 07/15/16 01:21 PM
Good decision, JJM.

A very good PW friend offered me a 6 footish Baldwin grand from the early 1900s a while back for free. Of course, it needed a pin block a some other things, but the finish was nice; the action was not bad, but still older and warn. I reluctantly declined the offer. Not sure if I'm loosing my piano-mo-jo, or just wasn't in the mood to fool with it (probably a little of both smile ).

Good luck, and keep us informed!

Rick
Posted By: ebonykawai Re: Early 1960s Baldwin L - 07/15/16 07:48 PM
Yes, good luck, hope you find something great!
Posted By: gynnis Re: Early 1960s Baldwin L - 08/26/16 01:56 PM
If the piano spent a lot of time in the university environment it was probably played to death. Usually, this means an action rebuild is in it's future. The L's from this period are built like tanks, so if your tech gives you the OK, it may be a fine choice.. Don't be surprised if the tech comes up with a $5,000 laundry lists of things you should fix for a piano of this age.
Posted By: gynnis Re: Early 1960s Baldwin L - 08/26/16 02:11 PM
If the piano spent a lot of time in the university environment it was probably played to death. Usually, this means an action rebuild is in it's future. The L's from this period are built like tanks, so if your tech gives you the OK, it may be a fine choice.. Don't be surprised if the tech comes up with a $5,000 laundry lists of things you should fix for a piano of this age.
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