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Usry Offline OP
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In 5 days, I will take possession of a Mason & Hamlin AA, serial number dates at 1926. It is in "not great" condition. Considering this instrument, it is in well-playing, tuning-holding, structural integrity - still well worth its name, rarity, and very desirable. If I wanted, I could merely restore the case finish and call it a day. There are a few hairline cracks in the soundboard - of the type that could be disregarded. My query would be as to whether to flip this piano for [good] profit, what extent of restoring would tip the scales on that profit? I'll say that my purchase price is less than $1000. I believe this AA can fetch $5000 to $7000 as is - a buyer could put $3,000 into a nice restoration and get $15,000 or more. I know it's difficult to ponder via the internet, but what would be a good plan? If you'd like to try and see me just keep it for myself, an arm-twisting won't be necessary. I am seeking to fund a record producing venture, and this could be the source of needed capital. As to the case, satin black would be appropriate. However, there must be some absolute "don't do that" s. Any and all advice will be graciously received.

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It's probably a fallacy that an all original "core" AA is worth $7,000 in the current US market.
Your supposition that sinking an additional $3k in it will result in an instrument that will sell for $15k is not aligned with what I have seen, either. That amount of capital infusion doesn't adequately cover anything substantive that you could hire a quality technician or restorer to do (restring + repin, replace pinblock, replace action, good quality refinishing, recapping bridges, etc.).

Have you read Sally Phillips article on selecting a rebuild candidate in the Piano Buyer yet? It was just published, and you may find it informative:

http://www.pianobuyer.com/current-issue/07a-should-i-have-my-piano-rebuilt.html


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Originally Posted by Usry
I believe this AA can fetch $5000 to $7000 as is - a buyer could put $3,000 into a nice restoration and get $15,000 or more.


I have a sort of morbid curiosity about this post. But I'll just ask, how did you determine the figures above?


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Please let me have a list of restorers who will do a good job for $3,000.


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The reason they sell for $15,000 or more is because it costs $15,000 or more for a good restoration. $3000 doesn't even get you a decent refinishing, let alone any action or belly work.


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My figures are based (mostly) on what I know this piano needs and doesn't need - and by "need", I mean to put it in that "ooh, shiny" status. It really doesn't require anything beyond a tuning and some finish touch-ups.- if I simply think of it in those terms, I would, as said, end up keeping it for myself. I'm also calculating for parts and some labor. I'm acquainted with piano work, having maintained, repaired, and partially rebuilt several since 1979 - so, that accounts for the "low" bid. I have never worked on a piano as an occupation. I just admire pianos - the very nice, and the lesser grades. I'm finishing a no-name baby grand right now. I had never seen a piano so void of workmanship. All around, the construction was almost appalling. It doesn't look that way now. I've mended its soundboard, refinished the plate, and restrung. Restored its castors (previous owner chopped them off - SMH), replaced the keytops, given it a matte black finish, buffed all the screws & hardware. That is a lot of dollars in labor I get to keep. Anyway - this Mason-Hamlin will be the finest quality piano I've had to deal with. It never hurts to ask - even if my experience is good, the trained tech should never be shunned in my book. Wish me luck.

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Sorry - I see your point. I took my own viewpoint out of context. I never figure for labor - unless a particular aspect of the work demands a level of workmanship I cannot deliver. I realize you guys are techs - this is how you make a living. I'm not. But I'm also not some loose-cannon DIY either. The pianos I've worked on were either keepers (19th C Hauschildt), or they were passed on as gifts. I have tried, since 1979, to take care, and respect the pianos I put my hands on. I know I've seen some forum posts by DIYs that make me shudder. What I was trying to convey in my post was that, unlike any before, this piano would be a flip. Should I just list it for $3,000 as is, or put some time and a few parts into it and expect twice that? I don't know. It is a fully-functioning, standing strong Mason & Hamlin from 1926 for crying out loud! Those pianos you see listed for $2,000 that eventually sell for $800? - this ain't it. So, what say you, little star?

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Actually the figures may not be that unreasonable depending on the particular instrument.

$3000 doesn't go very far when talking about restoration. However it could absolutely transform a piano from a miserable instrument to an amazing instrument depending on the circumstances.

Take my personal piano: A 1912 Steinway O. It was condemned as a "core" piano so I managed to pick it up for a core price. A previous tech had said it needed restringing, new action, and refinishing. It was horribly out of tune, the action had not been serviced in many decades and was sluggish. Nobody would have enjoyed that piano.

However...The action was actually not that worn out. It is not such a rare phenomenon to find neglected pianos have far less wear than well maintained ones for the simple fact that they go many years with no use whatsoever.

I would guess I put about $3000 worth of labor into this piano: replaced a few broken strings in the high treble, twisted the bass strings (they livened right up), lots of cleaning,lubrication, regulating, tuning, hammer shaping and voicing. I spruced up the case with some Howard's Restorofinish and feed-n-wax. I installed a full dampp-chaser system.

The piano plays beautifully, stays in tune wonderfully, and guests who come over really enjoy it.

Flipping pianos is an interesting puzzle. I have a Mason & Hamlin A from the late teens right now that I picked up for next to nothing. The cost to benefit ratio is always the main thing to consider.

If the action and strings are serviceable, I doubt it really pays off to rebuild the piano. You will probably do better financially just doing a really nice prep on the piano using original parts and strings. However, it depends on the technician. Since I have a busy schedule, I sometimes find it hard to keep projects moving ahead in the shop, so I often hire some of the jobs out. I have found it challenging to make as much in a day in the shop as out in the field.

I estimate I will be able to get 10K for my Mason working with its original equipment. Or I could invest the money to refinish and restring it, put some new parts in it and try to sell it for $20K, But that might mean putting $10K into it. Then the question is: Which will sell faster: A more extensively restored M&H for $20K or a nice playing original condition "refurbished" Mason for $10K? In my experience, the bargain-priced high-end piano will sell much more quickly and I won't have nearly the time and money tied up in it. Additionally it makes the piano available to musicians on a budget who are not as concerned about it looking pristine.

Speed of turn around is a big factor in making money in this business. It is much more profitable to sell 3 economically refurbished pianos for 10-15K over the course of a year then sell one totally rebuilt piano for $25,000 in that same time span.



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It's always easier to buy a piano than to sell a piano.


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don't anyone think that terminology is a good idea in the piano industry. Restoration in my mind and in the mind of restorers means what it says: restoration: new soundboard, bridges, strings, felts, action parts, refinish, clean and polish metal parts, repair any defects - including stripped screw holes.
This for a typical grand is over 25K worth of work plus parts. Your getting a piano that is virtually new and maybe better than new.
Refurbish is a better term for repair or replace of worn parts.


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Usry,
Pre depression Masons are some of the rarest and finest pianos ever made. So, as a "core", and I hate the term, your piano is very rare and desirable. Your best short money is in just finding someone willing to pay a premium for a Mason.

If you have any technical skills, then just setting the piano as right as you can get it; makeing it as much of a musical instrument as its condition allows, changes your core into what we call "ugly duckling" pianos; musician specials. A new set of hammers is usually a minimum. If it meets the right person's needs, then a piano like that is worth their paying signicantly more than a core price.

The pitfall is that any work, and money you invest in the piano will be lost if it eventually sells as a core.

Any work, short of complete restoration has a danger of suffering that fate. And personaly, being a restorative conservationist, I find any work done makes a core less attractive; sometimes negating any interest at all.

You have a pat hand. If you are not prepared to make the most of it, then anything short could net you less.

Be well,
Craig



Craig Hair
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