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#3212436 04/28/22 08:30 PM
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Hi everyone, I'm still on the hunt for a piano (casual player) and I appreciate everyone's expertise here. Could anyone share thoughts on purchasing a 1920's Steinway Model M (personal sale, not from dealer)? The keys have been replaced with plastic, and the piano has been refinished with new strings, hammers, and damper felts. Assuming it checks out with an inspection (no major issues), what is a fair price to pay? Or is this just more trouble than it's worth from someone like myself given its age alone? smile

Thank you!

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Hockeyfan,

Very difficult to answer your question without actually inspecting the piano. Too many variables. Whoever checks it out for you would be in the best position to advise you (probably).

Where are you located?

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Hi HockeyFan! Welcome to PW! grin

Just try to inspect it just a little bit by yourself and play it for a while before you call a tech. Make sure you really like it!!
(You are probably already going to do that though)

Not sure about the replacement of all of that but as long as whoever did it did a good job it should be OK.
You wouldn’t want yellow keys and worn felt right? Makes sense for an old piano.

Probably has a long history!

A picture (if you want - it’s kind of tricky the first time on the PW photo gallery) and more info (if there is) would be great!

How much are they asking? Or is it “best offer”?

Happy piano shopping!

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Originally Posted by hockyfan
The keys have been replaced with plastic, and the piano has been refinished with new strings, hammers, and damper felts.

new keytops: what about the bushing, the keyframe felt, or the punchings?
new strings: what about the block, and the bridges?
hammers: what about the shanks?
Damper felts: what about the whips or back action, ?

A long history? yes, near 100 years, but it is a rare action that old that will not have either some ongoing problems or shortcomings. Have a tech familiar with Steinways tune it and give you a report on the condition, otherwise, you are rolling the dice.
good luck,

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I can't tell you how many bad "rebuilds" I've seen lately. Latest: Steinway M poorly strung, #4 pins slipping. Another one: restrung with all the coils on the plate.

Get it inspected or it will cost you.

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Thanks all for the responses! Will get more info if/when I go see the piano, but wanted to head into this as well-informed as possible. As far as price, it is a "best offer" situation, but obviously, don't want to under-offer or they may immediately say no, and don't want to overpay either. It's a long-time family piano, so there may be some emotion involved too... Just looking for a reasonable range to even begin discussions without sounded too stupid smile

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Do inspections give you a rough estimate of the value? Not sure...

Hope you have a good piano buying journey 👍

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Originally Posted by hockyfan
Thanks all for the responses! Will get more info if/when I go see the piano, but wanted to head into this as well-informed as possible. As far as price, it is a "best offer" situation, but obviously, don't want to under-offer or they may immediately say no, and don't want to overpay either. It's a long-time family piano, so there may be some emotion involved too... Just looking for a reasonable range to even begin discussions without sounded too stupid smile

Hi hockyfan
You’ve probably already considered this, but I would not make any type of offer until you have had an inspection by a highly skilled technician. Hopefully, he/she can advise not only what work is needed, but what would be a fair offering price. I would advise the tech what you need when booking the appointment.

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“Best offer”

“OK I will offer $100”

“No”

“But that is the best offer there are no other offers?!”

“......”

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Originally Posted by probably blue
“Best offer”

“OK I will offer $100”

“No”

“But that is the best offer there are no other offers?!”

“......”

I hope that is just a joke. If you’ve ever sold a house where you receive an obvious low-ball offer, you would know the feeling of disgust you have, even to the extent of refusing any further negotiations. It would be the same with a piano


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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I was selling some furniture and I got a really low offer... I am obviously not going to accept that.

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Here are a few things to think about...

1) It "has been refinished". Refinishing ranges from stunningly gorgeous (extremely well done/like new) to throwing a coat of varnish over the old alligatored finish, with many shades in between these extremes. Where does this one fall?

2) Restringing ranges from near perfect factory style work to oversize pins/lousy coils/inconsistent pin height/poor string spacing/missed duplex bars/loose bridge pins, etc. Where does this one stack up?

3) Hammer replacement...too many things to screw up here, or get right....size, bore, tail bore, strike point, spacing, travel, etc etc.

You get the idea hopefully. If it is a "best offer" scenario, there is a very good chance that work has been done quickly and cheaply without regard for high quality. A rebuilder would go into this on the assumption that everything needs to be done and offer a max (perhaps) of about $3500 (case value). The lower the better though. You can take it from there.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


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Hmm...what's your current instrument that this would be replacing?

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The range can be extremely wide depending on the condition. I have seen a fully renovated 1930 model M at a dealer at 30k euros base price. If i was interested i could likely negotiate it at around 25k euros.


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Also a couple other things...when you play-test it, I'd recommend to do so in two modes...and best not to be shy about either one.

1) Mechanical mode. Test how it's doing without musical intention. Play every key, pedal, multiple times, at different volumes, etc.
2) Musician mode. Play it like you've already taken it home, and just go all out on it, the way you inevitably would if you were to buy it.

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The piano is 100 years old and has had what constitutes somewhere between a major servicing and a partial restoration, but it is not a comprehensive restoration.

I'm assuming from what you are saying that the pin block is original, which is not great news on a 100 year old piano. You haven't mentioned the soundboard. What condition is it in? Is it serviceable? If the piano was in Europe or California I might be persuaded that the original 100 year old soundboard is in serviceable condition and can still produce tone. However, I've now seen a few restored Steinways in the southern states with the original soundboard and they're most often in a total mess. It is possible to restore the original soundboard but it may have to be literally taken apart and reassembled which is a huge amount of work. Just putting new strings over the original board without doing work on it solves very little if anything.

Damper felts - I've seen them range from being professionally done, to them being in such a wonky mess that you might as well be using bath sponges on the strings.

Hammers - new hammers are much heavier than old hammers were, and putting new hammers on an original action *without* some serious regulation and modification of the hammers is usually a disaster. Steinways from the 1920s were not meant to have heavy actions. I've now seen too many rebuilt Steinways with new hammers which are frankly painful to play because the geometry is all wrong. It also produces a terrible sound.

I'm just telling you all these pitfalls, obviously I haven't seen the piano in question, but I'd probably give this one a body swerve unless I was utterly convinced that this piano was so beautiful I had to have it in my life. I've never felt like that about any piano yet, so that would be the first one.


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You would think from all the comments around here that new hammer weigh several pounds more than old hammers did! Lots of old pianos had hammers that were huge compared to what the same make and model have now. You would think that there was some magical expiration date on soundboards when something happens to them and the sound becomes unbearable. I have never experienced that.

In any case, the piano in question has the hammers it has. It has the soundboard it has. If you like how it plays, fine. If not, find something else.


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Originally Posted by BDB
You would think from all the comments around here that new hammer weigh several pounds more than old hammers did! Lots of old pianos had hammers that were huge compared to what the same make and model have now. You would think that there was some magical expiration date on soundboards when something happens to them and the sound becomes unbearable. I have never experienced that.

In any case, the piano in question has the hammers it has. It has the soundboard it has. If you like how it plays, fine. If not, find something else.


Remember that one gram of additional hammer weight can result in about 5 grams of downweight at the key. Maybe not pounds, but it can certainly be perceived.

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That assumes that the difference in weight is a gram.


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Fantastic information everyone, I am taking lots of notes and this will definitely help me make a more informed decision! Very interesting discussion regarding the hammer weight - hopefully getting a good inspection will help answer these questions. I'm looking forward to trying some of that "mechanical" playing when I test it out - will probably get a few laughs smile

This would be replacing an old Story and Clark upright - I will say, depending on how the inspection goes, this may be more trouble than it's worth for my purposes - if it wasn't for the obvious ("it's a Steinway"), I would probably not even be considering a piano this old; but, at the same time, probably worth at least looking into...

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