How Much is the Piano Worth?
Two pianos of the same make and model, made the same day at the same factory, in just a short time can have very different values resulting from a number of factors.
I do not buy and sell pianos. I have always thought buying and selling pianos, while at the same time selling piano services, would be conflicting interests. A piano service professional needs to remain honest, forthright, and as objective as possible with the piano owner regarding the condition of their piano.
Three basic levels of pricing:
- Retail value: a piano dealer’s price if the piano was in their store’s showroom.
- Wholesale value: the price a piano dealer would pay for the piano.
- Individual seller’s value: the price you may be able get for a used piano or have to pay for a used piano not associated with a retail piano store or dealer.
Call a piano tuner/technician.
The piano owner should have been having the piano serviced regularly or at least had it tuned sometime in the past. The piano tuner/technician who has serviced it may know the piano and should be your first call. Your regular piano tuner/technician could have some helpful/useful information about your piano.
Ask the piano tuner/technician if they know of any significant problems (delaminations, cracks, loose pins, design, etc) that would take your piano out of the mainstream of similar pianos or if it has any special features (an upgraded or special cabinet, finish, autograph, some other feature, or ‘story’) that puts it above the mainstream of other similar pianos.
Ask your tuner/technician the brand and model (spinet, console, consolette, studio, upright, grand, etc.) of your piano. Your tuner may not have the serial number in his records, but may be able to help you locate it on your piano. The age of the piano can be determined by the serial number.
You will want to know the size of your grand piano in feet and inches rather than ‘baby’ or ‘large’ or ‘living room” size. (Grand piano size is measured from the very ‘front’ of the piano – the piece of wood just below the keys – to the farthest point on the ‘tail’ end of the lid).
Your tuner/technician should be able to tell you how your piano compares to others regarding the overall condition of the case, wear and tear on parts, etc. and give you an idea as to selling price. Try to remember what you paid for it. What you paid for it can often be a good starting point. Try to remember when you purchased it? The salesman had to convince you to pay what you paid for it. If you can get close to what you paid for it now you are doing well. (Try getting your purchase price back by selling your refrigerator, or your sofa, the golf clubs, the boat, or the Mercedes.)
If you have a piano model that is still in production, and the price of the new ones have gone up, this does not mean your piano has necessarily appreciated in value. The fact that pianos like yours are still in production is worth more than the increase in price. Age does not make a piano more valuable.
If you don’t have a tuner/technician (or can’t remember who tuned it last, lost his number, etc.) maybe you have a friend or relative who has worked with a tuner they know and trust. Call them. Or, you can call me. I would be happy to talk with you. However, the only way an experienced piano tuner/technician can really give you an accurate appraisal is to take a look at the piano inside and out, and perhaps tune it.
Make sure the piano technicians you talk to – or listen to – have sufficient piano service experience and piano judgment you will be able to respect. Music teachers, piano teachers and piano salesmen, though knowledgeable, are generally not skilled in the technical aspects of piano service and maintenance. Even though they are professionals at what they do and will be someone to talk to, make certain you talk to an experienced piano service professional as well.
Always visit your local piano dealers.
The next step in determining the value of your piano is to visit your local piano store and look at used pianos about the same size, age, brand, model, cabinet style and finish as yours. You really don’t want to omit this step. Even though you will not find an exact match to your piano, if you look at enough used pianos, you should get a general idea as to what dealers are asking for a good used piano similar to yours.
Keep in mind dealers will be able to get considerably more for a good used piano than you or I ever could selling them out of our home. But they should get more. Before selling the piano, the dealer will have already moved the piano to their store, and likely done any necessary cleaning, fixing, repairing, tuning and service. More often than not a store warranty is included with the piano – which has value and can be an appealing safety net for used piano buyers. The dealer can also deliver the piano, take a trade-in and even help buyers with financing. They also advertise on a regular basis, and have knowledgeable piano sales professionals to assist buyers in their purchase before, during, and after the sale. Dealers generally provide an in-home tuning after the piano has been delivered to the new owner.
The dealer may even have a consignment plan you might want to investigate- they may be able to sell your piano for you. They may be able to sell it more quickly and with less aggravation than doing it on your own. They have walk-in traffic – people go there looking for pianos. You may even end up with a higher price too. Maybe you will see another piano or an electric keyboard you might want to own. Maybe they would take your piano on trade for it.
You might also want to ask the dealer what he thinks your piano is worth, but there is where he becomes conflicted. If you want to know for insurance purposes, he may be able to talk replacement costs with you. But once you ask them about selling your piano, you become competition. After all, they are in the business of selling pianos too, and they are the professionals. (The better question would be to ask him how much he would give you for your piano.) Because they are professional, they should be helpful and courteous
Another thing to do while visiting the dealer is to see what he has for sale in the same price range you are thinking your piano is worth. Remember, the dealer has all sorts of added values (described above) which are included in the price of his pianos. A visit to your local dealers will be a very informative experience when it comes to determining the value of your piano.
Wholesale ‘value’ is the amount the dealers pay for their pianos.
Generally, you and I cannot buy pianos at the wholesale level, even though we sometimes think we can. More often than not, there are good reasons why pianos are sometimes given away. “Nothing” is generally what they are worth – if not less.
You really should call an experienced piano tuner BEFORE accepting or picking up a ‘freebie’ piano. I can’t tell you how many people have called me after they have spent money and time (and friends who will no longer speak to them) because they lugged a freebie piano home from a friend’s, relative’s, friend of a relative’s, relative of a friend’s, off the street, or out of the basement of a building or church, etc.
You may think you are getting the deal of the century, and maybe you are, but the odds are probably millions-to-one against. Before doing this, call me or call someone else who may be able to talk sense to you. The phone call could save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
The best economy is quality, not junk. The last thing you want to do is end up with a piano that will be a constant service headache, will never sound right, will be an eyesore in your home, and not really worth fixing even if it could be fixed.
Even if the exterior case is something you think is special, if the inside is full of broken rusted strings, cracked bridges, loose tuning pins, failing glue joints, brass flanges, etc., let it go. More often than not, before the piano gets put out on the street or is given away, all the other avenues of getting rid of it have been tried. No one likes having to pay to get an old worthless piano hauled off. If the dealers don’t think the piano has value, you shouldn’t either.
The value of your piano will be somewhere between the wholesale price and the retail price.
Another consideration in determining the value of your piano is your local piano ‘market’. Different parts of the country will have different figures. Remember, I am NOT a piano dealer. Only the dealers know what their costs are, and with prices changing all the time, only they know what their retail prices of new and used pianos are at any given time.
After talking to your tuner/technician, and have gone to some local dealers and reviewed ‘pianos for sale’ in the classified section of the newspaper, or Craig’s List or wherever, and maybe even gone to see a few, you will have a fairly good idea as to what your piano may be worth in your area.
Once you start the process you may find many varied opinions. Keep at it, do your homework and try to find knowledgeable professionals in the piano business who will talk with you. Eventually the smoke will clear and you will end up with a reasonably good idea as to what your piano is worth.
After you have done your homework you will be subject to market at the time you try to sell it. Your piano is worth what someone else will pay for it.