Please note, this article was written back in 2009. While the main points are still valid some of the prices will have changed.
To help you determine the value of your piano.
- HAMILTON PIANO CO., Est. 1889, with factories at Chicago Heights, Ill. Controlled by the Baldwin Piano Company. Gibson Guitars Guitars acquired the Hamilton name in 2001, when they purchased the Baldwin Piano Co. See Acrosonic or Baldwin for additional numbers. Serial numbers are for the first piano made in year shown.
- Aeolian probably produced more instruments than any other company in the U.S. Founded as Heller & Co. In 1899, later incorporated as Winter & Co. In 1903, the firm became affiliated with Sears Roebuck and Co.
Actually made by Haddorff Piano company. Sterling Piano Company: Derby, CT, US 1866–1967 Founded in 1845 as The Sterling Organ Company by Charles A. Sterling, the company merged with the Winter Piano Company after the Great Depression. They also produced the cheaper, but reputable, Huntington Piano. Story & Clark: Chicago, US 1884–1993.
Much of the information here is from The Piano Book by Larry Fine
For a great source of additional information check out our Piano Forums today!
How Much Is It Worth?
Ultimately, something is worth only as much as someone will pay for it. Piano prices vary greatly depending on the locale and the particular situation.The value of a piano also depends very much on how knowledgeable the seller and potential buyers are. For every piano, there is what I would call an “informed value” and an “ignorant value.” The informed value takes into account the technical quality and condition of the piano, whereas the ignorant value does not, being based primarily on how the piano case looks (if even that). Unfortunately, the ignorant value is more often than not what the piano actually sells for.
Let the buyer beware
In most private transactions, the seller hasn’t the foggiest notion of what the piano is worth, and the asking price is vastly over-inflated, often based on such considerations as that “Uncle Joe liked this piano, and he played all his life, so it must be a fine instrument.” In these cases, there’s plenty of room for negotiating. If the piano needs considerable repair, encourage the technician to tell you this in front of the seller, as it will better your bargaining position. Even where the seller knows the informed value of the instrument, the asking price is usually set high in the expectation of bargaining, and you can generally expect to agree at a price of from 10 to 30 percent less.
The list on the next page shows the approximate selling prices of various ages, makes, and types of piano, gathered by Mr. Fine from his contacts around the country. Twenty-five technicians returned a questionnaire in which they listed the average low and average high selling prices (not asking prices) in their area for the pianos described here. The pianos were said to be in salable condition, and, unless otherwise noted, were for sale by a private owner, were not rebuilt, and were not Steinways.
This list was compiled in 1986 for the first edition and has not been updated, however it should still be a good general guide.
For a more comprehensive up-to-date list of prices of current pianos, check out www.PianoBuyer.com
The latest supplement to the pianist’s must-have reference The Piano Book, this comprehensive guide provides list prices for more than 4,000 currently manufactured acoustic and digital piano brands and models, as well as advice on how to estimate actual street prices to help negotiate the lowest possible price.
But It Is An Antique!
Piano World is often asked if a piano is valuable because it is an “antique” . The answer in most cases is no. Unlike say, a Chippendale writing desk or Tiffany lamp, an old piano is usually just that, an old piano.
While restoring a fine piece of furniture usually involves a craftsman restoring the finish, this would only be the starting point with a piano. The piano is a complicated mechanical marvel involving thousands of moving parts, all of which are subject to wear and deterioration. Restoring these many parts to their original condition is a major undertaking for a skilled piano technician, requiring many, many hours of labor. And even this is sometimes not possible due to the lack of available replacement parts.
Should I Invest the Money?
The following is from a discussion on our Piano Forums …
From reading other posts I take it that it is not worth the money or time to restore an old upright. My piano is a 1898 Weber. It is in excellent condition. I bought it at the Salvation Army for fifty dollars.Should I spend more and get it restored? Thanks!
It depends on what you want. As it stands the piano is probably worth between $0 and $500 and all components have considerable wear. Assuming that the basic structure such as pinblock, soundboard, and bridges are sound, you could spend perhaps about $2500 to $2800 for partial rebuilding and have the piano restrung, have new hammers, damper felt, and bridle tapes put on the action, and have the keys rebushed. If the other action parts such as hammer butts, shanks, and whippens are in fairly reasonable condition and not becoming brittle with age that’s the minimum to get you a musical instrument that will probably sound very good and play decently.Because of the wear that’s certain to exist in the other action parts it won’t be a piano that can be perfectly regulated or will feel and play like a new piano. If you had to sell it with some effort you might be able to get $1500 for it. If you went the whole distance and had the action fully rebuilt with all new parts you would probably end up spending about twice the previous estimate. Then if you want add in about $1800 to get the case refinished.
By the time you are done you would have a really nice vintage upright piano, but that money would also buy you a really nice new upright. After doing all that if you had to sell the piano you would never get anywhere near what you put into it out of it. That might give you some idea why old uprights such as this almost never get rebuilt. One last comment: you say the piano is in excellent condition – how do you know?
Piano rebuilder, Pasadena, CA
Get the Tuner
Although it is possible to find a piano built over 60 years ago that is still in reasonable playing condition, we would recommend enlisting the opinion of a qualified piano tuner/technician before investing in one, and the price should reflect the fact that it is an old piano. The period from 1900 to 1930 was the heyday of piano manufacturing during which many fine instruments were being built. A piano from this period that has been well maintained, or is in restorable condition, might be a good purchase (have a piano tuner check it out for you before you invest your money).
Don’t be Square
In particular, we recommend staying away from the “square piano” also known as a “square grand”. These instruments were really a rectangular box and were often very ornate, however, they were poor musical instruments even when they were new and most piano tuners refuse to even attempt to work on them. If you insist on buying a square piano, you should look at it strictly as a piece of furniture.
Piano Value Continued Page 2
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Hallet and Davis Pianos hold one of the names that signify the age of the musical instrument industry in Boston. It also boasts the distinction of being one of the most celebrated pianos of the century.
History and Recognition
The history ofHallet and Davis pianoscan be traced back to the year 1835; the name soon gained recognition after their release onto the market. In 1867, the famous pianist, Franz Liszt, played a Hallet and Davis piano in one of his performances at one of the great Paris expositions.
The Hallet & Davis Piano Co. was acquired by the Premier Grand Corporation of New York in November 1925; the new owner and managing firm continued the manufacture of the famous grand piano which so long came from Boston.
Modern Day Expansion and Manufacturing
Hallet, Davis & Co. found it rather impossible to build pianos in the United States because of the high labor costs in conjunction to the world's economy, as it found its way on the rise with globalization.
Like many other piano manufacturers, Hallet and Davis Pianos Co. was forced to move their manufacture overseas due to the high man-hours needed for the production of their pianos.
Hallet, Davis & Co. has forged partnerships with overseas manufacturers in order to produce a higher quality and more aesthetically pleasing pianos at even inexpensive prices.
Hallet, Davis & Co. has been working in partnership with these overseas manufactures to create an impressive number of high quality pianos; grand pianos in both traditional and Victorian period styles. Queen Anne and Chippendale models are featured as well as Decorator Consoles and Professional Uprights.
Continental and Studio styles are also available in a countless and various beautiful veneers and finishes.
Hallet & Davis would have a wall full of Academy Awards or Grammies for 'performance by a piano' if they were to award them today.
The video below illustrates one of many reasons why Hallett, Davis, & Co. pianos are as superior an instrument today, as they were back when they were first built.
Serial numbers found below are for Hallet and Davis pianos before 1960.
Serial numbers for pianos until 1901
1855 - 9800
1860 - 12000
1865 - 14000
1870 - 18000
1875 - 22000
1880 - 26000
1885 - 30000
1890 - 36000
1895 - 42000
1900 - 48000
1901 - 49500 1915 - 85000 1929 - 131000 1944 - 215000
1902 - 51000 1916 - 89000 1930 - 132000 1945 - 215000
1903 - 53000 1917 - 93000 1931 - 132000 1946 - 215000
1904 - 55000 1918 - 96500 1932 - 132000 1947 - 503000
1905 - 55000 1919 - 100000 1934 - 132000 1948 - 504000
1906 - 59000 1920 - 102000 1935 - 133000 1949 - 504900
1907 - 61000 1921 - 105000 1936 - 135000 1950 - 506000
1908 - 63000 1922 - 109000 1937 - 153000 1951 - 507000
1909 - 65000 1923 - 113000 1938 - 163000 1952 - 508000
1910 - 68000 1924 - 117000 1939 - 170000 1953 - 507550
1911 - 71000 1925 - 121000 1940 - 183000 1954 - 509700
1912 - 74000 1926 - 124000 1941 - 193000 1955 - 510270
1913 - 77000 1927 - 128000 1942 - 204000 1956 - 510260
1914 - 81000 1928 - 131000 1943 - 215000 1957 - 510500
Serial numbers for Vertical and Grand pianos by Winter Piano
Company & Aeolian Piano Company after 1960
1960 - 364200 1966 - 397700 1972 - 420500 1978 - 440000
1961 - 370700 1967 - 401500 1973 - 424900 1979 - 444000
1962 - 376900 1968 - 405200 1974 - 430300 1980 - 446900
1963 - 383100 1969 - 407500 1975 - 433400 1981 - 449700
1964 - 387900 1970 - 410900 1976 - 436900 1982 - 452400
1965 - 392000 1971 - 415600 1977 - 438000
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Blue Book Piano Serial Numbers
Winter And Company Upright Piano
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