What is my Player Piano worth?
We are frequently asked the value of what your player pianos might be worth. To give you a general idea we offer the following information.

Most people are under the impression that their player piano is a valuable antique worth it's very considerable weight in gold. 99 out of 100 instances this is never the case.

Player lifespan

Player pianos unlike most other antiques have a finite lifespan beyond which they deteriorate and as they do so their value decreases proportionately. Player pianos do not improve with age like good wine for example. A player piano is essentially a piano with an internally fitted mechanism capable of playing it. The materials the playing mechanism is constructed from deteriorate and break down over the years. These materials are highly specialized grades of rubber, rubberised cloth and leather. The replacement of these materials is an extremely skilled, manual, labour intensive and time consuming job.

The majority of player pianos are an average age of 70 years plus or minus a decade. Whereas earlier on repairs could be effected simply by patching up the playing mechanism unfortunately most instruments will have naturally deteriorated these days to point where only major work bordering on a complete rebuild will ever restore them to anything like their original playing condition.

The pianos that the mechanism plays are themselves in general also showing the signs of age and the vast majority will require piano repairs to some degree or another. Many instruments are beyond economical repair when taking into account cost of restoration against an eventual restored value.

Calculating a rough price estimate

Accordingly a good guideline is often that a non-working player piano is worth no more than the equivalent ordinary piano of it's age and quality. This may be hard to understand suffice to say that a regular piano dealer will probably offer even less than that. To the ordinary piano dealer a non-working player piano is an unsaleable burden amongst their stock.

Sadly, even today many ordinary piano dealers will rather rip out the expired player mechanism and discard it as it is easier to sell a secondhand piano than a secondhand piano with a heavy player mechanism inside that doesn't work anymore.

The scale of price for instruments in an unrestored condition is therefore entirely dependant upon

  • the brand of piano
  • the overall playing and cosmetic condition of the piano today
  • the type of player mechanism
  • the overall condition of the player mechanism today

  • At the low end of the scale are the cheap "transfer names" pianos, cheap pianos fitted with cheaply manufacturer player mechanisms and pianos fitted with player systems with a general obsolescence or an impractical restorability rendering them undesirable.

    Whilst all of these instruments will play perfectly satisfactorily if restored they will never be top-rate as the pianos were never top-rate and the player mechanisms will at best therefore give a satisfactory performance only.

    Going up the scale are the instruments consisting of good players in good quality pianos, those fitted with player mechanisms that have proven to be of good reliability and of a good manufacturing standard.

    At the top end of the scale are the reproducing pianos with desirable player mechanisms in top quality pianos in good condition and additionally certain other highly desirable but rare instruments.

    Playing condition of instruments

    The condition of any instrument affects it's price. Often instruments are described as having been restored. This means absolutely nothing necessarily. Often the euphemism "restored" means "patched -up and playing weakly" or refers to a previous restoration of such poor quality that it has actually caused the instrument to lose value by having caused damage in the long term. As a general rule of thumb materials in the player mechanism have a life of about 20 years before they deteriorate to a point where replacement is advisable. Whilst very heavy useage will cause premature expiration of these materials the materials deteriorate naturally even if the instrument is hardly ever played.

    What constitutes the description "..still plays quite well" is highly variable also. A player piano that plays well is one which can be pedalled easily with very little exertion producing music soft and loud and it should be possible to play it at an average level with just one foot pedalling at a moderate pace. If your player doesn't do this then please don't think that it "…still plays quite well". Once you have played a player piano in good order you will instantly know the difference.

    There are no quick fixes for the majority of instruments, the benefit of patching-up one component will eventually be overtaken as the other ones gradually cease to function. As mentioned above, most instruments which have been "partly restored" so that they still play to some degree or are "…still playing quite well" will, by simple virtue of the age of the materials inside them, require major to complete rebuilding of their mechanisms to bring them back to good working order.

    Any idea of value is arbitrary in the absence of details of any particular instrument suffice to say that clapped out player pianos are sadly from time to time worth the precise sum of absolutely zero and are fit only to be taken down the tip. A good one in good condition though not necessarily playing may range from perhaps a few hundred pounds to a few thousand. A fully restored instrument may range from a thousand to several thousand pounds.

    The Restoring and servicing of your instrument

    At The Pianola Shop it has always been our policy to repair instruments as economically as possible. Hence, where you may only wish to spend a fixed sum on your instrument we tailor the work to the components most in need of work to make the instrument play as well as possible. Your expenditure on your instrument is always therefore applied in the manner in which it is most effective. Should you need for only one component to be done we cater for this.

    Alternately, at the other end of the scale, should you wish for a complete piano action rebuild, restringing, plate regilding, case repolishing, key recovering and total player mechanism rebuild we also cater for all of this. Naturally we accommodate ourselves to the service you require and most of our work falls between these two extremes. We can advise you and upon request prepare a full estimate of work and the cost of the same thereof.

    Please call David to find out more on 0844 5857299 or email The Pianola Shop.
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