In my circle of friends, it seems that starter pianos fall into one of two types; a new (or used) spinet piano or someone’s Grandma’s old antique upright. These older upright pianos were popular from the 1880s to about the 1930s and not only looked beautiful but had the gorgeous, deep resonance of a grand piano.
Antique upright pianos run the range from plain (such as the kind that we used to have in grammar school) to elaborately carved parlor pianos. But like everything else, these antique pianos do wear out over time and their owners have to make a decision as to whether or not they are worth restoring.
We happen to own an antique upright grand ourselves, and were faced with the decision of either restoring the piano or replacing it. After some research, we reached the decision that repairing our antique piano wasn’t worth the cost. If you are deciding whether or not to restore your antique upright piano, the information we discovered may help guide your decision as well.
Restoring an antique piano doesn’t mean just replacing a few broken strings and tightening up the pedal. Pianos are elaborate pieces of machinery with every part working in unison to create the sound you hear. A complete restoration of an upright piano means completely rebuilding the interior which can run between $9,000 to $12,000, providing the parts are even available. Considering that a quality studio vertical piano can be purchased as low as $5000, you won’t save money by restoring an antique piano instead of buying new.
Low resale or trade-in value.
If a person could get his money out of restoring an old antique piano, a restoration might be worth it. As near as I can tell, the only antique pianos worth at least the cost of the restoration are those that are elaborately carved, uniquely designed, or are associated with a famous person. To give you an idea of what perfectly restored antique pianos cost, check out the prices at antiquepianoshop.com. For what was involved in restoring these beauties at this e-tailer, the prices seem rather low.
What did we learn at the piano stores we visited? “As is” antique pianos have zero trade in value; fully restored might fetch $1000 as a trade-in.
Hard to finance.
Most of us don’t have $10,000 lying around the house to pay for a piano restoration. Financing options for this kind of restoration are limited to advancing cash off a credit card or taking out some kind of home loan all which add to the cost of the restoration. At least when buying a new piano, bank financing or in-house financing is possible.
From the point of view of saving money, it appears that the majority of antique pianos are not worth the cost of an expensive restoration. Unless your antique piano has high sentimental value or is of an elaborate or unique design, buying a new piano for the family instead of restoring an old antique piano is the strategy that will put you money ahead.
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