When faced with the daunting task of purchasing a new piano, there are many criteria which need to be considered. In my other article, I discussed the basic requirements behind a piano purchase itself. In this article, the main focus will be on why a rebuilt used Steinway Piano might be a better option than a brand new Piano.
First, let’s look at what you get when you purchase not a piano, but a new car, because more people are more familiar with this. You get all of the newest gadgets, the best technology, the best warranty (usually), and the prestige as an owner of new car. All of these items make the fact that when purchasing a new car, when you drive off the dealer parking lot, you just lost 30% of the value of the car. So what have dealers done that sell older cars? Many of them update some elements of the car to the newer technologies, if possible, but usually the gadgets are about the same as they were in when the car was originally manufactured. Some dealers fix up the exterior, the interior, overhaul the engine, etc., to put the car in the most sound shape, and then they give a beautiful 100,000 mile warranty on the car–as good as new. But best of all, when driving away with a pre-owned car, the owner realizes that although he doesn’t have the “prestige” of a brand new car owner, he can have the “prestige” of a like-new car, and the knowledge that he just saved 30% over the purchase of a brand new car.
With pianos it is similar, but even better. First, the new piano may have newer technology, but most likely not, because the technology in the piano from about 1935 until the present has been very consistently the same, with the exception of some experimental technology in the 1960s by Steinway, which they later removed. And the parts that are not the same, can be updated to the newest of technologies with little work. For example, the strings and agraffes (the bridges) can be the newest of technologies. The Teflon of the 1960s can be removed if desired. The bushings and felts can all be updated. And most importantly, the soundboard can be updated or replaced to be brand new so as to have the effect equivalent to a brand-new piano. In fact, other than the casing and the frame, almost every part of a piano can be restored and renewed to save the original piano’s value, but update it to be just as modern a brand-new piano
And here is where it gets better: The warranty offered at this point can be equivalent to a brand new piano, the value of the rebuilt piano is often much higher than the value of a new piano, and best of all, the sound and touch may be superior to a brand new piano. The sound in particular may be better because the aging and other factors in the original wood casing and framing. The touch because when rebuilding, the best of technicians often spend more time than the factory because every element of every key must be reviewed and looked at to bring it to the optimal touch.
Not just the value, but the price is much better than a new piano because you are purchasing a piano that was originally manufactured in historically lower dollars, plus the rebuilding cost, which is often 30% less than the cost of a brand new piano. For example, our Steinway Model D pianos are listed between $65000 and $79000. These are approximately 30% less than brand new Steinway D pianos, but their appearance, sound, quality, warranty, value is as good as if not better than a brand new Steinway D from a Steinway Dealer or the factory. This is because of the care and workmanship of the craftsman involved.
There are one condition where the rebuilding of piano is not worthwhile: when the craftsman does not have the rebuilding skills or qualifications. Unfortunately, this does happen, so some of the rebuilt Steinway pianos might look like a Steinway, but they do not sound or feel like a Steinway. That is a shame because then the value of the piano is equivalent to a car with gadgets that don’t work or seats that are ripped, but you are still paying for it as if it is brand new. Make sure the craftsman has the qualifications and understanding of the work required. The sound and touch are more important in determining the quality of the rebuild over the general appearance of the piano because although refinishing the wood is difficult, the skills involved in replacing a soundboard, ribs, updating the action, etc. are even more difficult.
And finally, don’t waste your time on other brands of rebuilt pianos. Only the Steinway piano maintains an appreciating value over time. All other brands have depreciating value, so the rebuild just doesn’t make sense. It is like throwing money at a car that won’t be worth much in a few years. Why not choose a car that has “prestige” that outlast and has intrinsic value, like a Steinway, the only piano that holds and appreciates consistently over time.
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