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Piano Investment Analysis

by Karen E. Lile

Determining whether a piano is a good investment is something done best in conjunction with an consultant who has specific expertise in the piano marketplace.  I am going to share some analysis tools here in this section with those of you who are considering the investment aspects of pianos.  This subject is vast, and I am only taking "snapshots" of a very small portion of the subject.  These snapshots, like a photographic image, are two dimensional and only cover a certain time, place and content.  The real world of investments is three dimensional and only inadequately captured in a series of snapshots.

Making good decisions in the real world of investments requires access to local and National market expertise, access to a comprehensive evaluation of a piano's condition and potential (like example shown in Report R1.2 and R1.1).  

Part of what I am about to share with you a portion of the analysis I do on a routine basis before making recommendations to people about how they can obtain the best investment on a piano.   Most people have various needs they are trying to fill and investment value is only a factor they are considering.  Here are five scenarios: (the names are fictional and each person's situation is a composite of several real life situations I have encountered):

  • Sarah Lovelace has inherited a 1916 Steinway O, 5'10" grand in satin ebony and wants to know what to do with it.  She might decide to keep the piano, but realizes that it needs refinishing and possibly rebuilding. It belonged to her grandmother and it has sentimental value to her. But, before doing any upgrades, she needs to determine if the piano is worth the upgrade.  She also wants to decide if she will spend her money on this piano, sell this piano and buy another, buy a new car, go on a more elaborate vacation or do some remodeling to her house.

  • Paul and Linda Hoeft are deciding how much money they want to spend on a piano.  Their children are going to start piano lessons, but they don't know yet whether it will work out. Both want the piano to inspire the children to practice, make progress in their lessons and develop a "good ear".  Linda is interested in the way the piano looks in the room.  Paul is trying to decide whether to buy the least expensive piano that will accomplish the purpose or to spend more money and get an remarkable piano investment as well.

  • Mrs. Huxable has to sell her 1961 Steinway O, 5'10" grand in satin ebony.  Her husband passed away recently and now no one is playing it.  It obviously needs work, but she doesn't know whether or not to sell the piano in "as is" condition or to upgrade it and sell it after the work is completed.  She doesn't have to sell it immediately, so she has some time to upgrade the piano if she chooses to do so. She wants to see the piano go to a good home and to see it appreciated.   Selling the piano is somewhat of an emotional decision.  But, Mrs. Grover wants to make sure that she backs up her decision with some sound thinking.

  • Michael Yu is a budding 15 year old pianist who has outgrown the family upright.  He is making tremendous progress in his piano playing.  The teacher has told Michael's parents, Michelle & Randy Yu, that it is time to buy a good quality grand or he will not be able to progress further.  Neither Michelle or Randy play the piano themselves.  Michelle and Randy want their son to have an excellent quality piano, but neither of them play the piano themselves.  They have taken Michael around with them to various piano dealerships to play the piano's avaliable.  The pianos that Michael wants are all over $35,000.  Randy doesn't want to spend this type of money without knowing what the choices are.  Michelle is concerned about the having enough money to pay for Michael's college.  They both know that when Michael leaves home, they will need to decide what to do with the piano.  Will it go with him or stay with them?  They know that no matter what future is in store for the piano, their decision today may affect Michael's ability to develop his musical talents to their fullest capacity.  Michael is talking about music as a profession. 

  • Edith Hanley is a piano teacher.  Her son has made sufficient income through his profession to give her the gift of a fine piano. He gives her one condition, she must make her choice and have the piano she wishes him to buy delivered to her home within 30 days.

For the sake of keeping the analysis simple, I am going to put some artificial limitations on the above mentioned scenario.  I have been a consultant for several thousand buyers, sellers, owners and investors.  In my sixteen years of consulting, I have seen people choose to buy all types of pianos with numerous variations in brand, size, color, style, touch, tone and price.  And although each person made a different choice, I felt that the choices they made where right for their combination of values and situations.  

I could have approached this problem from many angles.  I decided to limit the variables.  I wanted to make my analysis simple enough to convey the issues to you in a way that is easy to understand and doesn't take too much of your time.  In order to come up with this particular analysis, I went through my records and chose five different sets of people, all with varying values and circumstances, for whom I would have had to do the same type of investment analysis.  

I used the following tools for my analysis of each of these five situations:

US Piano Market Comparison on Steinway 5'10" Grands over 13 year period

Investment Value Comparison of two Steinway 5'10" Grands

Comparison Chart - Four New & Used Steinway Grands

PFSS:  Piano Finders Superior Standard on Scale of 6' Grand Pianos

R1.2 Piano Inspection  & Estimate and R1.1 Piano Values & Upgrades Reports

Don't forget Touchweight article for do it yourselfers... Probably put it in the Tech Talk part of the website, under a Tech Talk folder, ie.  pianofinders.com/techtalk/beginners/touchweight

|These are the decisions that each set of people made after their consultation.  Each of them considered the same set of facts presented above:

  • Sarah Lovelace decided to hire Piano Finders to perform the upgrades on her piano in stages over a period of several years. Click here to see comparison chart organized by Sarah's chosen priorities and why Sarah made this decision. 

  • Paul & Linda Hoeft decided to hire Piano Finders to find and restore a Vintage Steinway for her.
    Click here to see comparison chart organized by the Hoeft's chosen priorities  and why the Hoefts made this decision.  See Touchweight Instructions to see how they tested the various actions of the pianos available to determine what their goal was.

  • Mrs. Huxtable decided to donate her piano to Building Bridges.
    Click here to see comparison chart organized by Mrs. Huxtable's chosen priorities and why Mrs. Huxtable made this decision.

  • The Yu Family decided to purchase a rebuilt and refinished Steinway Grand that was on a local brokers showroom floor.
    Click here to see comparison chart organized by the Yu's chosen priorities and why the Yus made this decision.

  • Edith Hanley decided to buy a new Steinway Grand.
    Click here to see comparison chart organized by Edith Hanley's chosen priorities and why Edith Hanley made this decision

I will include more analysis on other types of piano choices in the future. If you have questions about this particular analysis and want to send them to me, I will post your question and my answer here on the website so that others may also benefit.


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