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MMD > Archives > July 1999 > 1999.07.23 > 10Prev  Next

New and Old Reproducing Pianos
By John A. Tuttle

Hi All,  I love facts!  And the majority of my adult life has been dedi-
cated to collecting facts about circa 1920's player pianos of all types.
Naturally, this has been done primarily for the purpose of becoming a
knowledgeable rebuilder, but nonetheless, I've found numerous facts and
numerous 'holes'.

In an effort to fill one of those 'holes', I started the first listing
of Player Piano Technicians some three years ago.  I was somewhat sur-
prised to find that there were more than 120 men and women in the U.S.
who stated that they were capable rebuilders of reproducing player
pianos.  Not being in a position to verify each claim, I simply passed
the information along to the general public in the form of a Technicians
Listing at Player-Care.

It pleases me to say that as of this date, no one has yet come to me and
told me of a bad experience with any of the listed technicians.  But I'm
curious to know more about them (the technicians).

Let me qualify my question.  I'm interested in finding out how many
working reproducing instruments exist in the U.S.  I'm also interested
in finding out how many are restored annually.

Here's my question: Over a period of the last five years, how many
reproducing instruments have you rebuilt?

What was the extent of the rebuild?

And if you're so inclined: What was the average cost of a complete
restoration (including refinishing, restringing, new hammers, dampers
and piano work)?

The information I collect will NOT be made public!  I intend to gather
this information for the purposes of finding averages all across the

Why am I doing this?  It's my feeling that (based on other information
I have) the solenoid operated reproducing player piano is much more
popular [today] than the circa 1920's variety by almost 300%.  And
further, that the wide difference in popularity is directly related to
labor costs.

If this is indeed the case, a rebuilder would be doing himself/herself
a favor by engaging themselves in the installation of reproducing 'kits'
rather than spending countless hours rebuilding the older units.

This action would have a two-pronged benefit.  One, it would increase
the number of reproducing instruments in the market place.  Two, it
would increase the value of the existing 1920's units, since it would be
more widely known that they are considerably more costly to restore than
a unit that has been retrofitted with an electronic system.

It's my opinion that the majority of the buying public is more interest-
ed in the bottom line than they are the antique value of any instrument.
Only a select group of individuals can afford to invest in history.

This point was made clear to me recently when a customer with a very
fancy reproducing instrument asked me to quote a resale value.  My
figure was in the $40,000-$50,000 range.  A few weeks later, he called
again to inform me that another business had quoted him a value of
$125,000-$150,000 for the same instrument.

This tremendous difference got me to thinking.  What is the realistic
value based upon? Surely it is not the labor costs, since, regardless
of the make, a complete restoration including anything and everything
couldn't exceed $15,000-$20,000.  Therefore, the estimated value had to
be based upon other criteria, i.e., rarity and cabinet style, etc.  And
since there are no reference books to aid the sellers of such instru-
ments, the selling price is based almost entirely on what the market
will bear.

How does one logically 'guesstimate' that value?

With loads of questions, and always looking for answers,

John A. Tuttle

P.S.  Did I mention that I opened another domain?  It paid for itself
in the first three weeks of operation.  I do love the Internet and
constantly encourage others to get involved ... for profits sake!

(Message sent Fri 23 Jul 1999, 17:55:12 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  New, Old, Pianos, Reproducing

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