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MMD > Archives > December 2001 > 2001.12.30 > 06Prev  Next

Should a Restoration Look Like New?
By John A. Tuttle

Hi All, I thought I'd chime in on this topic because it's quite
debatable.  Professionally, I've never had to make the final decision
with regards to "how far" to go with a restoration.  The customer makes
that choice.  However, I have been asked numerous times if finishing
the cabinet would diminish the antique value of the instrument.  And in
virtually every case, my answer was "No".  Here's why.

First off, during my apprenticeship I was taught that pianos don't
become antiques until they are 125 years old.  It was explained to me
that unlike many other collectibles and antiques, pianos are designed
to operate for upwards of 75 years before restoration is typically
needed.  Therefore, the "antique clock" (as I will call it) doesn't
start ticking until that time.  And since most items do become antiques
50 years after their usable lifetime, it seemed logical to me that a
piano would have to be 125 to qualify as an antique.

Secondly, at the same time I was also told that player pianos become
antiques when they are 100 years old.  The logic behind the statement
was relatively similar to the previous comment in that the player
mechanism was designed to have a usable lifetime of not more than
50 years.  50 + 50 = 100.

Bearing out the validity of the above, a book came out in 1986 called
the Official Price Guide to Music Collectibles, which by its very name
suggested that the items listed in the book were collectibles, and not
antiques.  In that book are listed numerous makes and models of pianos
and player pianos.  So it seemed to me logical that those items did not
yet qualify as antiques.

Now that you can see where I'm coming from, let's get down to details.

And speaking of details, I'll once again refer to my training.  One
of the things my mentor harped on over and over was the necessity to
attend to the details.  In other words, it was his learned opinion
(after over 80 years in the business; he was 93) that a completely
restored player piano should look and play like a brand new instrument,
just as it did when it came off the assembly line.  Every blemish
in the cabinet was repaired to the point where it was basically
'invisible' to the naked eye (within six inches).  That was the

After nearly 30 years in the business, and in regards to piano
finishes, no one has ever given me any reason to believe that I was
misled during my training.  Every piano I've finished looks as close
to new as I could make it look.  I've even fancied that some of them
look better than the original.  Furthermore, with regards to resale
values, and from where I sit, a properly finished cabinet has always
been more valuable than one in its original 80-year old condition.

So my opinion is that no expense or time should be spared in the effort
to return the cabinet to its best possible condition.  However, time
will tell all, and it may come to pass, when these instruments reach
their 125th birthday, that those units that are "untouched" and in good
shape on the outside will be more valuable than those that have a newer
finish.  And here, I can only assume that the logic will be that they
were better cared for during their entire life, and that they are,
therefore, more valuable.


John A. Tuttle

By the way, Happy New Year to everyone!

(Message sent Sun 30 Dec 2001, 16:11:24 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Like, Look, New, Restoration, Should

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