Mechanical Music Digest  Archives
You Are Not Logged In Login/Get New Account
Please Log In. Accounts are free!
Logged In users are granted additional features including a more current version of the Archives and a simplified process for submitting articles.
Home Archives Calendar Gallery Store Links Info
MMD > Archives > December 2002 > 2002.12.01 > 03Prev  Next

Player Pianos in the USA
By John A. Tuttle

Hi All,  I want to echo Roger Waring's comments with regards to regular
88-note player pianos in the UK.  While there are well over 100,000
unrestored units out there (in the US), it's doubtful that more than
1,000 get properly restored every year.*

The points Roger made about the reasons for the decline in the number
of restored units were right on the money.  For quite some time I've
been telling people that the return on any particular "investment" is
1:2.  In other words, for every dollar spent, the projected return is
$0.50 on the dollar.  That boils down to a 50% _loss._

At, I have stated for at least five years that the only
justification for restoring a circa 1920's player piano (regular 88-note
player) is (a) you love the music, or (b) you have a sentimental
attachment to that instrument.

Economically speaking, and I've said this before, a completely restored
88-note player piano can be likened to a pleasure boat.  In 98 out of
100 cases, the resale value is about half of the purchase price.  If
the unit is not completely restored, you can be certain that there will
be periodic maintenance costs, i.e., broken strings, failed action
parts, notes that quit, poor tracking, etc., etc.  That's the dark side
of things.

Looking on the brighter side of things, those who own and maintain
working player pianos may profit from their monetary expenditures
in the not-to-distant future.  As I was told during my years as an
apprentice, "Pianos become antiques when they are 125 years old.
Player pianos become antiques when they are 100 years old."

So, if my mentor, Paul Tusting, of the Tusting Piano Co., knew what
he was talking about, the 88-note player piano will be entering the
"antique" realm in just a few more years.  Right now, they are
considered, by informed collectors, as "collectibles".  Therefore,
their value is substantially lower than it would be if they were
considered legitimate antiques.

For over a quarter of a century I have been attempting to educate the
public about these machines.  I learned within my first few years in
business that spending my money to restore a regular upright player
piano was an exercise in futility.  It was bad business.  I hardly ever
broke even, even if I got the unit for free!  (Considering that my time
also had some monetary value.)

Today, I assist people who still 'carry the torch' and attempt to
restore their own instrument.  It pleases me to no end that hundreds
of owners have been able to enjoy their player piano again as a result
of the information and services I offer at  Yes,
I am bragging! I get hundreds of emails a year thanking me for the
information I provide for free, and I get thanks for providing a place
where people can purchase the information (technical manuals and basic
supplies) they need to do the work in their own home.  The sale of
technical materials and rebuilding supplies has tripled in the last
two years.

Frankly, it's a matter of economics.  When the supplies needed to
restore a player piano are around $700, and the cost to have the work
done professionally exceeds $7,000, and the return on a professionally
done job is 1:2, it's easy to see why many mechanically gifted
individuals choose to do the work themselves.  As I've said for quite
some time, "If you are not intimidated by the automatic transmission
in your car, restoring a player piano should be no problem." (I try
to keep things in a very realistic perspective...)

*Based on estimates provided by the 120+ rebuilders listed at (


John A. Tuttle
Brick, NJ, USA

(Message sent Mon 2 Dec 2002, 01:17:29 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Pianos, Player, USA

Home    Archives    Calendar    Gallery    Store    Links    Info   

Enter text below to search the MMD Website with Google

CONTACT FORM: Click HERE to write to the editor, or to post a message about Mechanical Musical Instruments to the MMD

Unless otherwise noted, all opinions are those of the individual authors and may not represent those of the editors. Compilation copyright 1995-2024 by Jody Kravitz.

Please read our Republication Policy before copying information from or creating links to this web site.

Click HERE to contact the webmaster regarding problems with the website.

Please support publication of the MMD by donating online

Please Support Publication of the MMD with your Generous Donation

Pay via PayPal

No PayPal account required

Translate This Page