Buying Piano Rolls at Auction
By Tom Hutchinson
Over the last few weeks there have been several questions about how
and where one can acquire piano rolls. Suffice to say that there are
perhaps millions of them still out there.
For the several month priors to this just past Christmas there were
approximately 1100 individual listings for piano rolls on eBay on
a daily basis; search using <pian* roll*>. Each listing varied from
one to several hundred. The quality varied from unrestorable junk
to high quality collector rolls.
I buy a lot of rolls for restoration and have purchased over 4000
during the last couple years. I believe you have to decide in the
beginning what type of collection you are trying to build. My
approach has been to buy quantity, restore everything, sell what
I don't wish to keep and add the remainder to my permanent collection.
I buy both on eBay and from individuals. Often the best deals come
from private individuals but these are not available on a consistent
basis. eBay always has rolls for the dedicated collector.
The best indicator of what you are going to get on eBay is the
photograph. I have purchased fairly large lots of rolls for as low
as $.25 each, but that is a rarity. I average about $1.00 each for
88-note rolls and $2-2.50 for Ampico rolls. I simply do not buy single
rolls because cost plus shipping will make them prohibitively high.
Shipping can be a major cost factor unless you insist the seller use
USPS Media Mail. Media Mail will usually be about half the amount
of Parcel Post or UPS. I have never lost a roll using Media Mail.
I try not to bid on eBay auctions that are run from an eBay store; they
tend to have high handling charges and some refuse to use Media Mail.
Collections listed by private individuals on eBay usually end with the
lowest sale price.
These are the roll buying hints that I can come up with now; if anyone
has any questions I'll be glad to try to answer.
(Message sent Thu 5 Jan 2006, 04:59:18 GMT, from time zone GMT-0600.)