Hello MMD readers; Much has been said lately of the need to leave the
restoration of rare orchestrions, coin and reproducing pianos to the
small number of professional restorers that exist today. While this
may be the ideal, it is not always possible or realistic.
As some readers may know I own a mid-size group of fairly rare coin
pianos and orchestrions. My problem with restorations is that most of
the music machines I own are fairly rough unrestored, with some that
are heavily damaged from poor long term storage, dampness and flooding.
I have talked with several professional restorers over the last ten
years about restoring some of the more interesting and valuable music
machines. Most of these talented restorers have a long waiting list
of three to five years. They also seem to favor their regular repeat
customers with very large collections and very deep pockets. Who can
really blame them as they have to make a living. This is a business
-- I understand this. Fine high quality restorations take time.
Restoration costs are very high today.
Some do not want to work on heavily damaged machines. There are others
who only want to buy my music machines to restore and sell them when
restored -- they are basically restorer/dealers.
Restoration price estimates that I have been quoted have been well
above what I can justify or possibly afford. So what is a collector
with one or more music machines that are rough and un-restored to do?
Sell them? Store them for a rainy day? Or try their best to restore
As for myself, I do not want to spend the little free time I have
restoring a low value player piano while I have some great music
machines waiting in storage.
One can buy a great old restored player piano today for one third the
cost to restore one today. Last spring I found a super unrestored
reproducing piano that I was interested in buying. A restorer/dealer
friend had owned it but had never got around to restoring it because
he was busy doing other coin-piano restorations.
The problem? I could not find a professional restorer who was at all
interested in restoring it. Most will not touch a reproducing piano
today as there is too much time involved in doing the restoration.
One statement I got from a local restorer: "I can restore three or four
Seeburg coin-pianos in the time it would take to do a complete proper
restoration on that reproducing piano!" I understood exactly what he
was saying. Needless to say, I passed on that piano and did not buy
it. There are many older restored reproducing pianos out in the market
today for one third to one half their restoration costs today.
I will no longer buy any un-restored music machines. Last month I also
passed on an un-restored Peerless Wisteria because it was unrestored,
along with the limited few Peerless "O" roll re-cuts that exist.
In short, most new collectors with limited funds are now forced to
undertake the restoration of rare coin-pianos, orchestrions, and
reproducing pianos themselves, if they want one, or are forced to
buy music machines and pianos with older, tired restorations and try
to fix them up themselves.
There are plenty of these un-restored music machines out in the market
today. If you don't believe me, just check-out eBay or Craig's list.
Sadly, there are more great un-restored music machines out there today
but very few quality professional restorers!