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MMD > Archives > September 2010 > 2010.09.21 > 06Prev  Next

Market Value of Mechanical Music Instruments
By John A. Tuttle

Hi All,  Of all the recent postings on this topic, I believe Don Teach
pretty much nailed it.  Certainly, there are a number of factors which
one can point to and say, 'Yep, that's the reason'.  Even here in the
Northeast, non-working player pianos are getting harder and harder
to "give away".  Working players are being purchased for a few hundred
dollars, and if things continue in the same direction as they have for
the past few years, used rolls will have more intrinsic value than the
pianos that play them.

Since I work on all kinds of players, including the digital units,
I have a bird's eye view of the industry from the service end.  Also,
I know some of the manufacturers of digital players.  So, I also hear
things from their perspective.  Further, I know people in the piano
industry (sales and manufacturing) and I listen to what they say, too.
No matter how you slice it, the acoustic piano is no longer considered
a 'necessary' part of a middle-class, and higher, American household.

To make matters even worse for acoustic pianos, electronic (or digital)
pianos have evolved to such a high level that it almost seems foolish
to buy a real piano.  On a personal note, early last month I was
shopping in a music store for some cables for the digital piano I play
at my church.  While there, I tried a few of the new digital pianos
they had in the showroom.

They were all pretty nice, but I told them I was looking for one that
had a more realistic grand piano sound.  They took me into their studio
and had me try the piano they used for recording sessions.  Long story
short, it was so good that I bought it on the spot.  Cost: $600.00.
I put it in the back seat of my car and took it to the church.

It has a touch-sensitive, 88-note keyboard, three working pedals, MIDI,
and all the other bells and whistles of today's electronic keyboards.
Plus, I can record and play back anything I play, or hook the unit to
my computer and play any of the thousands of MIDI roll files in my
collection.  With that kind of competition afoot, is it any wonder that
the paper roll operated player piano has lost its popularity and its

There is another aspect of this topic that hasn't been discussed in
depth, and that is the average American family.  No one can deny that
the American family has changed drastically in the past 30 years.
Families are so spread out these days that getting 'all the family'
together in one place at one time has become increasingly difficult.

So often I hear comments from my customers like, "We use to get
together two or three times a year and have a great time gathered
around the player piano."  Now, they're selling the unit because it
hasn't been used in five or more years and they want others to enjoy
what they once enjoyed.  Sadly, it's hard to find a home for these
players because of the costs involved in moving and maintaining them.

In closing, it was in May 1997 that I wrote my first posting concerning
the potential value of player pianos in the future.  Back then, I said
it would be 2020 before values started increasing as a result of the
fact that players were being gutted or thrown away.

The only revision I would make to that posting would be to change the
year to 2025.  By then, player pianos will have firmly moved from the
realm of 'necessity' to 'novelty', and they will truly be "antiques"
instead of merely collectibles.  My point is, if you can hold on to
that old player for another 15 years, it might actually be worth
something.  Gosh, I'll be 77 then! :-)  What a hoot!

John A Tuttle
Brick, New Jersey, USA

(Message sent Tue 21 Sep 2010, 23:06:25 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  Instruments, Market, Mechanical, Music, Value

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