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MMD > Archives > February 2017 > 2017.02.19 > 01Prev  Next

Dispersing Randolph Herr Collection - A Sad Story
By Gordon Stelter

[ Ref. Don Teach in 170204 MMDigest ]

Dear Everyone;  Apparently, at around the same time that Michael Herr,
Randolph Herr's brother and heir, contacted Don Teach regarding the
sale of Randolph's pianos, he contacted me.  As "Randy" and I had never
met, I presumed this was due to some convivial emails we'd exchanged
on the subject of reproducing vintage, decorative pedal mats, that his
heir was able to access.  ("Randy" was working on Aeolians while I was
working on Standards, a project I may yet finish.)

It became immediately apparent in conversation with Michael that pianos
were not his main area of expertise; I had to explain the difference
between an upright and a grand, for example.  Yet he set the prices so
high (at $50,000 each for the "Hetty Green" piano and the Steinway DR,
with me being told I'd be allowed to keep "anything above that") that
I had scant enthusiasm for mentioning them to any prospective buyers.

Yet I did, with a polite explanation that the prices were set by the
heirs, not me, and with a hope of getting counter offers.  None
arrived.  (I and all others I knew estimated the "Hetty Green" piano
value at $5,000, and the Steinway DR at about $20,000.)

Then I straightened out the mystery of how Hetty Green, "The Witch of
Wall Street" who allegedly never spent a penny needlessly, could have
had a custom art case Steinway OR built for her one a year after she'd

After much research (and help from MMDer Ken Snowden) it was determined
that the piano, though long alleged to be hers, was _not_ hers: it was
part of the "spending spree" her son went on subsequent to her death,
in 1916, and his inheritance of $120,000,000 -- a "spree" that included
the construction of a 60-room mansion in Round Hill, Massachusetts,
where the piano was placed.  (Information on them is on "Wikipedia";
read at your own risk!)

After putting this business out of my mind for a year, the heir then
called, sounding desperate, to announce that all was now one-half
price.  But even at that I had no enthusiasm for resuming marketing.

Then Don Teach called to tell me that his movers showed up at the house
(that had been sold, thus needed cleaning out), and that the pianos
were in much worse condition than had been described, and that he'd
backed out of the deal he'd made with the heir, due to this.
("Colonel" Green's piano had been dropped by non-professional movers
shifting it around in the house, for example, and the ornate
"stretcher" shattered.)

Then I read Don's post on MMD about the pianos going to the dump, and
I called the heir and his son, who gave me two phone numbers for the
movers/estate cleaner-outers, neither of which worked.  An address was
also provided, which I have passed on to the one party I knew was still
interested in the pianos (about 20, overall: including a 1916 Steinway
OR that could provide the "guts" to the Colonel Green art case

And now the bench and music desk from "Colonel" Green's art-case grand
have shown up on eBay (still being called Hetty Green's) which leads me
to believe that the rest of the piano, badly damaged but fixable, has
indeed now been destroyed.  Pity!

Gordon Stelter
Athens, Georgia

 [ MMD articles about Randolph Herr are indexed at
 [  -- Robbie

(Message sent Mon 20 Feb 2017, 03:09:28 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Collection, Dispersing, Herr, Randolph, Sad, Story

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