Antique Piano: Brands, Identification & Value Guide

Since the invention of the piano in the 17th century, numerous manufacturers have created a plethora of piano variations. You’ve come to the right place if you’re a collector or reader interested in learning more about antique pianos.

This article covers everything you need to know about collecting antique pianos, including the five most valuable piano brands, the best antique piano brands to collect, and more. Continue reading to learn more.

The History of Antique Pianos

The invention and conception of the piano are credited to Bartolomeo Cristofori, who was born in Padua, Venice, in 1655.

Prince Ferdinando de’ Medici, an expert harpsichordist and art collector, hired Cristofori 35 years later to design a new instrument while maintaining the Medici collection’s harpsichord and other musical instruments.

It is believed that prior to his employment, Cristofori was a highly skilled keyed instrument maker, which is why the royal court commissioned him to create a new instrument.

By 1711, Cristofori had built four new instruments, including the pianoforte, which is now known as the piano. However, like the works of many other revolutionary artists and inventors, the pianoforte was not widely known or appreciated during his lifetime.

The Grand Piano by Bartolomeo Cristofori
The Grand Piano by Bartolomeo Cristofori  Source: The Metropolitan Museum

Cristofori created numerous stringed and keyed instruments, including a three-keyboard harpsichord bearing the Medici family coat of arms.

Cristofori’s invention, a three-keyboard harpsichord, is preserved in the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments at the University of Michigan.

Bartholomeo Cristofori is also credited with inventing the hammer-action keyboard, which allowed the volume of each note to vary depending on how hard the musician pressed the keys. This innovation revolutionized music.

Antique Piano Styles

There are three main styles of antique pianos, each of which differs in terms of size, shape, color, and construction materials. This section will look at the various styles of antique pianos.

Grand Piano

A Grand Piano and a Bench
A Grand Piano and a Bench Source: Depositphotos

Their construction distinguishes grand pianos. The strings and soundboard are horizontal, and the hammer that strikes the strings swings up before returning to rest. Grand pianos create a more powerful sound and have a faster key repetition rate than vertical pianos.

The sizes of grand pianos have been given a variety of marketing names over the years. There are Gallery Grands, Parlor Grands, Studio Grands, and Baby Grands, to mention a few.

There are no official guidelines for these terms, although a grand piano measuring less than 5 feet in length is commonly referred to as a Baby Grand. The dimensions of grand pianos range from 4 feet 7 inches to 9 feet for concert grand pianos.

Digital Piano

A Brown Digital Piano
A Brown Digital Piano Source: Wikipedia

The digital piano is a style of electronic keyboard instrument that was designed to be an alternative to the traditional acoustic piano in terms of both playing feel and sound.

They are designed to resemble the appearance, sound, and touch of an acoustic piano, but have the benefit of being considerably lighter.

There are several designs of digital piano, from slim upright models to grand pianos of various sizes. High-quality digital pianos with progressive hammer actions require no regulating and generate concert grand-quality sound without tuning.

Digital pianos also offer educational features in addition to a variety of voices, customizable piano sounds, and the ability to adjust the volume or even use headphones. They are usually 51 to 57 inches long.

Upright Piano

A Black Yamaha Upright Piano
A Black Yamaha Upright Piano Source: Yamaha

Since the strings and soundboard of an upright piano are placed vertically to the ground, these pianos are also known as vertical pianos. This is because an upright piano is played with its back to the audience.

When playing the upright piano, the hammers strike the strings vertically from a horizontal position. In comparison to grand pianos, these instruments feature shorter strings and more compact soundboards.

Players looking for pianos that sound like a grand piano but don’t take up as much space as a grand piano should consider purchasing antique upright piano brands with a height of 48 inches or more. These pianos are generally a good choice.

There are three further varieties of upright pianos, each of which will be described in greater detail below.

Spinet Piano

A Spinet Piano and a Bench
A Spinet Piano and a Bench  Source: Euro Pianos Naples

A spinet piano is an early harpsichord-family instrument with one keyboard and one string per note. It is also known as a miniature piano or harpsichord due to its small size, which ranges from 30 to 40 inches in height.

A rod mechanism connects the compressed piano actions to the keyboard. The sound produced by the piano is known as drop-down action.

This occurs when the force of striking a key affects the force with which the hammer strikes the string. They are harder to maintain and regulate, and are no longer manufactured.

Console Piano

A Console Piano
A Console Piano Source: Kawai Pianos

A console piano is a type of upright piano that differs from a grand piano in one important way: the hammer strikes the strings vertically rather than horizontally.

Grand pianos have a deeper, more consistent sound than upright pianos because each stroke works against gravity and on shorter strings.

The console piano is usually between 40 and 44 inches tall. Console pianos are usually superior to spinet pianos because the latter have regulations and are slightly taller, which results in a better sound.

Studio Piano

A Yamaha Upright Studio Piano
A Yamaha Upright Studio Piano Source: Caruso Piano Gallery

The studio piano is another variety of upright piano, and it distinguishes itself from other upright pianos with its hammer-on-string action that is positioned vertically rather than horizontally.

It is the sort of piano most frequently found in educational institutions, churches, and recording studios. The studio piano is taller and wider than the console piano, measuring 45 to 48 inches tall and 58 inches wide.

5 Most Valuable Antique Piano ( A Selection of the Most Valuable Antique Pianos in Existence)

A collection of the most valuable antique pianos comprises antique piano brands. These old piano brands are renowned for their meticulous craftsmanship. In addition, they are recognized for their authentic tone, which sounds amazing.

Therefore, we will discuss the five most valuable antique piano brands in this section.

❖ The ‘Casablanca’ Piano

The Moroccan-Themed Casablanca Piano Encased in What Appears to Be Glass
The Moroccan-Themed Casablanca Piano Encased in What Appears to Be Glass  Source: New York Times 

This piano is from the movie “Casablanca,” which was released on November 26, 1942 by Warner Bros. The movie was set in Casablanca, Morocco, during World War II. This piano is one of the best-known pianos.

The Green Piano From The Film Casablanca
The Green Piano From The Film Casablanca Source: ThePiano.SG

In the movie, two pianos picture both antique upright piano brands. The first one is called the “Tiny Piano.” The “Tiny Piano” only has 58 keys, while a normal piano has 88 keys.

In the movie, the romantic flashback scene at the Parisian cafe, La Belle Aurore, was set in front of the green piano in the film.

In 1988, Sotheby’s sold the “Tiny Piano” for the first time for $155,000 to a Japanese buyer. Sotheby’s auctioned it again in 2012 for $602,500.

The second piano in the movie is a Moroccan-patterned brown piano. It is called the “As Time Goes By” piano because Ingrid Bregman, one of the movie’s stars, said the famous line, “Play it, Sam. Play As Time Goes.”

The piano, like the first piano, has 58 keys. In the movie, the piano was also used to conceal “transit papers.” A buyer who wished to remain anonymous paid $3.4 million for it at a Bonhams auction in 2014. Both Casablanca pianos are thought to have been built by Kohler & Campbell.

❖ Heintzman Crystal Piano

A Crystal Clear Transparent Crystal Piano
A Crystal Clear Transparent Crystal Piano  Source: ThePiano.SG

Heintzman & Co., also called “The Steinway Of The North,” is Canada’s most well-known piano manufacturer. From 1866 to 1978, this company manufactured pianos in Toronto.

Before emigrating to Canada and establishing his own piano manufacturing company in 1866, Theodore August Heintzman apprenticed as a builder for William Grenew in Germany beginning in 1831.

In 1890, the Heintzman factory was one of the largest in Canada, employing over 200 people and producing over a thousand pianos per year. Heintzman pianos were first produced in the early 20th century and quickly gained a reputation for excellence.

However, Heintzman, like many other North American piano manufacturers in the second half of the 20th century, went out of business in the 1980s due to competition from foreign manufacturers such as Yamaha and Kawai.

In 1989, Canadian investors revived the Heintzman brand, and currently Heintzman pianos are manufactured in Beijing, China.

A crystal piano was built for an Olympic event in Beijing in 2008, but it was only used once. It was then auctioned off and sold to a private buyer for $3.2 million. On sites like eBay, you can buy an old full-crystal piano for $49,000.

❖ The Steinway & Sons Piano

The Steinway Piano That President Franklin Roosevelt Was Gifted
The Steinway Piano That President Franklin Roosevelt Was Gifted Source: White House History 

Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg secretly built his first piano in his German kitchen. In 1850, he moved to the United States with his sons to pursue his passion for great sound and to build a better piano.

Three years later, he changed his name to Henry E. Steinway and founded Steinway & Sons. In 1938, the Steinway family presented President Franklin D. Roosevelt with their 300,000th piano. It replaced the 100,000th Steinway, which was presented to the White House in 1903.

Theodore Steinway, Henry E. Steinway’s grandson, had the piano made with a gold leaf design depicting five American music styles. To demonstrate American spirit, the instrument’s gilded mahogany legs were carved to look like American eagles.

During WWII, Steinway & Sons parachuted 3,000 “Victory Verticals” to American soldiers serving overseas. Soldiers gathered around the piano to sing homecoming songs, which strengthened their bonds.

Steinway & Sons still manufactures artistic grand pianos like the Fibonacci. The Fibonacci was Steinway’s 600,000th piano. The Fibonacci sequence, which represents evolution and perfection, is used in its design.

The piano took over four years to complete. Because it is a one-of-a-kind commemorative piano, the Fibonacci is pricey. You can buy it for $2.4 million.

A restored Steinway Model B grand piano is available for $66,235 on eBay.

❖ Bösendorfer Kuhn Grand Piano

A Black Bösendorfer Kuhn Grand Piano
A Black Bösendorfer Kuhn Grand Piano Source: Houston Piano Company

When he was 19 years old, Ignaz Bösendorfer became Joseph Brodmann’s apprentice, and under Brodmann’s supervision, Bösendorfer advanced to shop foreman.

When Brodmann retired in 1828, he sold his workshop to Bösendorfer, who subsequently established the Bösendorfer Piano Company.

Jon Kuhn, founder of the Kuhn factory, is a notable American studio glass artist. He got a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Washburn University in 1972 and a Master of Fine Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1978.

He is credited as one of the pioneers of the modern technique of cold-worked glass, trapping small shards of colored glass within his larger glass sculptures rather than using molten or blown glass.

The Kuhn-Bösendorfer art case piano is a one-of-a-kind collaboration between Kuhn and the renowned Bösendorfer of Austria. It is based on Bösendorfer’s popular 7’4″ Model 225.

It is the only co-branded art case piano ever approved by Bösendorfer, whose handcrafted instruments have been admired for their exquisite sound and unrivaled playability since 1828.

Kuhn’s art case piano is a breathtaking work of art, with 200 intricately crafted jewels of optical grade crystal arranged in diamond patterns on the case, lid, fallboard, and bench.

There are also 500,000 hand-crafted facets that alternate between glowing with warmth and blazing with brilliance.

With its unmistakable black coating and sparkling diamonds, the Bösendorfer Kuhn Grand Piano is one of the most unique pianos on the market today.

The Bösendorfer Kuhn took more than a year to complete and required 100,000 hand-cut lead crystals. It was initially valued at $1.2 million, but it was eventually placed on the market for $800,000. Other antique Bösendorfer pianos sell for between $12,000 and $62,000 on eBay.

❖ Bechstein Sphinx Piano

A Bechstein Wing Grand Piano
A Bechstein Wing Grand Piano  Source: eBay

Carl Bechstein founded the Bechstein piano factory in Berlin, Germany, in 1853. He built instruments during the 19th-century prime and spent the most of his time in France researching their action system and piano construction.

To perfect his craft, he continued to learn and accept English concepts of piano craftsmanship. After completing his training in France, Carl Bechstein founded and ran his own factory for 47 years until his death.

After his passing, his three sons continued to operate the factory until they also died. Helene and Karl Bechstein took over management of the factory afterwards.

Helene was accused of being a Nazi, which resulted in the destruction of the Bechstein factory during World War II because she was close to Adolf Hitler. Years later, the plant was reconstructed, but it had lost customers to Steinway & Sons and other rivals.

The Bechstein piano is another excellent example of an antique grand piano and antique upright piano brand that is still manufactured today.

It is one of the top five most expensive antique pianos, with a Bechstein Sphinx piano selling for $1.1 million at Showcase Piano and a pre-owned Bechstein grand piano selling for $104,950 on eBay.

Dating an Antique Piano

For antique piano identification, serial numbers help date them easily. These serial numbers are used to determine the piano’s age and year of manufacture, as well as the circumstances surrounding its production, such as factory history, manufacturing processes, and company ownership and oversight.

The number of digits in a piano’s serial number is typically between five and seven, though it might be fewer or greater depending on the piano’s manufacturer and age. A letter may also be inserted in a serial number.

For easy antique piano identification, here are the five most common places to find the serial number of your spinet, console, studio, or upright piano:

  • On the piano’s cast iron plate. Look along the front top edge of the plate after you remove the lid. The serial number could be on the right, left, or center.
  • On a small plaque under the ledge to the right or left of the open lid.
  • Stamped near the top of the wooden frame on the back of the piano.
  • Written on one of the hammers on either end of the piano.
  • It’s written on one of the piano keys, behind the name board.

If you can’t find your piano’s serial number, you should watch the video above. When you find it, go to Feurich.com, select your antique piano brand, and enter the serial number to determine when it was manufactured.

Factors That Determine Antique Piano Value

The value of antique pianos is determined by many factors. They  include, among other things, their age, brand, and serial number. Below are some of the factors that influence the value of an antique piano.

Age

With time, pianos become older. It is a natural process, and now that you understand how to date an antique piano, determining the year it was made will be easier.

The age of an antique piano on the market determines its market value. A reasonably used but old piano brand can command a higher price than a worn and old piano brand.

Brand

The value placed on an antique piano’s brand is objective. It is entirely up to you to decide whether you prefer a Bösendorfer or a Steinway. If an older piano from their favorite brand is still in good condition, most people will most likely choose it over an alternative.

People typically place a high value on the piano because they have a strong attachment to their favorite brand.

Serial Number

A piano that lacks a serial number should not be considered for purchase. Antique piano identification by date of manufacture and maker is impossible without a serial number.

The five-digit serial number stamp is usually hidden on the underside of the grand piano’s lid or the top of the case. It’s easier to find the serial number on an upright piano because it’s usually located behind the strings.

Where to Find Collectible Antique Piano

If you are looking to buy antique pianos of various styles or brands, these are a few websites where you can find collectible antique pianos:

Antique Piano Shop

The Antique Piano Shop offers a gallery and online museum of antique pianos and related instruments as a free educational resource.

The website provides information to the public about antique pianos, organs, and other musical instruments. The online museum allows the company to share its extensive collection of collectibles, antiques, historical texts, and photographs.

Click here to search for a collectible antique piano.

1stDibs

1stDibs is a luxury online marketplace that sells antique pianos and high-end furniture, bringing the antique industry into the 21st century.

Click here to find an antique piano by brand, style, or size.

eBay

eBay is an online store where you can buy and sell almost anything, including jewelry, furniture, accessories, dishes, and antiques.

They also offer a variety of antique pianos for sale on their website. These antique pianos are offered for sale by a number of retailers who have established an online store. Enter your desired item into the search bar to find it.

PianoMart

PianoMart is the premier online marketplace for buying and selling grand, upright, baby grand, and electric pianos. Their website features a vast selection of pianos and keyboards for sale.

To acquire one, you can search by manufacturer, size, price, and other factors. PianoMart also has a physical location in Rochester, New York.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How Much Is a 30-year-old Upright Piano Worth?

The selling price of a 30-year-old upright piano ranges from $500 to $2,000, depending on how well it has been maintained and how often it has been played.

2. Can a Piano Stop Tuning?

It may be impossible to tune your piano if it is very old, if it was poorly made, if it has been. It may be impossible to tune your piano if it is really old, badly constructed, neglected, or a combination of these factors. Fortunately, this is usually repairable, so there is no need to panic.

3. What Can be Done With an Old Piano?

Reasonable alternatives for an old piano can be for it to be recycled, refurbished, sold, or donated.

Conclusion

There are similarities between the art of making pianos and the theory of human evolution. Before pianos, there were harpsichords, clavichords, and dulcimers. These musical designs inspired the design of 17th-century pianos.

To make the process of identifying antique pianos easier, this article has illustrated various antique piano styles, brands, and identification methods. Kindly leave any questions in the comments section below.

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