We're often-times able to present
information you ask for by referring you to a third-party website. This avoids
the need to maintain redundant information, and exposes you to those that offer
products and services. AMICA International presents these third-party websites
in the interest of information exchange, and in no way promotes or endorses any
given service. AMICA does not guarantee the informational accuracy of
third-party sites. Please see the legal disclaimer at the bottom of this page.
on Restoring Player Pianos
can I get Player-Piano Parts?
can I get Music Rolls?
there any Mailing Lists / Web Resource I can join?
Mechanical Music Societies?
can Fix my Player-Piano?
can Move my Piano?
can I get information on my piano's brand?
can I Test my Player-Piano?
can I find free Technical articles?
do I Sell or Donate my Piano / Roll-Collection?
do the picture on your site take so long to download/paint?
IF NONE OF THE ABOVE ANSWERED MY QUESTION?
The only person who can accurately answer this question is
the Qualified Tuner/Technician, Dealer or Collector who repairs, restores, buys
and/or sells player and/or reproducing instruments. And before any realistic
determination can be made, a complete and thorough evaluation is necessary.
The Average Value of a regular, unrestored Upright Player
Piano varies from about $200-$2000, depending on the type/quality of the cabinet
and the reputation of the manufacture. Non-name brand units with all straight
lines are the most common and the least valuable. The more exotic the wood
and/or the more ornate the cabinet style, the more the basic value increases.
Prices for 'functioning' to 'completely restored' units average from
It is the condition of a unit which establishes its basic value just like with
any other consumer good. There are, of coarse, classes of instruments ranging
from "unknown original" to
"immaculate". The fact is, there have been more than 12,000
different piano makers in just the past 150 years. (And you thought there were a
lot of car makers.)
It is actually much easier to approach the topic of value from an entirely
different perspective. First, let's talk availability. Today, on the Internet,
there are people who are selling 'complete' circa 1920 upright player pianos in
unrestored condition for $250.00 to $450.00 each, and they have dozens to choose
from. As far as prices at auctions, upright players hardly ever command more
than $1000.00 in working or semi-working condition. Reproducing players can go
for as high as $14000.00 to $16,000, and higher, but only when the piano is in
the highest class and in perfect working order. Again, we come back to
condition, for it is the condition of a unit which determines its basic value.
Let's say you have a working player that looks pretty nice and is regularly
maintained by a qualified player piano technician.
I can almost guarantee that the technician has a good idea of the units value
and would be happy to tell you. If the unit looks nice and is not well
maintained, you will most likely have to hire a professional to evaluate the
units condition and he will give you an idea of its approximate value. Let's
say the unit looks pretty rough, has chipped ivories, a few corners crushed in,
ding marks here and there and the player doesn't work but it's intact. Well,
it's considered unrestored and it's worth less than $500.00. I get offered
numerous player pianos for the cost of removing them from a home and it costs me
about $185.00 to have a unit moved locally, with no stairs involved.
What about restoring the unit. Surely they must become more valuable if they
have been professionally restored. WRONG! At the present moment, it costs more
to restore a player piano than it's worth. Remember those units that I was
offered for the cost of moving? I usually decline the offer because even at
cost, it's almost impossible to sell a restored unit for what I've put into it
in time and materials. Then you might wonder, "Why have it restored?"
Answer... because you love it. That's the only reasonable answer. Player pianos
are not an investment!!! Unlike a fine violin, player pianos get WORSE with AGE
and every single one will have to be restored, at a healthy fee, at least every
forty years (much sooner on certain types). Ouch!
So, what's it worth? If you haven't figured it out by now, you need the
services of a profession technician who will charge about $60.00 to $80.00 an
hour for his talents. Frankly, that's a lot less expensive than just two of the
main reference books that any qualified technician has in his office and most
good technicians have dozens of books. Have we got the time to do all the
research for free? Frankly, No! ...It's best if you hire a professional
rebuilder and have him perform a complete evaluation. If you have the Name of
the Manufacturer, the Serial Number and the unit's
General Condition, i.e., working or non-working player mechanism, appearance, etc.,
then visit the Blue Book of Pianos
website and write to Bob Furst. He has collected quite a bit of information
about numerous piano companies.
Archives has a number of articles from various members about the prices paid
by individuals in private sales and at various auctions. Do a Key Word Search
Read this article by noted author Art Reblitz:
Values of Automatic
Pianos and Organs
Read this article by Craig Brougher of "Brougher
Value of a Pneumatic player Piano
Most basically speaking, there are two (2) types of pianos
and three (3) groups of player pianos. The two types of Pianos are: Grand and
Upright. In Grand Pianos, the plate (or harp) lies in a horizontal plane to
the earth. In an Upright Piano, the plate lies in a plane vertical to the earth.
Grands Pianos are sub-divided into numerous groups such as, 'Baby', 'Parlor',
'Living Room' and 'Concert', with 'Baby' being the smallest (5'2" or under)
and 'Concert' (8' or greater) being the largest. Uprights are divided into four basic groups, being: 'Full
Size' (46" or taller), 'Professional Upright' (42"-46"),
'Console' (36"-42") and 'Spinet' (36" or less). (Also, there is
no such thing as a "Grand Upright", although those words do appear on
some makers' plates. It was, in fact, a clever advertising ploy similar to the
'third' or 'working' middle pedal found on many upright player pianos, which
basically does nothing but mimic one of the other two working pedals. Typically,
the Sustain Pedal.)
The three groups of Player Pianos are: Regular, Expression
and Reproducing. Of these, the Reproducing group is sub-divided into three
other groups, namely: Duo-Art, AMPICO and Welte-Mignon. Perhaps the easiest way
to determine the type of Player Mechanism in any given unit is to look at the
Fallboard (or key cover) with the keys exposed. Next, look at the rolls (or roll
boxes) that are usually played on the unit. Almost all roll makers labeled their
boxes for easy identification. If no specific name other than the name of the
company, song title and number of the roll are visible, it's a good bet that the
player piano is of the Regular variety. Most, if not all, Reproducing rolls were
clearly marked with the type of player mechanism they were cut to be used on.
If there are no rolls to look at, the
next best thing to look at is the Tracker Bar. If there
is just one set of holes, all the same size in one neat row, it is a Regular
Player with manual or mechanical tracking. (Many makers employed little
'finger/s', to keep the roll aligned with the holes in the 'bar', which 'feel'
the edge/s.) If there are from 80-88 holes in a row with one or two holes on
both sides of the long row, the unit is a Regular player with Automatic tracking.
If the 'bar' has two or more sets of holes with two of the sets containing a
minimum of four holes each, it is an Expression or Reproducing mechanism. If all
else fails, call in a Professional. The vast majority of people who own
Expression and/or Reproducing Player Pianos know the make and model or their
unit very well and pass that information along to subsequent owners. Point
being, if no one knows, it's probably a Regular player piano.
According to the Presto Buyer's Guide of 1926, pianos are
into five categories. They are the High
Grade Piano, the Medium Grade or
Popular Piano, the Commercial
Piano, the Trade-Mark Piano
and the Special Name Pianos. (Follow
any of the underlined words for more detailed information.)
All grands are measured from the back of the bow to the leading edge of the
keyboard. In other words, the total length of the piano (the length).
All uprights are measured from the floor to the top-most part of the piano (the
There is much disagreement about the various names given to the various lengths
of grand pianos. Some of the terms include; parlor grand, living room grand,
full-size grand, baby grand, petit grand, mini grand, concert grand,
conservatory grand, practice grand.
Basically speaking, Parlor and Living room grands are about six feet in length.
Source: www.player-care.com /
Back to Top
The Tracker bar is the piece of
wood or metal across which the paper music roll passes when the unit is in
operation. It is most commonly made of brass and is, on average, 13-1/2" x
1" in size. The holes can have a spacing of either 9 holes or 6 holes to
the inch, with '9' being the more common variety. Most tracker bars have a
minimum of 88 holes/w '9' to the inch or 65 holes/w '6' to the inch. Each hole
represents a note on the keyboard. They
are sequential (i.e., C C# D D# E F F# G G# A
A# B). Tubes, usually made
of lead, are connected from the back of the tracker and to the stack.
Each tube is connected to a channel in the stack that controls a valve
connected to the main vacuum supply from the pump.
Bellows - A component usually consisting of two
like-pieces of wood with a cloth hinge at one end, and covered with a rubberized
cloth. One side of the bellows will
have an opening, so that when vacuum is applied, a mechanical action occurs.
Conversely, when connected to pedals and a check valve is added, they act
as a pump, lowering the pressure in the stack.
Stack - The upper part of the player.
This is the part that plays the piano, and contains the valves, bellows,
spoolbox, and wind motor.
Spool Box - This is the area where the piano roll is
inserted, and is usually behind a set of doors.
Pump - The lower part of the player.
The pumping pedals are connected to the pump. The pump usually contains the wind motor regulation, and
controls to divert the vacuum to the stack, wind motor, and expression
Expression pneumatic - Since the piano's usual expression
pedals are covered up by the pump pedals, it looks as if you cannot access them.
However, there is a way to duplicate these pedals through the use of
expression pneumatics. The piano
controls are usually located underneath the hinged key slip.
Usually, there is a button which will control the equivalent pedal
function also. In order to operate
the loud pedal, simply push a button on the control rail, and the loud
expression pneumatic will operate exactly like the loud pedal.
In addition to the loud pedal, there are usually two soft pedal
The Serial Number is typically located in the vicinity of the
Tuning Pins and more specifically between the bass and tenor tuning pins. Most
commonly, there is a small oval shaped hole (or cut-out) in the cast iron plate
(painted gold color) and the Serial Number is stamped into the wood beneath the
plate. This is true for upright units and most grand pianos. Some grand piano
makers stamped the number on the Soundboard but this is the exception rather
than the rule. On upright units made after 1960, some manufacturers stamped the
serial number on the back of the piano. This is especially true of units made by
the Aeolian Corporation and Asian built units.
Occasionally, the Serial Number is stenciled on the plate. And
at least one maker placed the number on a fancy ivory tag which was affixed
inside, near the top of the left side. The point is, it can be located in any
number of places. It will usually be a five or six digit number and will not
contain any letters or spaces. Very few makers stamped the number on the
soundboard of upright pianos but I have seen three in my career. In each case,
the number was made visible by removing the bottom board of the unit. The bottom
board is easily removed by depressing the one or two spring clips that hold it
in place, under the key bed. On rare occasions, there are two screws holding the
bottom board in place.
Bob Furst, the owner of The
Blue Book Of Piano domain and author of the book "The Blue Book of
Pianos", recently put up a new set of webpages that contain a listing of
Serial Numbers that were used by hundreds of piano makers.
Although a little technical in nature, Bill Kibby has written
an interesting article about Serial Numbers and how they relate to the actual
date of manufacture. Check out this fine article.
pianos use suction, not pressure, to work.
As the pedals are operated, air is pulled from the pump and the entire
stack is placed under a slight vacuum.
This vacuum operates a motor that turns the rolls in the spool box.
The piano roll has holes cut in them that when they pass over the tracker
bar, the tracker bar's holes are uncovered.
A valve is operated when the holes are uncovered that applies vacuum to
the striking pneumatic, which plays the note on the piano.
Source: www.faqs.org/faqs/music/piano /
Back to Top
As with any pianos, a key to safely restoring old
instrument is patience and time. It
is best to have restoration done by a professional; however, anyone with a
reasonable mechanical aptitude and patience can restore a player.
The materials used in restoring player pianos are very
specialized, and are generally unavailable at your average local stores.
Vinyl covering (naugehide) will crack to pieces in a matter of days when
used to recover pneumatics. Common
rubber hoses (fish tank and automotive style) will collapse and turn brittle in
a matter of months, rendering an irreplaceable antique musical instrument
useless. Also, white glue, silicone
sealers, body filler, tape, etc., have no place in player pianos. The tried and true methods and materials as used when
manufactured are to be used in the restoration.
Click on Who can Fix my
Please visit the Selected
Books pager of the Mechanical
Music Digest webpage.
Back to Top
Visit the Restoration
Supplies link at the Mechanical
Music Digest webpage.
Back to Top
New roll suppliers are found at the Roll
Sales link at the Mechanical
Music Digest webpage.
Ebay is an excellent source for used rolls. Go to www.ebay.com
and follow the category (on the left side of their screen) chain as follows:
"Musical Instruments > Keyboard, Piano > Piano Rolls"
Back to Top
Visit the Discussion
Groups link at the Mechanical Music
Back to Top
Visit the Societies
link at the Mechanical Music
Back to Top
There are literally hundreds of individuals and/or companies
that are currently repairing, restoring, buying and/or selling all types of
Player, Expression and/or Reproducing Pianos. Here's some that one reputable
website has found worthy of posting:
Listings, or specifically:
You can also do a Keyword Search in the
"Mechanical Music Digest" Archives. Use the
or Restore and
then scan through the list of articles for pertinent information. Also note the
author's name and his/her email or website address.
Source: www.player-care.com /
Back to Top
NOTE: It is HIGHLY suggested that you
DON'T let buyers themselves move your piano off your property.
If they're hurt in the process, you and your insurance company are liable. Insist that an insured mover do the job.
Visit the Piano Movers Link
... and ...
The Mechanical Music Digest Archives contains perhaps the most
complete listing of articles pertaining to the moving of valuable instruments.
Here again, as above, do a Key Word Search using the word/s: Moving,
or Mover. Then
scan through the articles and note the names and addresses.
Player Piano Makes & Makers
the Player Piano
The usual ad in the
Sunday paper is good, but to reach a wider audience:
1. Here's a site that specializes in selling Mechanical musical Instruments:
Player Piano &
Mechanical Music Exchange
2. Ebay is an Excellent forum. Go to www.ebay.com
and do either of the following:
a. In the Search field type in "player-piano".
b. Go to the category (on the left side of the screen)
"Antiques > Musical Instruments > keyboard"
3. Hunt for some ideas here:
Music Digest Archive - keyword: "Sell"
Mechanical Music Digest Archive - keyword: "Selling"
4. Don't disregard those that fix players
- many will buy/accept or at least advise how you should sell in the "Who
can Fix my Player-Piano" section of this FAQ.
5. To reach an audience of over 1000
player-piano enthusiasts, you can submit a well-worded For-Sale
/ For-Free email to the Mechanical Music Digest editor for submission in their
next-day's digest. First, please visit and read other
For-Sale articles at the MMD that have been posted in the past to get a
flavor of the scope required for such a posting, then write your own and send
it to the MMD Editor. It will appear in
a day or 2 in the MMD archives which you may go view at their site.
Note: This is a seasoned group - vague details or high-balled prices will most
likely not receive any serious response.
Once you find a
buyer, be sure to check out "Who can Move
The website designers are faced with
balancing the need/demand for photos - with that of making the download time
tolerable for Dial-up visitors.
Visiting this site for the very first
time, you will experience delays as the photos and graphics are
sent to your computer for the first time. Every time you visit the page
thereafter, your browser will check your PC's browser cache to see if the photo
is there from your last visit, and use it in a rapid manner. The only time your
browser will require another reload is if you clear your local browser disk
cache, or the Website Manager has downloaded a newer version of the picture/file.
If you thereafter experience excessive
page loading problems (thereafter the first time you visit) your browser's cache
size is not large enough to hold our pages and all the pages/pictures of the
other sites you frequent. Please go to your browser's help page and learn how to
increase the cache size so these pages et al. will all fit, making your browsing
experience more enjoyable!
For Microsoft Internet Explorer: Go
to menu "Tools" -> "Internet options". Then under
"Temporary Internet Files" select "Settings". Try doubling
the size of the internet folder.
Back to Top
We're a volunteer organization, devoted to
this pastime on a hobby basis. But like any hobby group, we don't have a
paid staff monitoring email. However, we'll attempt
to the best ability of our collective resources to find an answer to questions that weren't addressed in the
Questions with no starting information (e.g. "I need to sell my
grandmother's piano - how much is it worth?" [BTW: this is answered on the
FAQ]) are too ambiguous for anyone to answer ... questions need to be stated with as much
information as one would normally need to begin to research (specific model
name, serial#, etc.). Asking a question with an answer completely
addressed in our FAQ page will probably not get a direct response.
We receive many
email inquiries a week and do the best we can with the resources we have
to answer them in an intelligent and timely manner by finding the correct people
in the organization who could best give you an accurate answer.
Given the above - please proceed to our EMAIL
page and follow the suggest sequence to getting your question
Back to Top