Friday, August 03, 2012

What is My Piano Worth?

As an auctioneer, I often get calls from folks wanting to know what their items are worth. Many also think that because something is old, it must have value. Others may think that because the item originally cost a lot of money, it must also have value.

I've disappointed quite a few people with the reality of their mistaken beliefs. Others have probably thought I didn't know what I was talking about, as someone else told them it was worth something.

These treasures might range from 8-track tapes to beautiful dining room furniture or a myriad of other things that someone hopes to turn into a small fortune.

The disappointing reality is that everything is based on supply and demand. Even if there is limited supply, if there is also little demand, then there is little, if any, value.

Not too long ago, I had a relatively well-known artist call me to discuss selling a lot of his personal property at auction, as he was looking to downsize and move into a smaller home. Sitting in a large living room, was a beautiful baby grand that he had purchased for ~$16,000, less than two years ago. I knew that I was going to disappoint him when I had to tell him that it probably wasn't going to bring more than $5000 (and you thought cars depreciated fast?).

While there are a few people that still buy pianos, there really isn't a big demand for them. This is best illustrated by the fact that there are only three US manufacturers left and the largest, Steinway, only makes about 2500 pianos a year. The other two produce about a hundred per year... combined!

So what happened? Electronic Keyboards at a fraction of the cost, weight, maintenance and space requirements of their predecessor. They have almost obsoleted the industry of craftsmen that once produced a fixture found in so many homes.

So, read what's happening to a lot of those old pianos:
For More Pianos, Last Note Is Thud...

OH! You don't even want to ask about ORGANS. You'll be even more disappointed.