Steinway & Sons, for its part, disputes the entire idea that older Steinways are better, dismissing it as a romantic notion spread by purveyors of those pianos in their own financial interest. The company says it has done extensive testing of both plates and woods, and the idea that the older plates and woods were better has no scientific basis. It says it has also carefully inspected hundreds of older Steinways at its factory rebuilding facility, which is the largest Steinway rebuilding facility in the world, and finds no evidence that the older pianos were built better than today's—in fact, it believes that just the opposite is true. Steinway acknowledges that some pianists may prefer the sound of specific older pianos for subjective artistic reasons, but says that those considering the purchase of a restored, older instrument should do so to save money, not to seek better quality.
For more discussion of this topic, and of specific technical issues applicable to the rebuilding of a Steinway or Mason & Hamlin, please see The Piano Book.
Three methods are typically used by professional appraisers to appraise pianos and many other goods: fair market value, depreciation, and idealized value minus the cost of restoration.
Fair market value is determined by comparing the piano being appraised to recent actual selling prices of other pianos of like brand, model, age, and condition. In the chart "Prices of Used Pianos," I and my staff have attempted to approximate the fair market value of pianos of various types, ages, and conditions, though I stress that we do not have enough data to do more than make rough estimates.
Note that insurance appraisals are often for "replacement cost." This is the cost of a new piano of the same or comparable make and model, not the fair market value of the used one.
A depreciation schedule, an example of which is provided here, shows how much a used piano is worth as a percentage of the actual selling price of a new piano of comparable quality (or of the same brand and model, if still in production and of the same quality).
SPRING 2010 -- page 62
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Hybrid & Player Pianos