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A Grand Guide to Buying a Used Steinway Piano

A Grand Guide to Buying
a Used Steinway Piano

—not just any used Steinway, but a genuine used Steinway piano.

For Those Whose Desire for a Used Steinway Piano Is 100% Genuine.

A Grand Guide to Buying a Used Steinway Piano is designed to assist you in your journey in selecting a genuine used Steinway piano—from learning about how a Steinway is built and rebuilt, to what makes a Steinway a genuine Steinway and what factors to consider when shopping the used-Steinway market.

Seven Types of Used Steinway Pianos

Every seller, piano dealer, and technician will classify a used Steinway piano in a different way; but, for the sake of this guide, we’ve broken it into seven simple categories.

Shell

A used Steinway piano that has never been restored. Typically, the piano is not in playing condition, if it will play at all. The piano has been neglected, damaged or compromised, and has had no annual maintenance for an extended period of time.

Repaired

This is a Steinway that has had parts repaired over time without replacing any major components. The piano has been maintained and is still capable of being played daily, but major parts will likely need replacing in the near future.

Rebuilt

A rebuilt Steinway is a piano in which all the components have been rebuilt to its original condition. Some major components commonly rebuilt are the soundboard, bridges, and action parts, as well as the case.


Stein-Was

A Stein-Was is a used Steinway piano that has had one or more parts replaced with non-Steinway parts. Therefore, it was a Steinway piano; now it isn’t.

Original

An original used Steinway piano is one that has never had any parts replaced since it was manufactured. Typically, these are less than 20 years old.


Factory Restoration

A Steinway piano that was restored by the Steinway Restoration Center in New York City and had the original parts replaced with genuine Steinway parts.



Heirloom Collection

Steinway Heirloom Collection pianos are available through authorized Steinway dealers. Each Heirloom carries the same 5-year warranty as a new Steinway, has genuine Steinway parts, and is distinguished by a medallion on
the inner-rim and a Certificate of Authenticity.

How to Determine the Age of Any
Steinway Piano

When shopping for a used Steinway piano, you will want to take into consideration its age. By determining the age of the piano, you will have a better understanding of its history, features, and condition. Below are 3 steps for determining the age of a Steinway piano:

Locate the serial number.

As new pianos are completed, they are serial-numbered consecutively and the number is applied to the cast-iron plate.

Steinway Grand Piano Serial Number

On Steinway Grand Pianos

The serial number is found on the
cast-iron plate between the tuning pins above the keyboard.

Steinway Upright Serial Number

On Steinway Upright Pianos

The serial number is located on top of the cast-iron plate when you open the toplid.



Look up the serial number.

Now that you have the serial number, you can use the chart below to find out the year the piano was built.

Look Up a Steinway Serial Number ▸

Request the piano’s history.

At the Steinway factory, there are several leather-bound log books that hold the records on every piano built by Steinway & Sons since 1853. As pianos are completed, they are serial-numbered and, even today, handwritten into the Steinway archives which list the details of every Steinway piano built.

Anyone with a serial number from any Steinway piano can contact Steinway & Sons or their local Steinway dealer for the information on a specific Steinway, including the model, original finish, completion date, and the dealer to whom it was first shipped. The historical records of each and every piano built is just another one of the things that make a Steinway unique.

If it doesn’t have 12,116 genuine Steinway parts, it isn’t a Steinway.

Used, vintage, and restored Steinway pianos are often prized for their unique beauty and enduring value. However, for years, non-Steinway dealers and unauthorized piano rebuilders have created a great deal of confusion in the piano industry. Many piano rebuilders use inferior non-Steinway parts, seriously compromising an instrument’s performance and investment value.

Built for a Steinway Piano

For more than 160 years, Steinway & Sons has been on a continuing quest to improve the Steinway piano. Continuous improvement means finding the perfect balance of the many thousands of parts which make up a Steinway piano. When a Steinway piano is rebuilt, it is imperative that Steinway parts be used in this process if the piano is to play and sound as a Steinway should play and sound.

A Steinway piano is designed to use genuine Steinway parts, and it performs its best when these parts are used. If the parts are not 100% Steinway, then the piano is not 100% Steinway and its performance and investment value will be compromised.


Why do some rebuilders use
non-Steinway parts?

Non-Steinway replacement parts used in the rebuilding of a Steinway piano are purchased for one reason only: They are cheaper, both in price and quality. There is no other reason.

To the right is a comparison of genuine Steinway parts vs. non-Steinway parts for
a Steinway Model O (5’10”) grand piano.

As you can see, there is a significant cost difference between genuine Steinway parts and non-Steinway or “Steinway style” parts and this is the reason why there is such a great deal of confusion when shopping for
a used Steinway piano.

Price Comparison:
Steinway Parts vs. Non-Steinway Parts

Hammers
Steinway & Sons $540
Abel “Lite” $275
Abel “Standard” $310
Abel “Select” $425
Imadegawa $225
Repetitions (Whippens)
Steinway & Sons $1,250
Tokiwa “Steinway Style” $875
Wrestplank (Pinblock)
Steinway & Sons $819
Generic “Single” $445
Hammershanks with Flanges
Steinway & Sons $650
Abel “Steinway Style” $419
Tokiwa “Steinway Style” $425
Backchecks with Wires
Steinway & Sons $255
Tokiwa “Steinway Style” $195
Soundboard
Steinway & Sons Not for Sale
Generic Soundboard $695
Generic Pre-Crowned,
Ribbed Soundboard
$2,170

Three Keys to Remember about Parts When Shopping for a Genuine Steinway Piano

one

Steinway pianos are designed to use genuine Steinway parts, and they play
and sound their best when these parts
are in the piano.

two

The price of a rebuilt Steinway piano with non-Steinway parts should cost significantly less than one with 100% genuine Steinway parts.

three

Most people selling a used Steinway with non-Steinway parts will NOT advertise it as a counterfeit or Stein-Was, so it’s always best to ask.

If you read only one section of this guide, read this section.

The soundboard lies at the heart of a Steinway grand or upright piano, which is why Steinway & Sons takes great care in its design and in the selection of the wood used. The soundboard is a critical component in producing the inimitable “Steinway Sound” you desire.

About the Soundboard

Close-grained, quarter-sawn Sitka spruce, with a prescribed minimum number of annual growth rings is the wood used for Steinway soundboards. These close-grained lines enable the sound-producing energy to travel more efficiently to the end
of the soundboard. When combined with the soundboard being gradually tapered from the center to the edge, which permits the freedom of movement, it creates a sound of unparalleled richness, sonority, and sustain.

Soundboards from Scratch

Steinway does not buy their soundboards, instead, they buy
the spruce planks to make their soundboards. Steinway’s strict standards for soundboard spruce and their yield factor on the prime-grade planks they purchase is only 50%. Meaning, of all the spruce that Steinway inspects and purchases, only 50% of that spruce goes into the making their soundboards. This allows Steinway to build each soundboard to their standards, not the lumber supplier’s.


Steinway NEVER sells its soundboards.

Steinway sells their soundboards to no one, since the skill, expertise and machinery necessary to replace a soundboard is only available at the Steinway factory. So if a used Steinway was restored somewhere other than the Steinway Restoration Center, it may still have the Steinway & Sons trademark logo on it, but if it doesn’t have a genuine Steinway & Sons soundboard, it has lost the internal magic that makes it a Steinway.

Steinway Soundboard Planks

If the soundboard was replaced, how do I know if it was replaced by Steinway & Sons?

Determining if the soundboard was replaced by Steinway & Sons can be difficult to the untrained eye. It’s highly recommended that you ask the rebuilder or seller for documents that include the serial number and state that the soundboard was replaced with a genuine Steinway soundboard at the Steinway Restoration Center.

A Musical Comparison…

Imagine if a Stradivarius violin had the back wood panel replaced by another wood panel not produced by Stradivarius.

  • Would it still sound like a Stradivarius?
  • Would it play like a Stradivarius?
  • Would it still be a Stradivarius?
  • Would the value be the same as Stradivarius?

Most certainly not, and the same is true of the Steinway soundboard.

Impossible to Replicate

A number of piano rebuilders out there are trying to make good soundboards for Steinway grands. One of their difficulties is the necessity they face of reverse-engineering and guesswork.

Some of them have likely taken out genuine Steinway soundboards from older used Steinways and tried to
figure out how they are made without
:


knowing the selection criteria.

access to conditioning schedules.

owning the expensive machinery.

the long-tenure factory craftsmanship.

Assuring the Steinway Piano Is Genuine

In the two previous sections, we’ve covered the importance of making sure the used Steinway you purchase is in fact a genuine Steinway. But how can you be sure you are investing in a genuine Steinway piano?

Guarantee of Steinway Parts

Should you decide to buy a Steinway piano not restored by Steinway & Sons,
it is recommended that you request,
in writing, from the seller, a statement verifying that the piano has 100% genuine Steinway parts and that it can be proven.

If the seller doesn’t have a statement with their signature you can download the Declaration of Steinway Parts Authenticity Certificate (PDF). Present this certificate to any seller or rebuilder of a rebuilt Steinway piano and request that they fill it out and sign it to ensure that the piano has genuine Steinway parts.

The Declaration of Steinway Parts Authenticity PDF

Download Now ▸

A Legacy of Innovation
Which Continues Today

The very first Steinway & Sons patent was granted in 1857, and since that time, the company has been granted more than 125 additional patents. As a consumer shopping for a used Steinway, it is important to consider when these patents were implemented, how they
work, and what benefits they provide for pianists like yourself.

“Strive always to improve the instrument.”

It is important to remember that a Steinway piano will only feature the patents preceding the date of its completion. This means that a Steinway grand piano completed on March 5, 1923, will NOT have any of the innovations or advancements developed after that date such as:

Accelerated Action

October 13, 1931 • Patent #1826848

The touch of a Steinway is the most sensitive and responsive of any piano made. This is not merely an opinion. It is a fact that results from the way the piano is designed and manufactured. In fact, tests have proven that the keys on a Steinway piano can repeat 14% more quickly than the keys of any other piano.

Diaphragmatic Soundboard

August 18, 1936 • Patent #2051633

The current production of the
Steinway & Sons soundboard is based on a 1936 patent to achieve optimum performance in dynamic range, and maximum sustain. Under this patent, the soundboard is gradually tapered from the center to the edge, permitting freedom of movement and creating a sound of unparalleled richness, sonority, and sustain.

Hexagrip Pinblock

May 28, 1963 • Patent #3091149

Due to the unique design of the Steinway pinblock all Steinway pianos hold their tune longer. The secret lies in the grain of the wood. The grain of each layer is positioned at 45 degrees to the grain in the next layer. As a result, the tuning pins are exposed on all sides to the tenacious grip of the maple’s end grain. The tighter the grip on the tuning pins, the longer the piano stays in tune.

The “Golden-Age” Myth

There are rebuilders, technicians, and non-Steinway dealers who will claim that Steinway pianos built during the “Golden Age” are the best Steinway pianos ever built. This is a myth that has been around since Steinway started building pianos.

Are older Steinway pianos really better than new ones?

As the late Henry Z. Steinway, great-grandson of the founder of Steinway & Sons, often said, “Steinway pianos crafted 40 years ago are always from the ‘Golden Age.’ It doesn’t matter which year it is today—1920, 1950, 1980, 2008—the ‘Golden Age’ was always 40 years ago!”

Why the Myth Exists:

There are very few piano dealers that are authorized to sell new Steinway pianos throughout the world (only about 68 in North America) but many piano dealers who can acquire pre-owned Steinway pianos to resell. Since they can’t sell new Steinway pianos, it is to their benefit to advertise that their used Steinway from the “Golden Age” is more desirable than a new one.

Artists demand the finest.

The myth of the “Golden Age” is easily disproved. Just look at the concert halls throughout the world who cater to the most discriminating pianists of our time. How old are the pianos you are hearing?  On average, they are less than 10 years old.  If the world’s most prominent pianists felt that pianos from a “Golden Age” were superior to those produced today, we would not see new Steinway pianos on these stages.

A Steinway piano is built to be rebuilt.

There are hundreds of companies and technicians who rebuild Steinway pianos. However, there is only one piano rebuilder in the world who is authorized by Steinway & Sons to restore Steinway pianos: the Steinway Restoration Center which operates out of the Steinway New York factory and the Steinway Hamburg factory. A piano restored by the Restoration Center is the closest piano possible to a brand-new Steinway.

Benefits of Selecting a Used Steinway Piano Restored by the Steinway Restoration Center

Authorized

The Steinway Restoration Center is the only authorized Steinway piano rebuilder in the world.

Authenticity

Each and every Steinway piano restored receives a Certificate of Authenticity which guarantees the piano was restored using genuine Steinway parts.

Security

Steinway pianos restored at the Restoration Center carry a 5-year Steinway warranty—the same as a brand-new Steinway.

Processes

No one else has all the original designs, specifications and necessary equipment.

Craftsmanship

Who better to restore a vintage Steinway piano than the craftsmen who built it?

159 Years of Experience

Since 1853, Steinway & Sons has built over 592,000 new Steinway pianos and they are the world’s largest rebuilder of Steinway pianos. Simply put, no one knows a Steinway like Steinway.


6Months

Average number of months it takes the Restoration Center to restore a Steinway grand piano.

200Restored Pianos

The Steinway Restoration Center restores more than 200 Steinway pianos a year.

75Years Old

The average age of a Steinway piano restored by the Steinway Restoration Center.



The Secrets of Steinway

Pictured below, Andy Horbachevsky, the vice president of manufacturing for Steinway & Sons, stands in front of binders that hold the 159-year-old company’s processes to building a Steinway piano—often referred to as the “Secrets of Steinway.”

The Restoration Center

Ella Morton, from Rocketboom, visits with Bill Youse, Director of Technical Services & Special Projects for Steinway & Sons to discuss how vintage Steinway pianos are restored to their original splendor at the Steinway Restoration Center.

A Sound Investment

Times change. Markets rise and fall. But for more than a century and a half, every handcrafted Steinway piano has increased in value.

Retail Price

The best time to invest in a Steinway piano is always the same: TODAY. That’s because when factory prices of new Steinway pianos increase, the value of used Steinway pianos also rise. The following is a historical listing of prices.

“A 10-year-old Steinway in good condition, usually sells for about 75 percent of the current retail price, which goes up about 4 percent each year.”

—Reuters, November 2003

“Over the past decade, the price on the classic Steinway Model B grand piano–currently $81,200–increased 48%, far outpacing the 29% rise in inflation.”

—Barron’s, November 2010

Protecting Your Investment

It is said that if you don’t know your jewels, know your jeweler. The same is true for pianos—it’s always best to rely on a reputable piano dealer or piano rebuilder. Below are a few examples of details you should be looking for when shopping on-line for a pre-owned Steinway piano.

There is a Steinway piano for everyone; you just have to find your Steinway.

Selecting a Steinway piano should be an enjoyable experience, and to help insure it is, here is a list of 5 things to do while shopping for a used Steinway piano:

Play a new Steinway piano.

You may have already made your mind up that purchasing a used Steinway piano is the right choice for you. However, you would be doing your due diligence to visit your local Steinway dealer and play a couple of new Steinway pianos. This experience will give you something to compare against as you shop for a used Steinway piano.

Find a Steinway Dealer Near You ▸

Steinway Model D Concert Grand Piano

Watch “Note by Note, the Making of Steinway L1037.”

“Note by Note” is a feature-length independent documentary that follows the creation of a Steinway concert grand, #L1037—from the forest floor to concert hall. It explores the relationship between musician and instrument, chronicles the manufacturing process, and illustrates what makes each Steinway unique in this age of mass production.

Watch the Trailer ▸ | Rent It on Netflix ▸| Buy the DVD ▸



Tour the Steinway factory.

Steinway & Sons has a factory in Long Island City, New York, and one in Hamburg, Germany, that build Steinway upright and grand pianos. Each factory offers a 3-hour tour to the public during the week. What better way to learn about Steinway pianos than to see first-hand how they are built?

For more information and to schedule your factory tour, contact your authorized Steinway dealer or e-mail info@steinway.com

Steinway piano craftsman
 

Read “The Official Guide to Steinway Pianos”

A compilation of thirty years of research, by authors Roy F. Kehl and David R. Kirkland, that offers a thorough and accurate production history of Steinway pianos. In this guide you will find the complete list of Steinway patents, Steinway models—past and present—with production dates and serial numbers, and the characteristic detail changes.

Learn More and Purchase On-line ▸

 

Download your free copy of the Piano Buyer’s Guide.

Choosing the right piano can be a very pleasant and rewarding experience for an informed buyer. This guide will assist you in educating yourself on how to select the right piano—based on your specific needs.

Learn More and Download Your Free Copy of the Piano Buyer’s Guide ▸

Thank You

A special thank-you to everyone at Steinway & Sons who shared their knowledge of Steinway pianos with us for this Guide.

www.steinway.com