Monday, April 21, 2014

4 Things To Know Before Buying a Used Steinway

Just over a year ago, I made a huge decision and bought a 1928 Steinway M. Finding the right combination of model, vintage, and quality was a huge challenge for me, and I was fortunate to have bought a first-rate instrument. Today's guest post is written by the folks over at Park Avenue Pianos, a specialty seller of high-quality Steinway grands in New York, who talk about what you should be looking for before buying a Steinway grand. You can find Park Avenue Pianos at 230 Central Park South in New York City, just a short walk from Lincoln Center. 

Buying a used Steinway piano is a big and exciting undertaking. A great Steinway is sure become the centerpiece of your piano playing life but it’s also a pretty big investment. Here are four things that you need to know before picking out your very own used Steinway.

1. Always check the serial number and age of the piano. You always want to determine the age of a Steinway to try to infer what type of life it has had since it left the factory. Different eras of Steinway production imply different things. For example, Steinway’s Golden Age was between about 1900 and 1955, and Golden Age Steinways are highly sought after. Identifying and aging a Steinway iseasy with this serial number age chart. Simply find the serial number on the cast-iron plate between the pins, and the number there should correspond to a year on the chart.

2. Learn the different types of used Steinways on the market. Each Steinway piano leaves the factory a technically perfect piano - what happens next is anyone's guess. There a few different categories of used Steinways on the market, and each suggests a different life the piano has had since leaving the factory. The trick is to get to know the different varieties of used Steinways out there. Steinways built with in the last few decades which have had regular maintenance are a great investment. They will most likely not require any repair work in the medium-term future. On the other side of the coin, restoring a Steinway in non-working condition is a big undertaking. It seems obvious but should always try to gauge your investment properly. Get as much information about the piano as possible, learn about any repairs it has had, any repairs it might night need, and if it’s had routine maintenance throughout its life.

3. Know what a soundboard is, and ask about it! The soundboard is the heart and soul of any piano. This is the piece of wood above which the string vibrate, the resonance of the wood amplifies the string’s vibration as well as adding its distinct tone. Steinway fabricated their own soundboards from close-grain Sitka Spruce. This is what gives Steinways their unique sound. When purchasing a used Steinway you want to make sure that the soundboard is in good condition or has been refurbished well. Remember that the soundboard is what gives a piano a lot of its auditory character.

4. Steinway pianos are a financially sound investment. As the cost of factory new Steinway pianos increases, so do the prices of used Steinways at a much higher rate than inflation. For example, a Model B Steinway built in 1985 now sells for over twice the original price. A Model B built in 1960 sells for over nine times the original price. Steinways have always been a sound and potentially profitable place to invest your money. The craftsmanship and integrity of Steinway & Sons insures that the pianos will continue to retain their value for a long time to come.


  1. So much about what you are writing here is dead on. Steinway will not sell their soundboards to rebuilders. You always want to be sure that it is an authentic Steinway & Sons piano. The Golden Era of Steinway & Sons is a myth fabricated by rebuilders. There are very few (about 65) authorized Steinway Dealers nationwide. Rebuilders will often say the older ones are better. This simply isn't the case. 98% of Concert Pianist world-wide play on Steinway and they all require the instruments to be less than seven (7) years old. The best Steinway every built is the one built today. Ask any technician who works for a Steinway Dealer, they don't come out of the factory perfect. Much of the work is done on the showroom floor. They undergo voicing, regulation, case touch up and a considerable amount of preparation work before it is ready to be in your home. That being said, the factory has improved production significantly over that past several years, making these new instruments that much better. I encourage you to visit your local authorized Steinway & Sons dealer.

    Thank you.