If you want to determine its worth yourself, you’ll need to do some legwork before you can move forward.
Determine the Condition of Your Piano
Inspecting the piano’s exterior is crucial; it will be the first thing a potential buyer will notice, and it will clue them in on the instrument’s overall quality. Exterior damage will lower the piano’s desirability, but it can also indicate deeper issues. Take note of the following:
- Keyboard Condition: First, check each key at soft and loud volumes. None should be out of tune, muted, or silent. If your piano is fairly in tune, keep an ear out for singular keys that are disproportionately off, or produce strange harmonics.
You should also check the alignment of the keyboard and note any crookedness along the edges and in between keys. Look for this horizontally at keyboard-level as well as from above. Of course, broken, yellowed, stained, or chipped keys will diminish value; significantly so if they cannot be justified by the age of the instrument.
- Pedals: Are they rusted? Do they stick, go limp, or feel like they hit a “bump” when you depress them? Age does not excuse these issues; upkeep is lacking if these problems are not addressed.
- Damage to the Wood Finish: Are there cracks or scratches? Has any of the wood been warped or sun-damaged? Even if a buyer is willing to refinish the piano, damage to the surface is often caused by elements that also harm the inside. If you’re unfamiliar with the interior parts, consider having them checked out if the exterior looks rough.
- Piano Leg Sturdiness: Wobbly legs are a safety hazard for the piano and anyone around it. If you notice any loose screws, tighten them; but if the leg still loosens after being fixed the wood may have to be replaced. Don’t tackle anything more than a loose screw, you could hurt yourself or damage the instrument further.
Inspecting a piano’s interior takes a bit more work. At the very least, you should look out for:
- Rusted or worn-down strings
- Strings that have created deep, splintering grooves in the surrounding wood
- Loose felt on the hammers
- An out-of-shape or cracked soundboard
Next, you need to determine three details specific to your piano: the serial number, the manufacturer, and the date of manufacture.
- Finding the Piano’s Serial Number
The serial number will be engraved on an interior metal plate located near the keys or on the pinblock. On grand pianos, it may be hiding underneath the keyslip. Contact a registered piano technician so that he/she can safely remove the necessary parts to access the serial code.
- Get the Manufacturer’s Name
The name is often found on the front of the piano, just above or below the keyboard. If these areas are blank, flip open the lid and look at the soundboard, or check behind an upright/underneath a grand.
- Determine the Date of Manufacture
You may need to figure out your piano’s age before you can advance, but this is easily found once you have the info in steps 1 & 2 (sometimes the date is written on the soundboard next to the manufacturer, but this is uncommon). Some manufacturers – such as Yamaha – post this information online (type “serial” in the site’s search box if you’re lost), or it can be found in an updated version of the Pierce Piano Atlas.
Finding the Current Value of Your Piano
Once you’ve collected all the necessary info, you can get a dollar amount. If you’re going about this on your own, your best resource is an updated version of The Piano Book: Buying & Owning a New or Used Piano, which is updated yearly or bi-yearly. (In addition to the values of almost 3,000 piano brands and models, this book is a goldmine of information for any piano owner or enthusiast.)
3 Reasons to Hire a Piano Technician
- If you plan to sell your piano, whether to a retailer or a private buyer, it’s always best to receive a note of appraisal so that neither party gets the short end of the stick.
- Your piano might need a specific repair that, if fixed, could pay for itself and make you a profit.
- Observing your technician in action can shed light on your next piano purchase and give you insight on what (and what not) to look for.