Piano, Organ, and Keyboard/Conover Piano 1878

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Question
I've acquired a Conover Piano dated 1878 and a serial number of 4353. I have very little knowledge of this instrument but might be willing to pay for a restoration if the value is there. From the others I've located online, values are ranging from $10,000 up to $43,000 and none of them are as old as the one I have. Can you give me some info on this piece I have and what I might expect in terms of sale value on this incredible piece of music history.

Thanks
Jodi Brouillette

Answer
Hi Jodi:

These pianos were made in Illinois.

The Conover company was part of Conover Cable and Cable Piano Company.

Conover pianos start with a serial number of 3000 in 1885. The next number of official record is 11000 in 1890. With some basic interpolation, you piano was manufactured in 1886.

Throughout my career, and this year makes 49 years of rebuilding service to the world, I have gotten requests to rebuild pianos of this era and similar manufacture.

I always give the same advice.

One, whom is not in the "business" should never, never, never rebuild a piano on speculation. that is build to sell. They never, never, never get what they put into the piano.

Further, you have not given me the configuration; normal large vertical, or grand, and what size if a grand...or even square grand.

In either case, these pianos have little "instrument" value. Piano manufacturers of that era were just beginning to understand the process.

We what we may have here is a piano that has either furniture value, or heirloom value.

I have seem many piano, worth nothing as instruments sell for way more than instrument value...by antique dealer to collectors, or sell for practically nothing, even after restoration...hence the advice not to speculate.

A REAL piano restorer would charge somewhere around 30-40K to rebuild that piano, and in many cases, a piano that old would have to have parts custom made to get the job done. I was the maker of those custom parts...at a very, very high cost.

Some "restorers" will acquire a piano like that, to what they call "rebuild", and put it up on the web. It's like fishing...put the hook in the water and someone will bite. But they probably didn't do a real rebuilding, they have a shop and nothing to lose.

I have rebuild pianos like this for people with lots of disposable cash and did it for heirloom reasons. That is, it was grandma's piano and absolutely had to stay in the family, so the value outcome was not an issue.

If you told me that this had such heirloom value and you had lots of disposable income, I would tell you to go ahead but tread cautiously! I am paid big dollars to go to court to prove a rebuilder was not what they said they were and didn't do what they said they were going to do.

If a rebuilder tells you, "if you let me rebuild this piano for 28,000.00, it will be worth 45,000.00 when it is finished", I suggest you offer to sell the piano to them for 7,500.00 and tell them to go ahead and rebuild it and sell it. See if they take that offer.

As far as incredible music history, there are many pieces just like that, that wind up in the dumpster. The history is incredible, the piano may not be.

Here is my final piece of advice: go to http://www.ptg.org. Plug in your zip code and a list of REGISTERED piano technicians will pop up. Find out which of these have qualified rebuilding shops. Ask for a list of customers for whom they have done rebuildings. Go see their work. For the technicians you find that don't rebuild, ask them to whom they would send their work. When you find one that impresses you as an ethical artisan, pay for a real evaluation. See what they say.

Then STOP and get back to me!

I sincerely hope that helped.  

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Ralph Onesti

Expertise

I am a Registered/tested member of the Piano Technicians Guild (RPT) with 49 years of experience in all phases and levels of the acoustic piano. I will answer any questions regarding acoustic pianos only. All questions and answers are to remain public. Please to not include sensitive material! If they are marked private, I will change them to public. My answers may be of assistance to others. If privacy is an issue, please contact me through my web site: http://www.onestipiano.com Electronic keyboards, organs, and player/reproducing piano mechanisms are outside of my expertise. Anything to do with: Construction, Service, Tuning, Climate Control Systems, Piano Disc, Purchasing, Selling, Insurance Appraisal, Rebuilding, Repairs, Legal issues, Maintenance, Environmental issues, Finish issues with acoustic pianos. My full resume can be found at: http://onestipiano.com/pages/history.html You can like us on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/onestipianoservice

Experience

In business since 1964, Extensive Rebuilding/Repair/Service facility. A certified, tested, member of the Piano Technicians Guild, Member of the Technical Advisory Service to Attorneys. Have performed piano service on Concert Stage, Recording Studios, and in the home. Http://www.onestipiano.com. The shop's work comes from all over the world from private clients or other techncians.

Organizations
The Piano Technicians Guild, Master Piano Technicians of America, Technical Advisory Service to Attorneys. (TASA), IAPBT. The Piano Technicians Guild is the only organization in the US that offers a certification test to become Registered. There are no "factory authorized techncians".

Publications
The Piano Technicians Journal

Education/Credentials
Attented Temple University, Drexel University, Philadelphia Community college all in the areas of engineering and Music. I taught a two semester course in Piano Technology and the related acoustical physics at Temple University. I have taught extensively for the Piano Technicians Guild and the Master Piano Technicians of America.

Awards and Honors
Service Award for the Rose Tree Media School District in Pennsylvania. Chapter Award from the Philadelphia Chapter of the Piano Technicians Guild.

Past/Present Clients
The list is rather extensive. I would suggest you go http://onestipiano.com/pages/testimonials.html where there is a comprehensive list of clients past and present.

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