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Buying a Piano?

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New Yamaha pianos from Chicago Pianos . com
NEW PIANO INVENTORY

Used Vertical Pianos from Chicago Pianos . com
USED PIANO INVENTORY

Please call 630.584.5000 for current, best pricing and availability in your area.

Selling A Piano?

Renting A Piano?

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Roland Digital Pianos



Hallet Davis Pianos:
Top-rated pianos in 24 styles and finishes!


Bohemia Pianos:

Handmade pianos from
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Palatino Pianos

George Steck Pianos in Chicago
George Steck Pianos

Falcone Pianos in Chicago
Falcone Acoustic Pianos


Buying a used piano?


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Casio Celviano Digital Pianos from Chicago Pianos . com
Casio Celviano Digital Pianos


Frequently Asked Questions
About Buying and Selling Pianos

The piano is capable of being one of the most important investments a family can make. It can be a gateway to the arts, a vehicle for educational and  mental discipline, the epicenter for family unity, a canvas for creativity  and fuel for the soul. Cordogan's goal with every customer -- whether you're purchasing online or at our piano superstore-- is to make each purchasing experience a pleasant one.

The following list of FAQs could be subtitled, "If I had a nickel for every time I have been asked these questions..." Seriously though, these questions are age-old in the piano business and timeless in their validity. We hope these will help in your search for a piano. Not all may be applicable for every reader, but all of our answers are brutally honest. So if you're in need of some answers, the buck starts here!

 

 
FAQ #1:

How much are used pianos?

FAQ #2:

How can I establish value
when looking at a piano?

FAQ #3:

How much is my piano worth?

FAQ #4:

What is a spinet?

FAQ #5:

I recently saw a piano for "70% off."  Should I buy it?

FAQ #6:

How should I choose a used piano dealer?

FAQ #7:

What's with all these old American brand names being resurrected by new companies?

 

Q: How much are used pianos?


Click on "How Much Are Pianos?" to find out!

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Q: How can I establish value when looking at a piano?


A. What makes one piano better than another rarely meets the eye, yet such intangibles can cause prices to hit the ceiling... or the floor. One of the most important things you can do is find a place you trust to help educate you. Depending on where you live, this may be difficult. Big cities (such as Chicago) offer you tremendous options, allowing you to do some homework by the Internet and phone first, getting a feel for the dealership you wish to visit. If you are considering a used piano, a trustworthy dealership is of paramount importance, as they are your only liaison to happiness with your piano.

When considering purchasing a used piano, take these checklists to the dealer, asking them to "sign off" on the various restoration steps that the dealer likely will claim has been performed.  If these steps have really been performed, they should have no problem doing this.


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Q: How much is my piano worth?


A.
Get it appraised. It's really the only way, unless you know what you'd like to get for it, regardless of its actual market value.  If you know how much you want for it, AND you happen to be in the Chicagoland area, then click here to fill out our Instrument For Sale form.  But PLEASE do not e-mail Cordogan's asking us how much it is worth.

It is an impossibility to begin to discuss even a "ballpark" range for most used pianos without it being dismantled and in front of the person being asked to evaluate it. Pianos can contain upwards of 12,000 parts, 10,000 of which need to move within their neighboring parts with tolerances of <1/1000th of an inch... for decades!

You can describe how beautiful the case is... its magnificent history in your family and how well it was cared for... how much of an antique it is (almost always a detriment)... but neither you, nor we, can tell in an e-mail or a telephone exchange if the piano has developed a cracked pin block, tuning instability, bridge cracks or other countless internal atrocities — capable of inflicting thousands of dollars in repair bills.


It is also for these reasons that buying a piano privately can be so dangerous. It is more often the case that the seller simply doesn't really know the condition of their piano and what problems it has developed over the years.  Find a reputable technician in your area who is qualified in appraising pianos and employ his/her services. Appraisals can range between $150-250 U.S. dollars and will help determine value from any one of the following perspectives:

  • selling it to a friend or relative
  • selling it on the open market
  • replacing it with a current, identical make/model
  • replacing it with a current, similar make/model
  • trading it in
  • donating it to a non-for-profit institution
  • restoring it / assessing damage
  • insuring it
So while we enjoy helping folks with pianos and piano-related topics, helping establish the value of a piano that we physically don't have in front of us is something we can't do.

No accurate assessment, nor even a "range" could be achieved by an on-line or telephone conversation.  In fact, the odds of good advice coming from anyone who would be willing to partake in such a discussion would be a crapshoot at best.  If you are in Chicagoland, we can give free advice by directing you to a technician we know in your area  -- just drop us a line for more information.

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Q. What is a spinet?


A.
A spinet piano stands less than 39" tall (from the floor to the top of the lid) and has an action mechanism much different from its taller relatives - the console, studio and upright.

Consoles tend to be between 40" and 44" tall; studios are usually 45" to 47" tall, while uprights are generally 48" or more. All are classified as vertical pianos, which distinguishes them from the horizontally-designed grand pianos.

Why does height matter? Generally speaking, the taller the piano, the longer the strings are, the bigger the soundboard is and the better the action is. These features help the taller piano to perform and sound better than the shorter one - providing all other factors are equal (brand, vintage, condition, etc...).

For the beginning student however, a spinet piano can serve as an excellent "stepping stone" instrument providing it has been properly restored.

 

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Q. I recently saw a piano for "70% off."  Should I buy it?


A. One pitfall in shopping for a piano is the "do-it-yourself" retail price. This is where a dealer will invent an inflated retail price, and discount off of it ("Was $10,000! Today only $3,000!") Unfortunately, what sounds like a deal exists only in the mind of the person conjuring up these fictitious discounts.

In most instances, the so-called "sale price" you're being offered isn't indicative of the "savings" you're being led to believe exists. Not all products in the piano industry even HAVE an MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price). If the manufacturer doesn't publish an MSRP, then they're leaving it up to the dealer to assign one. Convenient for the dealer (who will undoubtedly be veeeery generous) -- bad for you since it blurs the issue of value!

Fortunately, there's a book in the piano industry called the Ancott book. It's not a consumer publication, but it's a book/service to which dealers can subscribe which takes ALL piano manufacturers and uses the same formula to establish a "retail" price for every model and every finish. It comes out every year, so the information stays pretty current. It places ALL brands on the same level playing field because the Ancott retails are established using the same formula for every piano in the industry. In fact, it's a better way to compare values of various brands to each other than using MSRPs, since piano manufacturers use varying formulas to assign their own retail prices.

Another use for the Ancott book is to assign a fair retail price (the "Ancott" retail) to pianos which don't have an MSRP from the manufacturer. The presence of this book curbs the ability for a retailer to get away with claiming a preposterous, self-imposed "retail" in order to project a hugely discounted "sale" price.

So when you see a "list"..."retail"..."was"..."MSRP"..."reg" price from which a sale price is being offered, it doesn't mean that anyone on Earth ever actually PAID that original price. Countless industries, especially those featuring consumer products have retail pricing guidelines that are respected by its dealers. The piano industry does too, but the dealers who choose to impose their own inflated retails for deceptive financial gain should be avoided at all costs.

Personally, our company and store, (Cordogan's Pianoland have always made a practice of using manufacturer suggested list prices (MSRP's) on all new products whenever they are available. We use the Ancott book's prices for acoustic pianos which do NOT have an MSRP. Dealers should not legally have carte blanche to claim whatever "retails" they want with no repercussions of any kind.

In fact, in 2003, Cordogan's, along with four other piano retailers, helped consumers, like you, avoid such fraud by bringing a lawsuit against a Chicagoland piano retailer. In this case, Biasco Piano Company was sued for committing consumer fraud in the form of grossly inflating prices in their advertisements and for committing eleven other deceptive advertising practices. A DuPage County judge issued an injunction against Biasco Piano Company prohibiting it from engaging in such activities. Thereafter, Biasco Piano Company sought protection under the United States Bankruptcy Code, but it has yet to return consumer deposits estimated at over $300,000 for the purchase of pianos and related equipment which Biasco Piano Company has never delivered. This court ruling has had a very positive and far reaching impact on the business practices of piano dealers across the country. We are very proud to have been part of "The Chicago Five" (a term dubbed by a news group) who participated in this important litigation which has resulted in a ruling that should serve as a strong precedent to protect you from becoming a victim of false advertising and to make your overall piano purchasing experience a far more truthful and enjoyable process.

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Q. How should I choose a used piano dealer?

A.
This section deals with how to choose a dealer for your used piano needs.  We encourage you to find a dealer with an in-house restoration facility -- one that you can actually see, by the way -- not a mythical one the dealer CLAIMS to have, but is nowhere in sight.

As a used piano shopper, this information should be very useful to you!  Almost every piano dealer takes trade-ins.  Some trade-ins are bound to be basket cases, some will be diamonds in the rough, most are somewhere in between. In any case, we assure you of this: No trade-in is ever ready to move right on to the showroom floor without serious work.

To say it another way, every single trade in can be vastly improved by having a technician run through our checklist -- a list based upon Piano Technicians Guild standards.  Performing all the steps in this list can take days.  This work is referred to as "restoration work".  Used pianos that are even just a few years old are not exempt from needing restoration work.  Such work involves four separate areas, often performed by different craftsmen.

So how do dealers tackle refurbishing and reselling their trade-ins? That depends on which showroom you have just visited. Dealerships who don't have an in-house restoration facility usually struggle to compete with those who do. Without an in-house shop, dealers are left with four choices for restoration work:

1) don't do it and sell the instrument as is,

2) don't do it and claim it was performed (you'd be surprised how often this actually occurs),

3) allow independent contractors (as opposed to full-time technicians) to enter their showroom and perform "restorations" without adequate tools such as table saws, drill presses, hoists, heat guns, a spray booth etc., making restorations -- let alone a complete rebuild -- a near-impossibility,

4) send the piano to an outside shop, negotiate who's responsible for any promised warranties and be burdened with several hundred dollars spent in moving the piano back and forth for servicing.

When looking for a broad selection of good used or restored pianos, finding a reputable piano dealer with an in-house shop is where you're more likely to get the best bang for your buck. Certainly there are many talented independent rebuilders and refinishers, but these independent technicians typically concentrate on retail-quality restorations only for their private customers. They don't have dozens of pianos to choose from, since they're not usually in the resale business -- certainly not at a level where you'll have a great selection or support from an established dealer.

So what happens to the basket cases? Do you really want to know? Cordogan's regularly throws away pianos, even if it means we have to absorb some losses. We believe there are many pianos that simply shouldn't be resold. Not all dealers feel that way. Some dealers sell them with no remorse, regardless of their inability to hold a tune or play evenly. Undernourished pianos make for great advertising gimmicks under the guise of low prices.  See "Used Pianos From $499".

Choosing a dealer is important.  Where you buy can be more important than what you buy, especially in the arena of used pianos. Most major markets have good ones and bad ones.  Of course, wherever you are in the world, we'd be glad to earn your business if you're shopping for a top-quality used piano!

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions!


Q. What's with all these old American brand names being resurrected by new companies?


A.
There's a lot of "name recognition" in the piano business. Branding a product name to where it becomes a household word is something that most companies can only dream of. In pianos, it takes decades if not generations to achieve “household” status. Most people who are reading this might recognize names like Kimball, Wurlitzer, Baldwin and Steinway as being names they grew up with. Kawai and Yamaha have become household words to younger generations. But with the recent influx of Chinese and Indonesian pianos in the marketplace, there is a sudden arsenal of brand names in the marketplace and everyone is jockeying for market share.

A way to quickly gain market share is to take a well-known (but now defunct) piano name and apply the familiar name to a new piano. Take Chickering, Wurlitzer, Knabe, Sohmer, Weber or Kohler & Campbell for instance. These are well known American brands that went out of business decades ago. But the names live on today on account of creative marketing minds at piano factories who recognize the value in a name brand over, say, the name of the Chinese, Indonesian or Korean factory from which the piano now comes! Cordogan's carries a brand that meet this description (Hallet, Davis & Co. - commonly misspelled as "Hallett & Davis").

There's nothing wrong with this practice so long as the dealer or person selling the piano isn't misrepresenting the piano as something that it isn't.  The natural instinct is for people to take things at face value -- meaning if you see a name on a piano that says "Baldwin" following by "Cincinnati, Ohio" in smaller print, don't assume the piano was made in Cincinnati.  Ask questions!  :)

The other type of brand name mixology occurring in the market place these days is with Steinway pianos.  Steinway learned a long time ago that dealers who carried Steinway often sold mid-priced and lower-priced pianos from other brands to customers who came in to see Steinway pianos.  When these customers found out how expensive real Steinway pianos were, they walked out with a piano from another manufacturer on Steinway's coattails and Steinway didn't see one dollar from the sale even though it was Steinway's marketing dollars that generated the person coming in the door.  In an effort to grab a piece of that mid-priced and low-priced market, Steinway did two things:  1) they went to popular manufacturers in the mid and low-priced markets (Kawai and Pearl River respectively) and solicited them to build a line of pianos for Steinway that would be sold only through Steinway dealers and 2) they slowly but surely evolved most of their dealerships in the U.S. to only carry Steinway products.  Steinway of Chicago is now actually owned by Steinway.  This keeps your money in the Steinway family if you buy a piano from a Steinway dealer.  This is all fine so long as you know what you're actually buying, but we see too many people buying a Boston piano (which is made by Kawai in Japan) or an Essex piano (which is made by Pearl River in China) thinking that they somehow bought a piano made by Steinway.  Boston pianos and Essex pianos carry a huge pricing premium that is much higher than the comparable Kawai or Pearl River, even though conventional wisdom, internet reputation and most importantly Larry Fine's Piano Book rates them the same.  So basically by purchasing a Boston or an Essex piano, you're paying a lot of extra money for a piano which cannot be competitively shopped for price, yet not receiving any musical value for paying that extra premium.  If your ultimate goal is to own an *actual* Steinway piano, you may be tempted by Steinway's offer to accept a Boston or Essex for full purchase price toward a Steinway, but Steinway is in the business of selling Steinway grand pianos and since they're obviously not going to resell your Boston or an Essex trade-in for the full amount they're accepting in trade, it stands to reason that there's also room for them to accept your Yamaha, Kawai or other brand at a price that is acceptable to you.

Some Steinway dealers across the country also sell a private label brand called Cristofori pianos (commonly misspelled as "Christofori" piano). The Cristofori piano brand is actually owned by a dealer who sells Steinway in several markets across the U.S. It's simply a Chinese piano for which comparison prices cannot be obtained because it's only carried by these dealers. For years it was sold here in Chicago and we were surprised to hear some consumers indicate that it was their understanding Steinway "makes" the Christofori or that Steinway has ANYTHING to do with Cristofori. Be assured, Steinway only makes STEINWAY pianos. All of the other pianos sold by Steinway dealers are manufactured by other companies. Boston is made by Kawai (Japan or Indonesia), Essex is made by Pearl River (China) and the Cristofori piano is ALSO made by Pearl River (China), who incidentally also makes many other brands.

Manufacturer brochures don't make your shopping efforts any easier either when it comes to origin of manufacture. You won't see "Made in China" emblazoned anywhere on a brochure. Rather you will read all about the rich company history, the award-winning designs and family roots of these brands which in reality have absolutely nothing to do with the design or quality level of the piano you're considering.

All of this can certainly be confusing to the buyer who wants to feel like they're buying a name brand product without paying the name brand price, but you really do get what you pay for -- and there are higher-rated pianos for the money than the above mentioned brands. The Piano Book by Larry Fine does a good job of recommending brands and staying fairly current with who's building who. Or if you're in our area you can come see us, we'll tell it to you straight! Cordogan's carries several top-rated brands. See our “NEW PIANO INVENTORY” for a listing. a listing.



 

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