How much is a Steinway (or this Steinway) worth? As pianists, musicians, students, parents, and music lovers play through Steinway pianos they love, it is a question of great importance. Many financially savvy individuals understand that often, when they pay more for something, it retains its value better than something less expensive.
Steinway "Cost of Use"
So how do you know if it’s TOO expensive? The answer may be found in what is known as the Steinway “cost of use” or “cost of enjoyment”, namely what you pay for the piano, minus what you can reasonably expect to sell it for in 10-15 years. If you do a little work on both sides of this equation (buying and selling), your Steinway “cost of use” can be minimal; in many cases, it is zero. When someone buys a Steinway piano new from the Steinway showroom, there is invariably a significant drop in value the minute the piano comes home. People understand that when it comes to luxury cars, and the effect is very similar when buying brand new at Steinway. The reason being that when you buy new at Steinway there is no competition, and therefore the pricing is not subject to an actual “market”, but rather the pricing desire of the Steinway company.
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Secondary Market for Steinways
The only way to pay a fair price for a Steinway or to sell a Steinway piano for a fair price is to be part of the actual “market”. What are the characteristics of a real market? A true market has 1) many buyers and sellers 2) equal access to information. On the secondary market for Steinways, one can observe these traits. There are numerous sellers of used Steinway, especially in healthy markets like New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington DC. These sellers, by virtue of a real market, must compete. This brings the pricing down to earth. When a musician buys in this market they know that they can use and enjoy their Steinway for many years and then sell back into the same market they bought in. Similarly, when they sell their Steinway, they can call numerous dealers, and private individuals to compare offers and get the best price.
Lastly, one has to do a certain amount of due diligence to learn about competing Steinway resellers, basic knowledge about the construct and sound of the piano, and information on what pianos are selling for on the actual secondary market. This takes a little effort, asking lots of questions to everyone, including pianists, piano dealers, piano technicians, and other piano lovers. Take the time to be part of the real market for Steinway pianos (with competition and good information), and you’ll pay a fair price for your Steinway.