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#1515673 - 09/15/10 10:00 AM Early Charles Stieff baby grand
SallyG Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/15/10
Posts: 5
Loc: USA
I can get this piano for $500 or less. Is it the deal of the century or the white elephant of the decade? I'm looking to actually play it, and don't mind putting a little money into it if it will pay off in quality of sound. Currently banging away on an old Hamilton with hammers like an undulating wave which my tech tells me isn't worth the cost of repairing.

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#1515740 - 09/15/10 11:44 AM Re: Early Charles Stieff baby grand [Re: SallyG]
Steve Cohen Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 10819
Loc: Maryland/DC/No. VA
Unfortunately, the answer is probably not.

While Stieff made a very nice piano, right in my home town, they went out of business about 70 years ago. Unless a great deal of work has already been done to this piano, it wouldn't be worth restoring.
Piano Industry Consultant- http://www.linkedin.com/pub/steve-cohen/6/b92/b80

Consultant & Contributing Editor - Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer

Jasons Music
Maryland/DC/No. VA
Since 1937.

My postings, unless stated otherwise, are my personal opinions, not those of my clients.

#1515747 - 09/15/10 11:50 AM Re: Early Charles Stieff baby grand [Re: SallyG]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 24523
Loc: Oakland
If you want to be certain, ask your tech to look at it, and compare its prospects with your current piano's.
Semipro Tech

#1515761 - 09/15/10 12:06 PM Re: Early Charles Stieff baby grand [Re: SallyG]
Rich Galassini Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 10401
Loc: Philadelphia/South Jersey
Good responses so far.

I will add that we have fully rebuilt several Stieff pianos over the years, one being a concert grand piano. They were each fine instruments, but if you invest in rebuilding one it is unlikely that you could recoup your investment in a resale. The brand is now simply too unknown.

I agree with BDB - have your tech. look it over.
Rich Galassini
Cunningham Piano Co.
Phila, Pa.
Check out the Science Channel's "How Its Made" featuring our piano restoration:

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#1515763 - 09/15/10 12:08 PM Re: Early Charles Stieff baby grand [Re: Steve Cohen]
SallyG Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/15/10
Posts: 5
Loc: USA
Thanks for the advice...I'm in your hometown, I think, because I know where the piano was made. Craigslist has a large number of available pianos in my price range...$0 to $4K, based on my current and anticipated skill level..it is hard to know what to jump on. Free Weber grand or $3500 Yamaha U1? I made the mistake of playing a Bosendorfer at a dealer which makes Chopsticks sound riveting, lol! Sigh. I guess I'll have to travel around and play a lot of pianos.

#1515772 - 09/15/10 12:18 PM Re: Early Charles Stieff baby grand [Re: SallyG]
BDB Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/07/03
Posts: 24523
Loc: Oakland
It is a good idea to see what is available new these days, even when shopping for a used piano. There are some very nice pianos available new at price points lower than the cost of restoring an old piano.

If you go used, your best bet is usually something made in the last 50 years, and preferably newer.
Semipro Tech

#1515828 - 09/15/10 01:34 PM Re: Early Charles Stieff baby grand [Re: SallyG]
David Burton Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 1759
Loc: Coxsackie, New York
There’s just no doubt about it, quality and price available from Asian sources is forcing the market for rebuilt pianos to ignore anything below a certain size and make requirement for grand pianos. If you are in the market for a “baby grand” piano; one less than 5’5” in length, you really should not exclude from your search new makes coming from Asia.

If you are in the market for something larger that you intend on keeping for the rest of your life, then the larger rebuilt grands (Steinway and Mason & Hamlin predominate) may suit you better. Of course there are many very nice new pianos out there that come from the American and European makers who only make as many as they can sell, so we’re talking limited quantities, often misinterpreted by the investor class; a serious major make American or European piano is still a musical instrument first and foremost and the “investment” in such as this is the time and effort it requires for a real human being to make real live piano music.

If you are really … some would say either crazy or very rich, and maybe the former is closer, then you can find some old “core” from parlor grand size (5’4” – 5’10”) to concert grand (8’10” – 9’+) and have it meticulously rebuilt by one of the better rebuilders out there and have something that’s … a piece of history as well as a work of art. Remarks in the preceding paragraph also apply.

It’s been hard for the piano market and the piano business (the serious music business in general at all levels), but the solid conviction of the diehard few may hopefully keep something worth preserving from being submerged by the tons of commercial trash noise claiming to be real music (sorry, but a few of us sometimes feel like taking our gloves off!) that requires nothing more than enduing flashy appeals to basic instincts, rather than requiring any serious thought or action (piano or otherwise) as if, dare I say it, by design. Don’t worry, occasionally I am among the most daring people in prose and speech you’ll ever run across, because I just don’t accept anything much at face value, which has at times made me hugely unpopular. But I’ve always been more interested in the truth of things than just “getting along” with wherever the crowd seems to be going. This has nothing to do with basic human compassion though and I have lots of it, especially for piano dealers and technicians whose interests I deeply understand and champion.

Some of you probably had no idea that in getting yourself or your children involved with pianos that you were being invited to join a cultural movement. Well, I’m here to tell you that whether you were attracted by the likes of Elton John (a Yamaha man) or Billy Joel (who wrote his own “classical” music too) or you heard Jeffrey Biegel play JS Bach (or Beethoven), whoever or whatever it was, you are invited to join a unique and worldwide effort to promote activities that transcend the usual acquisitive hum drum of life.

Is there something more we can get out of life? Is this all there is? To these questions, asked me so often by the bored and bummed both young and old, I reply certainly there is, and one can start with a piano.


PS: Some years back I met at a concert in Newport, RI one of the Stieff family (it's pronounced Steef by the way). They made all sizes of grands though fewer of the larger sizes. Any of these 5'7" or longer which show up as "cores" are likely targets for rebuilding with the proviso that you like the result whatever it is and are willing to pay for the restoration or rebuilding work because selling the result may prove difficult.
David Burton's Blog

#1515915 - 09/15/10 04:13 PM Re: Early Charles Stieff baby grand [Re: David Burton]
SallyG Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/15/10
Posts: 5
Loc: USA
Many thanks to all for your comments and advice. You've given me a lot to think about. Luckily I don't have to jump into a decision right away. I stopped lessons in 1977 and restarted a short time ago when I inherited the family piano. I'm 46 and playing for my own pleasure with no illusions about my talent! Although I'm no musical genius, I do have a good ear and a bit of flair.
I agree with David, there is a sad trend in the general population these days to be satisfied with "music" that often sounds easy/quick/shallow. Both of my parents grew up in households that often gathered around the piano to sing together in the evenings. I guess society has just moved so quickly from radio to texting that nobody has time for that sort of thing anymore even if they can play an instrument.

#1517113 - 09/17/10 09:20 AM Re: Early Charles Stieff baby grand [Re: SallyG]
Hop Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/24/08
Posts: 654
Loc: Hudson, FL
Of course, the answer is to listen to a competent tech before doing anything. I concur that it is unlikely that you will get a positive review.

A relative recently purchased a Stieff baby grand, and she loves it. I played it, and I did not. We are both right: she got what she wanted, and I didn't get what I didn't want. Try it and see what you think.

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