Steinway B 1890

Posted by: boca33487

Steinway B 1890 - 11/14/12 07:01 AM

I'm looking for a good pre-owned grand under 20k. A reputable local dealer has a Steinway B from 1890 in that price range. Is a piano this old really worth buying? I'm also worried that it must need a lot of work to be offered at this price, right? When I asked the sales guy why the price was so low he said it was just the wear and tear on the exterior which to me is in keeping with the age of the piano.

Thanks in advance for any expert advice.
Posted by: Keith D Kerman

Re: Steinway B 1890 - 11/14/12 09:09 AM

Steinway Bs in good original condition from 1890 don't wholesale for too much less than 20k, so I think just under 20k, if this piano is clean, is a very fair retail price. However, to properly restore an 1890 Steinway B into reliable playing condition will be around 20k ( depending on original condition.....could be a bit less, could be a lot more ) on top of the price of the piano itself. To do a first rate full rebuild on a piano like that is getting closer to 40k and above.

An 1890 Steinway B is potentially a fantastic piano, but it will be very very expensive to make right. If your budget is below 20k, that is probably not the piano for you to buy. There are very nice brand new pianos in your budget such as Brodmann, Feurich, Hailun and others. Since you obviously don't mind used, you have even more options, and at 20k, you should focus on something from the mid 1980s or newer if going the used route. You will have very nice Kawai, Yamaha and Baldwin options then.

Also, if you try that 1890 Steinway B again, notice how short the keys are compared with a current piano. This is something that bothers a lot of pianists that they may not notice until after they purchase.
Posted by: Seeker

Re: Steinway B 1890 - 11/14/12 05:42 PM

Originally Posted By: boca33487
I'm looking for a good pre-owned grand under 20k. A reputable local dealer has a Steinway B from 1890 in that price range. (1) Is a piano this old really worth buying? I'm also worried that (2) it must need a lot of work to be offered at this price, right? When I asked the sales guy why the price was so low he said it was just the wear and tear on the exterior which to me is in keeping with the age of the piano. (3)

Thanks in advance for any expert advice.

(1) It very well could be, but it depends on the price and condition. I'm not expert enough in when Steinway made certain changes to know if there is a possibility this is an 85 note piano instead of 88. Even though those upper notes are rarely used, it is desirable to have an instrument with them on it.
(2) None of us can give you an intelligent answer without inspecting the piano. Pictures and a video could help point to gross deficiencies, but there is no substitute for an inspection by a professional piano technician - independent of the seller. Type "inspection" into the search box here on PW, and I know you'll find tons of information on the necessity of doing such.
(3)It's my opinion that the price isn't all that low, not for a piano of that age - but again - the price will depend greatly on the condition of the instrument, how much work has been done on it over the years, the quality of it, how recently it was done, etc. That's why, if you like the piano, you should have it inspected by an independent technician.
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Personally, I'm not put off by what might be the different configuration of the keys - but that's me. You need to try it and make your own decision. If you don't perform on other pianos for a living, or very often even if you do, it shouldn't make a difference. You'll get used to what you've got.

As to whether or not it pays to buy a (good) old Steinway over the modern competition - that's a matter of taste as much as judgment. A Steinway is... a Steinway. And the Model "B" is arguably (on PW we can argue about any and every thing...), is one of their great successes. There's a reason Steinway pianos continue to hold their value, and it's not all marketing smoke and mirrors. (One man's opinion).
Posted by: boca33487

Re: Steinway B 1890 - 11/14/12 08:22 PM

Thanks so much for the very helpful info. I have actually seen some Kawai, Yamaha, and Baldwin instruments that I liked, but I think I got caught up in the Steinway name!
Posted by: boca33487

Re: Steinway B 1890 - 11/14/12 08:25 PM

Thanks for the input. I have great admiration for the Steinway B, but the age of this one worries me probably a bit too much for my comfort level. I think I'll do better with something a bit newer.
Posted by: BerndAB

Re: Steinway B 1890 - 11/14/12 09:08 PM

The age itself is no real good reason to stay off of an old (good) Steinway. It is the technical status to be evaluated.

And the sound of an instrument should appeal to the buyer's soul..

The most important hint is the "85 keys issue", if the deal is regarded in any "Investment" thinking. If the buyer won't sell in his lifetime, the "85 keys issue" is of no value. It may make the heirs angry, but..

It needs a good soundboard, a good status of the strings, the felts, the hammers - and an overall appealing result in this so important thing named "sound" .. Look: normally no private piano player would ever wish to "upgrade" from a Steinway B.

It is yet the "private pianist's dream machine".

So there in most cases there will be no need ever to discuss the value of the instrument again - if - IF - it was in good state when being bought.

If a buyer is not sure how long his preference for a grand will last , and if he calculates with a relevant chance that he might sell the piano again, there is nothing more important than to have 88 keys in a good instrument. prices of 88-keyers are double the price of 85-keyers.. No technical reason, but this seems to be a fact.

The change was in 1891/92. Cit. Roy Kehl: "1891/10/16 store (5/28 case) first 7 1/4-octave B grand (serial no. 73226, lowest serial no. 73212)"

i.e.: instrument with lower no. was finished a little bit later.

BTW OT Same change 85 => 88 for model A was in May 1892, first serial no. 74866 (store 5/25). At the A Model this change went together with relevant changes in the bridge design (return bridge).
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Steinway B 1890 - 11/15/12 08:45 AM

Originally Posted By: BerndAB
If a buyer is not sure how long his preference for a grand will last , and if he calculates with a relevant chance that he might sell the piano again, there is nothing more important than to have 88 keys in a good instrument. prices of 88-keyers are double the price of 85-keyers.. No technical reason, but this seems to be a fact.
Perhaps if you are talking about pianos in need of a complete rebuild.
But at least in NYC for rebuilt Steinway 85 note model that is not the case. Steinway 85's sell for about 10K less than 88 note models. But the original purchaser should be paying less for the 85 note model so there would be no difference in the monetary gain/loss if they eventually sell the piano.

Posted by: Keith D Kerman

Re: Steinway B 1890 - 11/15/12 01:43 PM

Thanks to those that pointed out that this piano, if accurately dated to 1890, most likely has 85 keys. I had it in my mind that 1890 was the first year for 88 keys on a B, but 1891 is what the research shows.

So, I still stand by everything I said in my previous post with the exception being that at just under 20k this 85 note piano is being sold, in my opinion, at pretty much a full retail price, unless the case is exceptional.
Posted by: BerndAB

Re: Steinway B 1890 - 11/15/12 04:51 PM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
But the original purchaser should be paying less for the 85 note model so there would be no difference in the monetary gain/loss if they eventually sell the piano.


OK so far - but only if the buyer is a knowing buyer..

Sometimes advertisings for old Steinway grands try to hide the "85 keys" issue.. , tell mega tons of lyrics about the special qualities of super old Steinway grands, but try to omit the "85 keys" disadvantage..
Posted by: BerndAB

Re: Steinway B 1890 - 11/15/12 05:19 PM

Originally Posted By: Keith D Kerman
Thanks to those that pointed out that this piano, if accurately dated to 1890, most likely has 85 keys. I had it in my mind that 1890 was the first year for 88 keys on a B, but 1891 is what the research shows.


Hi Keith,

to close borderlines for 85/88 key questions.. ;-)

..1892 is what the research shows. See below.

Also in the year 1890 there were several "88 keys" Steinway pianos.. to be honest: most of them. The grand models A and B seem to have been the "last Mohicans" with 85 keys - until 1892.

The concert grands yet had 88 keys in 1863 and afterwards never again had less than 88 keys.

The real model C (introduced 1886 as a smaller derivate of the new D from 1884) also had 88 keys.

And, yes, in that years some so called "square grands" also had the 88 keys. From 1885 to the end of square production in 1889 there existed new squares only with 88 keys. the biggest and probably best and most powerful squares ever built!

Some bigger squares had 88 keys yet four years after start of New York production in 1853. Eldest big square pianos date back to April 1857 with 88 keys.

The other way around: the last entry for Steinway pianos with 7 octaves (85 keys) is written for a B model which went into store 1892/11/18, serial # 75473 (highest serial no., but finished a litte bit earlier was #75627).

So there was a time of some months overlap in 1891/92 in building A and B grands either with 85 keys or with 88 keys.

I could not find any mentioning of 7-octave pianos after this date, also for the uprights.

So, all Steinway pianos with higher serial numbers than 75627 should have always 88 keys if I read it right.

Posted by: LJC

Re: Steinway B 1890 - 11/15/12 05:34 PM

Dear Boca,
It is impossible to tell if this Steinway B is 20K or not without seeing,playing and hearing it. It seems highly unlikely that if it was never rebuilt that it doesn't need it now.
Posted by: boca33487

Re: Steinway B 1890 - 11/16/12 04:03 AM

Hello All,

This discussion has been extremely helpful. I very quickly learned a lot about the potential of this model so thanks again to all for sharing your expertise. This piano does indeed have 85 keys and when playing again I did notice the slightly shorter length of the keys. I doubt that I would have picked up on either of those on my own.