First Founded in Manhattan in 1853, Steinway and Sons has grown to be the world’s largest seller of high end grand pianos. This article will explore the history of the Steinway brand and the values of different Steinway models both past and present. Finally, it will provide insight into the best ways to buy or sell a Steinway piano.
- Steinway History
- Famous Steinway Models
- How to Sell Steinway Pianos
- More Brands Like Steinway
Who Invented Steinway Pianos?
Steinway pianos were first created by Henry E. Steinway (1797-1871). Born Heinrich Engelhard Steinwag in modern day Lower Saxony, Germany, Steinway fought in the Napoleanic wars for several years until leaving the army and becoming apprenticed to an organ maker in 1822.
In 1835, Steinway completed his first square piano, shortly followed in 1836 with his first grand piano, nicknamed ‘kitchen piano’ since he built it secretly in his kitchen to avoid strict guild regulations. His kitchen piano is now on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Steinway emigrated to New York City in 1850 along with 5 of his 7 sons, leaving his German piano business to his eldest son, C. F. Theodore Steinweg. Steinway founded a new piano company called Steinway and Sons in New York, and began building brand recognition by touring at trade shows and constructing the famous Steinway Hall in Manhattan. In 1864, the family officially changed their surname from Steinwag to Steinway to match their business name.
The company was continuously headed by members of the Steinway family until the retirement of Henry E. Steinway’s great grandson, Henry Z. Steinway, in the late 1970s. Today, Steinway pianos are still produced in just two factories, one in New York City and the other in Hamburg, Germany. Between the two facilities, Steinway outputs over 2,500 pianos annually.
- Born/Died: February 22 1797 – February 7 1871
- Nationality: German American
- Related Brands: Yamaha, Grotrian, Fazioli
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What Are Steinway and Sons Known For?
Steinway and Sons is best known for its production of high end grand pianos. Known as one of the ‘big four’ piano producers, the company’s share of the high end piano market regularly exceeds 80%. The company is famed for its innovations in piano making technology, and holds 139 individual piano making patents.
Many professional pianists favor Steinway pianos for their high build quality and depth of sound. For example, the wooden soundboard in a Steinway grand piano is crafted exclusively from Sitka spruce grown in north facing conditions. This particular wood has extremely dense growth rings and is believed to produce a superior sound to other wood options on the market. Among the Sitka spruce boards purchased by Steinway, only about half will have the appropriate grain density and direction for use in the piano soundboards.
This focus on the wood grain gives Steinway pianos their distinctly long, sustained tones. The outer and inner rims of a Steinway grand piano are made of hardrock maple, a very dense wood which allows for freer movement of sound waves in and around the piano. In addition to the raw materials used in their pianos, Steinway pays close attention to the balance and feel of the piano’s mechanical components. Each key is hand tested in the factory to ensure that the same amount of pressure will yield the same result on every one of the 88 keys. Finally, the hammers are inspected and hand tuned to produce an even tone.
Historic Steinway and Sons Pianos
In the 170 years since Steinway and Sons was founded, the company has produced over 600,000 pianos in a range of sizes and styles. This section will outline a few of Steinway’s most famous historic piano models, including Steinway’s Sound of Harmony Concert Piano, the Steinway Victory Vertical Piano, John Lennon’s Steinway Model Z piano, and Steinway’s Fibonacci Piano.
Steinway’s Sound of Harmony Concert Piano
The Steinway Sound of Harmony Concert Piano is a one of a kind art case grand piano produced by Steinway over the course of 3 years in their Hamburg Facility. This piano is decorated with inlays of 40 different types of wood depicting classical chinese motifs. The piano is currently ranked as the fourth most valuable in the world with an estimated value of $1,650,000. It is currently owned by Chinese art collector Guo Qingxiang.
Steinway Victory Vertical Pianos
During the second world war, Steinway’s piano production plummeted as their wood supplies were diverted to wartime production. Steinway’s US factory switched to making coffins and wooden gliders for the military for a few years, before being commissioned by the government to produce a line of lightweight standing pianos.
These pianos were designed to be light enough for four men to lift, and the company shipped and even parachuted the pianos into active war zones to provide a comforting diversion for American troops stationed abroad. Between 1942 and 1953, Steinway produced around 3,000 Victory vertical pianos.
John Lennon’s Model Z Piano
In 1970, after the breakup of the Beatles, John Lennon purchased a Steinway Model Z Upright Piano for £1,000 and had it delivered to his home outside London. For the next decade, this piano became an essential part of Lennon’s solo music, and it was on this piano that he first composed the song “Imagine”. This piano was heavily loved by Lennon, and still bears burn marks from the cigarettes he smoked while playing it.
In recent years, the piano has been toured around the United States and shown in multiple art galleries. Although it is one of the cheaper Steinway models on the market, the unique history of this piano led to it fetching a record breaking £1,450,000 at auction in 1992.
Steinway’s The Fibonacci
The Fibonacci model D is the 600,000th piano crafted by Steinway, and like many of their other milestone pianos, this piano has an exceptionally complex art case. The fibonacci spiral on this piano was designed by master artisan Frank Pollaro and is meant to represent harmony and balance. This unique piano took 6,000 man hours over the course of 4 years to complete, and it is valued at around 2.4 million dollars.
How to Identify an Authentic Steinway Piano
On the majority of pianos, the maker’s name will be centered above the keyboard. Besides Steinway and Sons, the brands “Boston” and “Essex” are also produced by Steinway, although their resale value is lower.
Inside the piano, you will also find a unique serial number. On upright pianos, the serial number will be on the back upper corner. For grand pianos, it will be on the interior, although the exact placement of the number varies between models. Steinway serial numbers began at 1,000 in 1853 and have increased at irregular intervals in the years following. Near the serial number you may also find other information such as the model name.
Revere Auctions provides the best value for your Steinway pianos through extensive consignment and acquisition services.
How Much Are Steinway and Son Pianos Worth?
Steinway and sons has firmly established themselves as a premier producer of high end pianos, and their products often sell for over $80,000 new. The pianos have strong resale value when properly looked after, and often appreciate over time. This section will look at the price difference between a few different types of grand piano currently produced by Steinway. Price varies by finish and a few other specifications, with the lowest available price typically being for the ebony finish with no customizations.
- Average Estimate for Model S Baby Grand Pianos: $65,000-$85,000
- Average Estimate for Model B Semi Concert Grand Pianos: $92,000-$102,000
- Average Estimate for Model D Concert Grand Pianos: $150,000-$165,000
What Determines The Value of Steinway Pianos?
A wide variety of factors influence the value of a Steinway piano, including model, size, condition, customizations, history and more. Because Steinway pianos can vary in price from thousands of dollars to over a million dollars, a professional evaluation is the best way to determine the value of a specific Steinway piano.
- Model: The most valuable pianos currently produced by Steinway are the Model D concert grand pianos, while the least valuable are the Model k-52 professional upright pianos.
- Size: Steinway’s most popular piano is the Model B classic grand piano. At just over 7 feet long, this grand piano is large enough to produce a strong sound, but small enough to fit in most venues and even large living spaces. As a general rule, the 10 foot long Concert grands are the most valuable Steinways and prices drop as models get smaller.
- Condition: In order to retain value, pianos must be kept in a climate controlled space and regularly tuned. Exposure to extreme temperatures and humidity levels can lower the value of a piano, as can leaving the piano untuned for many years. Cosmetic damage will also negatively affect the resale price of the piano.
- Customizations: Steinway’s most valuable pianos are concert grands wrapped in art cases. These meticulously handcrafted exteriors incorporate different woods and inventive design motifs.
- History: Some older Steinways increase dramatically in value due to the fame of their previous owners, such as the upright Steinway owned by John Lennon described earlier in the article. Some models such as Steinway Victory uprights also remain popular with collectors due to their fascinating place in American history.
Have your Steinway piano valued by experts with Revere Auctions appraisal services.
The Values of Steinway Piano Models
This section will explore some specific Steinway pianos sold at auction and look at their estimated and realized price.
Steinway, Model D Concert Grand Piano
Steinway Model D Concert Grand Piano from 1987 with bench in Ebony finish.
- Estimate: $30,000-$50,000
- Result: N/A
Steinway, Model B Semi-Concert Grand Piano
Steinway Model B Semi-Concert grand piano from 1984 with aftermarket player system and tufted bench. This piano measures 6’11’’ in length and has an Ebony finish.
- Estimate: $20,000-$40,000
- Result: N/A
Steinway and Sons, Grand Piano
This Steinway model B grand piano was produced in 1999 and comes with a tufted bench. It measures 82 inches in length with an Ebony finish.
- Estimate: $6,000-$8,000
- Result: N/A
Steinway, Model C Concert Grand Piano
Steinway Model C Grand piano from 1877. This piano has a rosewood finish and floral decorative accents on the case and legs.
- Estimate: $5,000-$7,000
- Result: $1,700
Steinway, Model M Grand Piano
Steinway and Sons Model M Medium Grand Piano with bench. This piano measures 38.5” x 67” x 57.5” with an ebony finish.
- Estimate: $4,000-$8,000
- Result: $6,000
Steinway, Model S Baby Grand Piano
Steinway Model S Baby grand piano with bench.
- Estimate: $6,000-$10,000
- Result: $11,000
Have your Steinway piano valued by experts with Revere Auctions appraisal services.
How Can I Sell My Steinway and Sons Piano?
Some people choose to sell their Steinway piano themselves through online marketplaces like Ebay, Facebook Marketplace, or Craigslist. While listing items online is often a fast and easy way to sell them, the major obstacle with selling pianos online is arranging transportation from your home to the buyers.
Another popular option is consigning your piano with an auction house. While an auction house will charge fees for their services, they offer many benefits such as pricing the piano and advertising it to potential buyers. Many auction houses can also help you transport the piano to and from their facility. If you happen to live in the state of Texas, Steinway has its own consignment service for used pianos in that state.
Local instrument stores may also take piano consignments or be able to offer you advice on other local methods of selling your piano. Instrument stores may also offer piano transport services for an additional fee.
Revere Auctions has extensive access to auction platforms available for acquisition and consignment of Steinway pianos.
Revere Auctions Sells Your Steinway Piano
Revere Auctions is ready to help appraise, transport, or sell your Steinway and Sons pianos, as well as other brands of piano or musical instrument. A comprehensive list of Revere’s services can be found here. If you have any questions, or would like to receive a free online estimate for your item, please contact us for more information.
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Discover More Works Like Steinway and Sons Pianos
Here is a brief look at a few other brands that produce high end grand pianos.
Yamaha has been building pianos for over 100 years. They produce the Yamaha 9’ CFX, one of the finest concert pianos on the market.
This German brand, also known as Grotrian-Steinweg outside of the US, was founded by Heinrich E. Steinweg, who sold his portion of the company before moving to the US to found Steinway and Sons. In the modern day, Grotrian is known for producing sturdy, high quality upright and grand pianos.
Fazioli is a newer Italien piano brand that exclusively produces grand and concert grand pianos. The Fazioli F308 is the longest grand piano currently on the market.