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The email below was sent to the Mechanical Music Digest in response to a thread about gutted player pianos being more valuable than intact instruments.
Maybe Don Teach and I should see if we can work out some details about listing these player actions that he and others don't want. I get emails on a regular basis asking me where they can find player actions for their gutted players. So far, keeping an inventory which includes manufacturer, scale design, asking price, etc., has proven to be time consuming and unprofitable.
I've stated for years that the quest for returning a gutted player to a working player is 2-3 times more expensive than starting with a unit that is intact. So, those who have asked are already aware of the cost factors involved. If a network of people who own these orphaned player mechanisms could it all get together, perhaps that cost factor could be reduced to 1-2 times more expensive, and we'd still make a profit.
Naturally, shipping is always a problem and an expense. I recently had a box made for a Duo-Art stack that would insure its safe travel across the US. The cost was over $300. Also, when added to the weight of the stack, the total weight came to over 113 pounds. Point is that some sort of an arrangement would have to be made such that the buyer could rent the shipping container and then return it empty.
Here's another twist to this thread. The owner of a piano store called last month and asked if I'd be interested in buying a few of the non-working, fully-intact players she has in her store. Like Robbie indicated in his most recent editorial comment, piano technicians are often intimidated by the presence of a player mechanism, and she was having no luck selling the units. I reminded her that underneath every player piano is a regular piano, and that in a worse case scenario she could always remove the mechanism and sell the unit as a regular piano.
In my opinion, there is no way an intact player piano can be less valuable than a gutted unit unless the person selling it makes it sound less valuable to the customer. And, if the customer really likes the look of the instrument but is scared off by the presence of the player mechanism, the mechanism could be removed for a small fee of less than $50.00. It takes less than 20 minutes to remove all of the major components.
Although the page has been inactive for some time, I do have a webpage that lists some used parts. For a nominal fee I will act as a broker if we can figure out some of the other problems like pricing, shipping, insurance, payment and guarantees. Let us not forget the old saying, "One man's trash is another man's treasure." And if you don't believe that, explain to me why every junk yard owner is a rich person!! The key to the game is keeping good records, establishing a fair pricing structure and having a network of interested parties.
John A. Tuttle
For a similar article from a different perspective, see "The Value of a Pneumatic Player Piano" by Craig Brougher.
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