Most people don't like to hear this, but it has been my professional
experience that for every dollar you spend restoring a 1920's vintage
player piano you can expect a $0.50 return. What you do get in
return is hundreds of hours on entertainment, which has no real
dollar value in terms of the fair-market value.
Standard, which was made by the Harrington Department of the
Hardman, Peck & Co, NY, is listed as an instrument of 'established
name and character' in the 1926 Piano & Player Piano Buyer's Guide
along with 400 other piano manufacturers. (There have been over
10,000 piano makers in the US since the 1800's.) This puts the
Standard in the top 4% category, which is notable.
Player pianos are fairly rapidly becoming 'collectible' items. However,
they are not yet considered antiques by knowledgeable (and honest)
dealers. Most feel that players will become legitimate antiques
around the year 2020, when they become 100 years old. Regular
pianos become antiques when they are 125. This is because pianos
are/were so well built that they are expected to be viable instruments
for at least 50 years, and often work quite well into their 70th year
if well maintained. The key word here is maintenance.
When parts of the player mechanism deteriorate, replacing those
parts is considered routine maintenance, and therefore having the
work done adds little value to the instrument. It's similar to taking
care of routine maintenance on your car. Naturally, those vehicles
that are well maintained usually command a higher resale value
down the road as compared to those that were not well maintained.
But as most of us have experienced, the difference in resale value
is typically only a fraction of the monies we've invested in maintenance
because it's fairly difficult for anyone but a professional to know which
vehicles were well maintained and which ones were not. However,
what we have gained, over those who don't do proper maintenance,
is the peace of mind that the car will take us where we want to go,
and bring us back home without unnecessary delays.
I feel the same way you do with regards to the tonal quality of
the circa 1920's uprights as compared to the modern uprights. But
this has more to do with string length than overall quality. Longer
strings means the unit has a bigger soundboard, and the soundboard,
being the 'speaker' for the piano, has a profound effect on the
overall power and majesty of the instrument. It is the same as
listening to music over small speakers verses bigger speakers.
The cost of restoring an 80-year old instrument can exceed
$10,000 if everything that can wear out is replaced (including
the finish) with new parts. However, routine maintenance,
such as replacing hoses and rebuilding selected bellows seldom
exceeds $1,000. It does cost about $4,000 to replace all of the
soft materials in a player mechanism, but this is not always
necessary if you are satisfied with slightly reduced performance.
The big bucks come in when parts like the valves and all of the
bellows (about 100) need to be replaced.
The bottom-line is that it is a judgement call. If you plan to keep
the instrument for 20-40 more years, and you truly love listening
to player piano music, spending the money isn't unwise. However,
if your intent is to make a profit, the best advice is 'sell it AS IS'.
As I said before, for every dollar that goes in, only about $0.50
comes back out.
Hope this helps.
John A. Tuttle