Thursday, February 28, 2008

"We'd call something like yours a Landfill Piano"

So the phone conversation between me and the tech at the tech went like this:

Me: Can you tell us a little about our piano? We might want to have y'all come out and service it or something. And if you could tell us what it might be worth, that help, too.

Tech: I can give you kind of a ballpark estimate on that, for anything firmer, like insurance purposes or something, we'd need to evaluate it in person.

Me: Well, we've been told it's an antique that is worth quite a bit of money.

Tech (laughs knowingly): Oh, wow. That's nice. What is the maker?

Me: That is sort of hard to read. Kellen & Co.? Hellen & Co.? Not sure. It's a little faded. But it says very distinctly 'Upright Grand'.

Tech (laughs again): Upright grand? That's an oxymoron. It has to be one or the other. Is it tall, or flat?

Me: Tall. Very tall. 5 feet easy, maybe more.

Tech: So it's an upright. Look inside the cabinet for some sort of nameplate. You might even find a serial number in there.

Me: Ah, yeah. Heller & Co., New York, serial 11101.

Tech: Ok, give me a second to look it up. (Puts me on hold, comes back about 2 minutes later.) Ok, sorry for the wait. Your piano was built in 1910. You're right, they were marketed as 'Upright Grands', but that was just a marketing scheme. Says here your piano, if it is in good condition, you could maybe get $300 for it. What sort of work do you want done on it? Just a standard tuning, or is there something more that needs to be done?

Me: ...

Tech: Hello? Are you still there?

Me: Sorry, yes, I am here. We just thought it was worth, you know, a lot more than that.

Tech: Oh yeah, that happens a lot. Well, you never know. Sometimes you get people who are interested in these things purely as pieces of furniture. You might be able to get more money that way. But as a piano? We'd call something like yours a 'Landfill Piano'.

Me: A what?

Tech (laughs): A Landfill Piano. Oh yeah, I mean, you could spend some money on a rebuild or something, and we'd be glad to help you with that. But they don't make the parts for these pianos anymore, so if you wanted to replace the action or something, we'd have to machine new parts. It would be a pretty pricey thing to do. If you want a nice piano, you're probably better off just calling a moving company, and have them haul it off to a landfill or something. Then, ...

Me: Well, we know someone in the business...

Tech (clearly enjoying this): Oh, good, that helps. Then, with the money you'd save, you would be able to buy a new piano that will last you the rest of your life. We sell-

Me: Well, the piano actually belongs to my in-laws. Let me talk to them and see what they want to do.

Tech: Ok, so give us a call if you have any other questions. We'll be glad to come out and take a look at it for you.

And now here it is, our 1910 Heller and Company 'Upright Grand'. I understand that we are breaking every rule in the Where Should We Put Our Piano? book. It's on an exterior wall... heck, it's next to the front door, and this is the coldest winter in 30 years. Supposedly, we are putting all kinds of stresses on it in terms of moisture and temperature extremes. Meh. It's survived 98 years... it safely dodged the landfill... it's a survivor.

There is, however, a new issue with the piano that has cropped up the last week or so. I think I am going to have the tech come out after all. More on that next time.


Michelle Himes said...

I love it!

But think of it this way, you and Jillian may not have started on your piano playing journey if you hadn't been living in a house that had a "landfill piano".


Anonymous said...

Well, I have what many would consider a landfill piano, as well. An 1889 built Mason & Hamlin upright screwstringer. Tho mine was rebuilt when we bought it 20+ years ago. I had some work done on the action earlier this year and the tech then said it really was in great shape for a piano it's age. A bit of soundboard failure starting to be evident in the very highest register, but there is a slight crack there.

Always Wanted to Play Piano said...

2ndsoprano, how does the soundboard failure manifest itself? How do you know?

Anonymous said...

There's very little resonance in the upper register notes- actually, none in the last few. There are other things that could cause that same thing, but the action, hammers and etc are all good. I was told it was soundboard failure by a tech. And it does make sense, with the crack (which is minor and not getting any worse) up in that area.

Ntrepid said...

It's Beautiful, You should offer it to Disneyland to put it the Huanted Mannsion or Down the street to the Wax Museum or something. They can put a ole time Piano legend on it.

Charlotte said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlotte said...

I just had my ancient Heintzman (built 1901)"upright grand" tuned and some hammers replaced. The sound board is in excellent condition as is the piano, as a piece of furniture. Today, I learned for the first time that the term "upright grand" is an oxymoron and that my piano is not worth piles of money, though not worthless, and certainly not landfill...maybe it's worth around $3,000. Oh well, I do play the piano and it has sentimental value and has been in the family since it was brand new. My grandmother taught me Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater on it when I was 5 years old. I can still visualize it.

Johnny Crowell said...

I just acquired a Heller with the serial number 3159, any idea how old it is?