Prices of pianolas

Only very moneyed members of the growing upper middle class or the rich and very rich upper classes could afford a pianola and additional piano rolls. If you consider that in 1910, more than 40 % of the population earned less than 900 Marks per year and most of the other 60 % less than 3,000 Marks, while living required approx. 1,500 Marks for a single person of everyday demands, the prices of the pianolas will show very quickly that only very few persons could really afford such a system. It was luxury. Yet all manufacturers managed to distinctly profit from the prosperity, driven by industrialization, of more and more households, so that the production of pianolas was between 1908 and 1920 one of the most important trades.

Some data on prices from original catalogs of contemporary manufacturers follow to give an idea:

Price in 1904 of an Aeolian 65 note pianola push-up player: ~1.250 Mark
Price in 1904 of a Hupfeld Phonola push-up player: ~850 Mark
Price in 1908 of a Spaethe pianist pianola piano: 1,850 Mark
Price in 1910 of a Buff-Hedinger Feurich pianola piano: 2,100 Mark
Price in 1910 of a Buff-Hedinger Feurich pianola grand: more than 3,400 Mark
Price in 1911 of a Welte-Mignon push-up player: ~2,100 Mark
Price in 1911 of a Philipps DUCA/Pianella concert piano: 3,600 Mark
Price in 1912 of a Hupfeld DEA Rönisch grand (2.15 m): 6,500 Mark
Price in 1925 of a Hupfeld Triphonola Rönisch grand: 10,900 Mark
Price in 1929 of a Hupfeld Triphonola Schiedmayer & sons grand piano: 5,950 Mark


Priceslists of pianolas

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Advertisements of used pianolas

Of course the prices were influenced by many factors during the difficult market situation (WWI, economic crisis, currency fluctuations/inflation, competition of many manufacturers ...) of the late 1910s and the 1920s. In reality, prices could deviate from those stated in the price-lists. Even good and cheap second-hand instruments with an interesting piano roll repertoire became increasingly available, as suggested by the announcement from the Zeitschrift für Instrumentenbau, 1929, shown below.


CEUS project and price levels

The average annual income in Germany is nowadays approx. 36,000 euro. The reproduction systems of Welte and Hupfeld were the spearhead of available technology at that time; today, Bösendorfer's CEUS system may be perhaps compared. The expenses for a CEUS system integrated into a Bösendorfer grand piano amount to some 40,000 euro (without the grand) - the estimated investment into a reproduction instrument thus is still one average annual income.

On the second-hand market of pianolas, the prices are today at a quite low level, following a climax during the 1980s. A refurnished (well playable, with existing structure) pianola requires a purchase price in the range of 2,500 – 5,000 euro. A completely restored (complete, authentic renewal) pianola of the "artistic piano" style is found in the range of 5,000 – 10,000 €. A high grade restored reproduction instrument costs, in my experience, between 10,000 and 25,000 euro, according to design and manufacturer. Unique pieces and special designs may be considerably more expensive - and yet will cost only a fraction of the investment that had been necessary back then (approx. 7 average annual incomes).