Pianos and Their Prices


In 1935 a regular 3 ft. 9 in. upright piano was put into a new style case. This became known as the spinet and was very dainty looking compared to the old bulky upright. This new style immediately caught the public's fancy. All piano manufacturers followed with similar and widely divergent designs. Soon more different styles were available to the piano buying public than ever before. The 3 ft. 9 in. high pianos were as small as could be built with existing actions and even these had cramped knee room. To make pianos smaller new actions had to be devised. Almost all pianos manufactured then used either the compact direct action or the drop action both of which were invented in 1935. 

In 1936 Baldwin introduced the Acrosonic Spinet piano which was to become the largest selling piano type of all time, the single most popular instrument in the world . . . While in 2005  it is no longer manufactured. It is still the most popular, most sought after used or "beginners" - "student model", and those still in use number over 1 million.  It is also the most recommended used instrument by piano teachers everywhere. Next to the Steinway, the Baldwin Acrosonic Spinet Piano has the highest appreciation in value of any piano in its class.

When the piano known as the spinet type came into the market, with new engineering and styling, the public had its choice of conventional upright pianos, grand pianos of all sizes and new spinets. All these types were shown side-by-side in a wide variety of prices, and of course in different grades or qualities. At that time the lowest priced types made for the mass markets were studio uprights, approximately 3 feet 9 inches high. The highest priced types, in the popular-priced field, were the new spinets, consoles as many called them at the time. The in-between price was the small grand produced by makers seeking the mass market. The public, by its purchases, decided that the new types were the most desirable.


Every skilled pianist knows perfectly well that the finest small grand is totally inadequate for concert hall purposes, and you'll never hear a concert pianist perform on any vertical. Take the automobile for example. The most popular cars in America are wholly adequate for their purpose. But if someone wants a car that will take them 200 hundred miles an hour they must buy something that might be compared to the concert grand piano.

A professional pianist in his concerts would never play anything short of a 9-foot concert grand. Thousands of children successfully started their piano lessons in the 1930s and 1940s on cardboard keyboards with no tone or touch at all. As a matter of fact, that's the keyboard that I learned on. By 1941 the old vertical or "upright" piano was being turned out almost exclusively in the spinet design, and the change increased its value as a decorative piece of furniture, if nothing else: the new spinet pianos had cleverly designed, compact, type cases 36 to 38 inches tall. Unfortunately, decreasing the size of the upright pianos meant decreasing the size of the sounding board and shortening the strings, which was totally unacceptable to many purists, technicians, and teachers. The result was a controversy that still lingers 70 years later.

According to the experts, the tone of spinet model pianos tends to be slight and more or less "wooden." Consequently, spinets were never recommended for purchase for serious students or by competent pianists. Because of the shorter string length above the hammer, the striking position of a hammer in an action of spinet pianos 38 inches and less must necessarily be indirect. That is, when a key is struck, it does not force the hammer against the string; there is a delayed striking action. Since this may be objectionable to some players, the lower spinets are generally less desirable than the 39 inch-or-higher models which make use of a direct striking action.


Regardless of the shortcomings of the spinet piano, they were still better than the cardboard keyboard with no sound at all or today's electronic keyboard that plays that has no control of loud or soft.

There are millions of used spinets throughout this country that are still capable of providing adequate service at an affordable cost.  The Piano Manufacturers will not endorse this fact, because they want to sell new pianos.  Piano dealers and sales people make less money on used pianos. Many piano technicians don't like them because the are harder to tune and some of the actions used must be adjusted to keep the keys level.

There have been several books and publications over the years which have attempted to recommend the right piano for consumers, but knowledgeable artists, teachers and technicians all have their own subjective reasons for their choice. It is difficult to rely on any one source to help you choose the right piano for you.

The following statement was written by a well known piano teacher:

"You need a piano. Books have been written on the subject, and opinions thrown about like hay seed. Whom can you trust? What can you believe? What can you depend on? The answer is simple! You can trust yourself, depend on yourself and believe yourself "if" you have the ability to recognize a truly "good" piano. It really isn't all that difficult."

"In short, the "best" piano is the one that is most capable of producing beautiful, expressive musical performance; the kind of performance that can evoke an emotional response from the listener. The best performances exhibit sensitivity in the sound and the touch of the piano. More simply "a good piano sounds good and feels good."  Kenneth Wayne Land


Despite the rating and grading of pianos by many consumer "tip sheets" somehow the spinet piano survived and in 1947, according to figures released by the Bureau of the Census of the Department of Commerce, there were 148,300 pianos manufactured. Of these 70,800 were vertically strung pianos, 37 inches or less in height. While there was no authoritative dividing line between what might be called a spinet or a console at that time. Any piano 37 inches or less in height falls rather definitely in the category of the spinet.

Of the 1947 production 72,700 were described by the Bureau of the Census as vertical, uprights or consoles over 37 inches in height. Most of these pianos were generally called spinets. While there are no authentic figures to how many uprights, as distinct from spinets or consoles, were included in this number of 72,700 we in the piano industry know perfectly well that studio uprights, approximately 45 inches high, were made in very small numbers in that year. I would like to make a little wager that there were not 5,000 studio uprights manufactured in 1947. In that same year, there were less than 5.000 grand pianos made.

Therefore; nearly 90% of the pianos manufactured in that year were of the type variously described as spinet. console, or vertical, over half of those vertically strung styles having been instruments that were not over 37 inches high.

Prices in 1947 and for several years there after, were the same as the prices during WWII which were "Ceiling Prices" controlled by the U.S. Government O.P.A. [Office of Price Administration]. They determined the maximum price a dealer could sell a product for. It worked very well with pianos and there was only one price for a Piano - and that was what everybody paid. This was later called "Fair Trade Pricing" as set forth by all piano manufacturers. I was selling pianos at this time, if I discounted a piano or if I included a bench when the bench sold for $35.00 - the $35.00 was deducted from my paycheck.  And the dealer was subject to losing his franchise for discounting. This is the truth - its how pianos were priced until the "System" came into use in the  same way that automobiles were sold.  It was not judged as "price fixing", a term later applied to piano prices.


Any first class console or studio upright piano is an excellent musical instrument, and will outperform and outlast an inexpensive, small piano spinet, grant it,  that is if you wish to play a concert. But a spinet piano will still provide endless hours of fun if that is the purpose of having a piano in the "family room".  These are accurate "retail" prices of pianos in 1957 these were the "fair trade" prices set by each factory and honored by all retailers nationwide before the term "price fixing" was created.  Any of these pianos 43 years old in good condition are worth much more today as used pianos.


The pianos listed in Group I includes the top pianos of unquestioned merit and the most expensive you could buy. These were the very best and the most popular brands and sizes by far.






Steinway & Sons  

$1,495 - $1,700

$1,375 - $1,700

$2,790 - $5,100

Mason & Hamlin  

$1,370 - $1,695


$2,945 - $4,695



$1,030 - $1,195


$2,675 - $4,625


$1,120 - $1,410


$1,980 - $3,330


$1,070 - $1,320


$1,940 - $3,320


$955 - $1,325


$2,040 - $2,590

Acrosonic by Baldwin

$884 - $1,095





Group II includes pianos of excellent quality in a medium price range.






Story & Clark

$695 - $995

$755 - 860

$845 - $875




$1,095 - $1,595




$595 - $795

$795 - $1,120




$810 - $1,010

$1,030 - $1,195




$750 - $780

$695 - 1,045

$750 - $800

$2,115 - $2,660

J & C Fischer


$840 - $916

$830 - $840

$1,490 - $1,620


$550 - $995

$695 - $1,050

$825 - $925

$1895 - $1,995


Group III includes pianos generally in a lower price but capable of giving satisfactory service.








$825 - $1,320

$940 - $990


Winter Musette

$585 - $975





$495 - $695

$725 - $1,195

$715 - $745

$1,745 - $3,685

Hobart M. Cable

$595 - $695

$645 - $795



Kranich & Bach


$995 - $1,190


$2,065 - $2,495


$535 - $740




Kohler & Campbell

$715 - $765

$735 - $895

$795 - $830



$725 - $825

$810 - $910

$845 - $880

$1,795 - $1,995


$745 - $945




Betsy Ross

 $650 - $900 

$850 - $1,100



Personal preferences in tone and touch, style, budget and size all play a part and are extremely subjective. Each piano maker has its own unique features and points of excellence and value.  The purpose of this guide is to give you the best consumer information to help you make your own decision.