Last weekend, our family bought a piano. We came across a great deal, and decided to go ahead and buy it even though we hadn't planned for that in our monthly budget...and we hadn't even been looking for a piano.
This was one of those moments when I can clearly say that God worked this all out for us in a matter of hours.
Our family already has a piano. My parents bought a beautifully sounding, rebuilt piano for my mom when I was probably in upper elementary school. Years later, my mom fell in love with a different piano, bought it, and gave me her "old" piano.
If my family already has a piano in our living room, why did we buy a second piano?
Here's the L-O-N-G explanation of why we unexpectedly went ahead and purchased a second piano last weekend.
Several decades ago, my widowed grandmother married "Whitey", a nearly-blind musician, and piano tuner/rebuilder. I was around seven or eight at the time. "Whitey" (not his real name...but his nickname by which he always went) had the whitest hair I'd ever seen...and the pinkest skin. He was actually albino. I've never seen an albino person since he passed away, but he was truly albino. I remember that one winter, he grew out his beard to match Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and they could have been twins. No kidding. And my dad, that year, grew a thick beard and looked just like Abraham Lincoln. They got quite the stares from others when they went out to the store together once.
Because Whitey was albino, he was legally blind. He could see the television if he had a large screen (for back then) and sat closely to the TV. He read the newspaper and magazines with a large magnifying glass. Even as a child, this was how he lived. He couldn't legally drive because of his poor vision, so my grandmother drove him around for years to his piano tuning jobs. If it was a quick tuning job, she waited in the car or in the person's home. If it was a more lengthy repair job, she would drop him off and pick him up later.
I cannot say that I know a lot about tuning pianos or rebuilding pianos. I actually know very, very little. But, Whitey did show me what to look for when purchasing a piano: felts and hammers all in good condition, not eaten up by moths; strings firm and secure; no evidence of mice or rats in the piano casing; keys not sticking; block in good condition and not cracked; etc.
He would frequently pick up pianos at garage sales for sometimes as low as $25 - $100 back then. Once he had the piano home, he would rebuild it if it needed a lot of work. Then, he would resell the pianos, easily recouping his costs in supplies and time, and make a decent profit. After all, pianos were his livelihood.
Even this last weekend, I didn't understand how much pianos cost, until I spoke with my parents about how much they have paid for used pianos over the years. But, when I played the keys on a piano at our church's garage sale last weekend, I knew that the price they had listed for the piano ($300) was a steal!
I am pretty fussy about pianos. The sound and touch or feel of the keys are pretty important to me. I don't care if it is a baby grand or a school model or an upright. I'm looking for the touch and feel of the keys; how responsive they are, the clarity of the sound, etc.
Most people are only concerned with the "look" of the piano cabinet or casing. This is really not all that important to me. Sure, it would be wonderful to find an inexpensive piano that not only sounded great but looked great, too, but that hasn't happened to me yet! As long as the piano hasn't been through a fire or a flood, I'm not all that concerned about the "look" of the wood.
I was excited about the piano at the church garage sale when I saw it on Thursday, two days before the sale began. The sale benefits groups of people from our church who travel to the Philippines and work in ministry there, so we save up the items we want to give away or donate, and take them down for this garage sale every summer.
I knew from past experience that Elmer probably wouldn't be interested in buying the piano for Brittany. After all, we didn't have any place at all to store it in our home. One piano plus two large fish tanks take up all of the wall space in our living room.
I placed an "ad" for the piano on our local homeschooling Yahoo group, so that maybe another family in our county would have the opportunity to get a decent piano for a great price. Even though the front of the wood case of the piano had some big scratches, it also came with a very decent matching wood piano bench...and benches are usually very hard to find with pianos, especially matching ones.
I suggested that if a family was interested in buying the piano, they should go down to the church the following day, on Friday, before the sale, and pay for it and make arrangements to move it to their own home.
On Friday morning, I was speaking with my mom on the phone. I told her about the piano. She said the words I never thought I would hear her say:
"That's a great price! If you would like to store the piano at our house, so Brittany can have it in her own home in a few more years, we will let you store it here."
I was shocked. The last thing my parents need is a second piano taking up wall space.
But she offered.
My response was, "Elmer will never say 'yes' to buying a second piano."
My mom responded, "It wouldn't hurt to ask him. Tell him how expensive good pianos are."
I got off of the phone and prayed about it. After mulling the situation over, and discussing it with Brittany, and praying some more, it was around 11 a.m. I decided to call my husband and ask him about buying another piano.
When I reached him on his work cell phone, I said, "You're not going to believe this, but I have found an excellent piano in almost perfect condition - inside - that I think I could buy for Brittany for around $275...and guess what? My mom said that she would store it at her house for us."
I expected there to be dead air. Silence. Or, an instant "no."
Instead, he said, "This is a really great deal? You think it is worth it?"
And those wonderful words..."Yes, go ahead and drive down to the church and make them an offer."
I put down the phone and couldn't believe what I had just heard. My husband is not a stingy man at all, but both of us have always lived fairly frugally and rarely make spur-of-the-moment financial decisions.
Brittany screamed with excitement when I told her about it. I also warned her, though, that someone else might have already come by the church and made them an offer on the piano.
She knew that if it wasn't the Lord's will to have the piano, it wouldn't be available.
Well...no one had come by to purchase it! So, I wrote the check on the spot - for $275.
You may think that this is a lot of money to pay for something that is "used." For something that isn't in pristine condition.
Let me share with you what I know about prices for pianos. I don't have a lot of experience in pricing pianos, but I have learned a little bit after this weekend.
When my parents were living in New Zealand, my mom wanted to buy a piano for their home. She loves to play the piano! They found a used piano that wasn't in very good condition, but was still playable, for between $300-$400.
This was back in the 1960s.
When I was around five years old and we were living in Texas, they wanted to buy a piano so my mom could begin teaching my twin sister and I to play the piano. (The piano from New Zealand wasn't shipped back to the States - too expensive.) I think we bought our piano at a second hand store or Salvation Army or something like that, and I don't remember how much it was, but it wasn't cheap.
After my grandpa rebuilt the piano I currently own, my mom bought it from him for around $1500-$1800. It isn't a fancy piano, but it is a Baldwin that really holds its tune well and has a wonderful touch and feel to it. Thirty years later, it has still never needed any additional work done on it. Of course, I have always kept the piano on an interior wall, and have kept it tuned every year or two.
My mom gave me my piano when she found another piano she fell in love with; my parents paid around $1500 for it.
They also bought a piano for my sister from my grandfather, before he died. I don't know how much that one cost, but it was in a similar price range.
A couple of years ago, we were at a friend's home, and she was showing us the new "used" piano that they had recently purchased for their daughter. While it had a nicely carved "outside", I was very surprised to hear the price they had paid for it, and to hear the sound of it. I thought it sounded horribly, even though they had purchased it from a piano dealership in our community. It had a cracked block that was held together with bungee cords, of all things. When I played it briefly, I had to stop. I couldn't stand the sound of it! And they had paid almost $1000 for the piano. The salesman assured them that a cracked block really wasn't that big of a deal.
I disagree, but I didn't say anything to my friend about it. I have just always felt badly that they were ripped off at that purchase.
Brittany's "new" piano is made by Baldwin, has that same wonderful touch and sound that I love, and only needs a tiny bit of work done to it. We examined it thoroughly, and we will hire the local piano tuner to come out in the next few weeks and tune it plus make any minor repairs that he deems are necessary.
Sometimes, even while living frugally, a snap decision must be made in order to save a lot of money.
Brittany and Kelsi thought at first that $275 was a LOT of money to pay for a used piano. However, when they began hearing how much my parents have paid over the years for various pianos, my girls agreed that this was a worthwhile investment to withdraw money from our savings account and purchase the piano.
And Elmer? He just shook his head as my parents relayed how much decent pianos cost. He was very, very happy that we found this piano. He knows he's going to need the extra money he just saved to pay for two daughters' weddings some day. So he was happy to have me write that check last Friday, and easily save him at least $1000.
8/6/2010 01:01:08 am
Hi, Kimberly, nice to see to stopping by and saying hello! I do remember that you are a piano teacher. I wish I knew a lot more about pianos, but what I do know has got me by over the years. I'm so thankful that my step-grandfather was a piano tuner and rebuilder. He did some great things with pianos!
8/6/2010 01:03:04 am
Cute stroy...about the piano, I mean!
8/6/2010 01:04:27 am
Thanks, Mom, for making the corrections in the story. I was under different impressions about your piano, but I'm glad to hear that Whitey worked on it as well. I feel very blessed to have my piano...I love it! Even though I don't get to play it that often, it is a treasure to me.
8/6/2010 08:08:38 am
8/7/2010 03:34:26 am
Lori, I'll email you offline to talk about piano tuners. I'd rather not mention any specific names here online. But thank you for the nice comment here on my website!
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Hi! I'm Julieanne!
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