Older models often require a complete rebuild that can keep their value down on the secondary market.
Dear Helaine and Joe:
I inherited this antique upright piano marked “R. Gors and Kallmann, Kaiserl. U. Konigl. Hoflieferanten, Berlin.” I believe it dates from approximately 1913 or 1914. The black finish was polished but all else seems to be original. I know it was given to my family by an emperor and would like to know its true history and value. We still play it and intend to keep it in the family for the near future.
We understand why you might believe this was given by an emperor because of the double-headed eagle insignia and the words “Kaiserl U. Konigl. Hoflieferanten.” But all this means is R. Gors and Kallmann were purveyors to the imperial household and royal court of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It does not mean an actual emperor ever owned this particular piano, played it or gave it away.
R. Gors and Kallmann of Berlin had a royal warrant to supply pianos to the court. But the same company made many more pianos for everyday use by everyday people. To put this piano into the hand of an actual Austro-Hungarian Emperor, indisputable, written proof would have to exist. Anecdotal family legend is nice, but far from conclusive.
Some say Gors and Kallmann was founded in Berlin in 1877, but that date is open to some question. The company is said to have used serial number 1,000 in 1881 and made pianos with numbers in the 55,600 to 57,000 range in 1914. The instrument in today’s question has a serial number of 52,628, which makes it pre-1914 according to some sources, but serial numbers on Gors and Kallmann pianos are not absolute proof of a specific manufacture date.
In general, Gors and Kallmann were known for making large, traditional upright pianos, as well as some baby grand pianos. But we could find no reference to full-sized grand or concert grand pianos. The older uprights are said to be overdamped but have a good tone and are generally rated as good pianos.
The company that made this upright was owned by Wilhelm Robert Theodor Gors and Friedrich August Heinrich Kallmann and produced pianos until the 1990s, when the name was sold to an Asian company.
Unless upright pianos are regularly and rigorously serviced, they tend to wear out and have a lifespan of around 60 to 70 years. This is often due to deterioration of some — if not all — of the major mechanical parts, such as the strings, tuning pins, action and perhaps even the soundboard.
Upright pianos will sometimes sell as practice pianos for beginners or to homes where they will be used for family singalongs, but they are seldom rated as fine musical instruments. Realistic values of old/antique upright pianos seldom rise above the $500 mark.