Buying and Selling Pianola Player Piano and Organ Music Rolls
Buying and selling these is an interesting area. Just like records and DVDs in the modern era, music rolls were not all standard - different types were made to operate in different player systems. The paper music roll is essentially digitial software just like a modern computer. It operates the player mechanism in the pianola but they two have to be compatible in order to get the correct result.
Buyers of music rolls will invariably own an instrument upon which they can play the music that they are purchasing online. Certain things are important to a buyer, other things less so. It is the condition of the music sheet paper that is most important as this is the operative part that will get played. The condition of the box is superficial at best. If you have a player piano play the roll through before sale and describe it honestly. If not you could unroll the music very carefully and then re-roll it to check the condition of the paper sheet. These are very long - up to 100 feet even though most are only around 20. If there is substantive wear and tear or frays on the edges do state this. It's not the end of the world but buyers do like to know every bit as much as for example LP record buyers like to know if a record is audiably scratched and if so how much.
There is no great market for pianos rolls apart from amongst the various die-hard enthusiasts and collectors. There are a number of private postal -based music roll auctions that operate in the UK which also provide enthusiasts with all their musical needs. It is also worth remembering that most enthusiast instrument owners already have large collections of music they like so are usually quite slow at acquiring further music.
Most pianola music rolls are pretty worthless. As with all other forms of ephemera and music an item is worth precisely what a person will pay for it. A rare item will invariably fetch market price if posted online so one needn't worry about selling at undervalues and losing out. The most frequent error made by in selling music rolls is in overstating the asking price.
The vast majority of piano rolls are what is known as the 88-note or "full scale" type. These have spool ends which are dimpled inwards with end having a slot which engages with the player mechanisms. The other most frequently encountered type are 65-note rolls - these have a metal pins type fitting protruding at each end. There is less of a market for 65s than for 88s. The market rate amongst collectors for an average piano roll of either type is around £0.50 to £1. Interesting titles fetch more. The easiest method to sell and to save youself wasted listing fees is to start sale items off at the £1 mark because, as mentioned before, enthusiasts do watch the eBay sales pages and more valuable items fetch market rate on thier own.
Beware of idiots out there. Occassionally you may encounter one or two individuals frantic to steal away from you a valuable item they have spotted - they may offer £3-4 against your initial £1 asking-bid but hold fire. They can enter £3-4 or whatever they have in mind into eBay if they are genuine. Likely they are seeking to whisk away the item from under the noses of other collectors only to latterly re-offer the same item for sale on their own private email sales list.
If you are selling an instrument it is probably best to sell instrument and rolls together as one unit otherwise you run the risk of the music being cherry-picked and then getting lumbered with the now unsaleable (as it has no music!) devalued instrument! When selling instruments again watch out for idiots. Certain buyers will contact you and ask whether following the sale you could hold onto the instrument for a few weeks. They then try and sell the instrument elsewhere for more and, as there is little market for these things in this day and age, you will be holding onto the thing for many months often. Simply don't enter into this sort of agreement unless the buyer has a clear timeframe to offer you.
The biggest killer of roll sales online is the disproportionate cost of post as against a low-value music roll. To encourage sales offer realistic low postage (forget the special super-recorded platinum courier services!), always offer to combine postage, offer to ship and item overseas and finally (if you want the whole lot out of your life) simply sell them all as a job lot.
It is important to list titles and composer - less important to list roll brand and serial numbers. You should provide this basic information for job lots also if you fancy standing any chance of selling them.
If you are interested in these instruments and their music do consider joining the main UK society - the Player Piano Group.
Happy bidding and happy selling!
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