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The Myth of Gray Market Pianos

Every now and then a customer looks at one of the Yamaha or Kawai pianos in our showroom and asks, “Is this one of those ‘gray market’ pianos?” I know then that they’ve run into some pretty popular propaganda.

Where does the term “gray market piano” come from?

Buying an item used is very common in the United States. Most of my customers are interested in buying used in order to get a great instrument at a reasonable price.Used Yamaha Piano

In Japan, however, buying a used piano is considered taboo.

In the Japanese piano manufacturing world, buying and selling a used instrument is seen as harming the piano industry. In their view, buying a used piano means that Yamaha or Kawai will be building one less new piano.

As a result, dealers in Japan would never buy or sell a used piano. Some piano experts realized that restored Yamaha and Kawai pianos would be very popular in the US. They began buying up used pianos, refurbishing them to like-new condition, and selling them overseas.

Obviously, this didn’t go over well with Japanese piano makers. To combat this, they began calling these instruments “gray market pianos.” Dealers began telling buyers that instruments built in Japan would not perform well in the US. They said that the soundboards were designed for Japanese climates and would deteriorate in American climates.

Today people are still passing along this idea of the low-quality gray market piano.

Why are “gray market pianos” a myth?

Think about this – If soundboards were only suited to one climate or another, how could any manufacturer survive in the United States? If the instruments were so sensitive, you’d have to manufacture one piano for Florida and another for Arizona.

Piano makers do not make different soundboards for different climates. And Japanese pianos perform very well in the US.

The truth is, refurbished Yamaha and Kawai pianos are an excellent buy.

When properly restored, one of these pianos can provide 30 years of great play and the kind of excellent sound quality that Yamaha and Kawai are known for. In fact, I’m such a proponent of these instruments that Bruce Piano offers a 10-year warranty on these restored pianos, just like I would with a brand new instrument. There’s no good reason to look past one of these pianos.

To be fair…

Not every used Japanese piano sold in the United States was restored well. While there were plenty of shops run by expert techs turning out A-level pianos, there were also hacks out there sending poorly-restored instruments to the US. And if you didn’t know any better, you might pick out a lemon.

Today the vast majority of those low-quality restorers have faded away, and the used instruments coming to the USA are of excellent quality.

See our Yamaha and Kawai inventory

Don’t buy into the propaganda. Restored pianos allow you to bring home some of the finest pianos in the world at a more reasonable price. If that interests you, check out the Yamaha and Kawai models in our used piano inventory. Stop by the Bruce Piano store in Edmond to play one of these pianos.

I will definitely recommend, in fact I already have! Cindy Nelson
Edmond OK