A piano cost $10 million to make, and it will be sold for more than that once all the pieces are put together, said Mr. Schafer of BK Music, based in New York. The company will collect about the same profit from selling the instruments at the auction of the auction.
As for the violin, there are two ways to make it valuable. One is the quality of the wood. The other is the quality of its string playing.
It’s much more expensive to make a good, high-grade violin. As Ms. Pugh demonstrated, violin makers must have extensive experience making that and other instruments in order to produce a fine violin made with the right wood.
That is the challenge for piano makers. Their jobs depend on good wood, and it depends on keeping up with supply.
The two are more or less orthogonal, so that it is hard to know which is which, and it is even harder to predict the market for good wood that would not cost $500, Mr. Schafer said.
Which is the problem, since the problem is most apparent during auctions and sales when the prices of instruments are low.
And it seems to be happening in some of the world’s wealthiest countries, where piano makers are already finding themselves out of work, or even out of business altogether.
As of August, Japan, China, South Korea and Hong Kong were the only developed nations that had piano makers as their principal craftsmen, according to a 2004 study by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.
Some of those countries, like Germany and Spain, are in the midst of long runs of bad manufacturing conditions where the demand has not been fulfilled by the supply of good wood, Mr. O’Keefe said.
“It is very hard to get wood that is good enough,” said Mr. O’Keefe. “We don’t have a good tool for this yet, so the only way we can make that type of piano is by hand.”
In the United States, there are roughly 12,000 piano makers. Many of them are owned by the same family that controls a major department store, which is why a piano maker will have to find that kind of person and put together a team.
That requires significant effort. But the price does not. If the piano maker is able to assemble and ship the parts, then he or she gets paid as if he or she sold the instrument at a fair market price
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