Now on the auction block: one used Baldwin piano with burn marks. And oh yeah, did we mention it has ties to John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Sam Green, and Andy Warhol?
The instrument is being auctioned by Towson-based Alex Cooper Auctioneers, with a starting bid of $300,000.
The condition is what you’d expect from a well-loved instrument, with some wear and tear. There are burn marks on the finish in the shape of a circle — possibly from an ashtray or cigarette ash — but we think that adds to the charm. The top key’s hammer is nearly completely worn through, but mostly no one plays that last key anyway, right?
If you do become the piano’s new owner, there’s no guarantee that either talent or elite social status conveys. But the instrument’s history alone is enough to excite most fans of its former owners.
This is the 1929 Baldwin Concert Grand Piano Model D that John Lennon and Yoko Ono purchased from the Baldwin showroom in 1978. In 1979 Lennon gifted it to Sam Green, a dear friend of the couple. Lennon and Yoko had an engraved brass plaque attached above the Baldwin insignia that says, “For Sam/Love From/Yoko and John/1979.”
In 1980 Green moved the piano to his Fire Island home, where Lennon and Ono visited often, and where Lennon composed some of his final album, “Double Fantasy.”
Green was also close with Andy Warhol, and loaned the piano to his Interview Magazine office, The Factory. There it remained until 1986, surrounded by celebrity hoi polloi, witness to significant social events, and played by hopefully appreciative and respectful hands.
In 1987, Green loaned the piano to the New York Academy of Art for “special events and creative outlets,” who lost it by selling it without Green’s consent. Unless David Copperfield was involved, we’re not sure how you lose track of a nine-foot piano that basically has its name sewn into its collar, but stranger things have disappeared in New York City, we suppose.
Green sued the Academy, saying the piano was a loan rather than a gift. He dropped the lawsuit in 2001, seeing that the court was not on his side.
(This native New Yorker would like to imagine the piano was found pacing back and forth in front of LaGuardia High School for Music and Art and Performing Arts, begging future stars to play it and trying to convince the students there that really, back in the day, it used to be somebody.)
The piano was located in 2003, and eventually donated in 2018 to the Mercersburg Academy in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, with a deed of trust that ensured the profits from its sale would create a scholarship fund for students there.
The fair market appraisal of the piano is over $5 million, so truly, $300,000 is a steal. It’s unlikely the price will be that low, though, as the auction house is expecting the piano to fetch between $2 million and $3 million.
Don’t be sad if this one is not in your price range, though. It just means that your search for a piano will have to be just like starting over.
Online bidding began on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, and there will be a live auction on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 10 a.m. at Alex Cooper Auctioneers, located at 908 York Road in Towson.