Discover Vintage America - NOVEMBER 2014

Rare pianoforte more than a piece of furniture

Q: I am the owner of an Emerich Betsy piano, which I want to sell. It is a fascinating piece, and apart from being a musical instrument, its main source of value could be as an artistic furniture item. If you please, would you be so kind to point me in the right direction? The piano is an antique; I had it reconditioned so that I could use it for practice, at home, though it still needs restoration.

A: You have a pianoforte, which was the precursor to the modern day piano. They have a lovely sound much softer than a traditional piano. There are very few of these known to exist but with that said if it needs extensive repair work this could make it hard to sell.

A fully restored Emerich Betsy sold a while back for $18,000 USD so I think that your price of $4,000 is fair as long as it does not need extensive repair work. These are excellent musical instruments and also pleasing to look at.
Emerich von Betsy began manufacturing quality pianos around 1852 in Vienna, Austria. Production continued through 1871. They won awards at the 1854 German Exposition for Industry and Trades.

Emerich Betsy has a long history in piano building.
The family was a friend to two students of Beethoven and built custom pianos for them. Emerich Betsy was generally considered among the most prestigious piano makers in Austria, building only a few pianos per year. They believed in doing all the work by hand.

Emerich Betsy pianos were constructed using a lot of burl wood, which is relatively hard to find, and most pieces have hand-carved gilt accents and pearl inlay. Each was custom made to fit the height and body type of the buyer. This was truly a musical instrument for the wealthy.
Many believe that this is the ultimate piano for appreciating the works of the Old Masters. Brahms was said to have composed on an Emerich Betsy, as were two students of Beethoven.
Emerich Betsy pianos are not well known. This is more than likely attributed to the few pianos made during the life of the company, the loss of these great treasures in Europe during both world wars, and each piano being so specifically designed to fit its original owner, which makes resale difficult.


Reproduction Staffordshire blue & white china

Q: My Gramma has a 30-piece set of blue and white dinnerware that is marked, "Staffordshire Engravings 17th Century" plates, bowls and teacups. How would we go about selling them and for how much?

A: What you have is a contemporary reproduction of antique transfer ware china that was made by several factories in Staffordshire, England. The pattern depicts a 17th century inn with a carriage and horses in front.

The fact that it is marked dishwasher and microwave safe is an indication that this is not old and dates from around 1980 to present. No company name is noted only that it was "Made in China" so we can't be sure who made the dinnerware.

On the plus side blue and white dinnerware is desirable and with it being contemporary we can rest assured that there is no lead in the glaze or paint. This is always a good thing and something to be considered when purchasing older dinnerware.

The best place to sell a set such as this is a classified ad or even a garage sale. The value is not very high at $20-$35 for the entire set.

Note: All prices given are for sale in a private sale, antique shop or other resale outlet. Price is also dependent upon the geographic area in which you are selling. Auction value, selling to a dealer or pawnshop prices are about half or less of resale value.

Michelle Staley is a Lenexa, KS-based dealer and researcher with 35 years of experience in the antique trade. Send questions with photos to Michelle to Please keep queries to one question; questions without photos of the item may not be answered. Michelle is also available for consulting and extensive research work beyond this column. If you would like an appraisal on an antique or collectible please go to for a one on one appraisal.