‘Under The Spotlight’ with Piano Auctions Ltd.


Tell us a little about how and when Piano Auctions Ltd was established.

Piano Auctions was established in 2003 by Richard Reason and Sean McIlroy.

Richard Reason studied at the Royal Academy of Music during the 1960s and went on to become a piano teacher. He then opened his own piano shop in Hitchin travelling all over the country to buy stock.  After years of being on the road searching for pianos Richard came up with the idea to hold a collective auction primarily for pianos and keyboard instruments.

He approached the major London auction houses and in 1984 Phillips Fine Art Auctioneer’s held their first specialist sale of pianos at Lisson Grove in London.

In 2003 Richard Reason and Sean McIlroy, an associate director at Bonhams (previously Phillips), both left the company and decided to make Richard’s idea a reality. Piano Auctions Ltd was born, holding its first sale at the Conway Hall in Holborn.

Over 19 years later we are proud to say we are the world’s largest specialist auctioneers of pianos, with an extensive international client base, having vendors and buyers from Australia, China, Japan, USA, Europe as well as the UK.

Our success is based on our personal and bespoke service catering for all needs of private buyers and vendors, solicitors, professional musicians as well as the piano trade. Richard Reason retired in April of this year, after a career of over 50 years in pianos.

What goes into preparation for presenting a piano at one of your auctions?

Piano Auctions Ltd hold 4 auctions a year.  We spend 3 months gathering pianos from private and professional clients from all over the world but predominantly the United Kingdom.  Each piano is inspected and a full written condition report prepared for each instrument, so buyers can purchase with confidence. We pride ourselves in being open and honest about the condition of each piano as many of our overseas buyers purchase lots without physically viewing them.  Each instrument is polished and cleaned and tuned when necessary in preparation to present it to its best advantage.

How strong is the interest in older rebuilt and refurbished pianos?

In each auction there is normally between 120-130 instruments, which vary in date and age, some only a few years old – some made in the late 18th century and every stop in between.  There is a strong demand for re-built and refurbished pianos, especially for the top brands such as Steinway, Bösendorfer, Bechstein and Blüthner.  Many of our overseas clients see these top European brands as good value for money.

What would you say is your biggest advantage in the current economic climate?

Since the advent of covid, we have had to completely digitalise our business, which has dramatically changed how we operate.  Through our website the world has become a global village and this has allowed us to expand into markets and territories we could not have otherwise reached.

How broad is your customer base, and has it included any notable musicians?

Our customer base is very broad with both private and trade clients, based in the UK and worldwide.  In our last auction 60% of lots sold were shipped to Asia. Over the years we have had many famous musicians buy and sell through our auctions including Sir Stephen Hough, Jools Holland, Mike Oldfield, Tom Odell and many others.

What music are you listening to?

I listen to a lot of 80’s music(maybe something to do with my age) and was very proud to have sold Howard Jones’s Steinway Model D concert grand piano in our last auction. I am very proud to do what we do, as it is the ultimate form of recycling.

The catalogue for the next auction on 20th September 2022 can be found here.

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