How to Value a Fender Rhodes.

How to Value a Rhodes Piano

Ira Rhodes With Logo

Part 1: How much is a Fender Rhodes Piano Worth?

Determining the value of a rare vintage instrument is a difficult task. There are many factors to consider which may seem trivial to certain players while being crucial to others. Some of the most significant factors that will always affect the value include the geographic location or market, the rarity or demand for the specific model, and perhaps most importantly its playing condition. Unfortunately, from our first hand observations of Rhodes sold in the near Chicago market the playing condition of the instrument is not commonly reflected in the asking price of the piano. We have observed nearly identical instrument models going for between $300-1,000 in relatively the same unserviced condition. Other instruments get listed at prices higher than that range but seem to have a much harder time selling. Given this range of prices it is absolutely critical to know what to look for when determining the fair value of an instrument if you are going to purchase an instrument that is not professionally serviced or restored.

In the past decade the price of Rhodes pianos has increased fairly steadily but this has not always been the case. Up until the late 1990’s, Rhodes pianos were regularly sold for less than they are today and far less than their original retail price–even without adjusting for inflation. For instance, in 1973 a Fender Rhodes 73 key Stage piano sold for a retail price of approximately $720 (which in 2013 would have the same purchasing power of $3,764 according to the Consumer Price Index–which speaks to the craftsmanship that went into a Rhodes, which in still holds today–) and Suitcase models retailed for more than $1,000 ($5,228 today adjusted by the CPI). Unlike vintage Fender or Gibson guitars from the same era that have appreciated in price by leaps and bounds, Rhodes pianos have not kept up with the times as well until the past decade.

The drop in prices for Rhodes throughout the 80’s and 90’s was mainly due to the rising trend of players turning to synthesizers and digital keyboards as well as the lack of proper maintenance for Rhodes pianos throughout those decades. But even as the technology has advanced, no digital emulation to this day comes close to the feel and the sound of a real Rhodes (or Wurlitzer) piano. Players that have played both side by side often complain that they have a hard time relating to a digital keyboard the way that they find a natural connection with the real electro-mechanical instrument.

The trend over the past decade for digital keyboards, on the other hand, has been that they have not held their value, even over short periods of time. This is largely due to newer digital pianos constantly being introduced with advancing technologies and additional features, making many of the former models less desirable and often impossible to re-sell. Once a digital keyboard gets to be more than five years old the advanced technologies of newer models render the former relatively obsolete. Comparatively, digital keyboards are disposable instruments.

Although most stories of clients of finding their Rhodes or Wurlitzer dumpster-side happened in the 1990’s, these rare scores are still happening today. Many Rhodes owners are simply unaware that the instruments’ have value in today’s musical landscape. Most Rhodes that we follow on the Chicago area craigslist sell within a single one or two weeks when listed between $300-1,000 in average unserviced condition. And almost all Rhodes owners the we speak with have sold their Rhodes for the same amount that they purchased it for or more. The instrument has grown to have more than a cult following and are still continually heard on new recordings released every year. It seems that the electro-mechanical design of the Rhodes piano has stood the test of time.

Side Note: Just as another example of how skewed this market currently is near Chicago, any Rhodes purchased for $500-600 with $500-600 of service from our shop will be in a completely different league than any Rhodes for sale at $1,000-1,200! In most cases, that budget will be enough to cover a complete restoration of the voice and basic setup of the instrument if the action is at a desirable level. Aside from the Hammond M3, we believe that Rhodes pianos may be THE most undervalued vintage instrument that you will come across!

Know Your Rhodes Models

When it comes to getting great tone from a Rhodes a little setup goes a long way – but the instrument will always be limited by the parameters of the components within the Rhodes’ production era. Small design changes were made to the Rhodes piano practically every year which gives each era of production its own unique action and voicing characteristics. In our previous post we discuss some of the basic changes that are observed throughout the eras based on ideal setup conditions, and why certain eras are more desirable to some players.

Aside from those variations year by year, the Mark I and Mark II were offered in four common models throughout the years: the Stage and Suitcase, each offered with either 73 or 88 keys. In addition to these main four models, there was also a 54 key version of the Mark II and a Super Satellite (dual speaker cabinet for stereo tremolo offered as an alternative to the Suitcase) Rhodes that are more rare.

The Rhodes Suitcase models all have a 4×12″ cabinet with two speakers facing both directions resulting in a very unique sound when the stereo tremolo circuitry is activated (–as long as it isn’t pushed up against a wall!). In addition to this classic tremolo sound, the built in amplification is a huge bonus for players that do not have a competent amplifier to pair with their Rhodes (click here for our previous post on Rhodes amplification). Because of their bulkier size due to their speaker cabinet, Suitcase Rhodes are often in better cosmetic and playing condition since they are less likely to have seen time on the road.

In general the 73 key and 88 key models are valued around the same price (because of the tradeoffs in weight associated with the additional keys) but some cases may cause the 88 key model to draw a higher price or lower price. Since the 88 key model requires more service it may justify a higher asking price if it is recently serviced or a lower price if it is in need of service. Still, there are certain players who cannot perform without 88 keys.

Even though there are few official production numbers the most common Rhodes models seem to be Mark I Stage 73 models from ’76-79. Earlier Fender Rhodes models, suitcase models, and 88 key models are harder to come by. In the end, regardless of the rarity of the model, some Rhodes will be more sought after by players that are looking for a particular sound.

 

Once you have determined the model Rhodes that is right for you, the next step is to determine the Rhodes’ overall condition… Here is our detailed post with pictures that walks you through everything that you need to look and listen to in order to determine the value of a Rhodes piano.

24 comments

  1. Frederik "Freddan" Adlers says:

    Hey you forgot to mention that the Satellites were sold as a kit with the preamp, and can’t be used without one. Also you forgot the Janus-cabinets that came out together with the 54 the year after MkII. Here are some more facts and accurate years : http://www.fenderrhodes.com/history/timeline.html
    Great stuff about how undervalued they are!
    Freddan from the Supersite

  2. Tomas says:

    hi
    I’m thinking about selling my old Rhodes Mark 2, seventy-three , from 1982.
    can someone tell me, what the price should be ?
    Please help !

    Tom

  3. Heather says:

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  4. Sue Miller says:

    I have a Rhodes 73 with case, missing its amp, and its legs if it’s supposed to have them, and pedal. Ithas treble and bass sliders, and intensity and speed of vibrato. Although I can’t hear it, all the notes work and are in tune. Can you tell me its worth? Thanks!
    i

    • mbrink says:

      It’s impossible to say without seeing the Rhodes and playing it but if it’s an unserviced Rhodes with a missing amplifier I would say that it’s probably worth $300-600 around the Chicagoland area.

    • I have one like yours says:

      I have one like yours. It is a Suitcase model, and while it it supposed to sound THROUGH its amp, it also has a “patch” couple jacks on the front panel. One of those can be fed into any amp or mixing board to drive out sound. Also, the 5-pin XLR connector can serve as a line out feed, you only have to wire two of its pins to a normal 1/4″ plug, so you can use it along with other keyboards

  5. RAY says:

    I HAVE RHODES 73 SUITECASE PIANO IN GOOD PLAYING CONDITION WITH ORIGINAL BILL OF SALE SHOWING THAT IT WAS PURCHASED AT SHO BUD MISIC IN NASHVILLE, TN BY DOLLY PARTON IN 1973. ANY IDEAS ON IT’S VALUE.

    THANKS

    RAY

    • mbrink says:

      Who knows. If it’s an unserviced Rhodes it’s probably only worth about $500-1,200 alone and the bill of sale may or may not be worth something to a potential buyer. If it’s signed by Dolly that would be pretty cool but if it’s just a receipt I’m not sure if it’s worth much unless you can link it directly to a hit song.

  6. Dunbar Custom Sound says:

    I have a Fender Rhodes Stage 73 Mark I (not sure the year, it looks like all the models between 69-73). The electronics are in tact, the case is in fair condition (has two tears in the “Rolex”), additional tines and hardware, the original booklet and other accessories. It has one damaged leg (damaged “knurl”) but the foot pedal and other hardware are great. It plays well after having been in the garage for 15 years but has 2 keys that stick and has not been serviced in ___ years.

    I’ve had multiple people inquire about buying it but I don’t know how much it’s worth? What say ye?

    • mbrink says:

      It’s impossible to say. It sounds like there may be swelling of the keys, perhaps due to the storage in your garage. Too much or too little humidity can reek havoc on instruments made of wood. If it hasn’t been serviced in 15 or more years and is showing a lot of signs of issues we would probably value it at $300-800 around the local Chicago area but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t someone willing to pay more than that… It’s an odd market and it can very greatly from region to region.

  7. Charles Khumalo says:

    I have recently come into possesion of a 73 Fender Rhodes Mark 3 EK10 which needd to be serviced. How much would be worth once fully serviced? And how much would a full service generally cost?

    • mbrink says:

      It is hard to say. It is an incredibly rare piano but it is also not one of the most desirable models for most players. For the right collector it is probably very valuable but in most situations the features of the EK10 are going to be useless to the modern player.

  8. Diane Mouser says:

    I have a Rhodes Mark 1 88 stage piano with case. It has been in its case for the passed 25 plus years. What could it be worth? I don’t have the right amp but when we hooked it up last week, it sounded great to me. It has the pedal.

    • mbrink says:

      It’s hard to say without sitting down with it in person to evaluate its condition. On average with the legs and sustain pedal in very good cosmetic condition they will go for $600-1,000 around Chicago. If it is in rougher cosmetic shape or missing the legs, sustain pedal, or amplifier then it will likely be at or a little lower than that range… But other markets outside of Chicago often have higher price ranges.

  9. I have a Mark 1-A stage, Fender Rhodes-73 piano.
    It was built in 1971 and completely serviced in 1982 and
    still in good condition but has 5 tines broken.
    the rest is in good condition and I was wondering if these
    earlier models are more desirable and what it may be worth.
    (note: I live in the S.F. area and had Dyno-my piano fully service it for 550.00 in 1982. Fortunately, I did not have them modify it with their new, equalized, sound)

  10. Everett says:

    I have an original 1946 – 1948 Rhodes pre piano. Worth?

  11. Kenny Bradley says:

    I have a 1975 73 suitcase in excellent condition. I am the original owner, have played in clubs, jazz bands and rock bands. Kept all the actions and upkeep. What would this instrument be worth?

  12. Fernando Baez says:

    Hi,
    I Bought a late model Suitcase Eighty Eight Rhodes, the bad thing is that the former owner changed the plug in and out for a regular plug 1/4, so I would like to know if I replace for the original plug connectors I´ll hear the original Rhodes sound? And what kind of plug do I need, 4pins or 5 pins
    Thanks.

    • mbrink says:

      The late Rhodes used a 5 pin connector (after around early 1978). You will need to make sure that you have the right amplifier and preamplifier that correspond to the cable.

  13. Matthew says:

    Hi,
    I have Fender Rhodes Mark I Stage 88 1975 that I am currently restoring. I have replaced grommets, felts,hammers tips, cleaned all tines,installed a miracle mod kit, replaced kit pin felts sanded and painted all wood and metal frame parts, also replaced a few bad pick-ups. The outer case has all new hardware. the tolex covering isn’t in to bad of shape.Lastly I a new Key-bed Cover. I’m having alittle trouble with setting correct key volume but almost done. Would love any suggestions on help setting it up and what it could sell for.

  14. Jason Menting says:

    I just recently acquired a 1969 classroom model Rhodes. Jetsons model. It is in great shape. What do you think it might be worth?

    • mbrink says:

      It’s really hard to say without sitting down with it in person. The ’60’s models usually require a lot of work to get them into professional shape. They hadn’t worked out a lot of the kinks by then and most of them didn’t lave the factory in great playing shape… With rare models like this the price can really vary depending on what the potential buyer perceives of its value.

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