One of Yamaha’s Elton John Limited Edition Signature Red pianos has just sold for $150,000. This was at the Julien’s Auctions Music Icons sale (June 2021). The sum was well in excess of the pre-sale estimate of $80,000-$100,000. Back in 2010 a similar instrument sold at auction for just $20,000 (approx), although new these pianos cost around $85,000.
From 2004 to 2009 Elton John had a concert residency at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The show was entitled “The Red Piano” after the bright red Yamaha piano Elton used for the 240 plus performances. The piano originated at Yamaha’s Hamamatsu factory in Japan, and was customised by the Yamaha Corporation of America in Buena Park, California.
As well as the custom colour, Yamaha made further modifications to Elton’s piano. For example, the voicing of the instrument was tailored to the performer’s specifications and the side edges of every key (black and white) were carefully rounded to facilitate a more robust playing style. The piano also had electronic sensors installed to trigger external sound modules.
In March 2006, an original red piano donated by Elton John was auctioned on eBay. This was a Yamaha DC6APro digital acoustic 6ft 11in grand piano, which had been on display at Caesars Palace. It fetched $170,000, all of which went to the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
In 2011 Elton John began a new Caesars Palace residency… “The Million Dollar Piano”.
Such was the buzz surrounding the Las Vegas show that Yamaha, in conjunction with the performer, launched the Elton John Limited Edition Signature Red series of grand pianos. This was at the end of 2005.
Yamaha stated that they would only ever produce 50 such pianos, and that they would be available as DC1 (5ft 3in), DC3 (6ft 1in), and DC6 (6ft 11in) models. It seems, though, that there is at least one DC7 (7ft 6in) model in existence.
Yamaha released two edition batches: Edition A (30 pianos) and Edition B (20 pianos).
These bright, high-gloss red Yamaha grand pianos each bear Elton John’s flamboyant (naturally) signature on the music rest, and include a special brass plaque showing the instrument’s unique number and edition.
The pianos come equipped with a colour matched Yamaha Mark IV Disklavier system. This is pre-loaded with five exclusive Elton John piano/vocal recordings: “Your Song,” “Tiny Dancer,” “Rocket Man,” “Take Me to the Pilot,” and “Candle in the Wind”.
The piano sold by Julien’s Auctions is a DC-1 grand with serial number 6220010. It is number 10 (our of 20) from Edition B. It was manufactured in 2008. Considering the current piano market, it shows that limited editions can sometimes be a good investment.
Photographs courtesy Julien’s Auctions, Culver City, California, USA.
Karen Lile from Piano Finders has advised us that they brokered the sale of an Elton John Limited Edition Signature Red piano for a sum of $250,000 and that three [not sure which models] have now sold for $250,000 in the last two years.
UPDATE 17-July-2021: Heritage Auctions has today sold Elton John’s Steinway Model D, used on tour by the performer from 1974 to 1993, for $915,000 (Inc. buyer’s premium). The piano was signed by Sir Elton, and inscribed, “Enjoy this as much as I have, Elton John”. It was purchased by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay.