The white Knabe grand piano once owned by Elvis Presley, and installed in the music room at Gracelands from 1957-1969, has just been put up for sale on eBay.
Wm. Knabe and Co. (Baltimore) built this piano (serial #70545) in 1912. It was the house piano at Memphis’ Ellis Auditorium during the 1930s, 40s, and early 50s. Most of America’s “piano greats” of that time (Ellington, Basie etc.) will have undoubtedly played it.
Presley, knowing its unique history, purchased the piano in 1957, had it refurbished in white, added a matching bench, and kept it at Gracelands in the music room. However in 1968 Pricilla Presley, presented her husband with a 1928 Kimball piano. Earlier Elvis had purchased this instrument for his mother, but it was too big for her house. Pricilla had it painted gold to celebrate their first wedding anniversary, and this now took pride of place at Gracelands. The Knabe was put into storage. In 2015 the gold Kimball fetched $600,000 at auction.
The white Knabe piano was eventually sold in 1976 to the Sturges Recording Studio and used on many classic albums including works by Jerry Lee Lewis. Vocalist Jimmy Velvet subsequently purchased the piano for his Elvis Presley museum in Memphis. It remained there until 1990.
The piano was then sold into private hands (the identity of the owner is not known). It was put up for sale at The Ultimate Elvis Auction at Memphis’ Peabody Hotel in 2010, and was expected to make over $1m, but failed to sell. Auctioned again in June 2016, it again failed to sell.
The 2017 eBay Auction
The auction for this piano is currently running on eBay and ends at 8pm EDT on Sunday August 20th. Only pre-qualified bidders can bid in this auction..
Items included in the sale:
- letters of authenticity: Ted Sturges (former owner); George Klein (close friend of Elvis); Ron Blackwood (original refurbisher); Larry Moss.
- the original bench
- flight cases
The eBay listing provides further information.
Ten percent of the proceeds will go to the Starkey Hearing Foundation.
It will be extremely interesting to see what the piano sells for, as estimates vary widely – and the piano does have an auction history! We will keep you posted.
Photos: courtesy eBay
UPDATE 21-Aug-2017: The auction has now finished and the piano sold for $375,190. There were 117 bids. This is somewhat less than the expected amount. The identity of the purchaser is as yet unknown.