Q: I would like to learn more with this pianola. It seems that no one in South Africa, where I live, knows anything about pianolas. The case is marked "Stroud Pianola" and inside it says, "Manufactured by the Aeolian Company, New York, Style 559N, 98658." What can you tell me about it?
A: Player pianos, also called pianolas or autopianos, were popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Interest waned and sales declined after the 1920s. The "Pianola," the mechanism that makes the piano play, was developed by E.S. Voty and was first manufactured in 1897. It was used in pianos made by several manufacturers. Stroud was a brand of piano made by the Aeolian Co., which was founded in 1903. Aeolian began making pianolas in 1904, but the serial number on your piano, 98658, indicates it was made in 1933. Aeolian continued to make standard non-player pianos until 1985. Value is determined by what a person will pay. Are there collectors in South Africa who buy vintage musical instruments? In the United States, a pianola could sell for $500 to $700. But if you can’t sell it in South Africa, the cost of shipping it here is too high to make it worthwhile.