Author Topic: Buy Straight from Store or restore a Used Suitcase?  (Read 216 times)

Offline nrichmond

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 0
    • View Profile
Buy Straight from Store or restore a Used Suitcase?
« on: November 04, 2021, 04:53:06 PM »
Hi y'all,
I'm looking to buy a post-1977 88-key Mark I Suitcase (Janus Speaker), but I have to weigh a few options.  I'm 100 percent assuming the quality of the instrument would be the same with either option, so I'm mainly hoping to save money, but if there's a glaring issue of quality in either choice, I'd love to hear that as well.  Ideally I'd want to keep total costs $6000 or below, but I know that it can get quite high.

My options are:

Buy Used, Then Restore
There's a listing for a pretty beat up Rhodes suitcase with no speaker legs, a broken sustain pedal, non-functioning vibrato indicator light (the vibrato supposedly still works), and rather rough cosmetics (see images on listing).  It's going for $3500 plus $400 shipping (I messaged him), but I may be able to get a lower price since there are cheaper listings for other suitcases that are fully functional.  I live in Orange County, so I'd probably want to get it restored at Fender Rhodes LA or Custom Vintage Keys (If y'all have recommendations/anecdotes, that'd be awesome).  I'm not too sure if the seller is too knowledgeable on the Rhodes, so I can't be sure that all the keys play well nor can I be sure that they won't be damaged in shipping.  The main concern for this option is that it could potentially be a very hefty restoration.

Buy Straight From a Restoration Service
It's appealing to me to just buy a well-serviced Rhodes straight from a restoration store for the sake of convenience and ensured quality but price is the most worrying factor for me, especially since I'm uncertain if they have my desired model.  I get the best vibes from Chicago Electric Company as they display all the pianos and keys they can sell, but I can also ask around at other shops if you'd recommend it.  I've got my eye on their 1977 88 Suitcase designated as "Candy" though it's not specified to be Janus-era like other suitcases they have.  I have seen in their blog, that they do convert models from Stage to Suitcase, so I can't imagine that switching out the amp would be out of the realm of possibility. Again, the price is of my main concern.

I need advice
I've messaged both CEPco and Custom Vintage Keys and they only got back to my first questions, so since I know a forum of enthusiasts can be relied on to communicate, I wanted your two cents.  Am I missing an option? Is my budget unreasonable?  Are either of these the clear answer?

« Last Edit: November 04, 2021, 06:05:24 PM by nrichmond »

Offline spave

  • Fiesta Red
  • **
  • Posts: 18
    • View Profile
Re: Buy Straight from Store or restore a Used Suitcase?
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2021, 08:06:33 PM »
Hi nrichmond,

First, how much do you care about the cosmetics on the Rhodes you would buy? Replacing tolex and all the cosmetic parts is a huge portion of restoration costs but adds nothing to the sound. If you can live with some rough tolex and dull hardware than you can save a lot of $$$ while still having a Rhodes that sounds good.

For buy used, then restore:
If you are in OC, California then you shouldn't be looking at any keyboard further away then LA or SD. SoCal is literally the best place in the world to find Rhodes for sale so you shouldn't need to consider a Rhodes in NC. Try Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or OfferUp before you go to Reverb. In fact, there are at least 2 73 Janus suitcases on OfferUp in SoCal right now (both are over priced though).

The best way to find one is to check those three sites constantly till one pops up at a good price. $3,500 for a rough Janus suitcase is wayyy over what they are worth even with the SoCal tax. For a late 70's suitcase you are looking at around $2,500 for a rough one like your Reverb listing. In fact one of the ones currently on OfferUp was originally listed for $1,300, sold immediately and the new owner is trying to flip it for $3,900 (which he will not get anytime soon).

My point is that if you can wait a few weeks/months you can find the one you want at a lot lower price than what you've been looking at.

As far as restoration goes, I highly recommend Fender Rhodes LA but there is usually a long wait to get your Rhodes in so just be prepared for that.
Never tried CV Keys but heard they are good and if you want custom cosmetics then they are the right place to go.

For buying straight from a restoration service:

Your budget of $6,000 should cover any Janus suitcase from CEPco or Vintage Vibe (not sure about shipping though). Ben Bove in LA just sold a custom 73 Janus suitcase not too long ago that fits what you are looking for. I believe he occasionally restores pianos to sell so you could check there too.

In any case you shouldn't worry about them not having a 73/88 Janus suitcase. Those models are much more common than the early Petersons so all of the major shops should get them in pretty regularly. If you were waiting for a 1972 Buz Watson 88 suitcase that would be another story...

Also, are you dead set on an 88? They are harder to find, cost more to restore, and the extra width can cause sagging issues that sometimes can't be fixed with restoration. I originally wanted an 88 too, but eventually decided it wasn't worth the hassle just for a few notes lower than E.

Hope this helps
« Last Edit: November 04, 2021, 10:58:45 PM by spave »
1972 Home Rhodes Prototype
1971 Suitcase Fender Rhodes
1977 Wurlitzer 270

Offline sean

  • Mark III EK-10
  • *****
  • Posts: 962
    • View Profile
Re: Buy Straight from Store or restore a Used Suitcase?
« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2021, 10:10:10 PM »

I think that suitcase is unfairly overpriced.  That kind of money should get you an instrument that is living-room quality, and studio ready.

I wonder if the seller can't get the sustain pedal to work because he can't align the piano top in the right place without the support legs.

I also wonder if the vibrato LED was clipped out of the circuit to try to eliminate clicking...

In any case, I would be really sad to see anybody pay that much money for a piano in such unimpressive condition.  For $3900, you could get a Nord Electro 6 HP and a KC-200 amp.   Or a Korg SV-2 and a $1600 dollar Rhodes.  Or a Yamaha CP-300 and....


Offline javartin

  • Pre-Piano
  • *
  • Posts: 9
    • View Profile
Re: Buy Straight from Store or restore a Used Suitcase?
« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2021, 01:31:50 AM »
i think if you have time and truly believe that will not feel frustrated no matter what kind of problem you face during the restoring process, then it's ok to get one to restore, otherwise it's recommended to buy a restored and well service rhodes from a store. this will give you peace of mind and enjoy the instrument instead of getting headache. of course this has some cost which is higher price tag.

Offline John Brevik

  • Mark I
  • ****
  • Posts: 124
    • View Profile
Re: Buy Straight from Store or restore a Used Suitcase?
« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2021, 03:57:57 PM »
Unbelievable the asking prices you see on Reverb and the like! I do wonder how much they're going for.

Anyway, as mentioned above SoCal is great for these instruments. And I can't speak highly enough about Ben -- reliable, knowledgeable, does great work, and is a great guy to deal with.

John Brevik

1966(?) Student 73
Hammond A100 chop/Leslie 21H 2-speed