On October 18th 1906 Mrs E A Wry realised her dream. She had yearned for the pretty, decorated grand piano she had seen in the Knabe showrooms in New York but there was no way she could afford the $616.25 price tag (about $15,000 in today’s money!)

However, a solution was at hand. The piano could be leased and, by paying in monthly instalments together with a six per cent interest, she could have it delivered straight away and, in a year’s time, it would be all hers!

Yes, what we know as Hire-Purchase, HP or, as it later became known, the Never-Never had arrived and it all started with pianos!

As you can imagine such buying methods in the late 19th century were not without problems. A landmark legal case, Helby v. Mathews (1895) set the precedent.

Helby, a piano dealer ‘let’ a piano on hire purchase to Brewster on terms of 36 instalments of 10s 6d per month. Unfortunately, Brewster hit on hard times and after 4 months pledged the piano to a pawnbroker. The House of Lords held that Brewster was merely the hirer of the piano and Helby was entitled to recover the piano from the pawnbroker. Hence setting the rule that you only own the goods after the last payment is made.

The lot in our April 2013 sale had with it the unique Hire Purchase agreement of 1906 from The Wm Knabe Manufacturing Co. together with receipts for the payments so you can be sure it will not be repossessed!

Sadly, Piano Auctions do not offer HP agreements – in fact we ask you to pay straight away – but the successful bidder for this lovely instrument also now owns a slice of history.

LOT 90 Hammer price £1,850

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