Taiwan Made Yamaha Upright Pianos (Part 2)

Previously, I have introduced the history of the Taiwan Yamaha piano factory in Part 1. In its 40 years, what kind of pianos were made? As far as we know, only upright pianos were made.

A discussion on Piano Forum provided an expired link of an official Yamaha press release (2007). It introduced a new piano line consists of M460, M560 and P660. Although these piano are intended for the American market, I could not find any pictures of these that are made in Taiwan, only several M460 and a P660 that is made in China.

形樂鋼琴調音維修 Kata Music Piano Tuning In Hong Kong &Bull; M450 Press
(Click To Enlarge Image)

Yamaha Piano’s Serial Numbering Systems

We may usually identify a piano’s origin by its serial number. Like other international Yamaha factories, the Taiwanese-made pianos uses their own serial numbering systems. Although the systems are now easily distinguishable, they did not began this way. Such is the case with our confusion with Taiwanese-made Yamaha pianos and those made in Thomaston (USA).

Why the Confusion?

First of all, my Pierce Piano Atlas (12th ed.) and Atlas der Pianonummern (12th ed.) do not even mention the existence of a Yamaha factory in Taiwan.

In this case, when the Atlas show nothing, one can do a casual web search, and would quickly find his or her way to an official Yamaha USA page “Finding age of Yamaha Piano”. Here one finds a guide to easily distinguish the various serial numbering systems:

“If the serial number begins with a “T”, the piano was manufactured in Thomaston, Georgia.”

“If the serial number begins with “YT”, the piano was manufactured in Taoyuan, Taiwan.”

The simple lettering systems look neat, and ought to make sense. Though, we must bear in mind that this page is intended for “Yamaha Pianos produced for the U.S. market.”

Since early Taiwanese-made pianos were intended for the Taiwanese market only (refer to Part 1), their early serial numbering system was irrelevant to the US market. As a result, even an official source may righteously dismissed the use of prefix “T” on earlier Taiwanese-made pianos.

To make things worse, even if the Thomaston-made pianos have always had
“T” as prefix, it is in fact not shown on the plate of newer pianos. Yet, interactions on social media indicated that many technicians believe Thomaston-made pianos to always print a “T” with the serial number on the plates.

I believe this official page, lack of accurate information in the Atlas and a general bad experience with fakes are the main reasons causing western piano technicians doubt concerning the authenticity of the Taiwanese-made pianos. Regardless of these pianos’ quality, we should still be informed and provide accurate information to the general public.

 

Thomaston-made Pianos’ Serial Numbers

Before proceeding to learning about the Taiwanese-made pianos, let’s go through the Thomastan serial numbering system first.

While “Pianos with the letter “T” proceeding the serial number were built in Yamaha’s Thomaston, Georgia factory” is not entirely wrong, the “T” only show on the plate of pianos produced until 1996 (according to this Taiwanese webpage).

P22 #T107083 (1987)
M302 #T160084 (1991)

The font shown on the plate of the Thomaston-made pianos is similar to those of the Japanese-made ones. There is a small space between the “T” and the 6-digit serial number. Sometimes, there is a sticker of the serial number at the back of a piano.

Since 1996, “T” is not displayed on the plate anymore. Instead, the “complete” serial number (i.e. #249768 on plate, #T249768 at the back) is only shown on the back of the pianos. That means, a newer Thomaston-made pianos should be identified with a 6-digit serial number without the “T”.

P22 #T227484 (1998)
M500F #T249768 (1999)

Aside from the tag at the back, Tomaston-made pianos make sure everyone knows its origin also at the bottom of the top lid.

M500G #T233754 (1999)

“Taiwan Yamaha” & their Serial Numbers

“Pianos with the letters “YT” proceeding the serial number were built in Yamaha’s in Taoyuan, Taiwan factory” is not entirely wrong, but it has omitted the fact that Taiwanese-made Yamaha pianos also had “T” with their serial numbers until around 1993.

U1 #T21475 (1978)
U1 #T49479 (1981)

The font of the serial number is obviously different from those of the Japanese ones. Perhaps this is why piano technicians suspect its authenticity. But yea… this is the kind of font they used.

A “TAIWAN YAMAHA” stamp can be seen on pianos produced before c.a. 1983. After that, unless one checks the dealer’s label on the back of a piano, he or she may only identify its country of origin with the serial number.

形樂鋼琴調音維修 Kata Music Piano Tuning In Hong Kong &Bull; T48161 1
U3 #T48161 (1981)
形樂鋼琴調音維修 Kata Music Piano Tuning In Hong Kong &Bull; T94262 1
U3 #T94262 (1986)
U30 #T157453 (1991)

Since around 1993, the Taiwanese-made pianos switched to using “YT” as a prefix of their serial numbers, printed without a space in between.

I believe the switching of prefix in 1993 and the missing “T” in Thomaston-made pianos since 1996 are related to a countering measure for the shrinking local market once Taiwan lifted the import restriction for used pianos. If the Taiwanese-made pianos were to enter the US market by 1996, the Taiwan factory must switch the prefix before they produced those pianos. Otherwise, the combination of the prefix “T” and a 6-digit serial number of BOTH Taiwanese and Thomaston’s systems will certainly cause huge confusions.

U30 #YT179393 (1993)
U3 #YT194453 (1994)
YU1 #YT237652 (1999)
YU35 #YT272532 (2005)

The back of a Taiwanese-made piano might come with a sticker with information of a Taiwanese dealer in Chinese. Although I have not found any legible photo to identify the content, the text looks like a Taiwanese address in Traditional Chinese (not used in mainland China).

形樂鋼琴調音維修 Kata Music Piano Tuning In Hong Kong &Bull; T169755 Back
U3 #T169755 (1992)
形樂鋼琴調音維修 Kata Music Piano Tuning In Hong Kong &Bull; Yt239971 Back
Ut11 #Yt239971 (1999)
形樂鋼琴調音維修 Kata Music Piano Tuning In Hong Kong &Bull; T157636 1
U3 #T157636 (1991)

Taiwan Yamaha Piano’s Serial Number Reference

A fairly complete reference is in fact available, but only in Chinese. To be honest, it’s quite secretive. However, I don’t think it should be kept a secret anymore.

1969 – 1
1970 – 341
1971 – 813
1972 – 1642
1973 – 2989
1974 – 4985
1975 – 7732
1976 – 11301
1977 – 15743
1978 – 21082
1979 – 27320
1980 – 34441

1981 – 42410
1982 – 51177
1983 – 60677
1984 – 70833
1985 – 81559
1986 – 92757
1987 – 104327
1988 – 116162
1989 – 128151
1990 – 140186

1991 – 152156
1992 – 163957
1993 – 175485
1994 – 186647
1995 – 197358
1996 – 207541
1997 – 217134
1998 – 226088
1999 – 234372
2000 – 241970

2001 – 248890
2002 – 255158
2003 – 260827
2004 – 265973
2005 – 270703
2006 – 275151
2007 – 279482
2008 – 283896
2009 – 288627
Last – 289127

While early Taiwanese-made pianos’ serial numbers can be in 5-digit figures, majority of the serial numbers are in low 6-digit figures, similar to the Thomaston-made pianos’ serial numbers. This is why, it shouldn’t be surprising when one can successfully locate information of a Thomaston-made piano at the official page with a Taiwanese serial number.

P22 #T146929 (1992) - Made in Thomaston, USA
U30 #T157453 (1991) - Made in Taoyuan, Taiwan

What Models did Taiwan Yamaha make?

While I didn’t find any official sources regarding models produced by the Taiwanese factory, most of the models produced prior to 1996 are U1, U3 and U30. After 1996, we begin to see YU series, C108, YT 121 and UT 121. Other than some color difference at the fallboard hydraulic component, the newer Taiwanese YU1 looks identical to the Japanese ones.

YU1 #YT231631 (1998) - Made in Taiwan
YU1 #5585301 (1997) - Made in Japan

Taiwanese-made Yamaha pianos are not distinguishable from the Japanese made ones, because the parts are primarily Japanese parts. At least, it’s what the certificate says.

Yamaha Piano, Certification

Model: U3ABL, Color:, SN: 123161

We guarantee this piano’s iron frame, soundboard, keys and action are authentic components imported from Japan. We agree to take legal responsibility in case of any inauthenticity.

Guarantor: KHS Music Co.

形樂鋼琴調音維修 Kata Music Piano Tuning In Hong Kong &Bull; T123161 Warranty
U3 #T123161 (1988)

As Grey Market Pianos

A newer model’s certificate mentioned the climate factor. This reminds me of reading negative comments by American piano technicians about grey market Taiwanese-made pianos. Well, Taiwan is an island, and its climate is very similar to Japan. This means, grey market pianos from either Japan or Taiwan would suffer quite similarly in Western countries.

Yamaha Piano, Certification

What we guarantee:
1. This piano is designed for Taiwanese climate.
2. This piano is built by the Taiwan Yamaha factory. which is the first of __?___ to certified with ISO-9002.
3. One-year factory warranty.
4. The certificate is only valid within Taiwan.
5. No replacement if this certificate was lost, please keep it safe.

Dealer: Yamaha KHS Music Co., LTD.

(Company Address & Phone, Service Phone#)

(Date of Purchase)

Model: UT121, SN: 239971

形樂鋼琴調音維修 Kata Music Piano Tuning In Hong Kong &Bull; Yt239971 Warranty Jpg
Ut121 #Yt239971 (1999)

Conclusion

I hope this article will help to clarify some confusions when seeing a grey-market Yamaha piano from Taiwan.

This article is based on informations and photos available on different websites. While I try to cite all sources, I have now gathered photos of too many pianos and will not be able to provide their original source.

形樂 Kata Music