What is the most expensive piano in the world?

The most expensive piano ever sold at auction was the Casablanca (1943) piano, otherwise known as the ‘As Time Goes By’ piano – the one that Dooley Wilson’s Sam was playing on when Ingrid Bergman uttered one of Hollywood’s most famous lines: ‘Play it, Sam, Play “As Time Goes By.”’ It is a symbolic part of one of the greatest love films of all time, representing the love between Bergman’s Ilsa and Humphrey Bogart’s Rick.


How much did the piano sell for?

It sold for $3.4 million to an anonymous buyer at Bonham’s Auction House in New York in 2014, complete with a photograph signed by Humphrey Bogart and a piece of chewing gum stuck under the keyboard. Dr Milan, the piano's previous owner, said that he had tried to ascertain whether the gum was Dooley Wilson's, but was unable to do so since nobody had Wilson's fingerprints.

When was it made?

It was probably made in 1927 by the First National Pictures studio, which later merged with Warner Brothers.

What does it look like?

Unlike most pianos that have 88 keys, this upright, wooden piano only has 58. It is golden yellow, with an intricate design of Moroccan green and gold, though of course in the movie you wouldn’t be able to tell, given that it’s black and white.

What does it sound like?

That is a mystery since nobody actually played it in the film. While Dooley Wilson was a talented singer and musician, he could not play the piano professionally. So the music was played by offstage by the pianist Elliot Carpenter.


Is it the only piano that appears in Casablanca?

No. There is one more, which appears in the Paris flashback scene. That one sold for $602,500 at Sotheby’s in December 2012.


Hannah Nepilova is a regular contributor to BBC Music Magazine. She has also written for The Financial Times, The Times, The Strad, Gramophone, Opera Now, Opera, the BBC Proms and the Philharmonia, and runs The Cusp, an online magazine exploring the boundaries between art forms. Born to Czech parents, she has a strong interest in Czech music and culture.