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Posts posted by Marsden

  1. Boy, you walk away from your computer for a while, and you never know how fast you can get responses. Sorry not to be as timely to respond as the mood might have dictated.


    If you would think back in time, to when you were just starting with an interest in violins, you might remember a time when you were not as sure of yourself as you are today. Please remember, that I am but a novice at this - an interested novice no doubt, but a novice none the less. I do not consider a five year interest qualifies me for any higher status.

    I have reasons why I do not commit to the purchasing of expensive books, but I do not deny they would be nice to have. In this case however, I have already reviewed the "British Violin" as it relates to Betts and his makers. Based on that volume and other material I have read, I am not able to conclude anything more than these violins seem to show the hand of the Panormo family. I assume that this is because of my novice standing as it relates to actually seeing numerous examples of these instruments. Nor do I believe that your average violin shop operator in the United States is able to tell much more than I am. Why should a violin shop in Detroit be specialists in the make up of the Betts shop of 200 years ago, and be able to identify the line of Betts reproductions, that - with all good will - they have no reason to know he ever made? I believe to obtain the best understanding on these instruments one consults with those who have specialized in these particular makers, and have seen many of their instruments. Until I am able to be in the right city with such experts, gathering information is what I am limited to.

    The other day when I asked you the question about when fake grafts began to be use, I had a great deal of respect for your response that you did not know. Your response now says the same thing - To my knowledge .... I respect this statement, but it still means, "I do not know."

    What I am saying in this entire post is, I do not know, but here is the logic I am going by..... Through this logic, anyone who reads this can draw their own bits of understanding based on their own experience and knowledge to fill in blanks for themselves or others if they choose to share it. Those who do share that knowledge and experience will help my understanding and enjoyment of this pursuit as well as others. You can not go to a local violin expert and get these answers. They are too busy adjusting sound posts or many of the other things that are important to keep their business solvent. One can not know everything.


    To the best intent and in rereading my post, I do not believe that I indicated that you had made the statement that you thought that these violins were from the Betts shop. I posed a hypothetical with all the "ifs" required. Because I am a novice at this, I believe that my statement as to my beliefs is clear. I think that there is a very good chance that these are Betts' reproductions. Anyone who thinks can see the logic that I have used, and accept or reject it.

    As for the Dodd shop, I had not forgotten it, I just had not put it at the same level as that of Betts. John Lott and company are among the violins I would love to find with in my $500 e-bay limit, but I do not think they measure up to John Betts' stable of great makers. Just my thoughts from the reading that I have done.

    Your other points on the English violin evolution and the impact on Panormo through exposure to the violins of great makers fits with my beliefs that I have gained through the post of Michael in this regard. I am sure it means a lot to be able to actually hold and analyze a master work before you start you own next creation.

    Thank you both for your inputs, I did not think that you would join in this thread because it dealt with an ongoing sale item.

    Best wishes,


  2. Jeffrey,

    One point that I wanted to add, but had to leave the computer for a bit, was in relation to Panormo's violins not looking English. Lockey Hill was also working under Panormo at the Betts shop as well as many others. It would be natural for their styles to pick up similarities. I would think that would be especially true as Panormo appeared to be well respected at the time, and shop foreman. The indications that I have read would be that the Betts shop was more refined than the other shops and makers in England, and, under Betts' coordination, Panormo and Fendt were the main reasons for this. Then the makers and shops outside of this select group might be said to have a more "English" appearance. Does this concur with your experience?

    Another question would be to the Betts labeled reproductions that the shop was supposed to be famous for. Materials that I have read indicate that Panormo was working with modern necks as early as 1790 if not before. Given the avant-garde characteristics of the Betts shop, and its efforts to produce high quality reproductions at affordable prices, do you think that these fake scroll grafts could logically be part of the cosmetic nature of these violins? The fake cracks on these things are masterfully done. As you can see in the pictures, the seller of the one I purchased pointed them out as problems that he wanted to acknowledge before the sale. Under magnification, one can determine that they are not cracks at all. While all the antiquing on the body is masterful, the scroll grafts are rather simplistic. A bit like an after thought. If these are Betts' shop reproductions, which at this point I think they have a very good chance of being, could these be the first faked scroll grafts - 1801?


  3. Panormo's don't resemble "English" violins. - What I have read indicated that his style carried more of the Italian and the French into England than he took from the English when he finally landed in London. However, that is only from reading, I accept your opinion on this anytime.

    Did he use an outside mold?

    Best wishes,


  4. Jeffrey,

    I know it seems strange, but I get to other cities more often then Ann Arbor. Not much mass transportation going on in Ann Arbor - nor Detroit for that matter. I have been having some discussions with the University of Michigan, so if it leads to a visit of the campus in the near future, I will try to stop by.

    Regards to the comment that it seemed too fine for a Betts, I sure raised a flag in my mind.

    Best wishes,


  5. I am very interested in this violin, not from a bidding point of view, but for a learning point of view. This bid level has already past my authorized (as in marital bliss ) spending level, so I would like to get as much out of this as I can without bidding.

    Here is a matching violin to the one that is being offered.


    This is the third one of these that I have seen since monitoring e-bay. The first went out of my range, and the second I was able to obtain. (The item above.)

    Things I know from the violin that I have.

    Its sound quality surpasses any other violin that I have.

    It is made on an outside mold.

    The violin that I obtained had not been played since the 1900's. The one violin shop that looked at it felt it was significantly older than that.

    They also thought that it was too fine for a Betts.

    One Betts that I looked at in another shop had similar arching, but nowhere near the quality of the one that I obtained.

    The first one that I monitored came up in January of 2001. Again, it was the identical style of violin with the exact purfling four pins, quality of back material. All three have a faked scroll graft. All three have different hand written labels, all dated 1801. Mine and the one in January of 2001 have the same hand writing, but with different pen nibs. Hence, casting doubt that they are factory violins.

    From reading, we know that V. Panormo, J. Panormo, Fendt, and others are making violins for Betts at this time, with V. Panormo one of the shop leaders. We know that Panormo violins do not resemble "English" violins. We know that Betts has directed his shop to create violins in the style of the old masters, but that he is selling them as that, modern reproductions under his name - John Betts or Jo Betts. Later, under Arthur Betts (the buyer of the Betts Strad,) a significant amount of fraudulent labeling was thought to have happened, but I have not come across that in my reading about John Betts. At this point, 1801, John Betts has not been making violins himself for a long period of time.

    The f-holes of the one that I have match those of V. Panormo. The f-holes of the one for sale are closer to the style of J. Panormo, but V. Panormo also had some examples that were similar.

    I do not know if Panormo worked with an outside mold, but he was influenced by Chappuy while in Paris, and it might he logical that he would use such a mold.

    The Betts shop Amati's were mainly the product of Fendt, while the Strads were what Panormo produced.

    Panormo had dropped the bee-stings in this period and had a different corner style, but these are the only points that I have found so far that differs from his style. These may have been added for the old affect desired..?? Block and lining style, crude, match that of Panormo to the best of my reading.

    I would be glad to answer any questions that anyone might have on my violin either by e-mail, or by telephone, that you can obtain by e-mail, on the one condition that if you should obtain this present listed violin, you share the information you obtain through it.

    Best wishes,


  6. My gut feeling is that these violins are getting their level of bidding because of the quality of the photographs, and the characteristics of the American e-bay buyers. If an e-bay buyer goes into an American violin shop and looks for a violin that looks as good as these, with a "label" of old European origin, are they not going to pay this price or higher? Factory fiddle or not, these do not seem out of line with what a buyer has to pay, from my experience. The important thing here is that it is being obtained over e-bay.

    This is where I think the quality of the pictures makes the customer feel more secure. Combining that with the feedback profile and the understanding that, if the violin does not match up with the pictures that you have already printed out, you have the ability to throw a negative into the seller's feed back profile, puts the buyer in a very strong position. I have little doubt that a customer would get his money back if he was dissatisfied with these violins. How long would it take this seller to put together the feedback record that he has now if he had to start over? Who would be bidding to these levels if the seller had a string of negatives, or if he had a pair of sunglasses by his userID?

    I think this is just a microcosm of the market at work.

    Remember, sound does not matter when it comes to the cost of a violin, and you can dramatically change the violin's sound characteristics by a judicious choice of strings! (This is only slightly tongue-in-cheek.)


  7. Michael,

    I can see your point about the corners better than I can about the scroll. The two scrolls seem to have the items similar that you point out, but then they seem to have significant differences in the diameters of corresponding portions of the spirals. Doesn't that make a difference in style?

    In regard to the points, do I understand this right? The line of the purfling follow a set distance from the edge of the violin, based on the set of the purfling marker. The points then would be wider or sharper in direct relation to the spacing of the purfling to the edge of the violin. Are the points then "sharpened" for the appearance of aging/wear, or is there some approach that normally leads to sharper corners? I guess I am asking if sharp corners are always done for style, or is there some construction method that naturally leads to sharp corners?


  8. Michael,

    I just got around to reviewing the differences (or similarities) in the scrolls between the Gurnarius and the Montagnana listed by this German seller. One thing that struck me after a bit was that the grafted scroll is faked. (At least that is how I see it.) I think that the point raised earlier about the potential stripping of the varnish, combined with the fake graft which utilizes the different varnish coloring to try and carry out the appearance of an old saved scroll, is more than a little interesting.

    How early do you think faked grafts were being used?


  9. If it is a David Hopf, it would not exactly be a factory violin, just not a great maker in Henley's opinion. The David Hopf violins would be from 1790 - 1820. I have never seen a David Hopf violin. I am just going by what I have read. While a neck graft could have been done at anytime for numerous reasons, it could also be that it was from 1790 and the neck was modernized. The second David Hopf was more toward the 1900's and did not make that many violins. His work was inferior to the first's, and it would seem doubtful that it would have had anyone put the work into it to do a neck graft - but you never know.

    Bottom line might be if you like it and the price is right, buy it. It does not sound like you have a lot to loose.

    Best wishes,


  10. Lane,

    The Universal Dictionary of Violin and Bow Makers lists five Hopfs with the associated first name of David, two with just David, both of them indicate that they branded their instruments. Neither of these latter two does Henley seem too impressed with - for whatever that is worth.

    It might mean that you would have a real Hopf, verse one of the many shop violins that were made in the style of Hopf. I do not know if that is an advantage from either a playing or value point of view..??

    Best wishes,


  11. Fiddlecollector,

    I think as a violin it looks very nice. I always like it when they add a touch of ebony somewhere in the body. I like the reflection indications as to the arching. I have not seen the f-hole style, and, while I would shutter at setting a post in it, it would probably grow on me. I wonder just how the "transitional" neck set is actually carried out.

    To a degree, it is like looking at a woman, you can point out different features, but in general, what's not to like.

    Best wishes,


  12. Michael,

    To a degree, that is what I was thinking must be the case. With what is known about violin making today, and the ability that is clearly available in China, how would it not be expected that some combination of it would not be creating very nice instruments at reasonable prices.

    The question for me was where is the break point between between the great reserve of old European, and the new improving Chinese? Maybe the question is too complex for a simple poll.

    But thanks for you thoughts.


  13. Fiddelcollector,

    First, I do not have anything + or - in consideration for this seller. For myself however, I would hardly stop to look at what this seller is selling. Any seller with a userID of "strad5" probably has some idea about violins. So, he plans to sell something where he either controls the value of (through a high reserve or starting price,) or is not worried about what value he actually gets. Either way, I do not plan to clog up my 30 item "watch list". (Also, great pictures are another way of controlling your return. Any reasonable violin is pretty. Someone in a small town, a long way from a good violin shop may well be fully justified in buying what he sees, rather than making a 500 mile trek to pay nearly the same price.)

    I am looking to find violins that have a ten to one ratio in value over expenditure, with little risk. To cut my risk, I will only bid on items that are not going to go for over $500 before the last minute. Almost any reasonable violin can be sold for $300 to $500 once it has been cleaned, tweaked and had a good setup. This work in most cases I can do myself, and learn something in the process. I may look at them for interest sake, but if I want knowledge, I will go to the site of respected shops and dealer. There are many of them on the web, and numerous sell over e-bay.

    I am trying to combine logic with what violin knowledge I have, to get nice violins, and for the enjoyment of the Hunt. Happily for me, it seems to be working.

    Best wishes,


  14. Taenias,

    Now that you mention it, I had not looked at the violin very closely. I just looked at the big print of Petrus Guarnerius, and the basic look of the fiddle without looking in much detail. I hadn't notice that they had labled it two different ways. I think you may be right with the stripping of the varnish as well. Still going to sell higher than I would chase. Thanks for your comments.


  15. I don't know that I would lean so heavy on the bow, but I never pick up my starter bow anymore. I have a Adolf Schuster that I use most of the time. I also have a "no name" bow that plays very close to it, albeit a little bit softer stick. On some violins, the softer stick seems to bring more out, while on most the Schuster is dominant.

    Still on a violin that sounds like a tin can, neither seem to help.


  16. Wolfnote,

    Thank you.


    You just want to keep making me drool!

    At five days out and $350, this thing is going to go out of my price range. I do not have a clue about who made it. I made a commitment when I started into this that Italian violins were out of my financial reach and if I played around with them on e-bay, I was probably going to get burned. That is still my thoughts. A lot of comments on the board have said that they are overrated, and I have taken them at their word to soothe my justification for not pursuing them. They all look great to me.

    If it were Moravian I might have a better feel, but than it wouldn't be so high, and I would be bidding.


  17. George,

    If I can sit here in Detroit an order a piece of the coin of the realm from India, and have it show up in my mail box as an example for my children to see, I might well bid on something like that. It would be a lot easier than going to our banks for such foreign currency. E-bay is amazing. My sister has a string of Christmas lights that my parents bought in the 40's - very pretty matchless star lights. By the eighties we were giving up on the idea that we could every keep the few remaining strings working. Type in "matchless star" into the e-bay search and see the revival of some of the most gorgeous ornaments ever made (not cheap, but they are worth it.)


    I am just stating the facts as I see them.

    At the same time I never felt good about that "statistic breath" crack.

    I would have purchased you data base, if I had not already developed a large hardcopy one of my own. At times I still think about it. Mine is not as complete or as easy to get at, but I sure learned a lot putting it together.

    Thanks for the comments.


  18. The fluff21 report.

    These are some thoughts on the e-bay violin world and the future violin market that it will help shape. What business do I have to make such a report - relatively little, but my wife won't listen to me and you guys are the only ones I know who care about it.

    fluff21 is my e-bay handle. Actually it started as the name of my dog, Fluffy, but there was a fluffy, and there was a fluff, and a fluff1, and a fluff2 so I just said, "To, H#ll with it!" and became fluff21. I figured that I would not forget my dog's name.

    I was pleased to get involved in the recent posts in a more frank discussion of e-bay and its potential than what has normally been the case. With this post I would like to carry it a bit further.(To say the least ) I would like to give some perspectives on the e-bay violin market. Also a few suggestions for buying a good violin for dramatically less than one can get from a retail shop. But first a little background.

    I bought my first violin in 1998, a Heinrich Th Heberlein Jr. Bought it at Du Mouchelles auction house in Detroit. I won the bid at $200 for an instrument that had a plate crack and various hairlines, one of which was a sound post hairline. I had been playing the mandolin for five or six years, and while I enjoyed it immensely, I did not like that fact that I needed to use a tremolo to sustain a note. I figured that if Paganni could make the switch to a violin, maybe could I. I contacted a respected luthier that I had met on my journeys, and was quickly told that to fix the cracked plate, would cost me $500 - $800 and that given the hairline soundpost cracks, they did not think that it was worth it. They recommended that I take it back to where I bought it, and get my money back. Since I did not have the option of taking it back, nor did I really want to, I tried another place and found a luthier that would fix the plate crack for under $200, and do it with a set up for a total of $300. Now I had long before found that for me that the statement, you get what you pay for, is usually preached by those that are charging a higher price, so I let this low-overhead luthier do his thing. It came out great. In the process, I learned one interesting thing about violins. The way the business is practiced today, sound and value have little relationship. I learned from discussions, a repaired sound post crack has no impact on the playing value of a violin, but that it has a major impact on the resale value. In the process I also found out what the going rate for a Heberlein was, and that for my $500, I had a violin that would play with ones costing far more. Nice starter violin, my mandolin mind knew where the notes were, I was happy.

    Then, as things often happen unexpectedly, I found myself big-time ill. Over the next few years, I would find myself motionless in bed for months at a time. Lying flat on my back as days turned to weeks and weeks to months, one starts to wonder it one is ever going to walk again. To escape such concerns, I found e-bay and its violin sales. With a lapboard and a laptop, I could lay still and view violins on sale from all over the country. I found that to watch them conveniently, it was the best to bid on them at a low level, then you could follow the sale easier. I am sure that many of you will remember a time when fluff21 was as common as rclanier. At one point, from flat on my back, I had little doubt that I was bidding on more violins than anyone else in the world - with no idea of what I was bidding on, but with a sure desire to find out.

    Fortunately I have been in good physical condition for some time, and am trying to get back to my normal life, but this fiddle obsession is more infectious than my aliment. I have been buying and selling for some time, in a modest fashion. Never bidding more than $500, selling at my leisure - but not selling much, and never on e-bay.

    E-bay is today without question the largest single violin sales venue in the world. Maestronet is an amazing group of violin enthusiasts, 4,000+ registered, and probably another 8,000 voyeurs. I think that it is interesting to consider what will the long term impact of it be on the sale of violins. It has already changed forever the repossession of old instruments. They can no longer be obtained in pawn shops and thrift shops. For a number of years, I was in charge of antiques for the largest St. Vincent de Paul facility in the world, the one here in Southeastern Michigan. We would get violins now and again, and they would be purchased for $15 to $50 by violin pickers - people that made their livings buying violins from such outlets, and converting them back into the real violin world. Show us a pawn shop or thrift store that isn't on the internet, and you'll show us one that is on its way out of business. Pawn shops are placing violins on e-bay. The violin pickers are now the violin traders on e-bay.

    I have purchased with a 80% success rate (receiving better value than what was paid) on twenty violins purchased - I am only a novice at this. What I know I have learned at the library, this board, and in dealing with makers and luthiers as I travel for my business. I have little doubt that there are professional violin experts around the world buying good value violins on a continual basis on e-bay. In the present market, one could surely do this for a retirement income.

    While e-bay is continually denigrated on this board as not a place to buy, I have watched as the volume of violins for sale in the United States has gone continually upward. Not only the number, but the value that they bring has been continually rising. When I first started watching, there were about 400 string listings at any one time. Today there are over 1000 new string items per day, 8,000 string listings. Rarely did a violin break a thousand dollars, today it is a common occurrence. I believe this reflects not only a better understanding by the buyers and sellers, but a recognition that buying on e-bay is generally safe once you have become acclimated to the new environment.

    Many aspects are superior to the store experience. Prices are lower. How many of us would appreciate seeing a sign on the outside of any dealer's establishment that allows his customers too freely record their opinions of the goods and services provided. I believe that we would see a dramatic increase in customer satisfaction. On the other hand, it would be nice to play an instrument before you buy. But how nice? Ten times the cost nice? Don't forget that we are told that a violin has a value based on who made it because the maker or factory has a good reputation of a certain level of instrument - you can rely on a Juzek to play like a Juzek. I would still like to play it first.

    There is concern that some buyers will get hurt by unscrupulous dealers, and vise verse. These are valid concerns. I would have greater concerns about an out of town driver having a flat in the wrong section of any of our major cities. We have concerns about it. We try to put measures in place and we move on. E-bay has moved on. 400 string items for sale to 8000. Dramatically rising sale values. This is not happening because people are being cheated, but because it is offering the user something that they want.

    E-bay is not a fluke or a fancy that is going to go away. It will have market swings like all markets, but it is here to stay, and the world will be better for it. What I think is particularly interesting and I think will have even more long term impact on the violin market is the opening of the rest of the world to e-bay. I have been particularly close to the European activity, buy most of my violins out of the German e-bay now. It may be a situation that is a bit hard to comprehend because of the language barrier. Like the US, German e-bay is carrying an ever-increasing number of violins, and expect that number to continue to increase. It is now up to 400 string listings. More importantly, these listings will have a significant number of mid to upper range instruments. Not the old masters, although some will be there, but good violins bringing $5,000 to $20,000 retail, that will flood the American market.

    I was in the modest shop of a respected master maker in Germany who set up one of the violins that I had purchased through German e-bay. I asked him what he thought of taking one of my violins for consignment sale. He told me that it would be crazy. He said in every German home there is a violin or two from departed relatives. He said that in his shop alone he had over 500 violins of the quality or better of the one he was setting up for me and he couldn't get rid of them. My violin is now on consignment sale here in the United States for $3,500. With the set up and repair, I paid about $500. Presently we see "violin pickers" out of England, harvesting the violins out of German e-bay, turning around and selling them to the United States on US e-bay. Same violins, no time to do anything significant to the violins other than translate the auction listings. The violins bring immediately $200 to $500 more than they paid for them. Numerous English speaking German violin pickers are dealing directly to the United States, sometimes making major profit on the shipping alone. (This problem is dropping as US shipping becomes more common. Normal insured mail shipping out of Germany should be around $45 dollars.) French e-bay is just starting to come on line as well as Belgium and the Netherlands. Clearly, the value that can be obtained within the US for the same instruments that they had a hard time giving away before, is not yet recognize through out the potential European marketplace - but it will be. Just like the US, where everyone was afraid to deal on e-bay at first, they will recognize that there is money to be made, and value to be obtained. Also, that the process, even with its pitfalls, is relatively safe.

    I expect to see a second market area grow to be as large as that of the present US e-bay, and expect to see a two year period where these excellent violins are going to be undervalued within the e-bay trading sphere, not the retail market but the e-bay market. The entire European Community has yet to fully open! We know that the American makers were not as good as the European in general. Not only was the cultural knowledge higher within Europe, it was where the great violins came from. What is the chance of finding an old Frantisek Spidlen in an attic in Terra Haut compared to finding one in Prague or Vienna This means good violins for less than 1/4 of the present shop rate (my viewing has told me that auctions are 50% of retail, and e-bay is 50% of auction sales - just my opinion from what I have observed), and within this there will be greater bargains for those that have developed the "eye!" I am not talking about the sale of junk. Yes, many people are buying violins that they could get at better value within shops, but guess what, "It is not stopping them!"

    What, however, will be the impact on the present violin "process?" None you think - think again! The first tier of change has already happened as noted earlier, the direct thrift and pawn shop sales are already a thing of the past. I think we are already starting to see a backing up of violins in consignment venues. The naive or the uninitiated are not purchasing the good violins out of e-bay. The professionals, violin pickers and dealers, are clearly buying. The best way to make a good return on your investment, if you can afford to wait, is through consignment, or put them in your own shop. If you cannot wait for your money, then a sale back over e-bay or to a dealer who will then bring it to a shop.

    But here comes the good news, and the bad news - price reductions on violins in the $5,000 to $20,000 range. If you were holding violins in this range with the hope that you are going to see a profit ten years out, I would suggest that you might be better to get back into the stock market. On the other hand, if you are interested in violins for the sound, this has to be music to your ears. We already know that the tons of great playing instruments lie in this price range. Violins that will play right with the old masters! Get ready to have a ton of them to choose from over the next years.

    It is understandable that those involved in the present process of buying and selling violins recommend against going to e-bay to purchase. They have many valid concerns about the e-bay process and risk to the customer. It also has a direct economic impact. Not only does it take sales away from them directly, but it gives them more competition in the procurement of instruments. One thing remains unmistakably clear.


    E-bay is a tidal wave and the swell is already rising.

    Some thoughts on how to buy a good violin on e-bay, for those that recognize the risks and still want to venture forth. All of these are only my opinion and worth what you are paying for them. But it is the power of the idea, expanded by others thoughts that might be helpful.

    Know what you are looking for and "Don't pay more than a 1/4 of the retail shop price for anything!" There will be another one coming in a short time.

    Forget this nonsense about violin labels being meaningless! They tell you a ton of information at the first blush. For e-bay shopping they can tell you immediately if a violin is worth looking at further or not (you have 1000 items to sort through daily). Not many of us are truly interested in Czech Strad copies. Yet tons of the labels send that information immediately. Nobody is faking a Lark labels, or Czech Strad labels. Steiner violins, are in general not in great demand. Steiner only made 30 violins in his life, you probably aren't going to find a real one. Unless you want one, and they can sound nice, the label tells you it is not a strad copy, you do not need to study the outline! Not that I am suggesting you don't want to consider Steiner model violins, just the label helps you sort them out.

    Study about violins if you want to buy like a violin picker. Select the type of violin that your interested in and read about them. Many great makers and types are not particularly in vogue, within which great violins can be found. Guess what, no expert today knows everything about every maker who's violins are valued at $5000 in today's market. They need to read too.

    Don't expect that you are going to be able to find a sleeper by the masters, sorry, the professionals are not going to let you out bid them on it. (Unless your so rich and sure that you can risk over 50% of value without touching it??? I have seen some high end items with good return policies, and I think you will see more in the future.) Buy reference material or get access to it. Buy fubbi2's CD! Than combine it again with these "useless" labels to learn a lot about the violin. Does the label have a date at a different time than the maker was alive? Might be a problem. With some violins though, it might be a good clue - learn what you are looking for. If the label is from a little known maker, it has a greater chance of being genuine, why spend time making a good copy and labeling it with a little know maker. If so does it have a date, if not, it has a good chance of being a lower level rather than a higher level.

    In general, do not use the label to validate, use the label to eliminate, but use the label. Experts can pick up an instrument, ignore the makers label and tell you what it is worth by the quality of the work. Even if you can do this, this market place does not allow you to pick it up.

    Choose a selected group of makers to study, keep it small to start with. Learn what models they made, varnish colors etc. Make a list, and cut and paste it into the E-bay search engine, search for "any of these words" under musical instruments, add to this list as you see others you like, but do not bid on them until you start to understand the ones you see. The bigger the list of makers you can create, and truly have a knowledge of what you are looking for, the better the chance of finding something that provides you with a great violin.

    For the best value look for violins that are not being sold by pickers. Pickers will have looked for better more profitable outlets to move their higher value items. (This isn't necessarily true for the US marketing German pickers, as they are getting their violins at such a low rate, and the American e-bay market can be as high as their regular outlets. They may well have some good instruments, but US buying competition will be tough.) At the same time if you have developed an expertise in a given type or maker, you may know more than the pickers.

    Ask questions. If you have developed an expertise, ask questions that let you fill in the blanks for you and no one else..

    Be very weary of any negatives in the feedback profile. Normal people do not like to say negative things, and only do it when they are pushed. Consider the conditions of the negatives very carefully. Be very weary of sellers, or buyers that have changed their userID's. There are valid reasons for this at times, but be cautious! I skip right by them.

    Sellers not knowledgeable about violins, the best place for value, will very often post useless pictures. Some sellers will send pictures that they do not post. Ask for extra pictures. This gives you a tremendous advantage in the bidding.

    If a seller claims to know nothing about violins, but shows you all of the relevant camera angles, be very skeptical. These are back , front, scroll, pegbox opening, side.

    If the pictures are blurry be very skeptical. Go to some of the other sales that the seller has underway and check to see if all the pictures are blurry. If others are sharp, do not bid! The same holds true with dark pictures. Many times all the pictures of the violin are great, but one - turns out that one showed the edge missing but you could not see it through the blur.

    In general, a seller that clearly knows little about violins, is not going to be trying to trick you into buying his violin by putting an little known but respectable name on it - and than start the bidding at one dollar with no reserve.

    If you had a foreign language in school, here is a good time to use it. Many overseas sellers are afraid to ship out of their countries, as are many Americans. This should not be a surprise, but there are nice people everywhere. If you ask politely if they will ship to you, using their language, do not be amazed that most will say yes. The descriptions in the ads are very repetitive. If you have had a little German, French, whatever, it does not take much work to identify what the listings are saying. This is important if the shipper is willing to ship overseas, but the listing is in another language.

    Check out the seller!

    Go to his feedback. Obviously check his positives and negatives, but also look at the past sale items again to get a feel of what he is into. It makes it a little easier to gauge what he may mean in his listing.

    Do a "search by seller" and get all the completed sales you are able. This helps at times to figure his reserve levels. Go to the sales and check the past bid histories. You can get a feel for the reserves at times through the patterns of the bid jumps. You often will find that a given item has been up numerous times before and did not reach a reserve. If you are willing to pay $300 and he has twice turned down a $1000, you have other auctions that are worth checking out.

    Go to his other auction sales. If he is selling hundreds of items, and only one violin, he probably does not know much about them. If he is selling lots of violins, be careful. Why is he selling in this venue. Sometimes they may be selling on e-bay because they do not like, or have easy access to consignment opportunities, but the price difference is significant, so be careful.


    If you are truly interested in getting "this" violin at a reasonable price, do not bid until the last 20 seconds. To bid in the last 20 second, set a clock with a second hand to the standard on the telephone, prepare the bid sheet down to the last "enter," and ignore any concerns about what may be happening with other bidders. Bid at the max you are comfortable paying and hit enter as the second hand passes the 20 mark. I know that sellers are not going to like this, but I will let someone else post ideas for sellers. I am a buyer. If you get into the process of bidding early, someone will believe that you know more than they do, and walk up the bidding to see where you are. Where you are is having to raise your bid if you really want this violin. Your better to shoot it out with the rest of the sharpshooters at the end, with a value that you are satisfied with, than to give courage to someone who does not have your knowledge. (We are assuming that you have gathered some knowledge before you are doing any of this.)

    E-bay is an unstoppable force at this point.

    Welcome to the hunt.

    Best wishes,


    Again, the ideas expressed here are just that. Ideas that can be right or wrong. Take what you like and reject those you don't. Just things I have been thinking about while reading over some of the later threads.

    Critique is expected and welcome. I could be wrong

  19. "I don't know that a poll will do anything more than give numbers of people who have one or the other and like them."

    I think if that is all it does, it will still be of interest. I had hope to see the thoughts of players that had played both. I think it is interesting to see that not that many players seem to have done that. Might indicate that marketing, advise, or love at first sight is more important in these ranges of instruments.

    I like your thoughts as well and it would be nice if they were expanded on.

    I have never played a Chinese violin. I bought my first instrument, a Heberlein at an auction in Detroit. I then looked for a better instrument and hunted for a better European. That was based on what I had read, and the feeling that the only way that I could afford a better instrument (for a hobby I was starting late in life)was by getting a good deal on an undiscovered treasure. Since I had no idea how to do that with a culture I did not know, I went toward Europe. At the same time, I have always wondered why not a well made Chinese instrument.


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