martin swan

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Everything posted by martin swan

  1. lyndon, it's pretty typical of the "monkey with a mallet" school of French violins circa 1900 - these unpurfled instruments, often with steamed tops, were sold as mi-fin or medio fino by a number of workshops. They were dirt cheap in those days, and made in the spirit of equality ie. everyone should be able to afford a decent sounding fiddle. Some sound excellent but they are VERY badly made! I sell them for between £200 and £300, depending on the sound. I think Steverino was getting back at me for my remarks about America, but he was using IRON-Y, I don't think he's really offended. In the UK, business sellers are obliged to register as such on Ebay (after which they have to pay 10% on all sales) - there's some pretty hefty government legislation about "distance selling" which obliges a business seller to tell the truth, accept returns, display name, address, phone number, and so on .... as for shill bidding, I suspect that the high bidder was Corilon Violins, trying to mess with Mr. Hound's business - I'd be very interested to know if he's been paid. I think after all this publicity it's very unlikely he'll re-list the violin!
  2. Yes on reflection I think that's the real issue, plus the use of the Buy It Now Or Best Offer option as a way of inviting a sale price well above fair market value.
  3. Interesting! Scotland's legal system follows Roman law more closely than does the English system .. must follow this up. I suspect that in similar situations American law states "tough shit buddy, you're a loser".
  4. I was hoping you'd tell me! I thought it was Hungarian, but I wouldn't be remotely surprised if it was worth every penny. I am semi-knowledgeable in turn of the century French violins and a couple of specific makers, other than that I am like a lamb to the slaughter. But the larger point would be that Sothebys described their violin in largely negative terms(attributed to Pressenda, A Violin) and gave it a low estimate - Mr. Hound's violin was described in very positive terms, and there was an implication that it could be a lot better than it obviously was ie. a Medio Fino or equivalent.
  5. This is an easily identifiable fiddle with a widely agreed retail value. To allow it to sell for at least four times that value is inviting trouble .... every hard working luthier with a violin shop is waiting to shit on this violin from a great height as soon as someone brings it in the door and says "I bought it on Ebay" for 6 grand. If Mr. Hound is lucky, the buyer won't think to do that before the 60 day period for leaving feedback has elapsed. Otherwise he's going to have to deal with some aggravation! You say that giving a retail estimate takes the fun out of it - I give retail estimates partly as a way of avoiding the speculators. Mostly my customers are either serious dealers or people who want one violin to play themselves. It's all very calm and dispassionate - I like it that way.
  6. It's a clear conflict of interest to sell an item and write a certificate for it, since the certificate is partly establishing fair market value and partly adding value. In the context of Ebay sales this is a particularly slippery slope. This is actually a very corrupt area of the trade, and inevitably Ebay shows it at its worst. Alex Gartsman should pay a reputable third party to provide certificates.
  7. I've since noticed that "ames-anciennes" also provide their own certificates, for instance Thouvenel on Ebay The whole point of a certificate is that it should come from an impartial source.
  8. God's truth - maybe the words are a bit wrong as I wasn't concentrating on it, too busy trying to see who was bidding ......
  9. This particular violin's a very interesting case. I stumbled on it because it sounded phenomenal, one of the 3 best instruments in the sale. Amusingly, it kept getting put in the little enclosure where all the pricey violins were, as if someone wanted to draw attention to it. I looked at it very carefully along with a couple of Italians who were - like me - broadly well informed but not expert. I thought it was a Hungarian "English Workshop" type of thing, definitely not very refined in materials or workmanship, and the varnish was unattractive. Had a conversation with someone else who thought it was a composite, but I couldn't see it - he was proposing that the table was something good and that the violin had been built around this existing table. But the table didn't look that great either ..... I decided to bid madly on it (because of the sound) and reckoned that £6500 was quite a lot for a violin which seemed like a bit of a con. That would be my top bid ...... As the bidding took place I was sitting in front of two "heavy hitters" who habitually buy vastly expensive violins. They remained quiet until about £10,000 10K "It's nothing special, what's all the fuss?" 15K "It's a composite, these people are fools" 20K "Amateurs" 25K "Look at the f-holes, they're no good, that's not Pressenda" 30K "They must think the table's good, they're buying the table" 40K "Maybe they saw something, actually the table looks good, nice f-holes" 45K "You know I didn't really look at it that closely, maybe I missed it" 50K First pundit : "Actually I didn't look at it" Second pundit : "Me neither ..." 55K silence .................. "Shit"
  10. I would point out that the greed and dishonesty on ebay is no different from elsewhere in the violin trade, just more concentrated. As for fine judgments of tone, it's amazing how flexible people become about sound when they're getting a really good deal! The retail trade and its pricing structure has absolutely nothing to do with sound, and many people appreciate my "parallel economy". I'm not saying that valuable violins aren't ....... um .... valuable. It's just that with their eyes closed most professionals would be very happy with a 4 figure good French trade violin. If tone is not your consideration and you are really good at identifying from pictures, then there's some OK stuff in the ebay listings. Of course you have to not be put off by high starting prices, reserve prices or sellers who actually know what they're selling - the more of a bargain you're looking for the more you're going to get stiffed!
  11. Haha, that one was brilliant have to go out now but I'll tell you a funny story later ..... by the way, fantastic sounding violin, I was planning to bid £6500!
  12. Not entirely sure if I'd have been more miserable if I HAD bought it! Certainly feeling miserable that I didn't ......
  13. The estimate was ridiculously high .... BUT it was a fantastic violin, a complete joy to play, and deserved to sell for the revised low estimate of £115K. The ex-Christie Montagnana at Bromptons didn't sell for £250K, though they sold one with undisturbed f-holes last year for £550K.
  14. I'm just thinking out loud, and trying to fathom why this particularly dire Fagnola should be the one to set a record. But I agree that most records are set by collectors with an obsessional and fetishistic need to own a particular thing .... I have set one myself! But that was for a violin that sounded phenomenal, and which re-sold to a great player within a couple of months. I just bid a stupid amount for a Hippolyte Silvestre - fortunately I was saved from penury by someone even more deranged than myself. Once again, the book price didn't reflect the quality of tone.
  15. If I type in "antique violin" (which I would say is the most popular search for ebay gamblers struck with tarisio fever) you are number 1 and number 7. Way to go! I have to confess to a huge dollop of professional jealousy.
  16. "I can't tell to much about it" - a sublime example of ebayese translation : this is far less good than I want you to think it is ... This seller is a professional musician and very expert in violins - he knows exactly what it is (in my opinion an OK but revarnished late 19th century Bohemian violin) I've made the point before, but soundfiles are another red flag for me, just like extra large photos and private listings.
  17. I think anyone who wants to would be able to inflate the prices for a particular maker, for instance Fagnola or maybe Lembock. Do auction houses cancel the sale result if the item is never paid for? Don't think so. So if you want to get a high book price recorded for an instrument, you'd just have to register to bid over the phone with some fake details and then disappear.
  18. I'm always a bit wary of Derazeys, most are Laberte instruments. Even branded H. Derazey violins are generally trade instruments ... The Juste Derazey lot 38 (estimate 5-7K) is a far better sounding instrument than lot 55 but definitely a bit tradey in comparison. In general looks and workmanship triumph over sound but I think 10K is too steep!
  19. No brush is broad enough in my view, though I was only talking about sellers with high watch counts. I'm surprised that Mr. Hound has posted a link to watchcount - I suppose it will take a lot of people to his eBay items, but it also demonstrates that he's hanging with a pretty louche crew.
  20. Yes I played that too - I thought it was very comparable, in other words just as bad. What did you like? Wish I'd known you were there, it would have been fun to meet.
  21. Well .........yes, but it's a completely circular and self-fulfilling argument. Next time a Fagnola comes up, people look at previous sales figures, £130K becomes a figure on which the next estimate is set etc etc. The auction houses make an increasingly tidy sum, and unlike the buyer they won't have to suffer the noise this terrible violin puts out. Thinks ..... if I had 4 or 5 Fagnolas sitting in my house, the best way to increase their value would be to buy another at a record price. What an ingenious plan - I wonder if anyone else has thought of that. Sitting through these auctions, I am constantly beset by the notion that what's being sold is jewelry - like fantastic Faberge eggs, pointless and unusable but exquisite and supremely precious nonetheless. I'm not denying that these objects are valuable - but in the main they're valuable because they're valuable. I suppose Fagnola must have made some great-sounding violins. One of my favourite makers is Antoniazzi, but his instruments are horribly inconsistent, and it would be very foolhardy to buy one without playing it ..... Great-sounding violins always sell - poor-sounding violins only sell at auction.
  22. I can confirm the Korean gentlewoman and the phone bidder ... as for who it was, that's some soft spot!
  23. The Cati was sensational, and very good value ..... Paolo de Barbieri likewise. The Pierre Silvestre was great too. I'm afraid the Hendrik Jacobs didn't get my vote sound-wise. Vuillaume was a bit boring, but the Rogeri had the WOW factor, impossibly beautiful sound, almost worth £300K! Worst violin in the room : Pietro Sgarabotto! but that's just me
  24. Particularly high given that it sounded dire .... not the worst violin in the room but close. I played it blind (with the help of my trusty assistant) and couldn't believe it when I discovered what it was. But it's a sexy name, and that red colour shows up well online! The de Barbieri which sounded sublime sold for £14,000, £1000 below its estimate ..... still kicking myself.