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About that violin on ebay . . .


Michael Darnton
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Its a cheap German junker. If it was real, they would already know, and they sure wouldn't be trying to sell it on ebay! And that goes equally for a large percentage of offerings by people attempting to position themselves as professional dealers on ebay--not just the antiquers, and those selling Uncle Bob's fiddle. You can be sure they took it to every dealer they could find, first, and couldn't get even the least informed to say something good about it.

[There, now you all have the answer, so you can all stop asking.]

[This message has been edited by Michael Darnton (edited 03-14-2001).]

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I have to agree almost* entirely with Michael...if someone is capable of dealing with a computer, posting pictures on eBay etc. it is virtually impossible that they would not have enough savvy to have a fiddle looked at by somebody. I think it is theoretically possible that a fine violin by a somewhat famous but lesser known maker could be put up for sale at a fraction of its true value but it's perhaps only a little more likely than my being hit be a meteor.

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One, perhaps, would be trying to sell it on e-bay if they saw the same violin(s) set up equally by "the shop," listed for up to 8 times the shop's offering price. Also, the sound and value of instruments being sold by the shop seems to be better than those being bought by the shop...but when they're bought, they then sound good too?

On the other hand, there is usually no monetary loss, as one can upgrade and recoup full purchase price. And, you have the ear of the "shop" with any concerns that may arise.

I prefer to deal with violin shops but there are valid reasons why "relatively" good deals can be realized on ebay and in shops.

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I re-read my reply and I realized that I was doing too much "fence-riding." Bottom-line:

One can often sell higher on e-bay (or the newspaper) than they could at a shop. The same violin can often be purchased on e-bay (or the newspaper) lower than it could be at the shop. This pertains to all violins..not just "a cheap German junker."

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In theory, you might be right, but that's not what happens when the object is purported to actually be something of a higher level than "German junker".

In theory, it will cost you less to pick up a hundred dollar bill on the street than to get it from a bank, but for some strange reason, the people who have them usually don't leave them lying on the street.

[This message has been edited by Michael Darnton (edited 03-14-2001).]

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Michael is right as usual!

Bless me Fr.Michael for I have sinned...

I got an ebay violin purchase in the mail today. What a piece of "German Junk". I paid so much for it that by the time I fix it and add parts, I'll be luck to break even. I would never have paid that much for it if I could have had it in my hands first. Ebay is sort of like a feeding frenzie for impulsive, competitive people. Ebay is seldom a bargain. I work on violins all day every day, and I should have known better, but I think that I've learned my lesson this time. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa..

kraut

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Michael, in theory you are right, unless the object is purported to actually be something of a higher-level than a "German junker"...and then it turns out to indeed be of a higher-level than a "German junker!"

It's all about price, willingness to buy, and the rules of this discussion site regarding advice.

What about questions on this site about violin sale prices from well-respected dealers? Well-respected dealers also have customers who may have an inclination to ask questions here. Is that OK, or is it preferred that no questions be raised regarding any prospective purchases? Thanks.

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I think you missed the point: those are SPECIFICALLY the violins I'm speaking about. I'm not too worried about someone buying a German junker that's listed as a German junker--I'm concerned about the people who buy things they think are better because the listings say they are, which then turn out to be junk. ("It's a cheap German junker. If it was real. . . etc.")

I don't know that there are specific rules about discussing stuff are here. If you do a search on "appraisal" on these boards you can find how I feel about it, myself.

quote:

Originally posted by Leland:

Michael, in theory you are right, unless the object is purported to actually be something of a higher-level than a "German junker"...and then it turns out to indeed be of a higher-level than a "German junker!"

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I have to jump in here one more time.

If you are going to buy violins on eBay, just assume they are all junkers and you will never be dissapointed. I have purchased many violins, violas and cellos on eBay, and have never been all that dissapointed. In spite of Michale's doom and gloom, I have bought a few real gems that were far better than described or expected. It can and does happen. I'm kind of tired of the continued eBay bashing. eBay is nothing more, or nothing less than an auciton where you buy without touching or seeing the item. Pretty simple, if you ask me. It is not rocket science to realize there is risk. Bid accordingly, and don't bid on expensive instruments without touching, playing and getting advice first. If that is not possible, just pass.

Hopefully there is less risk buying from your local shop, but there is still some risk. I have never had a bad experience with a local shop, and I have been playing and buying for 50+ years. I have never sold a violin, so have not had that experience, but I have certainly heard and read of problems, even with major dealers. No purchase or sale is without risk.

Let's leave eBay off our hit list. Michael, come on down from that ivory tower. Not all eBay people are bad; buyers OR sellers. There actually are some of us that have a use for those German junkers.

Hmmm - Back to my computer - Is that an E. Martin there?? No, its a Heberline.

Norm

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True story: I found a hundred bill on a street in Spain last year. If you want to know where, I'll tell you, and you can go look for more there. Norman, being victimized may be part of your normal M.O., but believe me, there are a lot more people who don't like it a bit when it happens to them, and those are the people whom my warnings are intended for. Feel free to do as you wish, yourself.

[This message has been edited by Michael Darnton (edited 03-15-2001).]

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I agree with Norman laugh.gif I too have purchased many instruments and bows on ebay. Some of the items were indeed ready for the wood pile but the majority of the instruments that I have purchased were fair to good to very good. I have received quite a few very nice pernambuco hex bows when purchased with a bid lot of broken wood and fiberglass bows.

When in doubt you can always email the seller with as many questions as you might deem necessary to convince you to bid or not bid. I usually ask the seller if they are willing to sell on approval if the asking price is unusually high.

Ed

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If you are going to buy violins on eBay, just assume they are all junkers and you will never be disappointed.

I agree; usually there's at least one little 'joke' that comes along with your eBay violin purchase, sometimes because the seller didn't know much; sometimes because he DID. I don't sell, either, so I must live with my decisions.

A lot depends on who you are and why you're buying. I'm a hobbyist and experimentalist and don't mind working on my acquisitions. If I were a professional, looking for a performing instrument, I don't think I'd consider eBay--except for those retail sellers with a return policy. Even then, it's not a particularly efficient way to shop for such an item.

The problem with asking an expert like Michael or Barry is a bit paradoxical: you will get a serious answer! Do you really want that?! Even if the violin is an unmistakably fine one, based on the photographs (very unlikely) its bid price will probably rise to a market level that will make your local shop competitive, once repair, set-up and guarantee issues are considered.

My eBay philosophy: Look for something not-too-bad that can be made better with a little tweaking. Have a realistic price ceiling. If you are staring at the pictures and thinking you've GOT to have it, you're probably hallucinating or should be in a 12-step program.

Mark_W

[This message has been edited by Mark_W (edited 03-15-2001).]

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Norman:

Inquiring minds want to know what you do with the German Junkers. smile.gif

deb

P.S. I'm pretty new to violins, and I've been very surprised how much even an 'average' violin for intermediate study costs. I don't think I'd ever buy an acoustic violin from eBay because I don't fix or build violins, and wouldn't have a clue what to do with them but turn around and take them to a shop. smile.gif

But many of you guys here DO know how to fix them and tweak, and what not -- and I love to read over your tales about it.

I suppose I'm too old now to switch professions, but I keep thinking how wonderful it would be to make violins.

smile.gif

deb

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To be fair to Norman, when I look over the ebay offerings I do see quite a few things in the $200 or so range--mostly old factory-type instruments that haven't been mashed, which have a good chance, with the right work, to be solid student instruments, if they're carefully chosen. The stuff that bothers me is the violins which are sold as something better, but aren't. A nice "Paganini" or "American Conservatory" (on the back of the head, both) in good shape is a much better deal than a "Rudolph Gunther Klotz" that's been run over by a truck but artfully photographed to hide the damage.

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Deb,

Actually, I try NOT to buy junkers. In fact I try to be very carefull with my bids. My objective is to supply a few decent violins, violas, Etc. for kids who can not obtain them in traditional ways. A few years ago, a local teacher ask me if I had an extra violin to loan to one of her talented students who could not afford an instrument. Long ago, I played professionally (only a journeyman orchestra player), and have several violins in my closet. I was very pleased to loan the student a violin. This got me to thinking (a dangerous thing), and to make a long story short, the teacher and I jumped through all the hoops required by the IRS to form a 503©(3) non profit corporation to continue collecting and loaning string instruments to kids. I no longer am immersed in it like I was, because now we have a very competent board of directors. I still raise money for the project, donate instruments and advise and help when I can. We have quite a good inventory of string instruments that are loaned out, and a waiting list for more. Our idea is to purchase some older instruments in preference to new for the more advanced students. A 100-year-old instrument, in my opinion, will likely sound better and the student will have more respect for it. I have purchased quite a few good instruments on eBay that have filled this need. We are fortunate that Steve Grathwhol, an excellent luthier from Nevada has helped us with setup, reapir and restoration of the instruments that require it. Most have been quite good as received after cleaning, new strings and minor adjustments.

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I really think Norman has the right attitude about purchasing violins, whether from ebay or any other source. His point is not whether there exists the potential of a poor purchase on ebay, but rather, that ebay is a rich source of potential solutions for the entry level or possibly intermediate student. I have to agree. Ebay offers something else as well. It is probably the richest source of violin labels, real and otherwise, violin styles, and a wonderful source of comparative analysis anywhere in the world. That one will not generally see professional level $20,000 violins on ebay is of little concern to the dad who is trying to see if he can save a few bucks off the local mall music store charging $500.00 for a chinese violin he can buy on ebay for $125.00. For that same father to drop $800.00, $1,000 or even more on his eight year old kids first foray into music would be utterly ridiculous. One should also keep in mind that the VAST majority of Americans have no clue what a "luthier" is, or where to find a "good" violin shop. They generally end up at the mall or a local family owned music store (general purpose) and can select from an extremely limited number of makes and models. Ebay gives them a wonderful alternative, especially if the seller offers full returns. Yep Norman, I agree with your philosophy and think what you have done for kids speaks for itself. The source of your generosity isn't ebay... it's a simply a kind heart. I doubt if the kids who benefited ever cared whether the violins were from ebay, the mall, or the best of luthiers. Well done sir, I applaud you. If the "pro's" here wish to help, it may be better not to critique the individual questioning an ebay offer, but rather, to offer assistance in why a particular listing may be a poor choice. If it's a forum about violin hardware (versus playing & music), allow people to pose their questions freely and openly without feeling guilty that they dared to mention an instrument offered on ebay or any other forum. It may prove a wonderful educational opportunity for other readers to see constructive critiques of the instruments offered rather than destructive critiques of the source. They're not buying ebay.. they considering a violin and asking questions before doing so. Sounds prudent and reasonable. A "pro's" counsel is of little value if it is couched in haughty rhetoric implying the ignorant need not apply and a public internet forum is no place for the self-annointed professional to pontificate as though mastering the concepts of a stringed instrument bestows some power beyond mortal man or woman. To those literate and learned craftsman here who do take a moment to answer the fair minded questions of the entry level students, the curious and the fellow luthiers, well done, thank you, and keep up the wonderful work. Your answers and assistance is worth more than a truckload of genuine strads. Regards all.

[This message has been edited by ShadowHawk (edited 03-16-2001).]

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The point of my original post was, don't ask if that "Italian" violin for $300 on ebay is a genuine 18th century Italian--it isn't. I agree that there's useful stuff for students and beginners there, but that's never the question that's asked here. The question that should be asked is, "Is this $200 ebay violin something that could be fixed up for my 12 year old to play?" If we want to deal with the subject from this direction, I'd be happy to help, and I'm sure that others would be, as well.

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Your point is well made Michael, but consider all the postings where people seeking information about a violin they saw on ebay start their inquiry with something like, "I know I'm going to be flamed for this, but... ". That's a fair context and is indicative of the mentality people are beginning to adopt. A mentality that implies, "if it isn't a $10,000 violin, don't even ask...". I really have to wonder if we forget that part of the blame is the manufacturing industry, not the retailer, wholesaler, or auctioneer. It's unfortunate that so many violins include a label that indicates the maker and year the copy is modeled after rather than the modern manufacturer and year of production. Why should the novice know this by default? If they see what appears to be an old german violin, it's labeled german inside, includes a well known name, and is dated hundreds of years ago, it seems perfectly reasonable that they would ask the simple question, is it real? It is certainly annoying to those who get the same type question over and over again, but it is probably just as annoying to the new buyer that the industry has chosen such a misleading means of labeling popular, contemporary instruments. Further, it is extremely unlikely that the novice could ever hope to distinguish a poorly kept 60 year old violin from one that is a better kept 200 year old instrument. If other, manufactured products were labeled and offered in a similar manner, there would be charges of fraud flying in all directions... but in the world of stringed, orchestra instruments, we instead point an arrogant finger of omniscience at the innocent and yell, "go ahead fool! There's one born every minute". Then, after years of stuffy conservatism and practiced alienation, we look around the music classrooms of the nation and wonder why we can't find enough kids to form a student orchestra... oh, thats right... they're all playing guitar and pointing fingers at the violinist shouting "geek" and "long-hair". It does at times make me glad my daughter avoided my own stringed passion and chose to play flute in the band. The arrogance levels are about 400% lower, 200% friendlier, and actually foster an environment that draws kids in. I personally play a "cheap" $1,800 violin that I'll put up against any of the so called masters that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. You know who can hear the difference or see the difference in craftsmanship? About 1 in every 50 million people on this planet, that's who. The vaster majority would say, "they both sound beautiful". I'd say the fool isn't the poor guy who wondered if a $600.00 ebay offering was real or at least, worth the $600.00 they were thinking of spending. I'd say it's the idiot that spent more on a 200 year old piece of dryed out maple and spruce than most families can afford for a house because he/she thought it had that "special flavor" in the upper registers! What a crock of self-righteous, arrogant, ****-and-bull. I'll tell you what a master luthier is.. it's someone like donuel that takes a $200.00 clunker, spends a few hours turning it into a very playable piece of art that he then offers on ebay for a cost commensurate with what the average player should be paying for an instrument, then spends a good part of his spare time answering reasonable questions by the novice and pro alike in a fun and illuminating manner. The good news is that there appears to be a lot of donuel's here and I applaud everyone of them. I further applaud the initial author of this thread for asking if the German offering on ebay was real, fake, worth the asking price or any other question. That the violin was of poor quality was worth mentioning. That the author should take any heat whatsoever for daring to ask before buying is deplorable. That the industry created the very question he asked by routinely labeling products in what is easily a manner misconstrued by the masses is only indicative of why so many refuse to give to the creative arts... we are sometimes far too "creative" in our means of generating income.

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