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Jean Baptiste COLIN


tarawa1943
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I have been pretty lucky with my ebay purchased is the past, but haven't seen anything that I really wanted lately. While surfing Ebay's fiddles a few days ago, I made an impulse buy on a real fixer upper. It is labeled "Lutherie Artistique Jean-Baptiste COLIN, annee" . I haven't received it yet, but I know that it needs a fingerboard. Any info on this maker? What is the chance that it is real or fake?

george

http://cgi.ebay.com/aw-cgi/eBayISAPI.dll?V...item=1475305566

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The pictures don't say much to me. The description of the label sounds like what I've seen on at least two occasions, except that both those violins had dates. I think one of them was about 1907 or so. Neither had that reddish varnish, for what it's worth.

In my opinion, again FWIW, violins with this label are nothing special. Unless there are *many* mislabeled ones around, of course. They look like Mirecourt work of no special distinction, yet I've seen them on dealer websites with prices in the thousands. The second one that I set up was not as nice as a JTL 'Medio Fino.'

Maybe someone can clear up the mystery of these violins. The immediate suspicion is that someone wanted to sell something with a name as similar as possible to Collin-Mezin without getting arrested.

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A violin by J-B Colin was sold by Bonham's sometime during the past year for 1550 pounds sterling.

As Mark_W says, the photos don't tell you much. I worked a "Colin" round about April this year - the date on the label was in the 1890's. I had to open it up to re-do a previously botched soundpost crack repair. The graduation of both back and belly was done as precisely and evenly as I've ever seen, although the belly was a bit stout in the centre. I've never seen something with such precise graduation coming out of a Mirecourt "factory" environment. The workmanskip inside and outside was of a high standard, and the quality of the soundboard wood especially was excellent - looked like picea excelsa to me (brownish-pink), fairly narrow grain, very even. The workmanship and style of the scroll equalled, perhaps even surpassed, that of the few Collin-Mezin instruments I've handled.

The measurements of the violin were standard, but the arching was very high, although so full that this wasn't immediately noticeble from a front-on view. Because of this (I think) the neck was set at a really acute angle, presumably to achieve a normal-looking bridge height. The high arching did not result in a "goat back" - my personal test for this is if the bridge resembles a paraplegic riding a bicycle. I find it quite hard to fit a bridge properly if the feet require a severe slope.

After the repairs the violin had a really nice sound with a woody, melancholy tone (I also re-set the neck, as the acute angle of the strings over the bridge in its original state stiffled the tone).

The colour was a reddish-brown - the ebay jpegs look more orange-red (at least on my monitor).

I could not then, or now, get any info on this maker other than the Bonham's listing - whether this is proof that a maker by that name actually existed I cannot say. I'm not sure anybody would want to fake such an obscure maker. The violin I've described, with its combination of good workmanship and individuality, could hardly be described as an average Mirecourt commercial article.

[This message has been edited by Jacob (edited 10-26-2001).]

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Now that this "English dealer" has come up, a word of warning.

He claims his instruments are professionally set up, etc.

I purchased a violin from him earlier in the year hoping it would be suitable for one of my students. When it arrived it was a bit of a shock. The fingerboard was too short, the neck crooked, the cheap "professionally fitted" bridge was so badly warped that I threw it in the fire, the pegs did not work,and within days, a badly reglued end block had come unglued along with a warped lower rib. At this point, I should have sentit back and I know that I showed very bad judgement in my next move but I thought it had potential.

I took it to my luthier (a 900 mile drive). He was very dubious about undertaking such major work but having gone this far, I decided to go ahead. I won't go into all the details, but $4600.00 (Can) later it is a decent instrument. I've given it to my student to use but I can't expect the family to pay this amount so the loss is all mine.

Just a word to the wise!

Ron

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The $4600 is for restoration alone (including provincial sales tax). The instrument itself cost $2000 which I thought was a bargain at the time of purchase assuming that it would be in pristine condition.

In general, I've had good luck in dealing with British dealers or craftspersons. In particular, I've purchased some wonderful bows from a marvellous bowmaker now located in London, Brian Tunnicliffe, a real artist and a lovely person.

Ron

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I bought my violin from West Country Violins and I absolutely love it. Admittedly the setup could have been better - the bridge was strangely shaped and I had to take it to my local luthier for a new one - but even with the cost of this, I was able to get a violin which I love for a much better price than I would have done elsewhere. This year, I also bought my bow from him which was in great condition and just rehaired, and also a very good price. I wouldn't hesitate to deal with him again. rcmacd, did you contact the Mr. Ward-Smith about the problems you had with the violin?

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No, I didn't contact him and I admit that I should have. I guess that I was embarrassed at having been taken in and the problems with the instrument were not all obvious at first. Now that I have had it restored, it is too late.

However, his claim that his instruments are professionally set up is clearly false. The new bridge and pegs on mine were the work of a not very competent amateur and the attempt to reglue end block and rib were very crude.

But I do accept that most of the blame is my own. I was seduced by an attractive price and a photo that showed a nicely figured back and attractive belly. I've been playing and teaching for almost 50 years so I should have known better.

Ron

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Hi Ron,

I would like to respond to your comments concerning the English violin by R.A.Stanley that you purchased from me in February at a cost of £737 including the shipping. As you would have seen from my web site ( www.westcountryviolins.com ) I have a full returns policy and, if you had returned the violin, I would have been more than happy to give you a refund!

The customer feedback posted on my web site bears testimony to the quality and also the value of my instruments. During January and February, I was subjected to several fraudulent purchases from Indonesia that nearly cost me my business. As a result I needed to have some restoration done elsewhere: this may have been the case with the Stanley violin, although, as I remember, all that was done to this instrument was basic setting up!

It is always hard to know just how much to do to a violin in this price range: a full overhaul is usually just not economical. It also seems that the cost of restoration in Canada is unusually high: indeed, I had a Canadian client who preferred to send his instrument to me rather than pay for restoration at home!

Violins by R.A.Stanley are by no stretch of the imagination fine instruments, they were always quite crudely constructed but usually with good tone.

Brian Ward-Smith

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To rcmacd,

I think you owe Brian Ward-Smith an apology. Just consider the following venom from your posts...

"Now that this "English dealer" has come up, a word of warning."

"When it arrived it was a bit of a shock."

"Just a word to the wise!"

"I thought was a bargain at the time of purchase assuming that it would be in

pristine condition."

"..at having been taken in"

"However, his claim that his instruments are professionally set up is clearly false."

Perhaps you do not care about what you say about others. If you had a problem why not just contact him? Why post such innuendo and accusations? I am sure you would be unhappy if someone discussed you in such terms. By the way, if you spent $4600 Canadian on repairs you might have a much bigger problem at that end.

I have bought three violins from Brian Ward-Smith. In the case of the second, I was unhappy with it and he gave me a complete refund. My experience with Brian has been completely satisfactory and I do not hesitate to recommend him based on my own experience.

[This message has been edited by Carl Vogel (edited 11-06-2001).]

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Sorry Mark W, but rcmacd is warning people to not do business with Brian Ward-Smith without any basis. This is unfair. Please re-read rcmacd's posts. Words like "been taken in" and "is clearly false" seem pretty nasty to me. Saying some of the fault is your own while slamming the other person does not excuse the negative comments.

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It sounds a lot to me like some differences of perception and description, which should certainly have been attempted to be dealt with privately, first. I suspect I'd be sympathetic to both individuals on certain points. This does point up the difficulties of buying something like a violin by mail, across borders--something I'd be reluctant to do myself unless I had lots of experience with, and trust of, the seller.

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I'm sorry Carl thinks my comments are venomous. It was not an issue I had intended to raise but I had been licking my wounds for months and when this dealer's name came up, I could not but report my own unhappy experience. But as I said, the fault is almost entirely my own--I should have sent the instrument back and that would have been the end of it. In failing to do so, I exercised very bad judgement followed by a series of bad judgements including not following my luthier's advice to send it back and not attempt restoration.

On the other hand my description of the violin is entirely truthful. I don't think it should have been sold in that condition and the apparently attractive price (737 pounds plus Canadian HST comes to just a few dollars short of $2000 Can.) turned out to be no bargain at all. The most serious problem was the misaligned neck, not to mention a fingerboard that was an inch too short. Then, of course when the endblock and lower rib came unglued revealing a nasty warp I knew I was in for trouble.

In case you're interested, restoration costs were as follows: opening and closing, $275, resetting neck, $675, new fingerboard, $450, new pegs, $60, fitting pegs, $95, regraduating, $800, shortening ribs, $500, bridge, $145, reshaping neck, $375, soundpost, $85, bassbar, $600, plus tax which totals over $4600 Can. Initially, of course my plan was to do much less than this but when the instrument was opened, problems mushroomed.

So to reiterate, the fault is largely my own. I'm sure Mr. Ward-Smith would have taken it back and I was foolish not to have taken advantage of his guarantee. On the other hand I don't think it should have been sold with a misaligned neck and short fingerboard, at least not without a warning to the purchaser. Also, the setup of the instrument could not have been considered professional by any stretch of the imagination. The bridge was poorly fitted and so badly warped that the violin was almost unplayable. Also the new but badly fitted pegs ceased to function in a couple of weeks.

I did not expect a fine instrument at the price but I was acting on behalf of an impecunious student and I hoped it would be physically sound, properly set up and have an acceptable tone. Unfortunately, this one failed on all three counts and foolishly, I promised my disappointed student that I would see if I could get it fixed up.

So my warning is a general one--don't repeat my foolish mistakes. It is not aimed at Mr. Ward-Smith. If an instrument is not satisfactory, send it back and if your luthier advises against repairs follow his advice.

Some day, remind me to tell you of my first big mistake when I was myself an impecunious student in the 1960's and scraped my pennies together to buy an alleged R.& A. Gagliano from the notorious Cyril Wood**** then of Brighton and probably remembered as editor of the Henley Dictionary.

Ron

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The problem I have with a restoration bill like this is that if one is intent on "correcting" every single part of an instrument to the way the repairman himself would have done it in the first place, then such a bill is infinite. Some "restorers" could justify a bill like this on virtually any violin they ever saw. Heck, if I took that attitude I'd just throw a lot of violins (oh, let's be truthful: most violins) in the trash and sell the customer one of mine!

The really smart restorer figures out what really needs to be done, and what doesn't, to keep the price of the job in proportion to the value of the instrument, and in this instance I'd say your restorer failed the test miserably. Since you haven't said who he was, I'll say that I think he saw you walk in the door carrying a basket of cash, and decided to get some of it for himself.

I see a number of things here which are purely elective surgery, and don't relate at all to the condition of the instrument as you received it. In particular, I question all of the repairs involving opening the instrument. I don't think I've yet seen a 100 year old margin bad enough to merit shortening the rib on a $2500 instrument. Reraduation? New bar?

The misaligned neck is an interesting case--a lot of violins sound fine as they are, with a theoretically incorrect neck. Since the neckset is purely tonal, if the violin sounds fine, then the neckset is fine. Since you had a major amount of other tonal work done, I still don't know if the neckset was bad, or if the repairman simply didn't like the way it looked, or worse yet, measured it differently from the way the person who originally did it measured, with one, both, or neither measuring method valid. If, however, you didn't like the sound of the violin, well, I'd say that's the major problem of buying tonal objects from a photo, and from the point you decided to keep it anyway, the problem, and the costs of correcting it, were entirely yours.

On the other hand, if your descriptions of bridge and pegs are accurate, that doesn't sound right, either. Given the possibly excessive amount of other work that was done, the necessity of a new fingerboard is an unknown.

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I think we can all appreciate the promptness and appropriateness of Brian's response, in contrast to the evasive, self-serving rubbish we've seen in the past when sellers were mentioned by name in this forum. I, personally, am reassured by it, and it is in keeping with his eBay reputation.

However, Carl, I don't feel that rcmacd intended venom in any of his statements, and he in no way implied that he had followed up with the dealer and failed to receive satisfaction. He conceded his error in not doing so.

Mark_W

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My Standpartner in the Dallas Opera plays on a Colin Cello. It's superb... just a marvelous cello, easy to play, responsive, with none of the typical whiny french sound.. It's worth much more then the prices other replies have mentioned. If this is a real Colin Violin, then for $178.00 I think you got a winner.. the problem is getting the work done. Most repairmen don't send time on major repairs, which is why you see a lot of wrecks at Skinners.

Regards

Philip

Cellopoet@aol.com

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I received the violin about two days ago. It is very light. Workmanship is very good. It has a one piece back that is cut on the slab. Varnish condition is very poor, which the seller stated on Ebay. So I will totally restore it. It also needs a few small edge repairs. The violin is dated 1904. The seller didn't mention that because it is so faint that you can barely see it. The violin is exactly what I expected and the $178.00 was well spent. It may just sit a while until I get a chance to restore it.

George

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Congratulations, George! Looks like you got a good deal. I should note that there was nothing wrong with the actual workmanship on either of the examples I saw. In fact, the quality of workmanship even on the cheapest Mirecourt violins is pretty consistent.

The Colin that sticks out in my mind is the second one. The varnish was pretty degraded for a less than 100 year old instrument, and I couldn't get sound out of it no matter what I did. Perhaps it needed a new bass bar, something I'd never tried yet at that time.

Mark_W

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This thread is getting a bit mixed up but replying to Michael above I agree when he says that from the moment I decided to keep the instrument in spite of not liking the tone, the problem and indeed, the fault, was entirely my own. I only caution others not to make the same series of mistakes that I did. Neither the seller nor the restorer are really at fault since I made all the bad decisions. The restorer urged me not to undertake the work but I stubbornly insisted.

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If anybody can remember what the original post was all about - congratulations!

However, responding to the one major side-issue concerning the instrument which underwent the $4,600 (Canadian) repair, I wish to express my admiration to all who participated, the main protagonists included, with respect to the reasonableness, civility, fairness, wisdom, generosity and eruditeness with which the discussion was conducted - Plato, Socrates, Solomon and all, eat your hearts out!

[This message has been edited by Jacob (edited 11-07-2001).]

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