Is there something special with this violin?


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This violin appeared on Skinner's auction.

The estimate was $600-$800. However, it was sold for $16590.

What's special about this violin?

http://www.skinnerinc.com/asp/fullcatalogue.asp?salelot=2595B++++205+&refno=++938222ℑ=0

This is a case where the buyer had a higher level of expertise than the seller and the auction expert. Several people who saw and played this violin felt it was a Roth with an Italian label. The buyer knows what it is and it will likely be certified shortly with the best papers.

Jesse

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An alternative hypothosis would be that the buyer (and under bidder) thought that it was Italian as labeled, despite careful cataloging and would want too bite him/herself on his/her arse (US ass) if Jesse even suggested that it might be a Roth (which it doesn`t really remind me of).

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This is a case where the buyer had a higher level of expertise than the seller and the auction expert. Several people who saw and played this violin felt it was a Roth with an Italian label. The buyer knows what it is and it will likely be certified shortly with the best papers.

Jesse

Hello Jesse and thank you for your reply to Caspace. Are you able to tell us about this auction as to the attendance, prices and any thing else for those of us who were not able to attend? ot

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I would say it's definitely worth a good deal more than $6-800, probably worth a good deal less than $16590, definitely not an EH Roth! (IMHO)

The scroll is very interesting and not unlike a Messori I've looked at, but the model is pretty wacky ...

Messori copied a lot of instruments so who knows - don't think the label is on the right kind of paper, I remember it being more textured, slightly corrugated up and down.

Most likely a case of someone thinking they'd identified a "sleeper" and then getting narked when a rival bidder waded in.

After a second look at the pictures I think it could be genuine - the f-holes are a bit alarming but apart from that it's very clean and classy work. I await the scorn of Jacob and Lyndon with impatience ....

Jacob will tell us it's Markneukirchen!

If it had been a Roth (which it isn't) it would be worth well under $10,000 at auction, certainly in the UK an "interesting" EH Roth from the 1920s would sell for more like $7000.

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Probably a Pietro Messori ...!

Though to be frank that's pretty pricey for a Messori.

I never suggested that it was a Roth-just that others thought it looked like a Roth with an Italian label. I was at the auction, intended to bid on that lot (much, much less, although more than the estimate) and I have no doubt that the buyer knows just what he bought and that it will be certifiable as labeled.

The violin was rather heavily antiqued for an Italian violin. I think it may have been the original antiquing that might have thrown the auction expert.

Regarding the sale: lots of unsold lots, especially amongst the guitars and the higher priced lots. The Gagliano, the violin with the highest estimate in the sale and belongs to a Boston professional violinist, did not bring a bid. The buzz is about the genuine 17th century Andrea Guarneri (lot 68) bought for the paltry sum of $55,000 plus premium against an estimate of $15000-$25000. The buyer is one of the premier experts in the world on this type of thing. With his certificate it is worth $500,000. I feel badly for the consignor.....

Jesse

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Very interesting thread -- especially in terms of the meta data. What kind of fiduciary duty does an auction house have with regard to appraising instruments that go into its auctions? To have two items in one event be misdiagnosed seems like not a good thing....

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This violin wasn't mis-described. As Jacob said, they didn't know what it was so they described it with caution!

Different auction houses impose different standards on themselves, but as far as I know Tarisio is the only auctioneer who offers a guarantee of attribution. This is no mean feat considering the number and range of items that they offer. I believe Sothebys would stand by an attribution (stating that a violin is "by" a particular maker) and would make good if they got it wrong. Bonhams have almost entirely stopped giving firm attributions, and there's no guarantee. The others - you're on your own! Generally smaller auction houses use a dealer to identify and make attributions, which is a comically corrupt practice, abused massively on a regular basis .....

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I would expect that "cautious mistakes" by an auction in their descriptions will have two results. One, the top experts in the world are attracted to sales where there is a likelihood that good or great things are undervalued and can fall through the cracks. Two, consignors of good or great things are reticent about consigning to an auction where their good or great thing can be mis-appraised, undervalued or incorrectly described.

I think that the consignor of the Gagliano that went unsold was hurt badly by a high estimate, and would have been much better off not consigning at all to this auction. Now their valuable violin is tainted (forever search-able on the Internet), probably would not be accepted for consignment at other auctions who are aware of this result, and will be difficult to sell to any dealer who is aware of its failure to bring a bid at auction. Had the estimate been more attractive, it would have brought interest and bidding, and could possibly have reached at least the low end of the range. If the low estimate (often the reserve on a high priced lot) is higher than a buyer would pay, he simply dismisses the lot as a potential buy. In the six figure range, few buyers can afford to buy or bid on several lots, so they have to choose their targets carefully.

There were dozens of incorrect attributions and inaccurate valuations in this sale. Add the unsold lots to those that sold for a multiple of the estimate, and you get the full picture of the inaccuracies. Expertise is a rare and inexact science.

Jesse

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Was the estimate on the "guarneri" $15-25K as you stated or $150-250K as your last post implies?

The estimate on the Guarneri was $15K-25K and sold for $55,000 and the estimate for the Gagliano was $90-$120K and did not bring a bid. There were many other sales that were discordant from the estimates.

Jesse

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Very interesting thread -- especially in terms of the meta data. What kind of fiduciary duty does an auction house have with regard to appraising instruments that go into its auctions? To have two items in one event be misdiagnosed seems like not a good thing....

Hello Tommy; you pose a very interesting question as it is my understanding that most auction houses will only honor a refund of an instrument if they actually state it is by a certain maker and you can prove to them that it is a copy or a fake. However in the case of Skinners,it has been my observation and experience that they generally do not have a reserve for most of their instruments and almost always place the appraisals well under the real value. As a auction house, this has worked very well for them for many years now, as it always draws more interest and bids than if the instruments were to be appraised closer to true value. This is particularly true of the lower priced good German violins that are priced at 2 to 4 hundred dollars, or 3 to 5 hundered, or 4 to 6 hundred, that always seem to end up at well over $1000. Just one example, go back for say 5 years and check out the difference between the appraised auction price of a good early Roth and its final closing bid. They certainly know that an appraised price of 4 to 6 hundred, or 6 to 8 hundred will not be anywhere near the final bid of $2000 and higher. Finally, for an auction house, 1,2,or 3 "misdiagnosed" instruments is actually a good thing "for them." ot

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Sorry to disagree Jesse but I think an unsold lot is of little consequence. All the auction houses regularly fail to get takers, often for excellent instruments worth at least the estimate. These no-sales don't get recorded in the reports, and the violins crop up at the next sale and often do very well. For instance I had a few items which didn't sell at a Bromptons sale in December - they went into the March sale with the same estimates and did very well.

I put information on some unsold lots on my website, but I don't think anyone else does!

Auction houses are always trying to persuade consignors to drop the reserve and the estimate, it's good for business as Oldtimer says.

In cases where the violin isn't bought because there's a general perception that it's not as good as the description, generally the auction house relists it with a modified description (perhaps listing as "possibly Charles Harris" rather than "by Charles Harris"), drops the estimate, and everyone's happy.

I haven't studied Skinners but it seems like they operate a bit of a "cash in the attic" policy which doubtless gets a lot of players and amateur violin pundits in the room along with the experts. Also very good for business.

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I agree with much of what you say, Martin, about unsold lots. The only point I had tried to make regarding the unsold Gagliano, that as the marquis, highest-estimated item in the sale, it gets much notice, and when it fails to bring a bid, certainly taints the instrument and reduces its likelihood of selling in that estimated price range in the near future. I think that for middle range, run-of-the-mill things, the public memory is short-lived, and one auction failure will not effect future auctions.

I know the people who bought all of the instruments at Skinner discussed in this thread. They are Boston's leading experts. They will not likely bid on this particular Gagliano although they might possibly take it on consignment at a much reduced reserve. The fiddle had been offered to Tarisio previously, I believe, where it was given a lower estimate than Skinner. Skinner won the item due to their higher estimate.

On another note, I recall at the Christie's sale, when the Lady Tenant Strad was sold, there was another valuable violin sold that day for about $60,000 or so, that was described as "School of Amati". It had an estimate in the $8000-$10,000 range. When checking out at the cashier after the sale, I happened to stand behind the well-known and dapper English dealer who bought it (probably in partnership with 2 US dealers he had been seated with). I asked him about the "School of Amati" violin and who had made it, and he replied, "that violin is by the old man himself".

I have no doubt that the consignor (probably the widow of a player), was blissfully ignorant of the fact that she had sold a million dollar instrument for $60,000. She was probably delighted that the sale had fetched 6 times the auction estimate.

When things like this happen, I cannot help but recognize the possibility that a better description and more accurate estimate would have better served the consignor, and that a low estimate and inaccurate description aids the big dealers who have a monopoly on credible expertise.

When there is really big money left on the table in any poker game, I tend to suspect that it is shared amongst the players-and the dealer....

Jesse

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I agree with much of what you say, Martin, about unsold lots. The only point I had tried to make regarding the unsold Gagliano, that as the marquis, highest-estimated item in the sale, it gets much notice, and when it fails to bring a bid, certainly taints the instrument and reduces its likelihood of selling in that estimated price range in the near future. I think that for middle range, run-of-the-mill things, the public memory is short-lived, and one auction failure will not effect future auctions.

I know the people who bought all of the instruments at Skinner discussed in this thread. They are Boston's leading experts. They will not likely bid on this particular Gagliano although they might possibly take it on consignment at a much reduced reserve. The fiddle had been offered to Tarisio previously, I believe, where it was given a lower estimate than Skinner. Skinner won the item due to their higher estimate.

On another note, I recall at the Christie's sale, when the Lady Tenant Strad was sold, there was another valuable violin sold that day for about $60,000 or so, that was described as "School of Amati". It had an estimate in the $8000-$10,000 range. When checking out at the cashier after the sale, I happened to stand behind the well-known and dapper English dealer who bought it (probably in partnership with 2 US dealers he had been seated with). I asked him about the "School of Amati" violin and who had made it, and he replied, "that violin is by the old man himself".

I have no doubt that the consignor (probably the widow of a player), was blissfully ignorant of the fact that she had sold a million dollar instrument for $60,000. She was probably delighted that the sale had fetched 6 times the auction estimate.

When things like this happen, I cannot help but recognize the possibility that a better description and more accurate estimate would have better served the consignor, and that a low estimate and inaccurate description aids the big dealers who have a monopoly on credible expertise.

When there is really big money left on the table in any poker game, I tend to suspect that it is shared amongst the players-and the dealer....

Jesse

Hello Jesse and agree 100%. ot

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The "authentic Amati" for $60,000 was most likely something your dapper English dealer hoped might be an Amati - people always express great confidence when they've just risked $60,000 on something that might turn out to be a lemon! The idea that a genuine Amati would go un-noticed at an auction featuring a Stradivarius doesn't really hold up ....

If Tarisio had refused to take the Gagliano for a higher reserve they will have had good reason, and I wouldn't be too sorry for the consignor who went with Skinner's possibly unrealistic estimate.

Not trying to pick a fight with you Jesse (not much anyway), I just don't espouse the conspiracy theory. I'm sure dealers get together to plan a strategy, but if you've got an Amati sitting in front of you it's very hard to keep the price down, even if you think the dealers you're sitting with are friends!

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The "authentic Amati" for $60,000 was most likely something your dapper English dealer hoped might be an Amati - people always express great confidence when they've just risked $60,000 on something that might turn out to be a lemon! The idea that a genuine Amati would go un-noticed at an auction featuring a Stradivarius doesn't really hold up ....

If Tarisio had refused to take the Gagliano for a higher reserve they will have had good reason, and I wouldn't be too sorry for the consignor who went with Skinner's possibly unrealistic estimate.

Not trying to pick a fight with you Jesse (not much anyway), I just don't espouse the conspiracy theory. I'm sure dealers get together to plan a strategy, but if you've got an Amati sitting in front of you it's very hard to keep the price down, even if you think the dealers you're sitting with are friends!

How about if the dealers you are sitting with, and who have internationally recognized expertise, are your partners?

Jesse

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The "authentic Amati" for $60,000 was most likely something your dapper English dealer hoped might be an Amati - people always express great confidence when they've just risked $60,000 on something that might turn out to be a lemon! The idea that a genuine Amati would go un-noticed at an auction featuring a Stradivarius doesn't really hold up ....

If Tarisio had refused to take the Gagliano for a higher reserve they will have had good reason, and I wouldn't be too sorry for the consignor who went with Skinner's possibly unrealistic estimate.

Not trying to pick a fight with you Jesse (not much anyway), I just don't espouse the conspiracy theory. I'm sure dealers get together to plan a strategy, but if you've got an Amati sitting in front of you it's very hard to keep the price down, even if you think the dealers you're sitting with are friends!

Slightly OT, but as a counterpoint, there have been times where there have been significant sleepers that passed by even experts. I post the following link as an example of a very good detective/art scholarship story. FWIW I was at this sale when it came up in 1998.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/mystery-masterpiece.html

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