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Expertise and all that......


Dr Watson
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Thought that the wonderful 'Rumour has it....' was slowing down so here is a new one to hopefully provoke a similarly lively discussion.

Themes being:

Is it ok for a new auction house to be so disparaging about well established ones? Attic rummagers etc

Is it ok to claim the best expertise based on a previous expert's reputation as a certificate writer?

Are claims of violins being almost 'completely risk free investments' ludicrous?

Is anyone impressed with a dealer who can recognise an instrument hanging up in their shop as a Guarneri copy (albeit with a hesitation)?

Are comments about  Chinese, Korean, Japanese etc musicians '..... excelling at the violin is a way of demonstrating that you've reached the West's level in cultural terms'...offensive and patronising?

Jamie at Amati apologised for unrivalled, the Beares advertising uses the identical word. 

Still no word as to who signs certificates?

 

Please help start a new thread, hopefully as good as the last one on this topic.

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Personally I'm not really up for another round of Beare baiting, a pastime which has been outlawed throughout Europe.

 

Your questions are of course rhetorical - we all know there's no law against being offensive, patronising, AND a violin dealer...

 

One thing I became aware of during the "Rumour Has It" thread was that pretty much everyone involved in the auction business, pretty much everyone involved to any extent now or formerly with Beares, and pretty much everyone in London and across the pond involved in writing certificates for fine instruments, was reading that thread. Many people who are very active and influential in the business got to hear of Maestronet for the first time and were surprised and interested by it.

 

However, these people aren't going to make a contribution under their own name if the issues are being discussed specifically in the context of a colleague's or rival dealer's business practice.

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Thanks for starting up a new thread, but please, can we keep it clean.

 

Like many people, I've been following the Rumour has it thread intently and I've been itching to join in at many times over the last few weeks but found it a bit too toxic for my taste even though "One who knows..", "Zorzi" and "Dr Watson" have frequently raised issues that benefit from a better airing.. Certainly in the real world the thread has inspired fruitful discussion amongst many in the trade and made us reflect on how we can do business and on what ethical decisions are necessary both in order to maintain trust and integrity with the people who buy from (and sell to) us, and how to pass that assurance on into the years ahead. I'm certainly up for engaging in these difficult questions if they are aired without prejudice.

 

I feel that the violin trade has done an enormous amount of damage to itself over the past decades, and musicians have good reason to distrust dealers. We (as a trade) are only going to win back the respect of our customers, and provide the high quality of service that we pledge, if we maintain a transparent code of ethics. Discuss?

 

[Edit: And thank you Martin, it looks like we took inspiration at exactly the same time - we seem to be asking the same questions.]

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Thanks for starting up a new thread, but please, can we keep it clean.

 

Like many people, I've been following the Rumour has it thread intently and I've been itching to join in at many times over the last few weeks but found it a bit too toxic for my taste even though "One who knows..", "Zorzi" and "Dr Watson" have frequently raised issues that benefit from a better airing.. Certainly in the real world the thread has inspired fruitful discussion amongst many in the trade and made us reflect on how we can do business and on what ethical decisions are necessary both in order to maintain trust and integrity with the people who buy from (and sell to) us, and how to pass that assurance on into the years ahead. I'm certainly up for engaging in these difficult questions if they are aired without prejudice.

 

I feel that the violin trade has done an enormous amount of damage to itself over the past decades, and musicians have good reason to distrust dealers. We (as a trade) are only going to win back the respect of our customers, and provide the high quality of service that we pledge, if we maintain a transparent code of ethics. Discuss?

 

[Edit: And thank you Martin, it looks like we took inspiration at exactly the same time - we seem to be asking the same questions.]

Point taken - let's keep this one a little more positive!

What are the transparent code of ethics that you have in mind? I think transparency can be a tricky thing. Obviously too little transparency and the possibility and ease of ripping off customers becomes too appealing for many, but I think a lot of players would want complete transparency, right up to declaring how much you bought something for etc, which can make business almost impossible.

I remember speaking to the head a London Auction house, who said they had on occasion had difficulty which old Cozio; they would take an instrument on PT, market it, only to find the potential customer has looked up the current owner and bought it less the commission.

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Point taken - let's keep this one a little more positive!

What are the transparent code of ethics that you have in mind? I think transparency can be a tricky thing. Obviously too little transparency and the possibility and ease of ripping off customers becomes too appealing for many, but I think a lot of players would want complete transparency, right up to declaring how much you bought something for etc, which can make business almost impossible.

I remember speaking to the head a London Auction house, who said they had on occasion had difficulty which old Cozio; they would take an instrument on PT, market it, only to find the potential customer has looked up the current owner and bought it less the commission.

Zorzi.

 

I don't understand how an auction house could run into such trouble. After all the item would be bought based on the highest bid. Unless the consigner in this case pulled the violin from the auction and sold it privately ? Even then, I would still guess that there are contractual terms which protect the auction house from consigners pulling items once a committment has been made.

 

Can you provide more details about this particular incident ?

 

Regarding Cozio as the entity it used to be I have also wondered what the ramifications of Tarisio now owning and running it might be.

 

r.

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Rick,

I don't know what this particular incident was, but Bromptons fell foul of a very serious set of affairs over the consignment of some Tourte bows that once belonged to Menuhin. In brief, after they had appraised them and made gone to some efforts to market them, the vendor was motivated to find another route for sale. Woefully for Bromptons, they asserted their moral and legal right to be compensated for a deal under their contract. When the private agreement between the vendor and the third-party agent, one Christa Morneweg resulted in theft, the vendor, having no recourse against the agent, applied an opportunistic interpretation of the law in order to seek compensation from Bromptons. I think this is the only time in my life I have ever felt genuinely sympathetic to Bromptons. This was discussed at the time

http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/327456-violinist-sues-auctioneer-over-sale-of-bows/

As for Cozio, I am reliably informed that the new version does not list current owners because of noxious problems that have been persistent especially in the US and especially by families who court celebrity status.

http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/330931-and-it-happened/

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Thought that the wonderful 'Rumour has it....' was slowing down so here is a new one to hopefully provoke a similarly lively discussion.

Themes being:

Is it ok for a new auction house to be so disparaging about well established ones? Attic rummagers etc

Is it ok to claim the best expertise based on a previous expert's reputation as a certificate writer?

Are claims of violins being almost 'completely risk free investments' ludicrous?

Is anyone impressed with a dealer who can recognise an instrument hanging up in their shop as a Guarneri copy (albeit with a hesitation)?

Are comments about  Chinese, Korean, Japanese etc musicians '..... excelling at the violin is a way of demonstrating that you've reached the West's level in cultural terms'...offensive and patronising?

Jamie at Amati apologised for unrivalled, the Beares advertising uses the identical word. 

Still no word as to who signs certificates?

 

Please help start a new thread, hopefully as good as the last one on this topic.

 

Dr. Watson,

Your questions scream for a defense of the company you seem bent on bringing down! 

 

Attic rumagers - this is not disparaging as you suggest and it is doubtful that representatives of major auction houses have spent any time rummaging about dusty attics.  RH was merely illustrating, perhaps a bit clumsily, that the Beares auction would cater to more discerning buyers and sellers.

 

Expertise - Mr. Morris has adequately defended his standing as an internationally regarded expert in his field.  Sixteen years under the constant tutelage of has given him enough knowledge to move forward with confidence as he leads his company  to new heights.

 

Violins as investments - a disclaimer should have been included. 

 

Recognising a violin hanging up in their shop - not impressed but we were not present during the interview. 

 

excelling at the violin is a way of demonstrating that you've reached the West's level in cultural terms' - yes, the comment is despicable but until Mr. Morris clarifies this situation, I refuse to believe the words were spoken by him.

 

Mr. Morris considers the word "unrivalled" to be appropriate.  Is there any rival to the Beares in terms of expertise, vision, business drive, implementation, and success?

 

Is not Mr. Morris signing the certificates; was this not mentioned in an earlier post?  With the expertise he has garnered over the years, one cannot imagine anyone else signing the certificates.

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Zorzi.

I don't understand how an auction house could run into such trouble. After all the item would be bought based on the highest bid. Unless the consigner in this case pulled the violin from the auction and sold it privately ? Even then, I would still guess that there are contractual terms which protect the auction house from consigners pulling items once a committment has been made.

Can you provide more details about this particular incident ?

Regarding Cozio as the entity it used to be I have also wondered what the ramifications of Tarisio now owning and running it might be.

r.

Sorry, perhaps I wasn't clear. The item was taken by the auction house as a private sale item - something they wouldn't sell at auction. PT stands for Private Treaty.

It was a different occasion I was thinking of, and it wasn't at Bromptons. But evidently it was a wide spread problem.

Certainly the gentleman I spoke to praised Jason for buying Cozio!

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Ben and Zorzi.

 

In both cases it seems that the item was for private sale by an auction house. I assume that this practice is a fairly common one. So then in both of the cases you have cited it was not an item up for auction where there are bidders involved.

 

So let's call it private sales and then let's look at that in regards to the ongoing debate.

 

If I was to approach an auction house or a dealer for a private sale of an instrument that I was interested in buying, would I have the ability to request to know the present owner of the instrument ? If not then we already have a lack of transparency. However, if I received the information from the dealer, auctioneer, website listings etc. and decided to approach the owner directly in order to make my purchase, what would I be doing that is morally wrong ? I think as the buyer I am within my rights to purchase from whomever I choose.

 

However, if the owner of the instrument decided to sell to me despite his/her agreement with an intermediary business that he had placed the instrument for sale with then I would find that not only a bit slimy but I would imagine the intermediary business would take legal action. Assuming that they had asked for a contract to be signed by the owner of the instrument binding him to only sell through the business for a certain period of time etc. In this contract I would also hope that the business would also cover themselves in any other ways that might prevent them from spending time and money where no sale will result inside of their walls.

 

All that having been said, I guess that I don't really see how these two incidents have much bearing on the present debate.

 

My feeling about the ongoing debate is that there are certain people who would like to see " transparency" in the violin business and then there are those that seem directly offended by a company continuing to operate under a brand name which they feel has lost it's integrity.

 

To those who wish for transparency I would say that is a great idea, but when can one know that this transparency is actually 100 percent ? How could it possibly be regulated ? Wouldn't we just end up back at square one which is simply having to trust that there are good practices in a business we might wish to get involved with ? Also as I said in another post, "transparency" to me is about as reliable a term as words like "green" "organic" etc which are meant to hold up to certain standards but there are loopholes in these definitions and companies will always find ways around them.

 

To those who are upset with a brand whose integrity they are questioning I would have to say that this happens all the time. Companies are bought and sold, levels of quality go up and more often down as a result. Widely differing qualities can be found from the same company at various price points with exactly the same brand emblazoned on them. If the present brass at Beares are not to one's liking then I would suggest finding a business where that trust can be found. I don't think that it will do Beares well to ignore the feelings of others, but in my opinion it is really only their "business" how they handle things.

 

A while ago I bought a Cuisinart for what I thought was a good price. After a few months the metal chopping blade broke while making hummus leaving a tiny shard of metal that I fortunately found in my mouth before swallowing it. It could have gone into my 2 year olds mouth instead and who knows what might have happened ? I checked online to see if there were similar problems or if this was just a freak accident. There were others who had complained of the same thing and the response from the company was to ship the blade back at the buyers costs and they would replace the blade. Highly surprising considering the danger involved. There has never been any recall to this day !

 

As a result my opinion of Cuisinart, which used to have a very solid reputation, has taken a serious nose dive. I would think twice before ever purchasing anything with their name on it again. I could tell the same tale many times over, as I am certain anyone who is reading this could as well, substituting one brand name for another and the various details for other details. The point is a company is only as good as its reputation.

 

So this is why I was speaking about doing the homework. I believe that this is the only way that I can justify doing business with anyone other than just good old fashioned gut instinct. I practice both methods but my gut doesn't get to make decisions where the price tag is extremely high. That takes the stomach of a seasoned gambler !

 

I think that it is a good thing to call people out when they are pursuing practices which may be considered dishonest or morally questionable. I don't personally have enough information about Beares to criticize their business. It seems that there is no shortage of scathing opinions here about their practices but this is a forum on the web and there is a great deal of anonymity.

 

Perhaps one of the brass will step forward and clarify, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

 

Meanwhile I think it would be most productive to discuss the problems of violin sales and all of the rumour and shrouded smokey mirror mystery that can surround it without having to point the finger constantly in one direction.

 

We live in a world where there is less and less acountability. I find this very troublesome, but I think that in order to fix this problem one has to start by correcting this within one's own self first. If everybody in the world took responsibility for everything they did it would be a pretty nice place to hang out.

 

Sorry for the tome !

 

Cheers.

 

r.

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Ben and Zorzi.

 

In both cases it seems that the item was for private sale by an auction house. I assume that this practice is a fairly common one. So then in both of the cases you have cited it was not an item up for auction where there are bidders involved.

 

So let's call it private sales and then let's look at that in regards to the ongoing debate.

 

1:    If I was to approach an auction house or a dealer for a private sale of an instrument that I was interested in buying, would I have the ability to request to know the present owner of the instrument ? If not then we already have a lack of transparency. However, if I received the information from the dealer, auctioneer, website listings etc. and decided to approach the owner directly in order to make my purchase, what would I be doing that is morally wrong ? I think as the buyer I am within my rights to purchase from whomever I choose.

 

However, if the owner of the instrument decided to sell to me despite his/her agreement with an intermediary business that he had placed the instrument for sale with then I would find that not only a bit slimy but I would imagine the intermediary business would take legal action. Assuming that they had asked for a contract to be signed by the owner of the instrument binding him to only sell through the business for a certain period of time etc. In this contract I would also hope that the business would also cover themselves in any other ways that might prevent them from spending time and money where no sale will result inside of their walls.

 

2:     All that having been said, I guess that I don't really see how these two incidents have much bearing on the present debate.

 

My feeling about the ongoing debate is that there are certain people who would like to see " transparency" in the violin business and then there are those that seem directly offended by a company continuing to operate under a brand name which they feel has lost it's integrity.

To those who wish for transparency I would say that is a great idea, but when can one know that this transparency is actually 100 percent ? How could it possibly be regulated ? Wouldn't we just end up back at square one which is simply having to trust that there are good practices in a business we might wish to get involved with ?

 

3:    Also as I said in another post, "transparency" to me is about as reliable a term as words like "green" "organic" etc which are meant to hold up to certain standards but there are loopholes in these definitions and companies will always find ways around them.

 

To those who are upset with a brand whose integrity they are questioning I would have to say that this happens all the time. Companies are bought and sold, levels of quality go up and more often down as a result. Widely differing qualities can be found from the same company at various price points with exactly the same brand emblazoned on them. If the present brass at Beares are not to one's liking then I would suggest finding a business where that trust can be found. I don't think that it will do Beares well to ignore the feelings of others, but in my opinion it is really only their "business" how they handle things.

 

4:    A while ago I bought a Cuisinart for what I thought was a good price. After a few months the metal chopping blade broke while making hummus leaving a tiny shard of metal that I fortunately found in my mouth before swallowing it. It could have gone into my 2 year olds mouth instead and who knows what might have happened ? I checked online to see if there were similar problems or if this was just a freak accident. There were others who had complained of the same thing and the response from the company was to ship the blade back at the buyers costs and they would replace the blade. Highly surprising considering the danger involved. There has never been any recall to this day !

 

As a result my opinion of Cuisinart, which used to have a very solid reputation, has taken a serious nose dive. I would think twice before ever purchasing anything with their name on it again. I could tell the same tale many times over, as I am certain anyone who is reading this could as well, substituting one brand name for another and the various details for other details. The point is a company is only as good as its reputation.

 

So this is why I was speaking about doing the homework. I believe that this is the only way that I can justify doing business with anyone other than just good old fashioned gut instinct. I practice both methods but my gut doesn't get to make decisions where the price tag is extremely high. That takes the stomach of a seasoned gambler !

 

5:    I think that it is a good thing to call people out when they are pursuing practices which may be considered dishonest or morally questionable. I don't personally have enough information about Beares to criticize their business. It seems that there is no shortage of scathing opinions here about their practices but this is a forum on the web and there is a great deal of anonymity.

 

Perhaps one of the brass will step forward and clarify, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

 

Meanwhile I think it would be most productive to discuss the problems of violin sales and all of the rumour and shrouded smokey mirror mystery that can surround it without having to point the finger constantly in one direction.

 

We live in a world where there is less and less acountability. I find this very troublesome, but I think that in order to fix this problem one has to start by correcting this within one's own self first. If everybody in the world took responsibility for everything they did it would be a pretty nice place to hang out.

 

Sorry for the tome !

 

Cheers.

 

r.

 

 

Hi Rick,

 

I've added some bold and numbers to your post above in order to reply most effectively.

 

1: I take your point; as a buyer you do have a right to shop wherever you choose, but I would argue that if every dealer was so transparent as to divulge who the seller is, then all dealers would go out of business. When you are talking about these huge sums of money, most people will try and cut costs.

 

The reason why the buyer will have seen the instrument is because a dealer will have sourced it, researched it, very possibly showed it to some other dealers for second opinions and then (and only then) decided to market it. I believe he or she deserves a cut of the profits because of this. Would the instrument seem as appealing if it didn't have a big name representing it? I don't think so. What ever the answer, it would certainly make for a much more confusing world for the buyer.

 

2: On the contrary, I think these two incidents are terribly interesting because they show that in certain cases, 100% transparency doesn't work. And transparency (or lack of) was what made the other thread so contentious and inflammatory.

 

3: I agree that so many people using the word has made it slightly meaningless, but I'm not sure of another word that works. Feel free to suggest. At least everyone here knows what it means.

 

4: Agreed, so don't buy their products anymore, but when we are talking about someones life savings, I personally would expect more from the company/seller. A lot of the horror stories about various dealers are not written up by the times but are well known amongst people in the know. If you are out of the loop and looking to spend several million, you could "do your homework" but still make a grievous error in choosing someone who will screw you over.

 

5: Neither Ben or I had mentioned Beares - I think we were both talking fairly generally (I certainly was).

 

 

I hope this all makes sense. I've tried to order my thoughts as well as possible!

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Zorzi.

 

Sorry to both you and Ben if I wrote my post in such a way as to accuse either of you pointing fingers at Beares. That was a final comment and meant as a general sentiment. I addressed the post to you both only on the topic of private sales at auction houses. I don't expect either of you to buy me a new Cuisinart either.

 

I will try to be equally orderly and clear in my reponse as you were in yours.

 

Hi Rick,

 

I've added some bold and numbers to your post above in order to reply most effectively.

 

1: I take your point; as a buyer you do have a right to shop wherever you choose, but I would argue that if every dealer was so transparent as to divulge who the seller is, then all dealers would go out of business. When you are talking about these huge sums of money, most people will try and cut costs.

 

The reason why the buyer will have seen the instrument is because a dealer will have sourced it, researched it, very possibly showed it to some other dealers for second opinions and then (and only then) decided to market it. I believe he or she deserves a cut of the profits because of this. Would the instrument seem as appealing if it didn't have a big name representing it? I don't think so. What ever the answer, it would certainly make for a much more confusing world for the buyer.

 

 

Regarding your point #1: If dealers will go out of business simply by revealing the ID of owners I see a real problem here regarding acheiving transparency. If there are certain times when transparency is applicable and other times when it is not if it suits either dealer or buyer then the whole thing breaks down. Particularily when the situation you describe involves large amounts of money. This should never be a reason for allowing a dealers "opacity". If the reason for this allowance would be because of the possibility of losing the right to a sale (of any amount), then a system needs to be established which holds a seller to the intermediary. That being said, don't instrument dealers have standard contracts where a seller is bound to certain temporal and financial agreements ?

I would be very surprised to learn that it is all just done via a handshake. Maybe once upon a time ?

 

 


2: On the contrary, I think these two incidents are terribly interesting because they show that in certain cases, 100% transparency doesn't work. And transparency (or lack of) was what made the other thread so contentious and inflammatory.

 

3: I agree that so many people using the word has made it slightly meaningless, but I'm not sure of another word that works. Feel free to suggest. At least everyone here knows what it means.

 

 

Regarding # 2:  I can see how they relate regarding to the concept of tranparency and I suppose that is at the heart of this discussion.

 

Regarding #3: I doubt that I could coin any word that wouldn't be as corruptible as another. I like the sentiment behind the word though.

 

 

4: Agreed, so don't buy their products anymore, but when we are talking about someones life savings, I personally would expect more from the company/seller. A lot of the horror stories about various dealers are not written up by the times but are well known amongst people in the know. If you are out of the loop and looking to spend several million, you could "do your homework" but still make a grievous error in choosing someone who will screw you over.

 

5: Neither Ben or I had mentioned Beares - I think we were both talking fairly generally (I certainly was).

 

 

I hope this all makes sense. I've tried to order my thoughts as well as possible!

 

Regarding #4: Life savings and a life are in my opinion not even comparable. If a company sells things that ruins or are dangerous to a persons health I feel that to be a greater sin than one who swindles money. Especially because money is replaceable and in a lot of cases when "big" money is in play there have been many shadinesses involved to acquire such wealth. So in short, I expect proper dealing from any company regardless of their business model.

 

If the horror stories that you mention are private and have avoided being revealed and there are only certain people in the know who are aware of them then I say ask those people as a part of your homework. If you are out of the loop and looking to spend several million dollars then you are a fool not to be extremely cautious ! Regarding people who screw other people over that gets more to the heart of the matter. Those people should be revealed and held accountable for their actions.

 

When the buyer is an "investor" purely for the sake of investment, then of course they may not have much knowledge of violins or art or whatever medium their financial advisor is currently suggesting them to invest in. In this case I think that trust becomes most necesary, but often the promise of money increases the trust one puts in others. Con men have known this for years and it is fundamental to their art. (BTW I am in no way suggesting any one in particular in the business is a con artist.)

 

 

These are my thoughts. I certainly don't feel that this discussion is a waste of time and I look forward to contributing my thoughts and reading those of others.

 

Cheers.

 

r.

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Getting late now so will reply properly another time.

Just quickly wanted to say that I was stupid about point 4. I'd forgotten that you'd mentioned that it was life threatening. I was thinking of the Fight Club scene where the main character explains how company's do big recals: they look into how much it would cost to do a full recall and then compare that to the cost of the lawsuits if they don't. Then they go with the cheaper option regardless of anything else.

It's different with violins however as in many cases, you can't just google to see if anyone else has had problems.

My initial argument on this point was tenuous, what I've written above is little better.

It's interesting however to see how the Rumor Has It thread has evolved. You say that people should just go ahead and write bad experiences up, but I can see a lot of fear in doing so demonstrated on that thread. Certainly fear in doing so in ones own name.

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Rick,

I am truly sorry to say so, but you've fired off so many questions and issues at one time that I think it is impossible to give any one of them a fair answer or debate. There are some very good points that you have made, and some things that I profoundly - but respectfully disagree with. Keep it simple and I may have a chance in joining in.

I think Zorzi has accurately responded to your criticisms of my earlier post. I'm happy to discuss the difference between being transparent and being "generous" with information.

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Hear, hear, Mr. Hebbert!  Maestronet could do with a word limit or at least suggest a limit to the number of points made within a single post.

Dear sir or madam...

 

Sometimes a person writes long posts because they feel that they have much to say. I should point out that I apologized at the end of that particular post.

 

It is unfortunate that Ben doesn't have the time to fully consider or respond to my post. I had in no way expected a point by point review from him or anyone for that matter.

 

I have read many rather long posts by many members here over the years that I have been a member. When I find it too much I simply put the computer away or skip the post.

 

If you would like to impose a word limit I suggest that you contact the moderator and state your case. Then once implemented when one of us is interrupted mid sentence by your brilliant suggestion we can finish our thoughts in the next post.

 

Sincerely.

 

Rick Hyslop

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Rick,

I am truly sorry to say so, but you've fired off so many questions and issues at one time that I think it is impossible to give any one of them a fair answer or debate. There are some very good points that you have made, and some things that I profoundly - but respectfully disagree with. Keep it simple and I may have a chance in joining in.

I think Zorzi has accurately responded to your criticisms of my earlier post. I'm happy to discuss the difference between being transparent and being "generous" with information.

Ben.

 

I try to be succinct with my posts but sometimes I suppose it is possible to get carried away ! I realize that I had addressed you so I am sorry that I put you in the position of making a reply to such a lengthy post.

 

Cheers.

 

r.

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Has anyone read the interesting article written by Ivan Hewitt about the musical instrument market (mainly featuring the Beare online auction)?  Daily Telegraph 7th November.

During the interview, Simon Morris (a director of J&A Beare Ltd) states that ‘in general, auctions are clearing houses’, and that his own company Beare’s doesn’t wish to follow this route.   Some readers might find this a peculiar remark given the strong rumours that a good proportion of their inaugural auction was their own stock, which apparently needed to be… cleared?  If this is a false rumour I am sure Simon will disprove this with a clear breakdown ratio of private vendor to Beare stock?

Asked by Hewitt if he ever gets an appraisal wrong?  He firmly answers no, though he does admit that it may take him a second look to get it right.  Perhaps he might rename himself Simon Modest?  Simon Morris further states that buying an instrument is ‘almost a risk free investment’ and tells Hewitt that they certify every instrument sold by them.  This reads very well, until you realise that without the hand of Charles Beare (who left J&A Beare two years ago) actually signing the all important certificate, the validity of such a document might be seen as a ‘Charles Beare-lite’ version? Simon signs the certificates now, but despite this, it must be reassuring to his investors that he never gets it wrong…  

 

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I don't believe the issue is transparency, rather it is one of ethics. And one of the oldest ethical questions is that of value. We don't value violins for and of themselves as much as we value them for their geographical origin, age, and attribution. We believe that more money = better instrument. Many musicians think along these lines as well. The last thing most dealers care about is playability and tone when determining price. We live in a system where a few words on a certificate can change the cost of an instrument by tens of thousands. This system is ripe for abuse. Violin values are seen as ever increasing - the bubble never pops. The push to definitively identify every last mysterious ancient fiddle is so pervasive because one can charge so much more for specificity, even if it is spurious. Musicians buy into this mentality as well - they are suspicious of an anonymous old fiddle that plays and sound fantastic and seems too fairly priced. Do they really need a Cremonese violin to saw away back in the section of a major orchestra? Probably not. But we live in an era where we are judged not by the value of our characters, but by the cost of the things we own.

There is no doubt that certain instruments are rare and unique treasures that must be preserved and valued accordingly, but as long as we place so much emphasis on provenance over function, there will be corruption and bad practices. There is just too much money to be made.

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What Eric is saying is unfortunately very true. I'm constantly annoyed that whenever I see a violinist trying out a fiddle or bow, the first question they ask, often before they've even tried one note, is "what is it?" Most, of course, have only a vague idea of makers and schools, but the identifiable "brand" factor out-weighs everything else. I fear it's really a two-way street: buyers can be "suckers" for a name on a fiddle or bow as much as sellers can be "abusers."  

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The completely mind boggling dynamics of provenance and function that reign in the trading world of old instruments, particularly the violin family and the cultural, romantic, artistic and musical values that we accordingly ascribe to them, is incredibly unique. I suspect that this is the reason that most of us are spending portions of our all too finite spans on Earth- here, right now. The Viol business is not quite like any other, including the orbits of other musical instruments., The appreciation of this realm  was set over 300 years ago and the financial, functional, and aural value bar is, and always will be, set then and there.   

ps. I guess that one should never say always. ;) 

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With all due respect, Mr. Swanson, you have written a load of gibberish. Let’s start at the end of your post. The problem is not as you have stated but rather that sufficient emphasis has not been placed on provenance. As a collector of fine instruments, provenance of the right sort has always been the starting point in any purchase I have made. For this reason, I have been much “luckier” than many I have met who did not place enough importance on provenance. 

 

A very fine expert/dealer once explained to me that playability and tone are subjective, and so it was his job to value an instrument based on who made it, the quality of the example relative to others of the same maker, and the state of preservation/condition of the instrument.

 

More than one personal experience convinces me that violins (well certified ones) are pretty accurately priced according to their tonal qualities. On more than one occasion during the purchase process I have asked well qualified musicians to offer their advice.  Amazingly without fail, without knowing what they were hearing they have ranked the instruments absolutely spot-on, top to bottom according to price.

 

Finally, what an insult you lob at symphony violinists. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to gain a spot in a major symphony orchestra?  But since you mentioned it, hearing a major orchestra section full of fine Cremonese instruments would be positively magical!

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I don't believe the issue is transparency, rather it is one of ethics. And one of the oldest ethical questions is that of value. We don't value violins for and of themselves as much as we value them for their geographical origin, age, and attribution. We believe that more money = better instrument. Many musicians think along these lines as well. The last thing most dealers care about is playability and tone when determining price. We live in a system where a few words on a certificate can change the cost of an instrument by tens of thousands. This system is ripe for abuse. Violin values are seen as ever increasing - the bubble never pops. The push to definitively identify every last mysterious ancient fiddle is so pervasive because one can charge so much more for specificity, even if it is spurious. Musicians buy into this mentality as well - they are suspicious of an anonymous old fiddle that plays and sound fantastic and seems too fairly priced. Do they really need a Cremonese violin to saw away back in the section of a major orchestra? Probably not. But we live in an era where we are judged not by the value of our characters, but by the cost of the things we own.

There is no doubt that certain instruments are rare and unique treasures that must be preserved and valued accordingly, but as long as we place so much emphasis on provenance over function, there will be corruption and bad practices. There is just too much money to be made.

 

I find your post profoundly inappropriate and your only excuse might be that your navigational array has malfunctioned : you are in La La Land now and should adjust your prose accordingly or suffer consequences : whatever you say will be labeled "gibberish" . 

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