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Pragmatic Pricing of 'Used' Instruments


Rue
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In another thread...on another forum... there is a question about selling a violin. :rolleyes:

I wanted to keep this thread vague and general...but to try and get a more concrete (if possible) response about the pricing of 'used' but new/newer instruments (and not those of antique or historical significance)...let's use concrete examples:


1. The first question is about a Henry Meissner (or Fred Meissner) violin. Purchase price was $5000. Appraisal price was $15000. Hoping to get $10000-12000 for it.

Now...is this level of violin really worth 3X it's purchase cost? And why is it not worth 'used' prices. Why is it not worth $2500 for example?

2, Another violin was for sale for was a "Modern 'Soil' Stradivarius" copy (I am assuming a Chinese made copy). The seller paid $1300 for it...and was asking $2000.  Why does the seller think it is worth more than he paid for it?

3. A third example: An Eastman Ivan Dunov model. Purchased for $1200...and one year after purchase was told it was only worth $600-800 since it was 'used'. Now why was this example immediately discounted...while the other two examples are inflated?

 

 

 

 

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1.  Regarding the appraised value:  I think that one thing an appraiser does when appraising a violin by a current maker is to contact the maker and ask how much he or she is currently charging for a new one.  I don't know if your "Meissner" is a real or a hypothetical maker, but I can imagine a good young contemporary maker who has recently won a prize or two at makers' competitions.  This would increase his or her reputation so that now he or she is able to charge a lot more for his or her new violins than he or she could a few years ago.  And this would increase the value of a violin that he or she made a few years ago, because if you wanted to replace it you would have to buy one at his or her current price for a new instrument.

 

2.  He has heard, perhaps from the dealer he bought the violin from, that violins are a good investment.  He can ask whatever he wants.  That doesn't mean he will get it.

 

3.  This is a commercially mass-produced instrument.  The local music store has a dozen of them hanging on the wall all priced at $1200.  My child decided to stop taking lessons and now I want to sell his or her Dunov.  I have to ask a lot less than the store is charging if I want to get rid of it.  Why would anyone pay me $1200 when, for the same price, he or she could go to the store and select the best-sounding one from the dozen, and then bring it back to the store for help when the bridge falls down or a string breaks? 

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Supply and demand is at work here.  There is no shortage of supply of Eastman violins at any price point.  (I have had trouble getting rid of a $200 violin before.)  So if you hope to sell your violin at a price point higher than purchased, first, you need to make sure that copies the model is be rare (or out of production) and second, it has to sound very good for the price.

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From where I sit, surrounded by rubbish, as nearly as I can tell, it works out as follows:

 

  1. Fine violins (which seldom find their way to my hovel) include most Italian of whatever vintage, certain antique non-Italian "name" makers such as Stainer, Vuillaume, and a hundred or so others, and certain modern makers with established reputations such as infest the hallowed halls of MN when we're lucky.  All of these sell for at least several thousand dollars and up, and all of them appreciate in value.
  2. Antique violins are over 100 years old, not made in Italy or by a "name" maker, and, though they may be "trade" fiddles, are usually of sufficient obvious hand crafted quality to offer some hope of sounding up to professional standards when professionally repaired and set up.  When in proper trim, these will sell for several hundred to a few thousand dollars, and will at least hold their value against inflation.
  3. Vintage fiddles are a very mixed bag.  Quality and quantity produced in Europe largely went to crap following WW 1 for multiple reasons already covered in other threads, and WW 2 pretty much slammed down the coffin lid until various crafts revivals from roughly the 1970's on restored the industry there to what we see today.  There are a handful of exceptions such as Roth which may keep a respectable value or appreciate, but most of what has been factory produced since WW 2 simply becomes a "used student violin" with the market viability of a used Fiat.  Even I don't deal in these.  I group most (NB : not all) numbered factory/distributor labeled stuff here regardless of origin.  What it all has in common is that it generally won't sell for more than cost if repaired.  Mostly it won't sound good either and isn't yet worth regraduating.
  4. Modern other than fine or factory labeled (mostly Chinese and Eastern European in origin) is an evolving market about which I do not yet have a firm opinion to offer, but I only dabble in the higher end of it, and then usually only by accident.  There are many bargains here, sound wise, but it's a continuing crapshoot.

All of this is simply "my humble opinion", but I hope it gives some areas to discuss.  :)

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Appraisal is a tricky thing to get caught up in. There are many different kinds. As for the Meissner. since Henry is dead, you can't really call him up and ask for a fair replacement value. You could call Fred...

 

I was asked to appraise a violin and found the maker and just called him. He doesn't make fiddles any more, but said, "Well, if I were to make one for them, I would charge...". Is that replacement value? I was much more than the violin would have, in my opinion, sold for.

 

I don't think that the lower grade Chinese instruments will ever appreciate, nor do I think that a Dunov will. A "Fine" instrument will, but only to the degree that the opinions that one has secured remain in vogue-think the early Strad that the Dextra Foundation purchased, only to have it downgraded to, I think, H. Amati-not to mention wear and tear, or the occasional oopsie that occurs.

 

Lots of different kinds of documentation of value. In reality, it's worth what someone will pay for it, regardless of the appraised value.

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Thanks everyone!  :)  And this is why I can't be a business person.  <_<

 

I supposed I'd price the first around $6-7,000 - unless those violins are worth a lot more and having a waiting list for them...the 2nd at $700-900 (total unknown, but still just 'used') and finally the Eastman at $800 - 1000 precisely because it has a decent reputation  - even if it is used and therefore instantly devalued because they are readily available. 

 

I don't  know that we can factor 'played in' as a tangible price increase?  Or can we?

 

And of course...that is just on the face of it.  Sound quality would factor in...condition...etc.

 

These all are at the price points that I'm interested in...better 'beginner' to advancing violins for older/adult students and amateurs....

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:) Hopefully "vague and general" enough:

 

As a general rule, since the public is so understandably ignorant about violins, the local shop or local expert is a huge benefit in helping them out.  So it is crucial that he or she stay viable.  (IMO, this would apply to an honest dealer on e-bay.)  It doesn't do the community any good to have a shop disappear.  So a decent profit, even if it is not the rock bottom price is fair.  People are—or should be—paying for good expertise.  The idea that we should sell at some arbitrary price is kind of ridiculous.

 

An illustration:  In the past I would go 200 miles, taking a full day in the process, to the Cao shop and carefully choose the best several violins in the price range my clients wanted.  Out of any several instruments, one or two are almost always noticeably better.  Of course, this type of violin has a SRP (if I have the right abbreviation).  I did not charge extra, but I would not have felt guilty doing so if I had to in order to keep the doors open.  I was offering a level of service that gave the client a far better violin than had they simply had one sent to them.  That should be worth something.

 

I don't see that we're in this business for our health.  And, IMO, being exact in pricing many violins is impossible, so why not act to OUR advantage when in doubt.  One can always give a refund if it's proven he is wrong.  

 

Not entirely related, but amusing, I went to a well known west coast pro many years ago who put a new post in my violin in 5 minutes.  He looked up at me, with a crooked grin, and quoted the price, which was high.  He said, "You're not paying for the time I take; you're paying for my expertise."  Well, yesss!  And that's fair.  But what wasn't, was that I looked in and saw the post was absolutely hideous.  I paid the money, figuring I was paying for a valuable lesson, and immediately headed to another shop and got a decent post.

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I am all for paying for expertise.

But (there is that "but" again) how do you know who the expert is?

A bit of a sore spot too. I have expertise in my field...and rarely get paid for having it. I have more expertise with certain situations than a medical doctor. BUT...I have given people 'free' correct advice...only to be later told that the person went to the doctor - who told them something entirely different - and entirely wrong. However...the doctor's inexpert incorrect advice was valued above correct expert advice. So...to the person ...I was the one who was wrong. The doctor gets paid of course.

Point is...how do you know who is actually giving out correct and relevant advice?

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Point is...how do you know who is actually giving out correct and relevant advice?

Only two absolutely certain ways, one is expensive experience, the other is self education in the field concerned until the expert's advice or assistance is superfluous except perhaps for legal or political reasons.  Most of the time trusting an expert you don't know well is an opportunity to get screwed.

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In another thread...on another forum... there is a question about selling a violin. :rolleyes:

1. The first question is about a Henry Meissner (or Fred Meissner) violin. Purchase price was $5000. Appraisal price was $15000. Hoping to get $10000-12000 for it.

Now...is this level of violin really worth 3X it's purchase cost? And why is it not worth 'used' prices. Why is it not worth $2500 for example?

2, Another violin was for sale for was a "Modern 'Soil' Stradivarius" copy (I am assuming a Chinese made copy). The seller paid $1300 for it...and was asking $2000.  Why does the seller think it is worth more than he paid for it?

3. A third example: An Eastman Ivan Dunov model. Purchased for $1200...and one year after purchase was told it was only worth $600-800 since it was 'used'. Now why was this example immediately discounted...while the other two examples are inflated?

Regarding item 1-  I've never seen one sell for more than $2500-3000 in the secondary market.  I actually have one hanging on the wall and it looks just great.  I would be interested who gave you the $15,000 appraisal-  perhaps one of the maker's friends?

 

Regarding item 2-  What model number is the violin? That will dictate what it is worth.

 

Regarding item 3-  Eastman recently had them on sale (at wholesale) in the $600-800 range.

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Item 1:  This violin was posted  on a different forum (which started me wondering about pricing an instrument as a private seller).  I have no idea who offered the appraisal.  But the seller is being advised not to take less than $10,000 for it based on that appraisal.

 

Item 2:  If I understand that ad correctly - the violin may not have a label.  But if I find out otherwise, I will post it here.

 

Item 3:  If the Eastman Ivan Dunovs - and this one is a model 401 -  wholesale at that price...would they retail, used, for a bit more?  Can't be too much more.

 

Thanks! :)

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Item 1 - find the person who appraised it and sell it to them for the appraised value.  <_<

However appraisals can be many things.

  • Replacement value - what would it cost to find the identical quality from the identical maker.  That can be challenging if the maker is no longer producing or their instruments are in demand and the price has risen.
  • Retail value - what is the current value if you need to buy it or sell it (definitely not the same thing) (and are you in a hurry?).
  • Insurance value - some blend of the first two that you and your insurance company can agree to.

Item 2 - not really enough information to even offer an opinion.  If you abide by the axiom that instruments improve with age then this may apply.  See Violadamore post #5 for details. ;)

 

Item 3 - is an 'open stock' item and ordinary wholesale/retail prices apply.  With the $1,200.00 being the recommended retail price.  If you wait long enough then the axiom in item 2 may apply.  :unsure:

 

But always consider that almost everytime a fiddle changes hands you need to add the cost of having it 'reconditioned' or at least checked by a technician - pegs, possibly new bridge, strings and soundpost depending on how much it has been played and treated.  $100.00 on a $5,000.00 instrument is a small percentage, but $100.00 on a $500.00 fiddle...........

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In another thread...on another forum... there is a question about selling a violin. :rolleyes:

I wanted to keep this thread vague and general...but to try and get a more concrete (if possible) response about the pricing of 'used' but new/newer instruments (and not those of antique or historical significance)...let's use concrete examples:

1. The first question is about a Henry Meissner (or Fred Meissner) violin. Purchase price was $5000. Appraisal price was $15000. Hoping to get $10000-12000 for it.

Now...is this level of violin really worth 3X it's purchase cost? And why is it not worth 'used' prices. Why is it not worth $2500 for example?

2, Another violin was for sale for was a "Modern 'Soil' Stradivarius" copy (I am assuming a Chinese made copy). The seller paid $1300 for it...and was asking $2000.  Why does the seller think it is worth more than he paid for it?

3. A third example: An Eastman Ivan Dunov model. Purchased for $1200...and one year after purchase was told it was only worth $600-800 since it was 'used'. Now why was this example immediately discounted...while the other two examples are inflated?

 

1) Appraisal is not about pulling a rabbit out of a hat, it's about comparative data.  I don't know the maker in question, but unless the appraiser in question has data showing repetitive market history of sales at the level claimed, I'm seeing rabbits.

 

2) Again...  "show me" the data (gosh did I move to Missouri?).

 

3) Yes.  I agree that most (not all) commercial, readily replaceable, instruments will tend to sell used at a price that is less than a new one.  Again, this can/should be data supported (should one wish to go to the trouble).

 

As another poster mentioned, there are different definitions of value used for appraisals of different sorts.  The most common are replacement and fair market...  but even within these definitions the appraiser has the ability to choose the most appropriate market (trade, auction, retail, etc.).  Most decent insurance appraisals use "retail replacement", but this does not mean that a 1990 fiddle, by maker X, can or should be appraised at the same value as one from 2012 (or vice-versa).  Current price of the maker is only one portion of the data set used to determine value.

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One thing I noticed about my long winded offering that requires explanation.  The current circa WW 1 cutoff for "antique" accidentally coincides with the increasing decline of the Dutzendarbeit cottage handcrafting labor system (which finally disappears forever at the end of WW 2), so the difference in real worth (as a working violin) between antiques and vintage fiddles is due to much more than mere age.  Some of the things shipped from Germany in the 1950's and '60's, boasting such "features" as plywood plates and painted on flame enter the realm of the VSO, whether they have signed and numbered labels or not.  Similarly mediocre factory produce was also coming from several other countries (including the USA) during the last 80 years or so, and while most of the worst hasn't survived, it still turns up to burn the unwary.  No amount of age or care will redeem what was made wrong from garbage to begin with  :rolleyes:

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This is all very complicated...

But I am learning and making headway...

Thanks for the in-depth responses everyone!

 

Hey Rue;

 

I think my point was...  like anything, learning is required... but in reality, it's not really all that complicated if one sticks to the guidelines for establishing value.  The market itself sets value.  It's when the mavericks break out of the fence and attempt to manipulate the market, or when a "sure bet" is presented that's to what it reports to be (faulty expertise) things can go really wrong.

 

In any market, there is always risk and cycles.  

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http://www.appraisers.org/

 

Here is a decent place to start.

 

I belong to this one: http://www.appraisersassociation.org  More musical instrument specialists in the AAA I believe... but Duane is correct.  The basic personal property appraisal formats are the same no matter what's being appraised.

 

The soundpostonline article is from 2002, and though I agree with the basic premise, I do not agree with some of the specific information presented...  and USPAP (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uniform_Standards_of_Professional_Appraisal_Practice) has changed the requirements and terminology quite a bit since that was written.

 

Using an accredited appraiser helps insure they know how to write the document, and hopefully understands USPAP, but appraisers in many other specializations often aren't required to deal with authenticity calls (either not necessary, or can more safely rely on third party expertise) at the same level we are. 

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Update:
 
I see Lyndon has answered my first question.  If you are reading this, thanks Lyndon! :)

 

Just got of the phone with Henry Meissner, I think I can settle this once and for all. He said on his dad's instruments he is willing to write an insurance estimate of $15,000 replacement value. But in real life he sells them for $5,000-10,000, And when I asked him if he had ever heard of one selling for more than $10,000 he couldn't think or one. But he has sold them for $8-10,000.
 
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New instruments--instruments that may be purchased by retailers from wholesalers at a wholesale price are simply a commodity. A retailer may purchase a $1000 violin from a wholesaler for $500. While there are exceptions, wholesale prices are typically half of the MSRP (manufacturers suggested retail price). If the retailer wants to buy a large number of the same new instrument, the wholesale price may be even 5 or even 10% lower. If the world of used guitars and other fretted instruments, used instruments are typically priced at 50% of the MSRP. For lower end Asian made instruments, the pricing may even be 35 to 40% of MSRP.

 

It makes no sense for a dealer, who can by a $1000 MSRP violin for $500 wholesale to take a used (current production) instrument in trade at even $500--since they can buy a new on for that amount.  Once a violin make/model is no longer available from wholesalers, its valuation will be due to a complex psychology that we all can only guess.

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That makes sense.

How does the 100% trade-in value that some shops offer work to the dealer's financial advantage then?

Is it a bit of a loss leader in favour of keeping repeat customers?

Yes, simply yes.  That, and in some cases, the 100% value of the tradein is lower than the new selling price, due to increased values with time, but even in those cases, it's still to keep the customer and give the customer a sense of security about purchasing the instrument to begin with.  I wouldn't consider it a "loss" leader, but I know what you meant.  jeff

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I take things back in trade for what I sold them for, less anything that I need to do in order to re-sell the violin-i.s. strings, retouch, that warped bridge that you didn't keep upright...the case is used, the bow needs a rehair.

 

I try not to sell things that I don't want to sell again.

 

Some of the cheaper Chinese instruments that I sell (less than 1k), I expect to most likely dump into the rental fleet rather than re-sell.

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