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Any Reputable Ebay Violin Sellers???


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I have been reading various posts regarding Ebay violins. I am a mom trying to buy my daughter a full size violin. I am in awe of the experience shared here in your posts. What you can see from a picture is amazing and I hope to continue learning before making the plunge. 


My question is are there any consistently reputable sellers of antique violin sellers on Ebay?  I am looking for a violin in the 1870 to 1920 range. Cost no more than $2500, preferably lighter weight. Looking for a good higher level orchestra violin. She does some competitions and is currently playing a Jacobus Steiner copy that her teacher loves in terms of sound. Main objective is to find something authentic that sounds good. 


If I should be thinking about something else because I am a newbie, please share. I can tell from your posts that items such as f-holes, scrolls, cracks, repairs, are important. Maybe the best option is a seller who gladly accepts returns if you don't like it. 


Thank you in advance for your thoughts.



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My question is are there any consistently reputable sellers of antique violin sellers on Ebay?

“Consistently reputable sellers of antique violins on Ebay” is a howling oxymoron. You can fully expect to get ripped off. You should go to your local violin maker/shop, who should have a good choice in your price range, I certainly do, as do my colleagues in the area. “Gizmomonster” should take his tablets!

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The answer to your question is inevitably yes but the trouble is finding them. I know a few in the UK but I think you are in the USA. Using EBAY carries a big risk and many believe its worth taking based on their own values and assessment of risk versus reward. Shop based violin dealers invariably sell at a big mark up but you can try the instrument and have some comeback if it all goes wrong in some way.


I wouldn't buy anything off EBay without getting the chance to play it beforehand - many sellers offer this opportunity although I accept the USA is a big place. If you buy and then try to return you will incur costs and waste a lot of time. Not sure if you are buying for sound quality or investment? Sound quality sometimes comes cheap, tatty and battered! If you want it to hold its value then that's an entirely different game with more risks! 


Can't the teacher provide any contacts in local orchestras?  

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Why eBay?


I have now been exploring 'entry level' violins for over 10 years and have tried most options. 


My advice...at your price point and with your parameters and needs ($2500, older instrument, sounds good, needs to take child through years of lessons and competitions) is to go to as many local/area stores as you can and try out older repaired violins to see if the sound and condition suits.


Maybe you are paying a bit more up front, but I suspect you can find what you need without a huge mark-up if you shop around.


eBay is too much of a gamble.  Even if the instrument is well-repaired and in good condition, you have no idea of what the instrument will sound like after it's settled in your particular climate.  And even if the seller is willing to take returns, do you want that headache?


Now...if you still want the experience and thrill of the prolonged hunt...you can always keep looking for 'something' better AFTER you found a serviceable instrument for her to use now.



BTW...I am currently very happy playing on my locally-commissioned new instrument.

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Thank you for your candid responses.


We have been using a dealer of rare violins and I haven't abandoned ship yet, but the attention to detail has slipped and the last two "try outs" we took to her teacher were not good. Perhaps my budget is too low and it is not their market once you get into a 4/4???


We are partial to older violins and prefer not to go new. 1930's and older is the range we are looking at. I am not so concerned about an investment, as my daughter grows attached to these things as if it is a favorite stuffed animal and doesn't want to let them go. (We still have her 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 she is playing now) Quality of sound (which is subjective) is key along with some basics like nothing broken, bad repairs, structually sound, etc. A bonus would be things like nicely carved scroll and cosmetic items like nothing painted on. 


She is 12 and we have no visions of her pursuing music as a career. However she plays in an upper level orchestra, was concert master last year and plays duets and solos at state competitions. So having some brilliance along with the lower strings that tug at your heart when played is what we need. Whoever we work with needs to be local or one that accepts returns so her teacher can approve it. I don't mind a few hundred invested in some shipping costs because of this. 


Being a newbie (which is reinforced by reading all of your wonderful posts) I realize my weakness is in hearing descriptions of how a violin sounds or hearing one that is played on the internet. 


For example, I am attracted to a description like the following  (translation, I am probably the perfect candidate for a rip off).  Sorry, I don't know how to properly put in  a link:




Personally, I find the front of this violin to be very unattractive and I heard too much varnish impairs the sound of the violin or perhaps covers some bad repairs. But I hear the word "patina" and the description of how it is supposed to sound and I think it is a good thing. If it truly played beautifully and the site of any violin we get doesn't make her conductor gag or make them think we have lost out mind, I could get over the instrument not looking nice, as quality of sound and a sound fiddle are ultimately the goal.


As a final thought, I hear there are reputable dealers that are not local that will still ship violins to you to play and are returnable if they do not meet your needs. If that is a common practice that I remain ignorant to, please let me know.


Thank you again for your posts. I am trying to read as many as possible. I find it all fascinating and want to learn more about violin parts and how they impact the sound, etc. Don't know if there are any good books that are out there, but they may fall short of all of the posts that are here. 

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Pahdah_hound appears to be the most recommended and well-respected.

Thank you very much Gizmo...




I started selling violins on eBay 12 years ago.  I was in a similar situation that you find yourself in. My daughter's level was developing beyond her rental violin and I took her to a shop on the advice of her teacher.  After three hours trying violins with a very nice young man with a vaguely European affected accent, they "selected" a wonderful violin for $15000.  I had the privilege and pleasure of informing my 14 year old daughter, the apple of my eye and the light of my life, that we were not buying a $15000 violin. 


I then bought 4 violins on eBay, brought them to the local luthier for evaluation and set up, and found that I had two pieces of junk, an ok 1920s Markneukirchen violin, and a two year old German trade violin that sold in shops, MSRP of $2500.  I paid a total of $500 for the four fiddles which came with three bows. My daughter and her teacher liked the new one, she picked one of the bows, and I resold the rest on ebay.  The "rest" sold for $1000+, except for a bow that my luthier told me was pretty good.  I took that to the dealer with the nice salesman and the $15000 violin who bought it for $2000-it was French he said but I don't remember the name.


I took my winnings and bought more violins on ebay, trying to find something better than the German violin she liked.  I bought a hundred before i found something she liked better, but in the process alienated her by asking her to try every filthy, dirty fiddle I brought home. I learned a little, but more importantly learned how much there is still to learn.  Expertise in violins is a lifelong pursuit-which I have barely begun to scratch the surface.


You could become a violin dealer, or you could just go to a shop and buy a violin, knowing that a reputable shop will always give you your money's worth, and that paying a little extra provides some peace of mind. Or you can try a violin from eBay, knowing that any long term dealer will provide a refund if you choose to return it. 


If you want to buy a good violin cheap, but that will likely need set up and repairs before it can be played, try "violinbuff" or "frenchviolins" on eBay.  they have both been selling fiddles on eBay for longer than I have, and are real wholesalers.  They are honest and reliable and anyone who knows them speaks highly of them.  They both sell to dealers primarily but offer eBay stuff as well.


Good luck in your search.



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In your situation I would avoid EBAY like the plague, and I like EBAY, I've purchased a fair number of instruments off of that site (but not knowingly from a violin-specific dealer). My situation is much different from yours and I have learned to eat a few duds once in a while.


I believe a good percentage of violin-specific EBAY sellers are knowingly ripping people off, another good percentage may be well-meaning but incompetent. I know a couple EBAY violin sellers personally who I believe are good guys, and would (and have) buy something from them, but only in person, not on line, as they can often be a bit on the "optimistic" side of things. 


Buying an old violin is tough business. Good brick and morter shops are relatively rare, you almost have to travel. I live in a very populated, affluent area of the country and there are only a couple shops (fortunately they are good). I used to live in the middle of nowhere in PA and would travel (often carpooling with other players) 4 hours to shops in Philly and DC.


Trying instruments by mail order is a viable option, for many people its the only option. But beware that it can be time consuming and costly shipping things around. And there is just a limit to what you can try. See if you can get out to other shops.

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Tara, Jacob is right--it is too dangerous to buy instruments on ebay.  Let me more clear--stay away from ebay.


You have a prejudice against new instruments that is just plain wrong.  A couple of years ago, Claudia Fritz published a scientific article that demonstrated that good, new instruments could not be distinguished from good, old instruments.  The trolls on Maestronet "beat the stuffing out of her."


Find a local shop, even if you have to drive 3 hours to find a shop.  Any instrument has to go through a shop for adjustment, if you want your daughter to be able to play at a high level. 


Mike D

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I also prefer new...but that is my preference...buy what you like.  If antique appeals to you...buy an antique.


BUT...if your primary concern is sound...you can't and won't find that on eBay...you need to try them out in your part of the world.  Sound is subjective.  Your opinion of 'warm and rich' might be someone else's 'dull and muddy'.


In fact the entire description is subjective.  Anyone can make a sow's ear sound like a silk purse fit for a queen.


Yes...reputable shops will mail out violins.  You can try that.  A friend of mine did when her very talented son was progressing...and I remember it was a real headache for them as well.  IMO you'd be better off taking a trip to a shop with older violins in stock and test driving them there.


Do let us know what and why you end up with the instrument you decide on.  It's always interesting to see how the story ends (well, at least the shopping part of it) :) .

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“Gizmomonster” should take his tablets! 



Jacob, I'm a 'she', not a 'he'. 


Tara did not ask about live person stores vs. Ebay. She asked about Ebay.  I've researched this, and it appears on Maestronet that pahdah_hound aka Jesse Kamien appears to be the most recommended and well respected if she is looking for an old violin. 


I've bought 5 violins from Ebay and had an OK experience. I was able to return 2 to the sellers and get my money back because one was not what it was purported to be, and the other sounded horrible. I've gotten a nice new Chinese violin from Joyee Music, I got a nice older French 1830-1850s Mirecourt, and I had bought a nice 'Caressa & Francais' from shopgoodwill.com that may or may not be a Caressa & Francais but is French, and has quite a nice and excellent tone. I backed out of an auction I want at shopgoodwill.com after getting advice here. I bought my daughter a nice used Gliga Gloria as she is just starting out. My personal antique violins are not perfect or high end and one has many cracks, but my luthier has been impressed with the sound on them and repaired/outfitted them quite well at a decent cost. My cousin the professional violinist very much liked my Mirecourt, and I am very happy with the 'Caressa & Francais'. It's a bit of a roulette though. 


Jacob, some people live where there are no violin stores around them or the violin stores have limited selection or the violin store doesn't have what the person wants. Or people work during the day and don't have time to go to the violin store that's only open from 10-5 Monday through Friday. Or the markup is astronomical or there's snobbish boorish luthiers who look down upon you because you buy from Ebay or your violin is not 'Quality', perfect or its Markneukirchen rubbish or the customer service is just crap. 


I am not a professional player. I am somebody who is returning to play the violin after being away not playing it for 20 years. I had a crappy Markneukirchen student violin and wanted something better but older. I like collecting things and learning about antiques and the history of the antiques. I don't need a perfect violin, just something that sounds nice.  The personal appeal for me is I'm learning about violins, how to identify them, the history of the violin and how to do some luthier tasks, like adjusting the bridge, or putting on a new tailpiece and restringing it. I work during the day, and don't have time to go to violin stores. By the time I get off work, pick up my daughter, do homework, make dinner, it's 8pm. My schedule doesn't allow for time to go out. There's probably 2 or 3 'quality' violin stores near where I work in a major metropolitan area. I've been to one and found the luthier rather snobbish.  I have found a music repair shop near me that doesn't sell instruments, but does mainly repairs for a decent price, far less than the snobby luthier cost, and for me, it's just as good. The snobby luthier is a big turnoff for me, as also is the pricy luthier whom wishes to charge me for repairs my violin doesn't need.  I've had both experiences. 


Buying on Ebay away from recommended sellers requires learning about violins and what to spot. You may or may not have a good/bad experience. The history of the violin is one of mislabelling & forgery and to just be aware. Most older violins labeled something most likely are not what should be. You still need a decent local luthier to adjust things like the bridge, soundpost, etc. 


and of course you can learn on Maestronet. 


They are right though, most likely you do want to go through your local luthier shop. If you aren't near a luthier, people have said nice things about Johnson Strings which has an inventory of older violins that your daughter can try. Another thing to try is musical instrument auctions like Tarisio, Amati, Brompton's etc. which happen a couple of times a year. You may or may not be able to try the violins if you can travel to the auction location. But again, you would need a decent luthier and you'd need to know what you are looking for.

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“Consistently reputable sellers of antique violins on Ebay” is a howling oxymoron. You can fully expect to get ripped off. You should go to your local violin maker/shop, who should have a good choice in your price range, I certainly do, as do my colleagues in the area. “Gizmomonster” should take his tablets!


I'd like to say that if I went to my local dealer, most likely I would not be learning about violins. I'd select a violin and be done with it. 

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My own rationale for buying violins on ebay is essentially the same as pahdah_hounds, i. e. upgrading from 3/4 to full size for my son. We tried some instruments at the local shop, both old European and new Chinese ones at prices up to 5K.  Since I wasn't afraid of big bad Ebay (I sell lots-o-antique watches and parts for the same there, as well as buying there lots-o-the-same-stuff for resale), I gave that a try.  Even with mistakes and professional repairs, ebay was way way cheaper in the end and we ended up with more than one decent instrument (sound wise) (and a bunch of clunkers).  Almost all of my purchases were old, in original beat up cases, with one or more bows needing hair and with every indication of having been unused for years and being sold by non-violin dealers or enthusiasts.  They are all factory instruments.


 I also, as part of my buying education, perused many violin books that I obtained by inter-library loan, which was very educational for me (and fun), though generally most violin books cover high end unobtainable stuff and not factory items.  Much like gizomomonster,  I like old stuff and learning about something new like old violins and how to do minor repairs (closing seams, cutting bridges, adjusted the sound post, etc.).


EBay isn't for everyone but it worked for me.  If I had simply bought one 5K shop violin for my son I would have learned nothing about violins.  I also wouldn't have become interested enough to try and learn to play it at 55 (I have no illusions about my potential, but the group lessons and ensembles that I have participated in with other adults learners have been a blast).  



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Dear Tara,

Due to my isolated location I have learnt basic repair and set up for my childrens violins, which I purchase online.

Occasionally I have to send the instruments 1500km to the nearest specialist shop for repairs.

I wish I had a local specialist violin shop as this would have been easier and far cheaper in the long run.

I tried the local non-specialist musical instrument repair shop with not so good results.


From my limited buying experience, I would trust the following sites to give an honest description of an instrument:





http://www.ebay.com/sch/uniqueviolins/m.html?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEFSXS%3AMESOI&_trksid=p2053788.m1543.l2654 (low Australian dollar at present!)




I'm sure there are others, but they seem to be outnumbered by eBay sellers with inaccurate or misleading descriptions, especially where the violins are in the higher price ranges.


But a relationship with a local specialist violin shop, will probably be much more beneficial (and probably less expensive) in the long term, unless you are extremely lucky.


Also:  I use the term "honest description" as opposed to "accurate description" as I cannot assess the likelihood of "accuracy" without knowing the level of expertise of the seller.

But unfortunately accuracy based on expertise also relies on honesty, and I would expect the most misleading descriptions to come from those with expertise but without integrity.

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Then there is the issue of what I consider a very viable demographic:
Adult beginners/ returners - either to playing or to instrument making/repair.
I realize 'we' often get dismissed/overlooked...but it is a sizeable group of interested amateurs (some with deep pockets to boot!).
I also want to agree that in North America (and from what I can tell, Australia)...it is often very difficult to shop around for niche products.  And driving to the next city might not be an option, especially if the next city is 3 hours away and doesn't have any better sources.  Then what?
In my bustling and growing city of 250,000 there is not one specialty violin shop.  There are 2-3 chain stores and one used instrument store.  Luckily we have a luthier (who doesn't advertise) and a couple of others that might still be doing some work or rehairing...but I'd have to check.
Europe is a whole different animal...the population is denser, there are more shops, there are more antiques readily available.  And even knowing this...I was still running all over two cities; Prague and Mannheim and not finding what I was looking for.  But at least if I knew where I was going, it's relatively easy to hop on a train...
Here?  I could probably walk faster than the time it takes to go by train... <_<

The next big city is at least a 7 hour drive...and still might not have what I want. To get to a hub that does have shopping...I'm looking at a 25 hour or more drive.

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Hiyas, Jesse!  Love your post. [Raises a Dos Equis in salute] :)  As many here know from my prior postings on the subject, my story is very similar to those already posted here.  I have nothing to add to what's already been said, except to agree with the majority, and add to Deans' comments that while eBay is an excellent source of material for semi-pros, naive novice violin buyers are likely to get burned there.  Anything that you get, including new Chinese fiddles, are likely to need more work, at least a setup including new strings, recut (and usually replaced) bridge, some fingerboard planing, maybe a new nut, for sure soundpost setting, usually peg polishing, trimming, maybe peghole reaming and/or bushing, afterlength adjustment....you get the idea.  While lists are good, the only ironclad defense is possessing the skill and expertise to both be your own luthier, and know what not to buy.


When you have your 10 posts in, PM me for my (very) short list. Good luck!   :)

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Thank you everyone.


I will stay in discovery mode and will try to maximize my opportunities to get violins my daughter's teacher can hear. I certainly cannot rely on my ears to tell me anything!  


Thank you for sharing your thoughts, concerns and even links with me. I feel like I have a wider net to consider that will lead me to my daughter's next violin. 



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  A couple of years ago, Claudia Fritz published a scientific article that demonstrated that good, new instruments could not be distinguished from good, old instruments.  The trolls on Maestronet "beat the stuffing out of her."



No, she did not. Please read the paper and the discussion on MN.  

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1.My question is are there any consistently reputable sellers of antique violin sellers on Ebay?


2. I am looking for a violin in the 1870 to 1920 range. Cost no more than $2500, preferably lighter weight. Looking for a good higher level orchestra violin. She does some competitions and is currently playing a Jacobus Steiner copy that her teacher loves in terms of sound.


3. Main objective is to find something authentic that sounds good. 




1. No.   eBay is a place were crooks hide. eBay's reson d'etre is to unload stuff which can't be sold in any other way. There is a lot about a violin you may not be aware of and you will not pick up from a picture. For example : is the neck shaped properly, is it dead straight down the centerline of the instrument, are there hidden cracks or poorly repaired ones or other structural issues ? Your $500 eBay bargain can end up needing $3k in "upgrades" and still be worth $500. 


2. At your daughter's level a good violin is a well made violin with a good set up. Everything as standard as possible. The set up makes or brakes the violin "tone-wise" and you MUST have that done by an expert and not a weekend warrior. That will cost money. Better then, buy the entire violin from him - way cheaper and you'll have a meaningful guarantee. If the neck comes loose, he'll stand behind his work. 


3. The main objective is to find something comfortable to play and easy to hear the pitch on. ( hard to get right from eBay pictures ) That means a violin made "by the book" and with a set up done by an expert. "Tone" does not enter the equation. If they are made by the book and set up well, they'll sound good enough to play Paganini 1 on them. The problem starts when "experts" improve them. 


Read this :  http://www.darntonviolins.com/violinmagazine/book/setup.pdf


It'll give you some idea of the troubles you may have with your eBay bargain.



Where are you located ? 

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18 posts in and no one has mentions Martin Swan Violins!



Hi Duane,

Thanks for the name-check ... we did get a passing mention in an earlier post!

However, we don't really fit the brief - we're not on Ebay, and under £3000 we mainly offer our new violins. We used to do a lot of cheaper Mirecourt violins, but they very rarely compete in terms of tone or playability.


The OP is looking for great tone, antique value/appeal, good set-up, low price range and a bargain. Good luck! I'm afraid I think this is misguided, and Ebay is probably the worst way to go about it, given the general lack of accountability that makes it flourish as a selling platform.


OTOH Jesse's Markneukirchen violin looks nice to me (the varnish would not bother me), he is far from anonymous, and if you don't like it you can return it ...


For the record, Amber Violins is an auction-only business now - their next auction is in a couple of weeks. Matthew is also a player, and I'm sure he would be willing to advise on which of his violins sound good and are in immediate playing condition. 

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I live in South Florida and hear there are some dealers about 4 to 5 hours away. My only challenge is I want her teacher to listen to them as well. We do have some competition stuff coming up and she will be trying to qualify for all-states this year where several dealers attend. 


Also I have been focusing so much on the violin I read some posts about bows which completely slipped my mind. Right now she plays on a 3/4 Coda Bow but I suppose I need to wake up as she will need a full size bow too.


Please tell me there is not as much fraud in buying bows as there can be in violins. Do people carve fake names into them, distress them to appear old, use cheap wood and call it something else in hopes of finding people like me?  :-)


Does the same general advice stand for bows...go to a dealer and try them out?  Do people buy them online like I did her first one?   Stay away from auctions unless they are some of the ones you mentioned that sale violins? And finally, I came across some statistic like expect to pay 1/3 (or was it 1/6) of the violin price for a bow? 


I have never had a drink in my life but surely this buying instrument stuff is going to drive me beyond my drink of choice....Shirley Temples!  

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