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I have a mystery violin, and I would greatly appreciate help if anyone is willing to take a look.  I don't think it is valuable, but I am more interested in whether it is worth cleaning up and if it could be a decent playing instrument.


I am not a player, so I really have no idea how to assess this instrument.  I am considering having it re-strung and donating it to the youth orchestra in San Francisco where I live, but I am not sure if it is worth it.  I don't want to burden them with a worthless problem.  On the other hand, if it is more valuable than a modern student model violin, I might prefer to sell it and just donate the money to the orchestra.


Here's how it came into my possession:


My uncle passed away recently and left this violin to me, among some other things that I am sorting through.  He believed it to be a noble antique of some sort, but in truth he struggled with Alzheimers for the past 12 years.  I certainly can't keep the instrument, but I would like to see it go to some sort of use and make a donation in his name.  When I was a kid, the owner of a local music store gave me a great deal on an old saxophone.  He practically gave it to me, and it made a big difference in my life, so I'd like to pass on the favor with this violin if possible.


Here's what I know about it:


My uncle got this violin sometime between 1991 and 1999.  It's difficult to pinpoint, but definitely not later than 1999.  I have no idea where or how he got it.  He did play it until 2005 or so, and he had several other violins.


My own investigation:


It has a stamp inside one f-hole that reads "Joannes Varotti Fecit Bononiae Anno 17," but in the other side it says "MADE IN NIPPON."  So, I assume this is a Japanese knock-off, but I'm still really curious as to how old it might be and if it is a quality instrument or not.  My dictionary translation of the Latin is "Made by Joannes Varotti in Bologna in the year 17." 17 A.D. seems a little implausible, so I am trying to interpret this date some other way.  There do not appear to be any additional digits after the 17.  Some of the stamp is faded, but I see no traces of any ink after the 17. I lived in Japan for a while, so my first thought was to interpret this as a Japanese date.  Heisei 17 is 2005, which is not possible since I know the violin was made before 1999.  Shōwa 17 is 1942, which would make the instrument a lot older than my initial guess and produced in the middle of WWII.  Meiji 17 is 1884, which seems too old for a "MADE IN NIPPON" stamp.  None of these dates make much sense to me.  I have no knowledge of violin construction methods, but just looking at the latches on the case, I would think it was made sometime in the 1970s.  Additionally, the fingerboard has "Czebalski" written in pencil and there is a pitchpipe in the case that reads "Made in Czechoslovakia."  I'm guessing this was the owner before my uncle.


My sleuthing is pretty much at an impasse, but hopefully someone here will take a look at the pictures and shed some more light.  Please let me know if any measurements or closer views would be helpful


As a new user, I can't post photos.  Here is a link to a Flickr album

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I'm see if my 'education' is starting to pay off...


Painted on purfling, made in Japan prior to 1921 when they were starting to make inexpensive student instruments.


If it was all fixed up/refurbished it might be worth $250?  But it might not be worth fixing up.  Better quality new strings are about $50.

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Rue is right (as usual  :) ).  See for "Nippon" marks dating info.


The fake label simply lacks the penciled in last 2 digits of the year.  IMHO, the value of the instrument lies entirely in how it plays and sounds, balanced against its condition.

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