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Rue

Define 'cheap' and 'rubbish'

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Again, taking this further from a discussion on another thread...it would be nice to define what a 'cheap' or 'rubbish' violin is.

 

When is it actually firewood?

 

And I'm not talking about new Mendini's...I'm talking about all the older violins that get presented on MN with people wanting to know what their value is.

 

And yes, one man's garbage is another man's gold.  But at some point any item is not worth salvaging...

 

When is an item worth $0? When is it worth $50?  Is $200 worthwhile salvaging (by whomever is interested)?

 

I realize this is totally subjective, but I'm still interested in everyone's take on it.

 

In my neck of the woods, at local auctions and garage sales, stuff I think has no value beyond $50 (as a wall ornament, or possibly for parts) goes for $200+...so obviously I'm still missing something.

 

And if that's what people are willing to pay, then does that make the item worth it?  So the value of my $50 actually IS $200.  Inflation based on some vague concept of value that continues to elude me...

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I think of it as two values:

1 - As determined by supply and demand of the general public... what it can be sold for

2 - As determined by YOU... according to your own personal value system

 

1 - It is my perception that the tsunami of extremely inexpensive new violins has also created an extremely depressed value for new-ish used violins.  Buy a cheap new violin, and it is now worth nearly zero (assuming you assign some value to the time it takes you to market and sell the thing).  However, genuinely old trade fiddles are in a different category and might have some artsy "it isn't a new Chinese fiddle" value added, even if it's more crappily made, having major issues.

 

2 - I look at things now as "what would it take me to get this thing in proper working order, how much could I sell it for, and what is my time worth?"   A new cheapo might need a bridge, strings, and some adjustments... and sell for $40, not worth my time, or value=$0 to me.  An old trade fiddle might need bridge, strings, crack repair, fingerboard work, pegs... and sell for $200, not worth my time, also $0 to me.  (There is a separate case for me:  subjects for experiments.  I just look around for something I can get cheap, but again with a premium for old German student instruments vs. new Chinese.  But I don't need any more of them.)

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^I think that's right.  I remember a repairer here who wrote he wouldn't touch somebody's violin if it would cost more than it was worth (could be sold for).  But in the personal value system, if humans are worth $2.80 in chemicals why are doctors so expensive.  Obviously the PVS kicking in.

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Hmmm, interesting argument.

Well, "experience" enters the picture here, with a great and unyielding force.

 

Any instrument or thing may be considered "cheap" and/or "rubbish" by anyone and everyone out there.

And yet, if it is the preferred instrument or tool, used by the experienced musician - then what is it actually?

Something of great value?

Something rare and of extreme quality? And - then, exactly who is it, that is to say, what the intrinsic value of that object is?

 

IF the 'end result' is the products usefulness for the accomplished musician, then, is the real determining factor its ability to satisfy the great demands of the professional?

 

I'd say that "cheap" and "rubbish" become mere, arbitrary terms - when any product is able to satisfy those great demands put upon it by the professional.

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Hmmm, interesting argument.

Well, "experience" enters the picture here, with a great and unyielding force.

 

Any instrument or thing may be considered "cheap" and/or "rubbish" by anyone and everyone out there.

And yet, if it is the preferred instrument or tool, used by the experienced musician - then what is it actually?

Something of great value?

Something rare and of extreme quality? And - then, exactly who is it, that is to say, what the intrinsic value of that object is?

 

IF the 'end result' is the products usefulness for the accomplished musician, then, is the real determining factor its ability to satisfy the great demands of the professional?

 

I'd say that "cheap" and "rubbish" become mere, arbitrary terms - when any product is able to satisfy those great demands put upon it by the professional.

The problem appears when any pejorative or superlative is applied across-the-board to an assemblage of something.without considering the possibility of major deviations in quality within the group.  When someone does this with people, it's called "prejudice" (or several other horrible things).  When applied to violins, it's called "good business sense".  :lol:

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Rubbish is rubbish.  But we try to buy it cheap(ly)!   :)

 

No, but seriously folks!

 

I don't have an answer, but I can tell you an amusing story.  I was once in the office of a serious shop where the dealer was talking to the owner of a Strad which was on consignment.  The owner wanted $4 million (this is when that price was a lot), and the dealer had exhausted his patience trying to sell it at that price.  The violin was pretty worn and in need of some spiffing up.

 

They were going round and round.  Of course I only heard the dealer's side, but he finally said, "Well, what do you want me to do with the 'piece of s***?'"  So even a Strad, under certain circumstances, could be called rubbish—or stronger.

 

So, perhaps, "rubbish" and price are interrelated.  If a bit of trash from the garbage bin is the only item in the world to complete some artist's exquisite collage, then it isn't exactly rubbish anymore.  In the bin it is worthless; but in the MOMA you'd get arrested for ripping it off the panel and have to pay restitution to cover restoration, which could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

 

images of barnett newman

 

See the story about the Barnett Newman painting called "Red."  It was just one color over the entire canvas. Someone ripped it with a knife and the restorer used a paint roller in repairing it.  He got in big trouble, even though I don't think anyone could tell whether a paint roller had been used or not.  There was something about a $400,000 bill just for the repair.

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There is a violin maker here in Seattle who used to collect violins for a summer bonfire, and you, if invited to said bonfire, were encouraged to bring one to contribute.

 

If the violin is a family heirloom, or there significant emotional attachment, then "value" doesn't have a dollar amount. I tell customers that the amount spent won't be recovered if they ever choose to sell the instrument. 

 

If what I think that it could be sold for is exceeded by the cost of repair, I try to get out of doing the work. Notice I said, "what I think it could be sold for." Others may disagree. A post crack in the back may render the violin "worthless", but a good sounding fiddle can be had with the proper repair. 

 

For me, it comes down to buying, selling and playing. As a player, it looks like it will sound good, it needs more work than it is worth, the player wants something old, cool, and with a story. If I am buying it, or they are buying it, and the cost of repair greatly exceed "value", then I decline. When selling, I may have put more work in the instrument that I should have, but it still isn't worth any more just because I did the good work.

 

I think that when Jacob calls them rubbish, he: 1-doesn't want to/won't work on them, 2-washes his hands after touching them...

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Rubbish is rubbish.  But we try to buy it cheap(ly)!   :)

 

No, but seriously folks!

 

I don't have an answer, but I can tell you an amusing story.  I was once in the office of a serious shop where the dealer was talking to the owner of a Strad which was on consignment.  The owner wanted $4 million (this is when that price was a lot), and the dealer had exhausted his patience trying to sell it at that price.  The violin was pretty worn and in need of some spiffing up.

 

They were going round and round.  Of course I only heard the dealer's side, but he finally said, "Well, what do you want me to do with the 'piece of s***?'"  So even a Strad, under certain circumstances, could be called rubbish—or stronger.

 

So, perhaps, "rubbish" and price are interrelated.  If a bit of trash from the garbage bin is the only item in the world to complete some artist's exquisite collage, then it isn't exactly rubbish anymore.  In the bin it is worthless; but in the MOMA you'd get arrested for ripping it off the panel and have to pay restitution to cover restoration, which could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

 

images of barnett newman

 

See the story about the Barnett Newman painting called "Red."  It was just one color over the entire canvas. Someone ripped it with a knife and the restorer used a paint roller in repairing it.  He got in big trouble, even though I don't think anyone could tell whether a paint roller had been used or not.  There was something about a $400,000 bill just for the repair.

The times are out of joint, and so are our values.  That won't be settled here.  Rue has asked a question with deep and dangerous resonances.  :)

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   When someone does this with people, it's called "prejudice" (or several other horrible things).  When applied to violins, it's called "good business sense".  :lol:

 

Been there,

done that...

 

(Hah! - I've been on both sides of that particular coin)

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I think that when Jacob calls them rubbish, he: 1-doesn't want to/won't work on them, 2-washes his hands after touching them...

Both quite correct!

One wonders sometimes, when one is asked to define “Rubbish”, if it isn't all really a lost cause. Telling someone that their VSO is rubbish can be (and often is) a gracious and kindly act, and of pecunary benifit to the so told.

People should perhaps consider the following anecdote: Shortly after I set up my own shop at the end of the 80's, a retired civil servant from Linz came unannounced into my shop. He had had his violin repaired by a colleague, and had waited years until the repair was finished. Towards the end, he was even having his solicitor write leters to set a date when he intended to fetch his violin, or was threatening to come around with the police to fetch it etc.What was really making him go balistic though, was that the repair had cost 7000 Austrian Schillings (they hadn't invented Euros back then), and whilst puting in his case, had asked the colleague for an aural appraisal. The colleague had then said, “oh, about 4,000 Schillings”. This made him absolutly livid, and I got the impression that he was spending much of his retirement touring Austria, to tell any violin maker or player, what a steaming pillock the colleague in Linz is (was, now I'm afraid)

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IF the 'end result' is the products usefulness for the accomplished musician, then, is the real determining factor its ability to satisfy the great demands of the professional?

 

I'd say that "cheap" and "rubbish" become mere, arbitrary terms - when any product is able to satisfy those great demands put upon it by the professional.

 

Craig, I beg to differ. The violins that usually get relegated to "rubbish" level on this forum couldn't possibly satisfy the demands put on them by even the feeblest of professional musicians. There are violins that were made well by makers who knew what it takes to make a good violin that got abused and broken, but could still be worthwhile to put right. There are violins by makers who knew how to make a good violin, but were under pressure to turn things out quickly, which can sometimes sound pretty good. THEN, there are violin shaped things that were churned out either by factories, piece work, or individual makers who never had any notion of what a good violin looks or sounds like. Some of these can be used without excessive suffering by beginners, but I'm sorry, the idea that a professional or any player who's been at it for more than a few years could be satisfied with a violin like this is hard for me to swallow. 

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Craig, I beg to differ. The violins that usually get relegated to "rubbish" level on this forum couldn't possibly satisfy the demands put on them by even the feeblest of professional musicians. There are violins that were made well by makers who knew what it takes to make a good violin that got abused and broken, but could still be worthwhile to put right. There are violins by makers who knew how to make a good violin, but were under pressure to turn things out quickly, which can sometimes sound pretty good. THEN, there are violin shaped things that were churned out either by factories, piece work, or individual makers who never had any notion of what a good violin looks or sounds like. Some of these can be used without excessive suffering by beginners, but I'm sorry, the idea that a professional or any player who's been at it for more than a few years could be satisfied with a violin like this is hard for me to swallow. 

 

  Well, since my main claim was that the one thing that really matters, is that the instrument first; satisfies the demands of the professional musician - then, hmmm let me think about this for a minute - how do I also claim that the opposite is also true?

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Craig, I beg to differ. The violins that usually get relegated to "rubbish" level on this forum couldn't possibly satisfy the demands put on them by even the feeblest of professional musicians. There are violins that were made well by makers who knew what it takes to make a good violin that got abused and broken, but could still be worthwhile to put right. There are violins by makers who knew how to make a good violin, but were under pressure to turn things out quickly, which can sometimes sound pretty good. THEN, there are violin shaped things that were churned out either by factories, piece work, or individual makers who never had any notion of what a good violin looks or sounds like. Some of these can be used without excessive suffering by beginners, but I'm sorry, the idea that a professional or any player who's been at it for more than a few years could be satisfied with a violin like this is hard for me to swallow. 

So a violin is only of value if it fits the standards of a (classical) professional?  I guess the VSO factories were only catering to the rank beginners and nothing they produced could possible have been a satisfactory instrument for a "fiddler", a small group of amateurs, a talent intermediate who only played for his family, a player in a community orchestra, etc.   Sounds a bit like saying only a race car can have value since it is the only auto that meets the requirements of a professional driver.  All others are "worthless" auto shaped objects.

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Cheap= inexpensive. Not necessarily bad, but most are. Chinese instruments are cheap because of the cost of labor and method of mass production, many are very good serviceable instruments. Sometimes you can get a professional quality instrument (sound wise) for the fraction of the price of a carefully made hand made instrument.

 

Rubbish= not worth fixing up and/or not suitable for any level of play. This can be because of condition or original quality of production. Many late 19 century - early 20th century German/Czech  instruments are in this category as well as new really cheaply made Chinese instruments

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Cheap = In my price range.

 

Rubbish = Cheap and no one else is bidding.  :)  :P  :lol:

 

 

One definition of "rubbish" on MN seems to be anything, functionally good or not, that Jacob S considers beneath the dignity of his display case.  This probably covers most of what the majority of us own and play.  ;)

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I'm going to say here and now, that the PLAYING quality of a violin, and it's ability to produce a great tone easily, is it's paramount feature as a musical instrument. 

Bar nothing.

Cost has very little to do with this quality, often enough.

Nor (usually) does the makers name have a whole lot to do with this quality..

In this particular aspect of things - it is of no great matter what his or her name (the maker's name, that is) is. Nor does it really matter all that much, what the violin looks like - aesthetically.

 

What does matter is; HOW DOES IT SOUND?

Secondarily - how easily can one achieve this sound?

 

While this aspect (appearance) is still very important - it is (again in my opinion) somewhat of a secondary concern, with regard to its ability to respond well to the players wishes

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Reminds me of the story of the mausoleum salesman I ran into. I wrote about it before and don't want to go through the whole thing, but when I asked, "What's the cheapest thing you've got, he was very brusque and said, "You mean the LEAST EXPENSIVE."

 

And why use a match on rubbish when you could make a matchstick violin. Not good to waste wood in our new "green" way of doing things, after all.  But I've heard tell that the trick is to not pre-light the match heads you are going to use or cut them off, so if the matchstick violin also turns out to be rubbish you're already ahead of the game.  Lights up like a rocket to the joy and glee of the whole family!  The kids will be screaming, "How long will it take for you to make another one, Daddy?"

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So a violin is only of value if it fits the standards of a (classical) professional?  I guess the VSO factories were only catering to the rank beginners and nothing they produced could possible have been a satisfactory instrument for a "fiddler", a small group of amateurs, a talent intermediate who only played for his family, a player in a community orchestra, etc.   Sounds a bit like saying only a race car can have value since it is the only auto that meets the requirements of a professional driver.  All others are "worthless" auto shaped objects.

I think a car analogy is perfectly apt, Greg, but I'm not suggesting that only racing cars have value. I've always fixed up old cars as a hobby, and back when I was a student I used to help out my friends often when they were having car trouble. I lived in the Boston area, where the snow and salt on the roads would eventually eat its way through anything. One day, a friend came over having just bought her first car for a cheap price. It was a 20 year old Toyota that simply had no floors or wheelwells left. A 2x4 kept your feet from dragging on the ground Flintstones style. Add to that, the cylinder head was cracked and the valves were all burnt up. I sadly told her that it wasn't worth it to fix this car up, and I doubt that any car nuts among you would disagree with me. There are cars that might be worthwhile fixing up from that sort of condition, and the same car if it were not in a dangerous and barely useable state might be worth preserving, but there is a point where a car or a violin simply can't be considered worthwhile. One of the things I feel we see on MN from time to time is the equivalent of, say, the situation if my friend way back then insisted that her Toyota was just as good as any car out there, and that it would perfectly satisfy a professional race driver. Luckily for her safety, she junked it and got another car.

.

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Cheap can apply even to very good violins. Like fudgy pufling work in some of the historical work from Naples or Turin, etc.

Rubbish is more about being irreparably deficient and frustrating in core quality. (Not to say there aren't some fiddlers out there that take a whiskey swilling delight in taking some rubbish and making it dance.)

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