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Top $$$ makers of all time

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1 hour ago, martin swan said:

In my view, the principal factor is degrees of separation from Stradivari and del Gesu.

In other words, did someone work with either, did they work with someone who worked with either, were they at least in the same country around the same time, did they copy authentic instruments by these makers, did they have some tools from the Stradivari workshop, did they deal in Strads, could their violins pass as Strads in a darkish room etc etc ad nauseam ....

Then there are lots of other less important factors, some of which you have listed. But name recognition plays a big part - the more examples there are, the more often an auction result appears, and every time the price creeps up a bit.

Also names with lots of syllables are popular.


Ben Hebbert has an essay in the IPCI book linking Vuillaume to the beginnins of this. He suggests, and he will correct me if I have mis-read, that Vuillaume tied the price of his violins to that of a Strad, and by pushing the bar higher and higher that it pulled his violins up in relation.

Today, however, the links between living maker's works and Cremonese instruments from the Golden Period relative to price are non-visible.

Dealers. Let's blame the Dealers. I don't think that the Hills ever did any altruistic research pertaining to violins and thier origins.


Still, reasonable relative to a fine old Dutch master painting or a lovely Monet.

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1 minute ago, duane88 said:

Dealers. Let's blame the Dealers. I don't think that the Hills ever did any altruistic research pertaining to violins and thier origins.

I don't know if we should be thinking in terms of blame. There are good sounding, enjoyable to play instruments out there at relatively affordable prices.  We don't all need to be playing on Strads  or Vuillaumes. Let the billionaires, banks and foundations fight over the Strads, and let the orchestra members earning 6 figure salaries fight over the Vuillaumes, there are still plenty of excellent old and new fiddles out there, and I believe one can find a "professional" quality violin without paying the premium for a big name.

Of course, that could mean having a harder time selling the thing the day you want something else, and if the maker isn't well known or sought after, the violin's value might not go up steadily. So, ease of resale can push some buyers towards the well-known names together with the hope that one day their instrument could also contribute to their pension fund. Those concerns could be as significant to the maintenance of this "inflationary" market as greed on the part of the Dealers.

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On 1/13/2018 at 4:14 PM, Michael Appleman said:

This sort of question might seem trivial, since it kind of reduces violin making to labels and brands, but I do like making lists (a sign of mental disorder?), so who does one put in the top ten most expensive violin "makers" without taking into account individual violins and their particular qualities or problems? (talking violins, not cellos, that changes everything!)

Well, you kind of have to put Carlo Bergonzi right up there with Strad and GDG.

After that coming hard on their heels in the over 1mil group I'd think would be JB Guadagnini.

Then in terms of price, maybe call them the 500k-1mil range (although the best ones are probably asking more) you've got the whole "orthodox" Cremonese school, all the Amatis, Joseph filius and Andrea Guarneri, and the Cremonese "off-shoots" the 2 Pietro Guarneris, and GB Rogeri. You'd probably have to put the best Venetians in this group so the best Montagnanas, and Gobettis, and maybe some of the best late Cremonese Michelangelo, Nicolo or Carlo II Bergonzis and Storionis.  

Ruggieris seem to come in a little less expensive than Amatis/Guarneris/Rogeris

In the 250-500k group you get the more typical Venetians, Goffrillers, Seraphin(s) etc, the Mantuans (Camilli, Balestrieri) the better Neapolitans (Alessandro, Nicolo and Gennaro Gagliano), most of the funky late Cremonese, the Milanese (though the best early Grancinos could probably break into the higher bracket) and you start to get the 19thc makers, like Rocca, the best Pressendas, Lupot, and the best Vuillaumes.

Just my trivial personal thoughts, and totally open to contestation by those who are actively buying and selling these things, instead of just borrowing, playing and studying them. 

This is a very a good list. 

And out of curiosity, out of your 250-500k and 500-1m list, if taking into account of workmanship/given similar historical context (time period)/maker material selection, which one would be consider over-valued (due to market hype) and which are under-valued in terms of cost/performances? 

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