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ClefLover

Another South France violin...

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4 hours ago, germain said:

It’s a nice looking fiddle and if it sounds good it’s a steal. 

In Europe not a steal for a rather simple Mirecourt violin which are available for low sums at auctions. "Fini et repassé" means finished and set up, or better sold by this shop.

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Well my cynicism knows no bounds, but the story about an estate sale is just puffery.

The seller had a cheapish Mirecourt violin (as Blank Face says, the sort of thing you buy for €200 at a French flea market), and also a nice old Georges Coné case. Bung in a Coné label, add a manky bow and a few oldish looking bits and bobs and it starts to have a "cash in the attic" feeling!

Honestly I can see how this looks like sour grapes or a vendetta of some kind, but you only have to see a couple of thousand of such instruments on the Rue de Rome or spread out by the dozen in cheap fleapit hotel rooms before you begin to recognize the form.

But obviously people get a lot of fun from the chase, and we've all been there!

 

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1 hour ago, martin swan said:

the sort of thing you buy for €200 at a French flea market

Factually I let some of these pass for 60-100 Euro the last times, but I don't see this as the main point, nor the transpicious wording about masterpiece and the like (and the bow seems to be 3/4 size). It's more that it needs some hundreds worth of work for set up, touch up, maybe glueing, strings, etc. untill you can use something like this and could sell it for "retail". Too much time consuming if you're working on more rewarding stuff. Actually the french Ebay is full of similar in the same price range.

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51 minutes ago, martin swan said:

But obviously people get a lot of fun from the chase, and we've all been there!

Unfortunately true! Thinking about the time I bought a carefully re-labelled and branded Réghin type violin from a junk dealer shortly after moving to France nearly 30 years ago made me think about some fundamental differences between the fiddle trade in Europe and in the US, at least as it was when I was growing up.

It's hard to imagine, now, but back in the 1970's, after William Ganshirt retired and before Horst Kloss (and later Andy Weinstein) moved to town, there was not one real professional violin maker working in Boston. It seemed not only normal, but that the only way to "hunt for fiddles," was to make the rounds of various junk dealers (calling themselves "antique" dealers, but that label means something quite different in Europe) and pawn shops to see what they might have scrounged up since our last visit. My father's strategy was to buy a couple cheap trade fiddles each time, in order to stay on the junk dealers' good side in case something really interesting ever turned up. We even had arrangements with some of them to fix up their broken fiddles or rehair their bows in order to have first dibs on anything interesting. That was how things were done in a town where there simply weren't any professional shops around, and I think this sort of mentality prevails in many areas around the world where real violin shops are rare.

When I first started coming to Europe to play concerts in the 1980's, I did what I grew up doing in the States, that is pop into any antique shop, junk shop or pawn broker I might pass to ask if they had any violins. At first I found it odd that the shop owners would look at me as though I were crazy, but after a while I figured out that concerning violins especially, things work quite differently here.

There is a caste of "scroungers," who roam from estate sale to estate sale and flea market to flea market looking for anything they might be able to sell wholesale on the Rue de Rome (or now, apparently to overly optimistic Ebay bidders), but there is a long standing tradition of both professional violin shops in almost every medium sized town and state controlled or sanctioned  auction houses to handle estate sales etc. in every town, so there really isn't a viable "junk shop/flea market" side to the fiddle business.

Families that have an old violin they want to sell will generally bring it to a professional violin shop or their local auction house where a court appointed expert will estimate it for auction, or if it's a valuable violin, call in a bigger expert like Rampal. (the UK is probably less reglemented than continental Europe for this sort of thing, but the tradition of going to an auction house is certainly ingrained, I imagine) In fact, a friend of mine who opened up a shop on the rue de Rome a few years ago admitted to me that what made the rent worth paying was the traffic of people stopping in every hour or so with a violin to sell. 

I just thought I'd post this thought, both to help some MN'ers from the other side of the Atlantic to understand why some of the Europeans might seem so dismissive of their queries, and to help the Europeans understand why so many Western Hemisphere posters seem so intent on throwing their money away. 

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So here is my question: a decent Chinese made instrument from the Howard Core company costs between $850 and $1500 here in the states. I am convinced that the fiddles coming from our friend under his multiple accounts from the south of France are a better instruments in that price range especially if you know what to look for in a fiddle... no?

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3 hours ago, germain said:

So here is my question: a decent Chinese made instrument from the Howard Core company costs between $850 and $1500 here in the states. I am convinced that the fiddles coming from our friend under his multiple accounts from the south of France are a better instruments in that price range especially if you know what to look for in a fiddle... no?

 

OK but how many Howard Core violins do you want to own? This is false logic.

And when you say "when you know what to look for", what do you really mean? The problem with the gypsy faking operation is that it is designed to convince those people who think they know what to look for. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

If you think that maker should have pins under the purfling it will have pins under the purfling, if it should have a brand in the upper back on the inside, you will find it, if it should have cleats on the back seam, there they will be ...

I could have bought a hundred such violins today in Paris for under €500 each, but they are simply not worth having - which is why they are on Ebay. Unless you have a shop in Korea of course, in which case there's some serious money to be made ...

You need to train your eye very well to see the overall look of these violins, and you have to recognize the particularly convincing way things are antiqued, contextualized, or just "improved a bit". This is often covered by what appears to be poor retouching, excessive polish etc.

Of course this seller sometimes sells genuine Mirecourt violins, but they are very poor and always the kind of thing that I simply couldn't sell at any price to a serious customer with whom I wish to have a happy and continuing relationship, unless I were to invest up to £1000 in repairs, set-up, replacement of poor fingerboard, a neck reset and major retouching. The new stuff that he sells is simply not saleable outside of the context of Ebay.

It's all too easy to persuade yourself that the sound is really good, but when you are finally convinced that it has minimal financial value, generally the sound deteriorates very quickly thereafter ...:lol:

Blank Face is correct, there are many sources for these instruments, some are fleamarket Mirecourts, some are Krotsch factory white violins from the 40s/50s, some are modern, but they are all mutton dressed as lamb. 

For a single private buyer for money to burn and a hunger for a bargain, buy 10 and you will get one really nice violin. That's how I became a dealer after all - many of us here have had to travel the rocky road to enlightenment.

 

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43 minutes ago, martin swan said:

If you think that maker should have pins under the purfling it will have pins under the purfling, if it should have a brand in the upper back on the inside, you will find it, if it should have cleats on the back seam, there they will be ...

This is remarkably true. As a dealer-friend told me, these guys will get a violin, look at what it is, and then decide what it can be most easily turned into.

1 hour ago, germain said:

 I am convinced that the fiddles coming from our friend under his multiple accounts from the south of France are a better instruments in that price range especially if you know what to look for in a fiddle... no?

I don't know why you are convinced of that.

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42 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

This is remarkably true. As a dealer-friend told me, these guys will get a violin, look at what it is, and then decide what it can be most easily turned into.

I don't know why you are convinced of that.

I am because I have an extensive collection of certified French violins and the instrument I just bought from eBay that stirred up some controversy sounds better than many of my real gems that bear Rampal certificates...

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What is Michael Darnton’s wonderful one liner?

Great sound plus a dollar buys you a cup of coffee ...!

Can I ask why you buy real gems with Rampal certs if they don’t sound wonderful? It’s not as if there’s any shortage of real gems with Rampal certs that do sound wonderful ..

btw I’m not trying to be confrontational, just like to learn about the buyer’s perspective 

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1 hour ago, GeorgeH said:

This is remarkably true. As a dealer-friend told me, these guys will get a violin, look at what it is, and then decide what it can be most easily turned into.

I don't know why you are convinced of that.

A colleague told me a great story. He was in d’Atilli’s workshop and there was a violin on the bench.

”Is that a Pressenda?” he asked.

”No but it will be by tomorrow ...”

 

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1 hour ago, martin swan said:

If you think that maker should have pins under the purfling it will have pins under the purfling, if it should have a brand in the upper back on the inside, you will find it, if it should have cleats on the back seam, there they will be ...

Very generally spoken this is right - but you are somehow overestimating the abilities of these fakers and underestimating the eyes of many knowledgeable people.;)

Living in a city which is since the fall of the iron curtain a sort of crossway for all kind of violin stuff including Chinese, Reghin and all kind of faked brandings and antiquings I never came across something what could really fool any halfway experienced person. Faked pins, faked brands, faked varnish or a wear is usually detectable even at photos with an eye for it. To make it convincing you would need the gifts of a Roger Hargrave, and that's not what these people are. I think we found this out during the many threads here regarding such listings.

So there is al lot of real stuff out there, too.

OTOH, all this Mirecourt stuff or Dutzendarbeit is what many retail shops are living from, and what most of the students are playing. I just depends of the amount of work being necessary to bring it into a good playing condition and the price you are paying for the "blank ware". This might answer the question about Chinese vs. old trade in some way.

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It only has to fool a keen amateur or dealer in waiting who is hoping for a bargain, and often only for long enough for the money to come through.

 

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40 minutes ago, martin swan said:

What is Michael Darnton’s wonderful one liner?

Great sound plus a dollar buys you a cup of coffee ...!

Can I ask why you buy real gems with Rampal certs if they don’t sound wonderful? It’s not as if there’s any shortage of real gems with Rampal certs that do sound wonderful ..

btw I’m not trying to be confrontational, just like to learn about the buyer’s perspective 

I understand. The example I can give you is my Alberto Blanchi - Rampal cert.  an instrument crafted with a lot of personality unique scroll beautiful looking materials, f holes - very far apart etc. It’s in mint condition valued at about $40,000. I keep it in my collection but I do not play on it... 

I also play pretty much every single lot on every Tarisio auction in New York City - there are so many expensive instruments out there that just don’t justify the price. Yes they are the real deal I understand.  Not to mention that even if you pay $20-$40,000 most of them still complete set up due to worn out fingerboards etc.  then you can go to the full retail dealer and buy the same instrument for 60/80,000 and yes it will be set up to perfection.  

I guess we just came back full circle to the bottom line that the violin business is complete BS haha

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3 hours ago, germain said:

 

I also play pretty much every single lot on every Tarisio auction in New York City - there are so many expensive instruments out there that just don’t justify the price. Yes they are the real deal I understand. 

What do you suppose dealers do with all the violins in great condition that sound like nails on a blackboard and which they will never manage to sell? :lol:

So if you don't mind my asking, why did you buy the Blanchi?

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21 minutes ago, martin swan said:

What do you suppose dealers do with all the violins in great condition that sound like nails on a blackboard and which they will never manage to sell? :lol:

So if you don't mind my asking, why did you buy the Blanchi?

Mainly as an investment. Blanchi has been labeled as one of the “hot” makers recently by the violin gods... or at least that’s how it is in the NY scene... 

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5 hours ago, martin swan said:

It only has to fool a keen amateur or dealer in waiting who is hoping for a bargain, and often only for long enough for the money to come through.

 

Or in my case, a foolish dealer.  I have been a small dealer for less that a decade, mainly celli.  I was burned deeply by this seller, but it was my lack of experience to blame. I bought several violins and about a dozen bows.  2 of the bows ended up being genuine, yet everything else was as described above, various grades of Mirecourt and German trade stuff.  To make matters worse, I tried to sell them for profit, but luckily no one bit, except for the 2 nice bows.  I was able to unload everything eventually, but at a tremendous loss of money and dignity.  Salchow and several others set me straight and I am more careful now.  

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My own experience is that an investment violin has to sound great, otherwise no-one wants to buy it at a top price. So an indifferent sounding example has a theoretical "investment value" but which can't be realised.

I think this is where a lot of the "violin business BS" you talk of happens ... and why so many great looking violins end up at auction.

Ironically, the only way to get a great "investment" violin is to buy the particular violin that everyone else wants (great maker, great papers, great condition, great sound), which inevitably means paying top dollar.

The only other route to making money out of violins is years of study.

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23 hours ago, martin swan said:

A colleague told me a great story. He was in d’Atilli’s workshop and there was a violin on the bench.

”Is that a Pressenda?” he asked.

”No but it will be by tomorrow ...”

 

That is surprising.

My understanding is that d'Atilli at the height of his career was highly regarded. But in the very last part he had lost it and was writing certificates that were far off the mark.

However willfully faking instruments: I had never heard of that.

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11 minutes ago, puckfandan said:

Hendrik, I think you’ll find it was meant as humor.

Thanks ...

It's one of these apocryphal stories that's meant to illustrate the dangers of identifying instruments by specific "features".

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