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I would be interested in the opinions (especially of the European Forum members) about the changes in the European auction market for stringed instruments. 

Since it´s possible to view and bid online at auctions and watch the the results online for some 20 years and the increasing numbers of auction houses in London over the past 15 years, we could now see another change in the European market with the almost certainly hard brexit Even if the trade was always international, do you expect some changes?

On the continent, Bongartz seems to become calmer (no auction last year, only one this year). Is there any information about the future? Dorotheum and Baubino also do not seem to become much more interesting. Will Vichy remain the only major auction house in the EU or am I missing another important house?

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I think mr Bongartz has too many lawsuits going on about some misattributed items. They are not too kind in Germany about this

The string market is extremely small compared to other "art" specialities where auction houses make millions per sale, i doubt some new player will step in and go through the hurdle of finding good instruments which seemingly becomes more scarce each year due to auction houses becoming full time dealers themselves. I wouldn't be surprised if Tarisio would move their London branch to Amsterdam or expand. 

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For the higher end, it will not matter where the lots become available. 

If the economy worsens more items will become available and more houses will participate.

But if we do not teaching more kids how to play these instruments, the overall value will drop quickly in decades and composite instruments will just be easier to maintain. Try plotting the prices of a Steinway or a Bosendorfer. The utility of a piano is greater, but the social and expressive aspect of a bowed instrument will keep it aloft longer.

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All this presumes that "peak debt" in the economy overall will allow present trend lines to continue.

Consideration 1: During the (in USA -- earlier in Europe) 1929-1941 Great Depression, "fine" instruments were all but unsalable. Hardly anybody had the money to buy them. For formerly well-to-do people wiped out by the market crash, "We can always sell the Strad" turned out to be a bitterly disappointed hope. Being nearly beyond living memory, this chapter in the history of the violin market seems to be forgotten or overlooked. I'm not saying it will happen again, but history does tend to repeat itself because people fail to learn from it.

Consideration 2: I forget whether it was in 1971 or 1973 (you can look it up if it's important), the gold racket went belly-up, the stock market tanked, and "smart money" started chasing collectors items as stores of value that would continue to appreciate / beat inflation. I recall a British Society of Russian Philately newsletter from that time reporting on recent auction sales, saying that a noted collection of Soviet Postmasters Provisionals, estimated at $200-$300, had "sold for $9,000 (not a misprint. ed.)" Next came the Lady Blunt and the race was on. Rosand paid what for the Kochansky GdG ? $20,000 ? (I am among the fossils who remember $100 Sartory bows).

The market in nice instruments and bows has been a bubble ever since.

At the risk of channeling Cassandra, it is not difficult to imagine the next "big one" (and history shows that there always is one, sooner or later) sending the upscale orchestras spiraling down into the bankruptcy vortex that's already swallowed some of the provincial ones, forcing the (attempted) sale of many "investment" instruments into a market that's swamped with them from "investors" (speculators) bailing out one jump ahead (or trying to).

Seems worth mentioning, FWIW.

 

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On 8/26/2019 at 1:57 PM, chrissweden said:

I think mr Bongartz has too many lawsuits going on about some misattributed items. They are not too kind in Germany about this

 

This seems to be quite a barbed misrepresentation of the facts.

I heard that there was a dispute over the sale of the Albert Sammons Strad, with the owners feeling it shouldn't have been sold for such a low price, and the buyer insisting the deal was fair. As I understand it, the Winter 2018 auction was cancelled as a direct result, but there was an auction in May this year as usual.

 

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Bongartz has had two auctions annually for over 30 years. In 2018 none took place, in May 2019 was the last one.

To speculate in a public forum anonymously on lawsuits, makes a comment unnecessary. Maybe the Germans are not too kind with that, but I think they can read: "The catalogue details, which have been compiled to the best of our knowledge and belief, do not have warranted status in the legal sense and shall be deemed to have informative character only; they shall not become an integral part of the contractual agreement pertaining to condition. The same shall apply in respect of information of any nature or content, whether same be in verbal or in written form. The level of preservation is not specified throughout in the catalogue, and therefore detail which is found to have been omitted shall not be deemed either to constitute contractual agreement in respect of condition; all items shall be deemed to have been sold per level of preservation and condition prevailing upon knock-down."  Caveat emptor!

The investment instrument business has certainly a high entertainment factor and is very interesting for business theories, but for many of the visiting dealers, these are simply one way to stock up on bread and butter instruments. 

All suggested cities are great venues for possible changes and for sure worth constant visits :rolleyes:

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12 hours ago, martin swan said:

This seems to be quite a barbed misrepresentation of the facts.

I heard that there was a dispute over the sale of the Albert Sammons Strad, with the owners feeling it shouldn't have been sold for such a low price, and the buyer insisting the deal was fair. As I understand it, the Winter 2018 auction was cancelled as a direct result, but there was an auction in May this year as usual.

 

I know of several well known players that have or had lawsuits against him because they bought something fake. Does he still drop Chinese bows in his auction?

A well known story is him selling a "strad" to André Rieu which was not a Strad or only partially. I believe the top is later.

 

2 hours ago, match said:


Bongartz has had two auctions annually for over 30 years. In 2018 none took place, in May 2019 was the last one.

To speculate in a public forum anonymously on lawsuits, makes a comment unnecessary. Maybe the Germans are not too kind with that, but I think they can read: "The catalogue details, which have been compiled to the best of our knowledge and belief, do not have warranted status in the legal sense and shall be deemed to have informative character only; they shall not become an integral part of the contractual agreement pertaining to condition. The same shall apply in respect of information of any nature or content, whether same be in verbal or in written form. The level of preservation is not specified throughout in the catalogue, and therefore detail which is found to have been omitted shall not be deemed either to constitute contractual agreement in respect of condition; all items shall be deemed to have been sold per level of preservation and condition prevailing upon knock-down."  Caveat emptor!

The investment instrument business has certainly a high entertainment factor and is very interesting for business theories, but for many of the visiting dealers, these are simply one way to stock up on bread and butter instruments. 

All suggested cities are great venues for possible changes and for sure worth constant visits :rolleyes:

One's own term of service is not above the law. If you sell something that is not authentic and you call yourself an expert you will have problems explaining this in court.

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13 minutes ago, chrissweden said:

I know of several well known players that have or had lawsuits against him because they bought something fake. Does he still drop Chinese bows in his auction?

A well known story is him selling a "strad" to André Rieu which was not a Strad or only partially. I believe the top is later.

One's own term of service is not above the law. If you sell something that is not authentic and you call yourself an expert you will have problems explaining this in court.

Maybe a case of sour grapes?

You said the Bongartz auctions were not happening because of lawsuits, yet the André Rieu Strad episode was a long time ago and you don't know the facts of the case. So you are conflating two things which are not connected - one wonders why.

As Match pointed out, the terms and conditions at Bongartz exempt the auctioneer from pretty much anything. It's the same for all auction houses in Germany and the UK - they are acting for the consignors. If someone buys something that isn't authentic (and this happens often, everywhere), they have only themselves to blame.

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This is slightly off-topic, but I'm researching French bows and noticed that continental auction houses seem to bring dramatically higher prices for certain makers. For example, looking at E.A. Ouchard violin bows over the last few years, those that sold at Vichy are nearly double the price of American and other auctions. I realize the sample size is small, but I find it hard to believe that a single auction house has all the most outstanding examples by this, and other, makers. Any insight?

 

https://tarisio.com/cozio-archive/price-history/?Maker_ID=505

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 9/3/2019 at 8:19 AM, martin swan said:

If someone buys something that isn't authentic (and this happens often, everywhere), they have only themselves to blame.

[Munches some popcorn.]  Yup.  And this makes expensively fishing in the gilded shark tanks of the world's cultural capitals superior to stalking "attic Strads" on eBay in what regard, besides the availability of refreshments provided by the venue?  :huh:;)  :lol:

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1 hour ago, Violadamore said:

[Munches some popcorn.]  Yup.  And this makes expensively fishing in the gilded shark tanks of the world's cultural capitals superior to stalking "attic Strads" on eBay in what regard, besides the availability of refreshments provided by the venue?  :huh:;)  :lol:

Not sure if that's a serious question, but basically if you want to buy a Gragnani at auction, you're not going to find it on Ebay.

Nor am I going to risk my money on anything of serious value unless I can examine it at length and play it, and be sure that it will reach my shop in one piece.

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Just now, martin swan said:

Not sure if that's a serious question, but basically if you want to buy a Gragnani at auction, you're not going to find it on Ebay.

Nor am I going to risk my money on anything of serious value unless I can examine it at length and play it, and be sure that it will reach my shop in one piece.

Serious enough.  Given that instruments not being bought strictly for restoration (where, presumably, all issues may be remediated in the right hands) require playing for evaluation, as well as that the larger sums involved encourage one to handle the fiddles first for a number of self-protective reasons, along with famous-maker instruments traditionally being offered for sale only in a limited number of prestigious venues, you are (of course) quite correct. 

My point is that, based on what I keep seeing stated here on MN, and in certain news stories, it appears that, under the pressures of the realities of Internet commerce, the prestigious auction venues are headed towards largely becoming eBay with much higher fees, no convenient shipping arrangements, and no buyer protection.  IMHO, those of us who don't absolutely need to participate in these auctions (as you and your colleagues obviously do need to), should do our shopping somewhere else.  :)

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Sales can provide a number of useful opportunities. For the uninitiated, it is a place where you can go and examine a lot of stuff, if you like to have a day out.

They are also the places where a lot of people cut their teeth, gaining expertise from examining instruments and bows. Having something in hand, is a very different experience to looking at shitty out of focus photos on eBay.

I'm sure the affordable sales attract plenty of interest, despite the modest values, and sometimes poorer condition of a few lots.
 

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On 9/5/2019 at 1:22 PM, martin swan said:

These were from the personal collection of Bernard Millant. Very much the most outstanding examples, and with the added cachet of being owned by the greatest expert of all time.

Yet another example of why auction results are meaningless without significant additional information ...

And what beautiful bows they were, just gorgeous, I think I would spend more time looking at them and playing them. And using a high-powered loupe, too. Gorgeous bows, every one.

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12 hours ago, martin swan said:

Agree with all of this, but the problem is that the lower value stuff is increasingly being consigned to the "affordable" sales rather than flogged off on Ebay.


It was also my guess that the affordable auctions put on many instruments that would have been sold on eBay some years ago. On one hand there are higher buyer commissions on the other hand the condition reports and much more reliable and the shipping much safer. Retail prices for older lower end instruments are now perhaps expected to increase gradually. I myself was very surprised by the results when I sold some repair instruments in an AA. The results were probably much higher than I would have achieved in an Ebay auction.

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  • 1 year later...
On 8/31/2019 at 9:05 PM, Blank face said:

Berlin would have the advantage that English is sort of second language here. But nobody has money.:unsure:

I couldn't forsee that they would take my proposal serious. Hope there will be a big opening party now that the Covid lockdown is coming to an end.

image.thumb.png.a26d4dfda7ac9014f9b24847d24b916b.png

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