jacklinks

Are Certificates really beneficial?

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Certainly not an expert, but most certificates I’ve seen don’t really seem to contain much substance. There is usually language regarding the varnish color, the types of wood used, and measurements (somehow taking up a couple of paragraphs). Then the strategic use of words like “may”, “might”, “could”, etc. that don’t seem to commit to an actual determination or identification.  Are certificates really all that useful?

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17 minutes ago, jacklinks said:

Are certificates really all that useful?

Are you buying, or are you selling?  :ph34r:  ;)

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The description of wood, colour and so on, as well as measurements are almost tradition from a time when certificates didn‘t have pictures, and were there that a third person could work out if a certificate belonged to a particular instrument. If a certificate is any use or not, is a good question and I resent the time writing them. Sometimes one feels that the world is going mad, and I will have to write certificates for a Neuner & Hornsteiner or a Dutzendarbeit next

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One observation here, given my experience with collecting authentic Japanese swords and fittings, I am rather surprised that the certification of violins, no matter how pricey, remains a private, an inexact, and a comparatively squalid affair so far as the quality of the documents is concerned. 

Why has no one established some expert organization independent of the dealing community to administer the matter (possibly in association with the UNESCO Tangible Cultural Heritage people, because violins are truly international), which would then assign rankings which would translate into real effects on prices, and issue impressive standard documents (suitable for framing) confirming the provenance and identity of the musical instrument described?  :huh:

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32 minutes ago, Violadamore said:

 

Why has no one established some expert organization independent of the dealing community to administer the matter 

Never heard of the Schweitzer Expertenkammer then?

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29 minutes ago, Violadamore said:

One observation here, given my experience with collecting authentic Japanese swords and fittings, I am rather surprised that the certification of violins, no matter how pricey, remains a private, an inexact, and a comparatively squalid affair so far as the quality of the documents is concerned. 

Why has no one established some expert organization independent of the dealing community to administer the matter (possibly in association with the UNESCO Tangible Cultural Heritage people, because violins are truly international), which would then assign rankings which would translate into real effects on prices, and issue impressive standard documents (suitable for framing) confirming the provenance and identity of the musical instrument described?  :huh:

Kind of a parallel universe I must be living in here ...

What is squalid or inexact about a certificate from (for example) Charles Beare, Florian Leonhard, Eric Blot, Benjamin Schroeder, JF Raffin, Isaac Salchow, Paul Childs etc?

We have discussed many times why pricing is fluid - if you can find a way to quantify devaluation for every kind of condition issue and variation in model, size, period etc then we might be able to make a start.

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3 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

Never heard of the Schweitzer Expertenkammer then?

I'm not talking about a consultancy (particularly not one with an axe to grind).  NBTHK and NTHK are nonprofit organizations which provide certification services for rather reasonable fees.  Decisions are reached by a panel, rather than by a single expert, BTW, something like music or athletic judging.

3 hours ago, martin swan said:

Kind of a parallel universe I must be living in here ...

What is squalid or inexact about a certificate from (for example) Charles Beare, Florian Leonhard, Eric Blot, Benjamin Schroeder, JF Raffin, Isaac Salchow, Paul Childs etc?

We have discussed many times why pricing is fluid - if you can find a way to quantify devaluation for every kind of condition issue and variation in model, size, period etc then we might be able to make a start.

The term "squalid" was somewhat tongue-in-cheek (as well as a pun on the Latin word for "shark" ;)) and referring to the practice of issuing certs in whatever form the issuer finds convenient (I've seen many typed on letterhead paper).  Official sword certs use a standard layout hand-brushed onto fine paper, with some anti-counterfeiting features, and look very good indeed, as befits something which can substantially increase the value of a piece.

The sort of quantification based on maker, appearance, original quality, and condition is pretty much how swords are valued, based on a traditional, customary approach using a very precise jargon for descriptions.  Last time I looked through a comprehensive smith listing it contained over 13,000 names with reference to their location, era, school, level of expertise, and traditional value (readily available online, in English, BTW).  Compared to what's taken for granted in nihonto collecting, violins are still a sort of Wild West proposition.

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6 hours ago, jacklinks said:

Are certificates really all that useful?

Absolutely. They can make or break a sale, and the trend toward having one is only increasing. Violins that no one would have bothered to certify 10 years ago are hard to sell without them now.

It’s an extra expense, but it helps people feel confident about an instrument when one can show a history of documentation, especially if all the certificates are in agreement.

Also, a detailed writeup accompanied by professional photos (part of what you get if you buy a certificate) can be very helpful for getting an insurance appraisal or for identifying a lost or stolen instrument. 

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6 hours ago, Violadamore said:

NBTHK and NTHK are nonprofit organizations which provide certification services for rather reasonable fees.  Decisions are reached by a panel, rather than by a single expert, BTW, something like music or athletic judging

An interesting development, not unrelated to violins, with sword certification.  I'm about to submit a blade (the "Yasutsugu Sandai" katateuchi blade you've seen... I mean, assuming it is that...) for shinsa, and I was going to go with the annual visits to the US of NTHK, but I have been advised that since the elder Yoshikawai-sensei is no longer with us, that it would be better to submit my blade in Japan with NBTHK, which I am about to do. 

Anyway, my point is that even this ideal certification process relies on experts, individuals who have spent a lifetime in the practice.  It is apparently still human.  True, there's a panel, but I thought it was interesting to be advised to choose the NBTHK over NTHK.  In my other interest, antique tribal oriental carpets, it's even worse... far worse... than violins.  If you are looking at Central Asian Turkmen carpets, an experienced eye has little trouble once we get to 1900, but "before 1890" and before that it gets weirder and weirder.  Everyone knows that some of these things are tremendously old, but you can't really carbon-date after 1600, and people who have looked at hundreds (or more) of these try to sort it out.  The amount of bluster, prevarication, speculation, and outright BS in the field is impressive.  We, in the violin world, are far better off.  Here's a really fine Turkmen dowry rug from the Tekke tribe that I own.  I say that it's "first half 19th-c." but it could be as late as, maybe 1880... or as old as 1750.  Or before.  No one knows. 

whole_rug_front.thumb.jpg.aa5bad6022e76cb02eec5a588fa738e8.jpg

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3 hours ago, palousian said:

An interesting development, not unrelated to violins, with sword certification.  I'm about to submit a blade (the "Yasutsugu Sandai" katateuchi blade you've seen... I mean, assuming it is that...) for shinsa, and I was going to go with the annual visits to the US of NTHK, but I have been advised that since the elder Yoshikawai-sensei is no longer with us, that it would be better to submit my blade in Japan with NBTHK, which I am about to do. 

Anyway, my point is that even this ideal certification process relies on experts, individuals who have spent a lifetime in the practice.  It is apparently still human.  True, there's a panel, but I thought it was interesting to be advised to choose the NBTHK over NTHK.  In my other interest, antique tribal oriental carpets, it's even worse... far worse... than violins.  If you are looking at Central Asian Turkmen carpets, an experienced eye has little trouble once we get to 1900, but "before 1890" and before that it gets weirder and weirder.  Everyone knows that some of these things are tremendously old, but you can't really carbon-date after 1600, and people who have looked at hundreds (or more) of these try to sort it out.  The amount of bluster, prevarication, speculation, and outright BS in the field is impressive.  We, in the violin world, are far better off.  Here's a really fine Turkmen dowry rug from the Tekke tribe that I own.  I say that it's "first half 19th-c." but it could be as late as, maybe 1880... or as old as 1750.  Or before.  No one knows. 

whole_rug_front.thumb.jpg.aa5bad6022e76cb02eec5a588fa738e8.jpg

I never intended to imply that the process wasn't human, just better organized.  No system is perfect.  As has been posted elsewhere, and I can't improve on:

"The NBTHK is a professional organization headed and staffed by the most expert people in the nihontō community; people who have spent decades on the subject, who view thousands of swords a year, who literally wrote the book on the subject and its sub-subjects. But in the end, shinsa is ultimately an opinion, and sometimes that opinion may not be airtight. It's as good an opinion as you can get, but it is better to learn to buy swords for what you think they are worth, and not to rely too heavily on papers."

As far as why NBTHK is a better choice for your katateuchi:

1. The two organizations use different criteria (you might score higher with NBTHK),

2. While NTHK hasn't really lost expertise overall, there was a schism after Yoshikawa died which didn't exactly raise their stock any.  NTHK-NPO is the new not-for-profit organization which came out of the split, and which is still worth submitting to.

3. Though NTHK is actually the older organization, since 1949 NBTHK has been the big dog on the block.  IMHO, their paper is worth more.

The obvious minus, of course, is that you have to submit it to Tokyo (and hassle with Japanese customs inspection) rather than just take it to one of the Stateside sword shows that NTHK-NPO attends.  Submitting to NTHK-NPO first is used a lot as a cheaper safer way of determining if the added expense and hassle of NBTHK submission is warranted.

For all I can tell, that rug might have been floating around nomad camps ever since it was looted from Alexander's baggage.  :ph34r:  :lol:

 

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12 hours ago, Violadamore said:

One observation here, given my experience with collecting authentic Japanese swords and fittings, I am rather surprised that the certification of violins, no matter how pricey, remains a private, an inexact, and a comparatively squalid affair so far as the quality of the documents is concerned. 

Why has no one established some expert organization independent of the dealing community to administer the matter (possibly in association with the UNESCO Tangible Cultural Heritage people, because violins are truly international), which would then assign rankings which would translate into real effects on prices, and issue impressive standard documents (suitable for framing) confirming the provenance and identity of the musical instrument described?  :huh:

(Hmm, I have once seen a certificate for an authentic old Noh mask and was surprised how meager the wording was, even compared to violin certificates. Is this different to certificates for Japanese swords?)

Anyway, the idea to separate certification from people involved in dealing would be ideal. The problem is that there is hardly anyone outside the dealing world having sufficient  knowledge on stringed instruments. The only person I know who would come close to this description is Philip Kass. 

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6 minutes ago, Andreas Preuss said:

(Hmm, I have once seen a certificate for an authentic old Noh mask and was surprised how meager the wording was, even compared to violin certificates. Is this different to certificates for Japanese swords?)

Anyway, the idea to separate certification from people involved in dealing would be ideal. The problem is that there is hardly anyone outside the dealing world having sufficient  knowledge on stringed instruments. The only person I know who would come close to this description is Philip Kass. 

NHTK-NPO certs include an information page which tells you much more than the NBTHK certs (which only contain an attribution/mei verification) do.  OTOH, NBTHK papers are the more likely to increase resale value.  :)

 

Yup.  That's the major fly in the ointment.  We need someone wealthy to fund more violin scholars.  Like that's going to happen........  :rolleyes:

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17 minutes ago, Violadamore said:

 

 

Yup.  That's the major fly in the ointment.  We need someone wealthy to fund more violin scholars.  Like that's going to happen........  :rolleyes:

Nonsense. We have had this discussion often enough in the past. It was Skiing Fiddler who had that ridiculous „violin scholar“ bee in his bonnet

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This is a very old topic and was discussed certainly more than a dozen times here before.

At least it all relies on trust. Rugs and Japanese swords might be nice artefacts, but just the dimensions of the venue isn't comparable with the violin market by far, and especially the Japanese culture seems to be particular hierachically organized so that a board of authorities won't be challenged so easily like in Western cultures.

Of course the whole certification is getting a sort of ridiculous fetish now when people are asking for certificates about 1000 Euro Mittenwald or Mirecourt stuff, not to mention all the simple Mirecourt or Markneukirchen bows. But there's a kind of certification business, too.

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22 minutes ago, Blank face said:

Of course the whole certification is getting a sort of ridiculous fetish now when people are asking for certificates about 1000 Euro Mittenwald or Mirecourt stuff, not to mention all the simple Mirecourt or Markneukirchen bows. But there's a kind of certification business, too.

IMHO, papering a $10,000 item to make it a $20,000 item is good business sense.  Papering something when it won't increase the value is asinine.  :lol:

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Speaking as someone who works in a field where almost everything is certified (coins) all I can say is be careful what you wish for. 

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27 minutes ago, Violadamore said:

IMHO, papering a $10,000 item to make it a $20,000 item is good business sense.  Papering something when it won't increase the value is asinine.  :lol:

That sounds like a Machold approach.

Either it is a 20 K thing or it isn't. The paper should just confirm, not "make" it.

One could argue about the ratio between value of the item and cost of certifications, but from a certain level on and below a detailled invoice by a trusted seller would be enough IMO, also for insurance purpose. If somebody don't trust me, they can move on.:)

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9 minutes ago, Blank face said:

That sounds like a Machold approach.

Either it is a 20 K thing or it isn't. The paper should just confirm, not "make" it.

One could argue about the ratio between value of the item and cost of certifications, but from a certain level on and below a detailled invoice by a trusted seller would be enough IMO, also for insurance purpose. If somebody don't trust me, they can move on.:)

No, in some fields (like certain Japanese artifacts) the certification is viewed as an "improvement", like a new polish (or fencing a property), and increases the value in a real sense.  :)

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3 minutes ago, Violadamore said:

No, in some fields (like certain Japanese artifacts) the certification is viewed as an "improvement", like a new polish, and increases the value in a real sense.  :)

That's probably where they (Machold & Co) got the idea from. Ex oriente nox.:(

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18 minutes ago, Blank face said:

That's probably where they (Machold & Co) got the idea from. Ex oriente nox.:(

Actually, no joke, they may have.  There was a major scandal in the 1970's when a group of yakuza (Japanese mafiosi) extorted faked papers from some of the NBTHK branch offices under threat of violence, to increase the value of swords being used as collateral on loans (sound familiar?).  There were also some outright counterfeit papers produced.  When the scheme was discovered, the NBTHK totally changed their certification system to only issue certs from the main office as well as to replace the old cert types with new ones which were harder to fake. 

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2 hours ago, Violadamore said:

NHTK-NPO certs include an information page which tells you much more than the NBTHK certs (which only contain an attribution/mei verification) do.  OTOH, NBTHK papers are the more likely to increase resale value.  :)

As I am not familiar with the world of Japanese swords, are there any fakes of swords around? :ph34r:

(I guess for rugs that's different :D)

In any case the major purpose of certificates is to distinguish the faked stuff from the original stuff.

I repeatedly said  that I wished that certificates would contain in their texts more scholastic knowledge on the instrument and its maker in a historical context. 

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46 minutes ago, Blank face said:

That sounds like a Machold approach.

:D

Having worked for Machild in NY I can only say that it is only half of the truth. 

Because the big boss didn't know what he was looking at when he saw instruments many of his 'friends' dumped off their good looking junk on him. 

But I am not saying this to defend him. The whole thing was literally like sailing on the Titanic, the unsinkable ship.

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13 minutes ago, Andreas Preuss said:

:D

Having worked for Machild in NY I can only say that it is only half of the truth. 

Because the big boss didn't know what he was looking at when he saw instruments many of his 'friends' dumped off their good looking junk on him. 

But I am not saying this to defend him. The whole thing was literally like sailing on the Titanic, the unsinkable ship.

It so happens that there was a widely distributed publicity photo of Machold holding a violin, which I enlarged out of curiosity to see what masterpiece he chose for his photo.  I was surprised to see (from the corners and "6 o'clock scroll" in particular) that the "masterpiece" was unquestionably a Saxon violin, IMHO, probably a Markie.  I had wondered about that......  :rolleyes:  :lol:

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1 hour ago, Andreas Preuss said:

 

I repeatedly said  that I wished that certificates would contain in their texts more scholastic knowledge on the instrument and its maker in a historical context. 

As I said further up this thread, the text of a certificate is essentially a description of the certified violin, that one may check that the instrument and the certificate go together. There simply isn’t the room on a certificate to write an essay on the maker in question, nor is there a requirement to do so. A certificate is merely a statement of what something is.

 

55 minutes ago, Violadamore said:

It so happens that there was a widely distributed publicity photo of Machold holding a violin, which I enlarged out of curiosity to see what masterpiece he chose for his photo.  I was surprised to see (from the corners and "6 o'clock scroll" in particular) that the "masterpiece" was unquestionably a Saxon violin, IMHO, probably a Markie.  I had wondered about that......  :rolleyes:  :lol:

I think Dietmar is allowed to hold a Saxon violin until he puts it down again.

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30 minutes ago, jacobsaunders said:

As I said further up this thread, the text of a certificate is essentially a description of the certified violin, that one may check that the instrument and the certificate go together. There simply isn’t the room on a certificate to write an essay on the maker in question, nor is there a requirement to do so. A certificate is merely a statement of what something is.

Sure.

Actually my mistake. Historic background is too large. But if a certificate would require a few words why such and such conclusion was made a lot of confusion could be avoided. 

 

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