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henry_schradieck

Is it Possible to find a decent violin at an auction?

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Hello everyone, I'm new to the community and I wanted to ask a basic question - is it possible to find an good instrument that won't cost an arm and a leg at an auction like ebay, tarissio, etc..? I'm looking for a violin and bow(s) for myself and not to resell. Where should I begin acquiring knowledge/information on how to go about doing this? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you in advance.

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Yes, but they are treacherous waters in which to wade... The violin trade seems perilous in many respects even outside of auctions.  eBay is probably the riskiest of them all mainly because the quality and knowledge of the sellers is all over the place. 

The problem with auctions accessed remotely is that you can’t play the violin and/or bow. So even if you were to know you are getting an authentic item, you are taking a risk that you may not like the sound or playability. 

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How much is "an arm and a leg" worth to you?

Are you willing to gamble "an arm and a leg" with the odds stacked against you?

You might spend "an arm and a leg" on a violin that is only worth a leg. Or less than a leg. Maybe only a couple toes, even.

It happens.

Why not just buy from a reputable dealer to get your arm and a leg's worth for a violin that you know you're going to like?

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The answer you will get probably would be the mix of 'yeah' and 'nay'.

If you are naive in identifying 'decent' violin, there is virtually zero chance for you to nail one because there are far more junks in any auction than hidden gems. On the other hand, if you do have the identification knowledge and skill, you will be one of many hungry hawks competing for the very limited preys. Remember, it just does not make a good sense for anyone to give up a beloved violin, either by provenance or tone, in an auction.

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Your chances of finding a good instrument are exponentially higher if you can see the violin in person and play it before you buy it, which rules out eBay. You also need to be able to determine whether an instrument needs repair to make it playable: a seemingly great deal can be a complete bust if it has issues that you've missed (see the recent Brompton's thread for a great case of problem-instrument related buyer's remorse)... 

Buying at auction can be fun, but there's a learning curve, and you will pay tuition (i.e. lose money).

 

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27 minutes ago, zhiyi_zhang617 said:

Remember, it just does not make a good sense for anyone to give up a beloved violin, either by provenance or tone, in an auction.

So, this is a bit of a misnomer. People do sell good violins in auctions all the time. People sell nice violins that they have collected. People sell nice violins that they have inherited or they are liquidating an estate. People sell nice violins because they stopped playing or need the money.

It is hard to sell a violin, good or bad, as a private individual. Placing it on consignment can take years to sell. Putting it online will also take a long time to get what it is worth. Auctioning a violin at a reputable auction house for musical instruments is a way to get a fair price quickly. 

So, you can definitely find good violins for sale at auction, but you need to know what you're looking for. 

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10 hours ago, jacklinks said:

Yes, but they are treacherous waters in which to wade... The violin trade seems perilous in many respects even outside of auctions.  eBay is probably the riskiest of them all mainly because the quality and knowledge of the sellers is all over the place. 

The problem with auctions accessed remotely is that you can’t play the violin and/or bow. So even if you were to know you are getting an authentic item, you are taking a risk that you may not like the sound or playability. 

 

5 hours ago, GeorgeH said:

So, this is a bit of a misnomer. People do sell good violins in auctions all the time. People sell nice violins that they have collected. People sell nice violins that they have inherited or they are liquidating an estate. People sell nice violins because they stopped playing or need the money.

It is hard to sell a violin, good or bad, as a private individual. Placing it on consignment can take years to sell. Putting it online will also take a long time to get what it is worth. Auctioning a violin at a reputable auction house for musical instruments is a way to get a fair price quickly. 

So, you can definitely find good violins for sale at auction, but you need to know what you're looking for. 

pirateship.gif.6452b01966d9149bcb24139489f7cb18.gifI feel perfectly secure and at home on eBay, but I have a LOT of experience there, and can do my own repairs.  If you can't adequately evaluate the offerings, perform your own repairs and setups, and deal effectively with the colorful inhabitants, you should stay way the heck off of eBay.  :lol:

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There are bargains on ebay but it is not like it used to be say 6 years ago when every week i bought a nice violin/bow... sellers become wary and check their goods first and many deceitful sellers trying to fool the naive buyer. On a side note, bought myself a nice silver mounted Ouchard from ebay couple of months ago for 1000 euro... tarisio and other auctions are a mixed bag and you can't buy blindly. One time I bought a bow without seeing which had 8 grams of silver on it.. never again from the anglo-saxon auction houses. Too many dealers who dump their unsalable goods there and stuff that is nice is prey for the hawks. I have much better experience with european continental auction houses which in my opinion appear to offer more attic finds.

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Thank you for all the replies ladies and gentlemen. After thinking about this for a while, I decided that I'd like the violin to be of good quality (I have to enjoy playing the instrument) and also make a good investment. If I choose to purchase one through a reputable dealer - how to know if I am getting ripped off or paying a fair price for an instrument? How does one measure the value of the instrument? Is it possible and reasonable to ask for an appraisal value from an independent luthier?

I don't know how to make my own repairs and setups, but I would love to learn. Can anyone recommend books (in English) to start me on this topic?

As far as auctions, I think most of you are right, without proper knowledge - it is a risky business and most of the instruments and bows are either fakes or have issues that untrained person can miss and will regret getting involved with later. But still.. there must be a reason why so many "hawks" are searching for a deal online. Maybe "risk it to get the biscuit" is worth it after all as long as one understands and accepts the risks.. ;)

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22 hours ago, henry_schradieck said:

is it possible to find an good instrument that won't cost an arm and a leg at an auction like ebay, tarissio, etc..?

The question posses whether it is "possible" to find a good instrument instrument for relatively cheap.  The answer is "yes," it is possible.  

Having said that, I would definitely read all of the comments and decide if this is the route for you.  I say this because if you ask a leading question that solicits a "yes" or "no" answer in the realm of possibilities, you are treading dangerously close to fantasy vs. reality.  

Let's say that you are an experienced luthier, historian, musician, and have the means to personally inspect an instrument (which by the way you cannot doon ebay LOL), even with the credentials, there is also the "possibility" of buying a fake, poorly constructed, or relatively valueless instrument.  

Did you ever watch Back to the Future?  hover boards, flying cars, alternative fuel cars, Cubs win the World Series...all possibilities in the 1980's...all became reality in the 2000's.  That doesn't mean those were ever good bets to place back in the 1980's.  

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...and I'm going to say 'no'.  In this day and age where everyone has the same access to the same stuff on-line, items get picked over immediately by folks that know (or think they know) what they're doing.   And what's left over is likely not very good or overpriced.  Auctions are no place for beginners.

Not impossible, but as likely as winning a lottery.  Odds are so small it's not worth it.  Spend a bit more money on a sure-thing from a shop because you'll likely save $$$ in the long run.

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14 hours ago, henry_schradieck said:

1) If I choose to purchase one through a reputable dealer - how to know if I am getting ripped off or paying a fair price for an instrument?

2) How does one measure the value of the instrument?

3) Is it possible and reasonable to ask for an appraisal value from an independent luthier?

4) I don't know how to make my own repairs and setups, but I would love to learn. Can anyone recommend books (in English) to start me on this topic?

1) A dealer's reputation and the ability to perform when it comes to trade-ins or resale is paramount.  Know who you're dealing with.

2) Value is determined and supported by previous sales in the market you are working within (ie. the retail market if going through a retail dealer).

3) Yes, but the same criteria applies as in answer # 1... Beware of "conflict of interest" situations.

4) I'd avoid learning on the instrument you play on... especially if you wish to maintain it's value.

In the price range I'm guessing you're in, if you have a good local dealer/shop who carries instruments within your price range and is run by a good luthier, having someone local who can work on the instrument is a plus (more than many realize).

Good luck!

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6 minutes ago, Jeffrey Holmes said:

1) A dealer's reputation and the ability to perform when it comes to trade-ins or resale is paramount.  Know who you're dealing with.

2) Value is determined and supported by previous sales in the market you are working within (ie. the retail market if going through a retail dealer).

3) Yes, but the same criteria applies as in answer Z# 1... Beware of "conflict of interest" situations.

4) I'd avoid learning on the instrument you play on... especially if you wish to maintain it's value.

4). But why? That seems backwards..  

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The information we're all lacking is, what is your playing standard and what is your budget? If you're a complete beginner you really don't need to spend a lot of money and would probably be better off buying a new instrument.  Be advised by your teacher. Whatever your standard, the "investment" potential of a violin is a chimera.

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54 minutes ago, henry_schradieck said:

4). But why? That seems backwards..  

He means don't learn to do repairs and setups on the violin you play because you will more than likely damage it. 

And he is right. The value of having a good luthier nearby who knows you and your violin is great. Let them do the work to keep your violin in tip-top shape.

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if you study violin identification for ten years,handle and closely examine thousands of instruments ,and can play at a level to bring out the best qualities in individual violins -you might have a chance

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I feel sorry for the Violin shops because of people like the poster. You’re not looking for a good deal, even if you think you are. You’re looking for a steal, An unnoticed gem that is worth multiples of what you pay. It is very easy to fall prey to that kind of Lure, and it does happen, But remember, even though luck is better than skill, it is much less dependable.

Its much better to deal with an honest to gosh real genuine shop. Find one that’s honest, and they will answer all your questions and help you. And you will get a good deal. Over the years I’ve had a lot of modest success, and a few wildly expensive failures. One of my bows is among my successes, but the greatest thing I own is my instrument, for which I paid full price.

so go to an honest shop.

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I agree with everyone who's posted. To answer the question, yes, you can find a decent violin at auction. However, you need to gauge if spending the time reading, learning, searching, etc. for violins is cheaper than spending the money. Reality is that the well known auctions whether trustworthy or not have many people scanning through with the same intent and varying degrees of expertise. The best way to find an instrument that is worth 10x what you paid is to spend several months to a year or more watching your local backwater auction that's still offline and doesn't know a wooden shoe from a violin. Then be prepared to pay for repairs. 

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2 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

I feel sorry for the Violin shops because of people like the poster. You’re not looking for a good deal, even if you think you are. You’re looking for a steal, An unnoticed gem that is worth multiples of what you pay. It is very easy to fall prey to that kind of Lure, and it does happen, But remember, even though luck is better than skill, it is much less dependable.

Its much better to deal with an honest to gosh real genuine shop. Find one that’s honest, and they will answer all your questions and help you. And you will get a good deal. Over the years I’ve had a lot of modest success, and a few wildly expensive failures. One of my bows is among my successes, but the greatest thing I own is my instrument, for which I paid full price.

so go to an honest shop.

I agree entirely. There are a lot of these type of threads recently from people with seemingly little knowledge of instruments, both here and at some other well known sites. The idea of steal is something akin to a fairy tale.

A bit like wanting to live in a castle, but only wanting to pay €500 per month in mortgage payments.
Or wanting a Ferrari for the price of a 10 year old Prius.

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...except...

Maybe our ideas of a "bargain" are different?

Maybe the OP isn't expecting to find a lost Strad for $50, maybe they just want to buy a used violin? Maybe they want a $450 Eastman for $50?

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Violin-Samuel-Eastman-4-4-VL100-Solid-Wood-Violin-with-4-4-Bow-and-Case/372473683327?hash=item56b9295d7f:g:mHkAAOSwYBtbx9Ar

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Yes, it's possible to find a good violin at auction.  Yes, it will probably cost something extra to get it setup properly.  Yes, if you do your homework, it will end up costing less than if you bought the same instrument from a shop.  After all, dealers are regular auction buyers (and they too have to spend time and/or money fixing it up "right") and they're in it to make a buck (or two).  It all comes down to your comfort level.

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It seems that finding a bargain (whatever the definition of that is) might be more likely with contemporary violins. On Tarisio, I’ve seen violins from living makers sell for 50-75% of what the maker would sell directly to you new (of course, you will never see deals like that on Zyg, Curtin, or other hot living makers). But you still have to trust the representations made by  auction company that it is authentic and in good condition. And if you don’t go to play it in person, you have the risk that you won’t like it no matter how good of a deal you got.   

You also will occasionally see good prices on eBay for previously owned popular shops like William Harris Lee, Snow, Cao, Haide, etc... I would guess that those are less likely to be faked but I could be wrong on that. 

Bows are risky too, but you can often find decent prices on used carbon fiber bows of good brands like JonPaul and Codabow. If you want a carbon fiber bow, the sticks are less likely to be damaged from use. 

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2 hours ago, jacklinks said:

It seems that finding a bargain (whatever the definition of that is) might be more likely with contemporary violins. On Tarisio, I’ve seen violins from living makers sell for 50-75% of what the maker would sell directly to you new (of course, you will never see deals like that on Zyg, Curtin, or other hot living makers). But you still have to trust the representations made by  auction company that it is authentic and in good condition. And if you don’t go to play it in person, you have the risk that you won’t like it no matter how good of a deal you got.   

If one goes to view/try the instrument in person (and likes it), another advantage to considering a contemporary violin at auction is that the potential buyer could  (as long as they don't act like a schmuck) confirm the authenticity with a phone call to the maker.

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I'm a professional violinist and an eager learner in violins. My very best investments in violin and bows have come from reputable dealers, even if I have paid a premium on them at the time. Quality like this though only rarely if ever comes at auctions and these gems usually reach record prices.

I have bought at auction but not very expensive items. These were not risky and if I liked them I would keep them, or make an arrangement with my dealer friend to sell them off.

As such I have bought a Martin violin bow which everyone loves, including myself, but I have also bought a nice Bazin bow which even when described of medium strength it came out to be too soft for me, so I sold it on at a profit.

I have also bought a violin which came out to be brilliant, but I wouldn't advise going down this road when it comes to violins. There are too many risks. In my case this violin was described as having an open crack, but it didn't.

When I'm asked by my friends and colleagues to help them find something good at the auctions, my advise is always, go to a reputable dealer and get a valid certificate. This is also my advise to you.

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