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Yunibear

Is there such a thing as a private violin dealer?

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3 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

What is her name?

:-)

 

seriously, online buying can be ok but it is not for the novice.

I was checking out EBay today and saw a Georges Schwartz cello bow being offered for 120k.

ummmmmmmno

Boris...

BTW, when I mentioned buying on-line, eBay was NOT on my list of sellers...

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14 hours ago, Yunibear said:

I think one of the reasons for this sort of reaction in Korea is because there have been many stories where students buy violins that are incredibly inflated. Thus once these students go abroad to study their craft further, they become disappointed to know that their instrument is not worth the amount they have paid for it sometimes to devastating proportions.

     I was the victim of an cost-inflated cello at a young age, unbeknownst to me until years later when I traveled in 8th grade to University of Ohio for a summer music camp.
     My mom scraped together $2,500 in 5th grade to buy what a local shop said was a good intermediate instrument. We were low income, so this was a big deal. I never discussed the price of the cello with teachers because it felt a shallow topic.
      At this music camp, I was attempting the Haydn in C major (barely) and an instructor stopped and said my cello was not suitable for this sort of piece and that I should consider a better cello.  I explained that we were low income and that was a tough topic with my mom.  The instructor said that I should save and expect to spend at least $1,500. I told him that mine was $2,500.  Shocked, he then explained to me that my Engelhardt cello was worth no more than $600. I was young, so I naturally did not tell my mom in fear of breaking her heart. I soon after started working at a local grocery market to afford a better cello. 
       I suppose the moral of my story is that this practice happens everywhere, even in a local shop, which is no longer in business. I believe that one in the trade can benefit from being burnt to better understand the ramifications of his or her dealings. So, someday when you pay $$$$ for a lower grade Saxon violin worth $$$, just feel fortunate that the lesson gained  is priceless. :) 

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That's a very sad story :(. What happened to the cello? Did your Mom ever find out?

I have a similar, but less sad, tale. My Mom bought me my very own 'made in Czechoslovakia Stradivarius' violin when I was in Grade 7. We were told it was decent for a beginner. It wasn't. It's a dud. I didn't have a private teacher and my high school teachers weren't helpful. So, no way for us to know how bad it was. All I had to compare against was my elementary school loaner, which was about the same quality.

It wasn't until I played my first "real" violin as an adult that I knew just how awful it actually was. 

It was still a lot of money at the time. My Mom also had to save up...

BTW...I still have it. I pull it out on occasion. Age hasn't improved it, but now I can make it sound better so at least one of us has improved over time.

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15 hours ago, Yunibear said:

 ......1. physically go to the U.S. 2. use my network to find a good violin then 3. bring it back for a client in Korea. Does such a job even exist? Is that even reasonable or possible?

.......

Do people do this sort of "private violin dealing?" . 

Yes, there certainly are people who do this kind of thing. Being a good player can help one to identify good sounding violins, but there are other aspects of evaluations that will be important for clients. 
 

You can make a trip on behalf of several people with specific requests, or, as is more often the case, on behalf of a shop that is looking to get foreign instruments without having to personally make the trip. 
 

Here are challenges you face:

1) Having to deal with customs officials if you’re taking instruments as a business. It’s getting trickier and trickier as the red tape continues to spread like a hydra’s heads. 
 

2) Finding instruments at good enough prices to make it worthwhile. As a player, you can tell what sounds good, but what makes a lot of buyers successful is their relationships with dealers and shops who trust them and will give them better deals than the average customer will be offered. If you’re buying from a shop at retail price, you’re going to have to charge some kind of fee to cover expenses, which will effectively raise the cost to your customer above normal retail. Keep in mind that if this is to be a job, your profit from the sale will need to be enough for you to pay yourself a practical salary. Think about what you make in a normal day of work now, then calculate what your profit will need to be to pay for each day you’re on a trip.

3) Dealing with instrument trials. By that I mean dealing with the issues that arise from bringing instruments to customers that they might decide they don’t want. Some people have agreements with buyers that whatever the buyer picks, they’ll take, no questions asked. Getting this kind of agreement saves you a lot of headache but also requires an extremely high level of trust. Otherwise, you risk having to pay for airfare twice for an unsold item, unless part of your agreement is that the customer will pay your travel expenses as part of of the deal. 
 

It’s hard to make a living this way but you can do it if you’re set up well enough and motivated. The people I know who make a living this way are either doing it by doing a lot of illegal and unethical things or making a pretty modest amount (almost to the point of it being a labor of love), or have some very exclusive arrangements with their clients and the dealers they visit. 

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1 hour ago, Rue said:

That's a very sad story :(. What happened to the cello? Did your Mom ever find out?

I have a similar, but less sad, tale. My Mom bought me my very own 'made in Czechoslovakia Stradivarius' violin when I was in Grade 7. We were told it was decent for a beginner. It wasn't. It's a dud. I didn't have a private teacher and my high school teachers weren't helpful. So, no way for us to know how bad it was. All I had to compare against was my elementary school loaner, which was about the same quality.

It wasn't until I played my first "real" violin as an adult that I knew just how awful it actually was. 

It was still a lot of money at the time. My Mom also had to save up...

BTW...I still have it. I pull it out on occasion. Age hasn't improved it, but now I can make it sound better so at least one of us has improved over time.

You understand completely.
I did not keep that cello. I found a good shop once I had saved enough money. At this shop, the man running the counter (I later found out was also the owner) gave me $1,000 trade in after hearing my story. He had a cello for $2,400 that I decided was exponentially better than the Engelhardt. Prior to visiting the shop, I had saved $2,500. So the owner’s trade in value was glorious! He could see I was excited to be spending much less money than expected. He asked how I came about the money, I told him it was nearly 7 months of working. I’ll never forget this part... “Just give me $1,000 and we have a deal. I still make a profit, and you are happy with a better cello.”  Good, honest and blunt. Lots of respect. 

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8 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

Nobody should buy a violin online. It’s just a couple of steps removed from the mail order brides…

What's your definition of "online"? We have many clients who we never meet in person, probably about 25-30% of our customers in fact.

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Forgive me if this is a terrible idea. If you have multiple people asking if you could get them instruments, perhaps, when traveling, you could partner with a few shops abroad where you act as an agent for the buyer to find them instruments but the transaction is between the buyer and the shop. You could charge a fixed fee or a percentage or whatever but then you wouldn't have to have tie up money in having a stock of instruments to sell, and any return or warranty issues are between the buyer and the shop. Maybe after doing that for a while you get to know the tastes of the buyers and buy a few instruments to have available and transition into a private dealer role in that way. 

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5 hours ago, martin swan said:

What's your definition of "online"? We have many clients who we never meet in person, probably about 25-30% of our customers in fact.

I’m referring to EBay mainly. Dealing with a reputable dealer is another thing entirely. I should have been more clear.

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It's pretty simple.  You are asking if there is such a thing as a private instrument broker, not dealer.  Yes. there are private instrument brokers.  

Don't know enough about the laws in Korea, but in the U.S., this is an occupation and thus subject to taxes, licenses, bonds, etc.  Just refer the persons interested to reputable luthiers and dealers found here.  I wouldn't try and make a profit from this unless I knew exactly what I was getting into.

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I don't know about the situation in Asia but not too long ago there was some trouble involving peoples' instruments being confiscated at the border.  I don't remember the details but it seems that someone bringing a violin into the European Union countries has to have necessary documentation, claim that the instrument is your own and won't be sold.  It might even be necessary to show on leaving the country that the instrument you are taking out is the same one you brought in.

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5 hours ago, gowan said:

I don't know about the situation in Asia but not too long ago there was some trouble involving peoples' instruments being confiscated at the border.  I don't remember the details but it seems that someone bringing a violin into the European Union countries has to have necessary documentation, claim that the instrument is your own and won't be sold.  It might even be necessary to show on leaving the country that the instrument you are taking out is the same one you brought in.

Is that for a EU citizen or a foreigner visiting temporarily? 

Might be different if bearer is Korean national entering Korea?

 

Dunno about Korea but some Asian countries have enacted zero tax on "culturally positive" items like music instruments. 

Probably helps their elected officials buy Steinway concert grands to decorate their sitting rooms with! :) ... Hermes Birkins, less so :( 

 

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Don't do it. I see customs and other legal problems looming.

Plus if the travel expenses are for one or two violins each time, that's pretty steep.

Or: what if you buy and import a fiddle nobody wants?

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There is small bluegrass / country musical scene in my country but not too many good instruments available so often when some of the better musicians travel to US they are asked buy some instruments there and bring them back. Typically this is just friendly act and rarely they get more money than the instrument alone and the  checking it in plane did cost (usually checked by someone with no instrument of his own like bass player) . There is no guarantee of any kind just trust that the guy can find good one that fits expectations of the buyer.

I remember times when I declared my instrument when leaving country to make sure no one will confiscate it on my way back but these days custom officers don't ask much about personal items.

 Once you do this as business its whole new dimension...

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6 hours ago, tamiya said:

Dunno about Korea but some Asian countries have enacted zero tax on "culturally positive" items like music instruments. 

 

As I mentioned, Korea has a rigorously enforced and draconian import procedure which most definitely extends to violins, antique or otherwise. I'm not aware of any South Asian country that doesn't charge import duty (apart from Hong Kong of course).

This applies to personal possessions too, unless you can show you took them out of the country in the first place.

 

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12 minutes ago, martin swan said:

As I mentioned, Korea has a rigorously enforced and draconian import procedure which most definitely extends to violins, antique or otherwise. I'm not aware of any South Asian country that doesn't charge import duty (apart from Hong Kong of course).

This applies to personal possessions too, unless you can show you took them out of the country in the first place.

 

Are the economies so reliant upon the musical instrument business that any thing of value is suspect?

Excuse me,, We get our cut. Pay the fee and go to work, simple business.

I'm asking, Please continue.

What does that world look like, from here I don't see it at all,,,

Here, we shovel snow,

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1 hour ago, Evan Smith said:

Are the economies so reliant upon the musical instrument business that any thing of value is suspect?

Excuse me,, We get our cut. Pay the fee and go to work, simple business.

I'm asking, Please continue.

What does that world look like, from here I don't see it at all,,,

Here, we shovel snow,

Hi Evan, not sure quite what you're asking ...

At every point in the chain of transactions, governments take a cut. As an official business, we pay 20% VAT on the profit of everything we sell, we pay a further 19% on our total gross profit for the year, and then we pay personal income tax too. So effectively we pay almost 50% of any profit to the government.

So it's hard not to resent the activities of musicians with orchestral salaries or just hobby dealers who can sell the odd violin under the radar and net the full profit. But I shouldn't resent it - I suppose I would do it if I could.

As far as import duties are concerned,  most people don't understand the law. Ignorance is bliss.

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I guess if every one taking any valuable item (even laptop can be quite pricey, or think of possible price of jewelry) would deal with them in fully law-compliant way (all the paperwork and checks at the customs at leaving and going back home) the custom offices would be completely full and airports would be blocked. One thing is law and other is whether it is really possible at all to enforce it fully at current flow of travellers...

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Knowledge of customs laws is just one way an individual can offer value that many brick and morter shops dont.

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I have done business in South Korea when I worked for another big shop. The laws are clear, and they're easy to follow, and we did. Checking paperwork entering the country added about ten minutes at the airport.The risk you run if you don't is that local shops will happily tell the customs folks what you are up to, and the customs people are eager to find out. This is just a cost of doing business.

I don't think the OP realizes the complexity of what he's suggesting, though. Good instruments don't tall off cheap trees waiting to be gathered and taken to other countries; customers don't automatically buy what you show just because YOU like it. Etc. Dealing with these problems are the major part of the business; it's not just trading violins for money.

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4 hours ago, martin swan said:

At every point in the chain of transactions, governments take a cut. As an official business, we pay 20% VAT on the profit of everything we sell, we pay a further 19% on our total gross profit for the year, and then we pay personal income tax too. So effectively we pay almost 50% of any profit to the government.

Gosh how do you make any money at all? If you have a bow worth $10,000, How much do you have to sell it for in order to cover all those silly taxes?

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1 hour ago, Michael Darnton said:

I have done business in South Korea when I worked for another big shop. The laws are clear, and they're easy to follow, and we did. Checking paperwork entering the country added about ten minutes at the airport.

Ten minutes at the airport, but how much time was spent preparing the paperwork, and what was the cost of a carnet (if you used one)?

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Those costs were high, plus flights and housing cabs and food, and that is why violins were more expensive there. Come to Chicago, get Chicago prices--fair, right? At that time, at least, teachers would not take a commission, since the president's violin teacher wife had just gotten in big trouble for taking them. I have no ideas about now, but I do know that when discussed in forums the teacher commission issue is ALWAYS blown up by violin conspiracy theorists far beyond my actual experience in reality.

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14 minutes ago, Michael Darnton said:

violin conspiracy theorists

BTW we're all gathering to storm the Salt Lake City violin school, word has it there's CNC machines in there.

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2 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

Gosh how do you make any money at all? If you have a bow worth $10,000, How much do you have to sell it for in order to cover all those silly taxes?

As I said, the tax is on the profit not on the sale price.

Taxes are not per se "silly" since they pay for education, healthcare, culture, defence, infrastructure etc etc. But you can see how a dealer might get resentful of a hobbyist who is neither subject to the same costs nor pulling their weight as a member of society.

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16 minutes ago, Michael Darnton said:

Those costs were high, plus flights and housing cabs and food, and that is why violins were more expensive there. Come to Chicago, get Chicago prices--fair, right?

My first choice would be spending a few days in each of the major fiddle-dealing centers, to attempt to sort out what is good, what is bad, and what if fluff.

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