Advice and Thoughts on blind-buying an auction violin


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For the last couple of years, I have been looking for an instrument and I have finally saved up enough money to purchase the next step up. I am infamous here looking for a "patron" for a violin, but I have grown up a lot from then and have really put in the effort of working with what I have while looking for a new instrument. I was talking with a colleague of mine and they told me that looking at the online auction houses and purchasing a contemporary instrument is a great way to get a great value due to resale and the depreciation that comes from selling a contemporary instrument. I thought about it for a long time and realized that I am not very picky about how my violin sounds. I just really need that overall level up in playability, projection, and resonance which I have found to be common among the dozens of modern instruments I have tried in the past as well as recently. The most apparent issue I am finding with my current instrument that I notice is almost universally present in more expensive ones are the ease of creating sound and projecting it. I have bothered my luthier many times for adjustments and none have really helped. With all that said, can anyone advise me with the instruments that caught my eye below and overall how the auction process works? Any red flags or other things I should consider if I do go down this route? Is this a really dumb/bad way of going about this? From what I have found about these makers, I don't see anything alarming, but yeah, I don't know much haha.

A little more context, I've been playing for more than 10 years and have really wanted to upgrade, but the time has never been right. I am able to discern what I want in an instrument, but at this point playability and just a generally more sophisticated/higher level instrument is needed/wanted. In general, people like to throw this type of term around but when it comes to actually purchasing it becomes a much contested idea. 

https://tarisio.com/auctions/auction/lot/?csid=2199289856&cpid=3692511232&filter_key=

https://tarisio.com/auctions/auction/lot/?csid=2199289856&cpid=3584950272&filter_key=

https://tarisio.com/auctions/auction/lot/?csid=2199289856&cpid=3692494848&filter_key=

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1 hour ago, RxNZXP said:

looking at the online auction houses and purchasing a contemporary instrument is a great way to get a great value due to resale.

you'll pay more than what anybody is willing to pay for it except you from the start.  if you're buying to sell, then buy cheaper offering from one of the big respected places with their stamp on the bridge...  you'll also get a trial then.  be sure to see what your friends think about you playing it before you buy it or send it back.

1 hour ago, RxNZXP said:

 I am infamous here looking for a "patron" for a violin

put something up and maybe i'll buy you a stradivarius

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41 minutes ago, Jo Stephens said:

Buyers remorse is a terrible thing. If you want a modern instrument you might be happier with your choice buying direct from a maker.

That is something I am willing to risk, but yeah it is in the back of my mind

 

10 minutes ago, matesic said:

Tarisio London have nice auditioning rooms

I wish I could go, but it isn't an option yet or for a while for me

6 minutes ago, Bill Merkel said:

you'll pay more than what anybody is willing to pay for it except you from the start.  if you're buying to sell, then buy cheaper offering from one of the big respected places with their stamp on the bridge and keep the receipt...  you'll also get a trial then.  be sure to see what your friends think about you playing it before you buy it or send it back.

put something up and maybe i'll buy you a stradivarius

When I wrote resale, I should that it purchasing through auction is cheaper than going through a dealer or the maker themselves. I have no intention of reselling or making a profit. Haha that is super generous. I'm pretty average and play on the side for my enjoyment, I would much rather see someone else use a Strad to the best of its ability :) 

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i think there are two tracks you can take.  first is try stuff and buy what you like.  second is just buy most respected maker and adjust to it and let it teach you.  second is probably better.  i don't know anything about the makers you're talking about, personally.  since anybody in the world can bid don't see why it would be a good bargain

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4 hours ago, RxNZXP said:

Any red flags or other things I should consider if I do go down this route? Is this a really dumb/bad way of going about this?

Yes, you are very likely to buy a violin that you don't like and that you paid too much for. 

There are reasons that violins end up at auction houses, and many of them are not good. Even good makers turn out bad violins occasionally, or violins that are pleasing to one taste but not to another's.

In your price range, you would be better off going through a dealer or even a music house like Shar where you can try some violins at home and return any you don't like. You're likely to find a good trade violin in your price range.

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10 hours ago, RxNZXP said:

Any red flags or other things I should consider if I do go down this route? Is this a really dumb/bad way of going about this? From what I have found about these makers, I don't see anything alarming, but yeah, I don't know much haha.

Why only look at Italian violins? If I was looking for a new contemporary instrument, I’d look at French, English, German, American...

Most people train at the same few schools, so quality is very good everywhere, and you aren’t always paying the Italian premium for a centuries old myth.

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6 hours ago, GeorgeH said:

Yes, you are very likely to buy a violin that you don't like and that you paid too much for. 

There are reasons that violins end up at auction houses, and many of them are not good. Even good makers turn out bad violins occasionally, or violins that are pleasing to one taste but not to another's.

In your price range, you would be better off going through a dealer or even a music house like Shar where you can try some violins at home and return any you don't like. You're likely to find a good trade violin in your price range.

For the price, isn't it cheaper to buy the instrument on auction for around $5000 vs $10000+ on commission or from a dealer? Yeah I haven't thought about why contemporary violins end up at auction houses... that is a very good point to bring up.

 

9 minutes ago, Wood Butcher said:

Why only look at Italian violins? If I was looking for a new contemporary instrument, I’d look at French, English, German, American...

Most people train at the same few schools, so quality is very good everywhere, and you aren’t always paying the Italian premium for a centuries old myth.

All of the contemporary violins in this auction are Italian haha

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If I were you, I would set aside a little more money and work directly with a young, talented builder. You stand a better chance of getting something outstanding.

You’d also be actively supporting the arts in a meaningful way, which counts for something these days.

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If you're gonna roll the dice like this, I would at least ask a friend in the area to play them for you.  If you don't have one, then offer to pay a student or teacher a few $100 to go there and test them out.  But caveat, it's still a crap shoot to buy a violin unseen!  And you might not care about how it sounds now, but you certainly will as your playing improves...

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I like to think I know a wee bit about violins by now :mellow:...and a bit about antiques (we had a weekend booth at an antique mall for a few years, for fun)...and a bit about auctions (source of a lot of our inventory)...

...and I certainly wouldn't be buying my 'good' violin 'blind' from an auction, even now.  I would only do that if I felt I really knew what I was doing and had money to burn and was a risk-taker...

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6 hours ago, RxNZXP said:

For the price, isn't it cheaper to buy the instrument on auction for around $5000 vs $10000+ on commission or from a dealer?

It all depends specifically on what you're buying. A poor or mediocre violin purchased for $5,000 is not cheaper (a bargain) than a fine violin purchased for $10,000. 

And there is significant value in having a return policy.

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4 hours ago, Three13 said:

You’d also be actively supporting the arts in a meaningful way, which counts for something these days.

Why wouldn't he be supporting the arts buying one of these auction fiddles? I suspect many have been consigned by the maker himself. If not, a proven auction/resale value could be very meaningful for a young maker. 

Besides, the OP may be an artist too.

 

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You must try them... do not buy an instrument without trying it. If you cannot get to Tarisio show room in your price range $2000 to $5000  there are many places that will send you a violin to try before you commit to buy. Some of these shops are sponsors of this forum. Look around you have many options...

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9 hours ago, Three13 said:

If I were you, I would set aside a little more money and work directly with a young, talented builder. You stand a better chance of getting something outstanding.

You’d also be actively supporting the arts in a meaningful way, which counts for something these days.

But the instruments I am interested are made by young talented violin makers? What makes auctioned instruments less likely to sound good other than the risk of having the sound not match my wants exactly?

8 hours ago, GeorgeH said:

It all depends specifically on what you're buying. A poor or mediocre violin purchased for $5,000 is not cheaper (a bargain) than a fine violin purchased for $10,000. 

And there is significant value in having a return policy.

From what I have read about these makers, they all have studied in a violin making school and have commissioned prices of $10,000+. From my understanding, contemporary makers who are not established tend to resale poorly hence the low estimates and realized prices in auctions. Are these instruments inherently worse than going to the maker directly? I know that it was discussed that many times that bad instruments are auctioned, but these makers have several instruments in their sale history and I cannot imagine that they have a turnout rate of that many poor instruments, but I do acknowledge my lack of knowledge on these sort of things. I agree that a return policy is a great asset.

Thank you for everyone for contributing. For me, the conversation so far has turned into an interesting discussion regarding contemporary violins in these types of auctions. It has become apparent to me that many believe that the risk of not hearing a violin is much too risky to go and blindly buy an instrument. Knowing that these makers are going to a modern violin making school and learning similar techniques and creating instruments accordingly, shouldn't the differences in sound be more in terms of taste rather than qualities that are inherent with good violins (ie responsiveness, evenness of tone, etc.)? I have several colleagues who literally had theirs violin teachers buy modern instruments from one of their friends and that was their new instrument moving forward. I just want to say that I appreciate all of the responses so far and I am learning from every one of you.

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I wouldn't buy any of these. They are very schoolish, as if they were made by someone who just finished their education, nothing personal about it at all. All 3 could've been made by the same person. Don't bother with these. I'm quite certain these instruments will not sound very well, trial and error has put my biased opinion on modern Italians as being loud and without warmth and depth. Of course, exemptions are there but often by makers who are already established.

As said before, TRY before you buy or let someone else try. I know some very well instruments in this price range from established makers that charge €12.000+ now but those instruments were made when they just started but sound just as good.

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8 hours ago, deans said:

Why wouldn't he be supporting the arts buying one of these auction fiddles? I suspect many have been consigned by the maker himself. If not, a proven auction/resale value could be very meaningful for a young maker. 

Besides, the OP may be an artist too.

 

Perhaps I wasn’t clear in my post - I was suggesting that instead of rolling the dice at auction, the OP might consider commissioning something from a builder.

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On 10/5/2020 at 5:55 AM, RxNZXP said:

I know that it was discussed that many times that bad instruments are auctioned, but these makers have several instruments in their sale history and I cannot imagine that they have a turnout rate of that many poor instruments 

You don’t know who is selling these instruments. Are they from customers of the makers who have become dissatisfied with the instruments? Customers who have moved on to something better? Customers who have died?

Or are they rotten examples that have been lying in the makers’ studios for a few years and haven’t sold? Possibly the most likely scenario?

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On 10/4/2020 at 2:41 AM, RxNZXP said:

 I just really need that overall level up in playability, projection, and resonance which I have found to be common among the dozens of modern instruments I have tried in the past as well as recently.  

https://tarisio.com/auctions/auction/lot/?csid=2199289856&cpid=3692511232&filter_key=

 

The one I left above is your best chance visually - seems to have had a better eye than the other two.

You should listen to the others here though - choosing just by viewing photos is akin to looking at automobiles without looking underneath for oil leakage problems.

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