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Need advice on selling rather special Roth (1913 Carl of Wilton Amati)


Michael Richwine
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I can't disagree with Jacob, but I'd be foolish to sell something for a dollar when other people were paying twenty, wouldn't I?  It's partly my job to determine the state of the market and act accordingly even if the market is incomprehensibly silly. The trick seems to be selling when the market is high. This was the same kind of Ebay find as linked above, I guess. They happen, but rarely, unless you make a job of it. I don't spend much time on Ebay, but my  partner spends more time than I do, and even I recently stumbled across a similar steal on a good French violin over breakfast, providing I receive what I paid for.

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39 minutes ago, uncle duke said:

Well, there's the "Come on Anton. $27,000.  Nope.  Alright, how about 26,500.  Nope.  $26,000?  Nope.etc.  Good luck Mr. Richwine.

Forgive me if the reference eludes me completely. That individual doesn't show much interest in selling old violins, or in selling anything other than instruments that he makes or that his company imports. I've made larger transactions than that with him personally, and neither he nor his sales manager negotiates that way. I'm friends with most of the other dealers in the area, and  they all report flat volume, but "things are picking up". One in particular has some possibilities and conversations continue.

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2 hours ago, Michael Richwine said:

I can't disagree with Jacob, but I'd be foolish to sell something for a dollar when other people were paying twenty, wouldn't I?  It's partly my job to determine the state of the market and act accordingly even if the market is incomprehensibly silly. The trick seems to be selling when the market is high. This was the same kind of Ebay find as linked above, I guess. They happen, but rarely, unless you make a job of it. I don't spend much time on Ebay, but my  partner spends more time than I do, and even I recently stumbled across a similar steal on a good French violin over breakfast, providing I receive what I paid for.

I don't keep abreast of the market, last I saw a few months ago at Tarisio the hammer price for a Roth was around $10K.

Can you provide an instance where someone paid anywhere near $20K for a Roth (or comparable)?  Even if someone did, I'd have a difficult time thinking that's not an outlier.

For comparison purposes, here's a Gebrüder Schuster N. Amati reproduction from 1892.  Which "instrumenten-fabrik," Roth or Schuster, was more informed and likely laid eyes on the original at least once?

https://bridgewoodandneitzert.london/product/violin-gebruder-schuster-1892/

(I'll grant that Gebrüder Schuster has some condition issues which would affect the pricing.)

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10 minutes ago, Hempel said:

I don't keep abreast of the market, last I saw a few months ago at Tarisio the hammer price for a Roth was around $10K.

Can you provide an instance where someone paid anywhere near $20K for a Roth (or comparable)?  Even if someone did, I'd have a difficult time thinking that's not an outlier.

Aren't retail prices generally above auction prices? I understand there are more and more end users cropping up at auctions these days and I don't have any way to firmly track retail prices on the coasts, but I'd still bet that's a safe rule of thumb.  May, 2019 a Roth violin went for $19,200. March 2021, a Roth violin went for $16,800. The dealers I have talked to lately tell me Roth prices are trending strongly "up" lately, as well. 

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Several of the bigger shops are listing Roths at on their web pages at 18K+ Dont know what they would actually take. And I wouldnt expect an Amati model to get as much as a Strad or Guarneri. Is your Amati a bit on the large size? I think most from the 1920s are.

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3 hours ago, GeorgeH said:

Roth had his own workshop, instituted quality standards and specifications for the violin production, and branded and recorded (mostly) each violin with a serial number that corresponded to the date manufactured and model. So they weren't just the usual anonymous built-on-the-back rubbish made by assembling parts supplied by piece-workers. 

While the serial numbers and history may provide a welcome comfort blanket, you make it sound like the other Markneukirchen makers were scrabbling about in the dark until Roth came along, which isn't really the case.

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29 minutes ago, Michael Richwine said:

Aren't retail prices generally above auction prices? I understand there are more and more end users cropping up at auctions these days and I don't have any way to firmly track retail prices on the coasts, but I'd still bet that's a safe rule of thumb.  May, 2019 a Roth violin went for $19,200. March 2021, a Roth violin went for $16,800. The dealers I have talked to lately tell me Roth prices are trending strongly "up" lately, as well. 

We've had this discussion before.  Dealers may choose to advertise any price they wish.

It's altogether quite another matter to clinch the sale at the advertised price.

I'll write an essay later on how EHR built his brand in the US.  He had a less-than-successful "dress-rehearsal" prior to 1922 as Roth & Lederer, and after that as Ernst Heinrich Roth (with the help of Henry Simson & his son EHR II).  The story is not unlike how the Amati achieved ascendancy in Cremona.

Pivotal events like Panic of 1907, Creel Committee, WWI, so-called "Spanish" Flu of 1918, anti-German hysteria, Great Depression, etc. will be taken into account, which affected how the Roths carried on business in the US from 1901-1940.

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27 minutes ago, Wood Butcher said:

While the serial numbers and history may provide a welcome comfort blanket, you make it sound like the other Markneukirchen makers were scrabbling about in the dark until Roth came along, which isn't really the case.

Call it what you will, people pay a lot for "comfort blankets." Roth had a business model that he executed successfully. The enterprise he started is still going today. How many other "Markneukirchen makers" can say the same?

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My objective is to find out what the retail market is currently doing, and to find out where this violin fits in with a particular geographic market, not to impose my predilections or opinions on the market. Then I want to find a dealer who is willing and able to sell the violin for a reasonable price and a within a reasonable time for a reasonable commission.  That means they have to be in a large enough market to have ready access to qualified buyers, and have a good reputation as expressed by former and current customers. I'm making a little progress, thanks in large part o people on this forum. Further input is more than welcome and extraneous discussion is entertaining, as well. 

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4 hours ago, Michael Richwine said:

It's partly my job to determine the state of the market and act accordingly even if the market is incomprehensibly silly.

That seems to be what happens with all markets at some point

Also thanks for the pics, if you're comfortable posting more detailed ones I know I'd be interested.

I've never seen a Roth instrument but from you've said from your correspondence with the company it

sounds like a top model.

regards

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42 minutes ago, Gtone said:

That seems to be what happens with all markets at some point

Also thanks for the pics, if you're comfortable posting more detailed ones I know I'd be interested.

I've never seen a Roth instrument but from you've said from your correspondence with the company it

sounds like a top model.

regards

My friend is 100 times better player than I am, but let me just say I'll have better pictures up in a couple of days. The other comments about Roth Amati models are right; they're not quite as popular as some of the others.  I'll be happy to post good pics that show whatever detail is needed. It's really easy with a good setup.

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7 hours ago, GeorgeH said:

Call it what you will, people pay a lot for "comfort blankets." Roth had a business model that he executed successfully. The enterprise he started is still going today. How many other "Markneukirchen makers" can say the same?

Schönbach isn't Markneukirchen, but Juzek (Metropolitan Music Co.) would be the other company that did well in the US.  Czechoslovak Musical Instruments Company, later renamed Metropolitan, started in 1920 and pursued a very different business strategy from EHR Co. by focusing on school instrument market.

When I attended public school we used Juzek instruments.  At the time, I never once gave a thought how the school system was using instruments from behind the Iron Curtain towards the tail end of the Cold War, even though they were clearly marked "Made in Czechoslovakia."

In some respects Metropolitan is doing better now than Scherl & Roth as they've diversified, by buying out Irving Sloane's tool molds (Ibex).

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13 hours ago, Michael Richwine said:

My objective is to find out what the retail market is currently doing, and to find out where this violin fits in with a particular geographic market, not to impose my predilections or opinions on the market. Then I want to find a dealer who is willing and able to sell the violin for a reasonable price and a within a reasonable time for a reasonable commission.  That means they have to be in a large enough market to have ready access to qualified buyers, and have a good reputation as expressed by former and current customers. I'm making a little progress, thanks in large part o people on this forum. Further input is more than welcome and extraneous discussion is entertaining, as well. 

It would be interesting in this context to define what you would consider a “Reputable” dealer. After all, you wish to sell a run down ebay “find” for the full retail price via a dealer who would be expected to represent and take responsibility for the fiddle at a negligible cost. Is your behaviour dredging up the old horse trader cliches anything particularly “reputable”?

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Michael,

If you want to sell the violin for a premium price, it needs to sound like a premium product.

No one [intelligent] is going to buy a $15,000 violin that doesn't sound amazing.

Spend a little to make a little.  Take it to a set-up wizard and splurge on official papers from the Roths.

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2 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

It would be interesting in this context to define what you would consider a “Reputable” dealer. After all, you wish to sell a run down ebay “find” for the full retail price via a dealer who would be expected to represent and take responsibility for the fiddle at a negligible cost. Is your behaviour dredging up the old horse trader cliches anything particularly “reputable”?

I appreciate your contributions to this forum very much, and have gained plenty of useful information from them, but don't you admit that sometimes you might be perhaps a bit quick to cast aspersions on others with little or no justification? What is the violin resale business about, other than taking old, rundown violins, restoring them to as near first-rate condition as possible, getting the best sound out of them. and matching them up with a buyer? Did I not say those pictures were in "as found" condition? Who ever found an Ebay bargain in "showroom condition"? For that matter, when was the last time when you passed over an obvious bargain because it needed some work?

As for "reputable dealers" anyone who has read this forum for a few years, or been around the trade for a few years knows there are some real scoundrels around. Terms like "violin Mafia" don't arise out of nowhere, and I and others around me have personally been burned and cheated enough times to be permanently wary. "A hot stove looks like a cold stove", and you only have to get burned a few times before you learn to check before touching. I do know plenty of people in the trade whom I trust, but none who are likely to turn a consigned violin in less than a couple of years. I've got some leads working now.

As for me, this is my third or fourth career, depending on how you count them. I've been self employed for over fifty years, and my main advertising the last 30 years has been word of mouth from satisfied customers, not that I haven't made my share of mistakes, but I do try to admit and correct them, and people seem to recognize and appreciate that trait.

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1 hour ago, Stephen Fine said:

Michael,

If you want to sell the violin for a premium price, it needs to sound like a premium product.

No one [intelligent] is going to buy a $15,000 violin that doesn't sound amazing.

Spend a little to make a little.  Take it to a set-up wizard and splurge on official papers from the Roths.

The obvious bears repeating, just in case. Thank you. 

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2 hours ago, Stephen Fine said:

No one [intelligent] is going to buy a $15,000 violin that doesn't sound amazing.

"Amazing" is in the ear of the beholder. And dealers and collectors (mostly) do buy expensive violins all the time that are not even set-up or otherwise playable. 

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The fiddle was once in southern New England, which is as ideal a market as you can get in the US, surrounded by numerous conservatories, in Boston, New York, Philadelphia.  Plenty of violin players in the pipeline there, even if this fiddle isn't something that might interest conservatory students.  Many students are loaned instruments with more cachet than Roth by patrons.

Michael complains Kansas City is not the ideal target market for this fiddle. 

I don't want to rain on anyone's parade, but I suspect we've already seen the fair market value for this fiddle at around $3.6K, considering where the fiddle has been.

I suspect Michael and his friend are suffering from the endowment effect.

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16 minutes ago, GeorgeH said:

"Amazing" is in the ear of the beholder. And dealers and collectors (mostly) do buy expensive violins all the time that are not even set-up or otherwise playable. 

Hah. It's true that a motivated buyer will likely convince themselves that they like a particular sound, but still, a dealer or collector who will pay $15,000 for a Roth without playing it sounds apocryphal (or, at least, very very rare) to me.  Or maybe Roths have become even more alluring than I thought.

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1 hour ago, Michael Richwine said:

I appreciate your contributions to this forum very much, and have gained plenty of useful information from them, but don't you admit that sometimes you might be perhaps a bit quick to cast aspersions on others with little or no justification? What is the violin resale business about, other than taking old, rundown violins, restoring them to as near first-rate condition as possible, getting the best sound out of them. and matching them up with a buyer? Did I not say those pictures were in "as found" condition? Who ever found an Ebay bargain in "showroom condition"? For that matter, when was the last time when you passed over an obvious bargain because it needed some work?

As for "reputable dealers" anyone who has read this forum for a few years, or been around the trade for a few years knows there are some real scoundrels around. Terms like "violin Mafia" don't arise out of nowhere, and I and others around me have personally been burned and cheated enough times to be permanently wary. "A hot stove looks like a cold stove", and you only have to get burned a few times before you learn to check before touching. I do know plenty of people in the trade whom I trust, but none who are likely to turn a consigned violin in less than a couple of years. I've got some leads working now.

As for me, this is my third or fourth career, depending on how you count them. I've been self employed for over fifty years, and my main advertising the last 30 years has been word of mouth from satisfied customers, not that I haven't made my share of mistakes, but I do try to admit and correct them, and people seem to recognize and appreciate that trait.

As a dealer (which I am too), one learns that craft as well. The sale for a retail price includes a calculation for the upkeep of premises, (rent, tax, other expenses) as well as the upkeep of the dealer himself (tax, insurance, living costs, etc) as well as providing a warranty to the buyer, who sometimes even come around again20 years later. I personally do not take instruments on consignment any more, since I refuse to permit people who have bought something on ebay to assess if I am “reputable” or not when selling their violin. If you wish to achieve the full retail price (which we could argue about), then you should repair and market it yourself

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