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How common is it for sellers to mess around with the strings/fittings etc?


Bardan
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So, when I idly peruse the low end of the auction market, I sometimes see violins with the remains of old gut strings hanging off them.  Or sometimes what look like good quality old fittings, or it's in what looks like a good quality case etc...

To me, this would suggest it was played by a good violinist, and therefore maybe worth a look.  But I can't quite shake some misgivings.  It strikes me that it would be the easiest thing in the world for an unscrupulous seller to add these sorts of things to a dud. 

Is that a common tactic?  Or am I too cynical?

Or are these fiddles just so old that gut strings were standard issue even for beginners?

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Plain gut strings were the norm up until the second half of the 20th century for most violins. Any violin that was put away for that long could have them. Its very common to find a cheap old catalogue violin with gut strings, I have found many. Also often with a gut tailpiece.

With that said I think sometimes a  seller will doctor up an instrument with old strings/fittings to make it look like a "new find".  

Of course many people still use old style gut strings. So its not really an indication of how long an instrument might have been unused.

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1 hour ago, Bardan said:

So, when I idly peruse the low end of the auction market, I sometimes see violins with the remains of old gut strings hanging off them.  Or sometimes what look like good quality old fittings, or it's in what looks like a good quality case etc...

To me, this would suggest it was played by a good violinist, and therefore maybe worth a look.  But I can't quite shake some misgivings.  It strikes me that it would be the easiest thing in the world for an unscrupulous seller to add these sorts of things to a dud. 

Is that a common tactic?  Or am I too cynical?

Or are these fiddles just so old that gut strings were standard issue even for beginners?

If you are talking about Ebay, of course unscrupulous sellers will put on old fittings, pair violins up with old Hill cases or bridges, add a bow that looks promising but is actually broken, anything to pander to the gullibility of people who idly peruse such offerings.

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54 minutes ago, martin swan said:

If you are talking about Ebay, of course unscrupulous sellers will put on old fittings, pair violins up with old Hill cases or bridges, add a bow that looks promising but is actually broken, anything to pander to the gullibility of people who idly peruse such offerings.

less so ebay and more other auction sites, but point taken.  

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18 hours ago, Bardan said:

So, when I idly peruse the low end of the auction market, I sometimes see violins with the remains of old gut strings hanging off them.  Or sometimes what look like good quality old fittings, or it's in what looks like a good quality case etc...

  But I can't quite shake some misgivings.  It strikes me that it would be the easiest thing in the world for an unscrupulous seller to add these sorts of things to a dud. 

Is that a common tactic?  Or am I too cynical?

Or are these fiddles just so old that gut strings were standard issue even for beginners?

Hello Barden,

Let's take a look at your question(s) from a logic standpoint.

1. "To me, this would suggest it was played by a good violinist, and therefore maybe worth a look."  Really?  I don't think old and tattered strings or fittings suggests that a "good violinist" played the violin.  It could mean several things: for example, it could mean that those strings were common for the time, it could mean that those fittings were common for the time, it could mean....that the seller is trying to make the instrument look old, it could mean that the violin was discovered in an attic and untouched for years.  

2. "It strikes me that it would be the easiest thing in the world for an unscrupulous seller to add these sorts of things to a dud."  Sellers and luthiers put good strings and fittings on good instruments to maximize the instruments appeal and merchantability.  I would think that a con-artist would do the same.  Why wouldn't a scammer dress up a crappy instrument to maximize appeal and merchantability?  

3. "Is that a common tactic?" It certainly is in the general retail world.  Why wouldn't it be in the stringed instrument world?  Honestly, I couldn't tell you from the seller's perspective.  I often ask myself why a modern instrument maker would use antiquing to make a violin look old?  On a side note, if done properly, I don't mind antiquing on new instruments.

4. "Or am I too cynical?" Now that is a weird question.  On one hand, your assumptions that old and tattered strings and fittings means a good violinist played the violin seems a little innocent.  So to ask if you are too cynical is kind of the other end of the spectrum.

5. "Or are these fiddles just so old that gut strings were standard issue even for beginners?" Could be?

Here is my personal takeaway....Unless you know what you are doing, or have a mentor guiding you, don't buy instruments from auction, ebay, etc... We still don't know what your end game is based upon your other recent post.  Are you looking for investments?  Are you a collector? Are you looking for your forever instrument to play?  

I would rather support my local, and sometimes not-so-local, luthiers and shops rather than go the auction route.  Establish a personal relationship with your luthier.  Let them purchase the auction violin, ebay violin, etc.  Let them set it up, restore, etc.  Buy the instrument from them.  If the luthier is established, honest, and decent, you may get the violin for more than the auction price, but maybe a little less than actual retail?  Just my two cents.

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nono.  I'm not an investor.  If I had large chunks of money to invest I'd be on a house forum asking annoying questions about rafters or something.  

I suppose there's two main things going on.  One is that I'm looking for an upgrade on my current fiddle.  Nothing amazing.  Maybe a nicer factory fiddle from the turn of the century.  Maybe something else.  Chances are I'll end up going to a big old violin shop or a luthier's workshop.  I'm certainly not going to blow thousands on a fiddle I haven't even played.  But I'd like to learn a bit more about violins in that context.  I want to spend my money well.  And I'm not expecting to be ripped off, but I wouldn't mind having enough general knowledge to avoid making it easy at least. It's always comforting to come in to a transaction with enough background to confirm what you're being told by the seller.  

The rest is just daydreaming really.  I keep thinking about buying a couple of old fiddles and seeing if I could learn to set them up.  Or maybe even biting the bullet and making a couple from scratch.  Or buying one in the white and doing the last bits of assembly and set-up.  I'm not planning on a career change or anything.  I just want to mess around a bit and learn some basics. 

But if I do buy some old auction fiddles, I don't want to buy something that needs real expertise to fix.  And at the same time, assuming I can eventually set it up to a reasonable standard I'd like it to be at least decent.  There's no point in a rank amateur buying really nice instruments and doing cack-handed repairs on them, but I don't want to spend hours upon hours fettling away at a fiddle, then keeping it as a back-up or using it for alternative tunings if it's actually crap.  

So, again, I'm not trying to become a serious expert, but I'd like to pick up enough basic knowledge to spot major issues and avoid them.  Or to tell the difference between something that's not worth fixing up, and something that's a bit rough around the edges but might make a reasonable back-up if it's treated nicely.  

And I suppose I want to be able to recoup some of my losses if it all doesn't work out.  Like buying a fiddle for 200 and selling it on for 150 isn't the end of the world.  But buying a fiddle for 200 and then not being able to sell it on at all would be a pain.

Sorry if I'm asking irritating questions.

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Though you do not say anything about your current violin, I’m not sure what sort of upgrade you could realistically get for 200.

If you are buying older instruments, any repairs required would easily top 200. Strings alone could cost 70.

If you only have 200 to spend, you may be best off to go to a shop, and look at new instruments there, which would be within budget.

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nono.  For the upgrade I'm expecting I'll have to pay a few grand, and probably at a shop or a workshop where I can put the instrument through its paces.  

The 200 is more about this fixed idea I have of teaching myself how to do set-ups and basic repairs. So I figure I'll maybe buy a couple of basic old fiddles at auction.  (It was kind of an arbitrary figure anyway - I just want something cheap enough that I won't feel bad if I mess it up and I don't want to spend too much on a project/experiment.)

I figure if it works out, maybe I can sell them on at cost, or even keep one as a back-up fiddle for alternative tunings if it plays nicely enough.  And if it doesn't I can give them back to an auction house and bite the (hopefully small) loss I'd take on the transaction.  

But whether it's the upgrade or the fiddles to mess around with, I'd like to spend my money as wisely as possible, hence all the questions about how to spot a decent fiddle.  

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20 hours ago, Bardan said:

One is that I'm looking for an upgrade on my current fiddle.  Nothing amazing.  Maybe a nicer factory fiddle from the turn of the century.  Maybe something else.  

The rest is just daydreaming really.  I keep thinking about buying a couple of old fiddles and seeing if I could learn to set them up.  Or maybe even biting the bullet and making a couple from scratch.  Or buying one in the white and doing the last bits of assembly and set-up.  I'm not planning on a career change or anything.  I just want to mess around a bit and learn some basics. 

But if I do buy some old auction fiddles, I don't want to buy something that needs real expertise to fix. 

Sorry if I'm asking irritating questions.

Ah...ok.

1. Upgrading your current fiddle...As a player, not a luthier or investor, I look for 2 things, neither of which you really touch upon: a) sound, and b) playability.  You can't get either from auction or ebay.  Maybe craigslist if you play the instrument in person.  As to the "nothing amazing" part, IMO there are alot of "trade" or lesser known violins that sound amazing. 

2. You talk about repair and restoration using a range from "set up" to building from "scratch."  Wow.  That is pretty much the full spectrum!  I applaud your dreams of learning the trade and I have nothing to add nor detract from this except to be prepared for lots of comments from luthiers that you should get a formal training, its not easy to learn, etc...Although I may agree with those things, you dream big and its your prerogative to do so.

3. So far, you have asked about violins that you will not see or play prior to buying (ie: ebay).  Honestly, for now, if your main goal is to "upgrade," I would personally stay away from auction stuff and get it out of your mind.  A mind clouded with the risk and reward aspect of ebay and auctions will likely affect your decision...and not necessarily in a good way.  

4. Asking irritating questions and providing irritating responses is pretty much standard in any public or semi-public forum.  No need to apologize.

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I'd like to add...that please...do not ever be offended by cranky responses to your questions...

Ask away...and ignore the grumps...^_^

And yes...you are being brave by doing so!  It's a jungle (or an endless ocean or a soul-sucking desert...), never know when something will spring out at you and bite you...:lol:

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3 hours ago, Rue said:

It's a jungle (or an endless ocean or a soul-sucking desert...), never know when something will spring out at you and bite you...:lol:

[Suddenly pops her umbrella open, and quickly dodges, as something vile and noisome splatters the ground behind her.]  Really, it's not the bites that you have to watch out for the most...............  :ph34r:  :lol:

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