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what makes new violins worth $$$


sagavio
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No, I meant exactly what I said. The tonal preference of one player for some specific violin does not really affect the price.

Tone is very subjective, and thus difficult or impossible to value. If I might use another real estate example, a three-bedroom house of a certain type in a certain neighborhood is worth a certain amount, regardless of whether you personally like the layout or hate it. That you hate it does not impact on the value at all, nor that you like it. If a builder has a reputation for making houses which fall apart and leak, THAT affects the value of all his houses, however, and if he has a reputation for building houses which are problem-free, that affects the price of all of his houses, too.

In your hands, one really good violin that sounds EXACTLY like a Stradivari, but comes from a $2000 maker is still worth $2000. A Strad that sounds for you like a $2000 violin still is worth a Strad price. It's entirely your decision which one you will buy, and you shouldn't complain that it's unfair. The next person along might prefer the sound of the crummy Strad--and in fact make it SOUND like a great Strad, and make the $2000 violin sound like a $2 violin. This is why prices are ranked according to maker, and makers are ranked according to the overall character of their work, over a very long period of time, with many players.

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The the value os a violin is based on what someone will pay for it. This is based on two things: Reputation, and tone. If I have a violin that I paid $10 for, but you like it so much that you would pay $10,000 for it, then to you it is worth $10,000, but the person I bought it from thought it was worth $10.

The fictitious Strad that played lousy may only be worth $100 as a violin, but as a Strad, it may be worth $100,000.

Lessons: more $$$ doesn't necesarily mean better tone (since that is somewhat subjective), and the law of supply and demand drives the price. (If everyone and had a Strad, people wouldn't pay seven figures for them.) The reputation drives demand.

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quote:

Originally posted by eric:

But there is no reputation without good sound. So indirectly sound has an effect on price on the long term. I mean that in most cases a $100.000 violin sounds better than a $ 5.000 violin.

eric

And yet, we've all heard stories of relatively obscure violins which, when heard at rehearsals, evoke reactions like, "Uh, if you ever are thinking of selling that fiddle..."

If one answers, "Sure, $25,000," one is told, "Whaddaya, crazy?!" So, reputation and pedigree count for more than some are willing to admit. I would guess this is the true reason why some players prefer old violins by known makers. That much-vaunted mature sound may in fact be there, but so is a perception that depreciation is not a factor. What would happen if every player had to blind-test violins by sound and then bid against other players for the pleasure of owning them?

M_W

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Actually, I like my house analogy better than all the theory above. You can talk about violins being "worth" different things to different people, but there's not only the aspect of what the customer is willing to pay--there's also the price the owner is willing to take, and the information level of the customer.

So you might sell a $200 violin to a customer for $20,000 "because of the tone" but that's not going to happen with an informed customer. Nor will you get a rotten Strad for $2000 from an informed owner. This is what keeps GreeneStrings' idealized economic theory from working. Sure, you can think a house is only worth $50, but no intellegent owner is going to sell it for that. Nor will you, as an informed purchaser pay $500,000 for a $20,000 house. So what happens in real life is the house or the violin sits around--sometimes for a VERY long time--until a reasonable purchaser comes along, if the previous ones haven't been willing to pay a reasonable price, or the seller sits around until he comes to his senses and realizes that no matter how much he thinks his house is worth to him, no one else does. Eventually in real life these things average out and a sensible middle is worked out. When two different people think the same violin is worth $10 or $10,000, one or both of them are misinformed, and it's not a real market scenario.

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To further support Michael's take on this subject (I hope)........

Violins are routinely sold at auctions, to very knowledgeable dealers, in totally unplayable condition, no bridge, no strings, no soundpost etc.. Surely they are not being sold on their sound qualities but rather on their merit based on the reputation of the maker.

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Now let's see if I've understood the above comments right:

Nope, they are sold entirely on the antique value attaching to that maker, their merit as musical instruments is irrelevant in that condition.

Is that what you guys are saying?

Max

quote:

Originally posted by Barry J. Griffiths:

To further support Michael's take on this subject (I hope)........

Violins are routinely sold at auctions, to very knowledgeable dealers, in totally unplayable condition, no bridge, no strings, no soundpost etc.. Surely they are not being sold on their sound qualities but rather on their merit based on the reputation of the maker.

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Max,

What I'm saying is not that an instruments sound is irrelevent in that condition, but inherent in that condition. If you've heard ten violins by a particular maker and they all sound wonderful then the odds are that the eleventh one, with or without strings, will be equally wonderful. Can there be exceptions? Absolutely! But the chances are that the sound will be what you expect. It's not an accident that a certain maker has a good reputation. One does not hang out a "Violin Maker" shingle on Monday and have a great reputation on Tuesday. It takes years of hard work to achieve that goal.

[This message has been edited by Barry J. Griffiths (edited 11-04-2000).]

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SOUND, SOUND, SOUND.

How does a maker get his reputation? Violins are MUSICAL instruments. A maker builds up his reputation by consistently making good sounding violins. Sure, good sound is a subjective matter and change with time and taste. Remember a Stainer could worth more than a Strad in 19th C. I can also give you 2 other examples. The August Gemunder Art violins were mostly imported white violins. They applied the so-called acoustic varnish in the New York shop and using marketing strategy, they were able to sell them at high prices. A player paid $600 for one violin more than 100 years ago (for example), it still worths the same amount today, because it did not stand up the test of time for good sound. Another example is Sergio Peresson. The players who bought violins from his can now realize the captial gain because of the good sound.

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Hey Guys, isn't it time to quit this one again?

It's like our revered presidential candidates - no matter what you ask them you get the same ansers,

Here - no matter what answers you get, you keep asking the same question.

Think of it like - you have a fatal disease and you want to go to the very best medical doctors and surgeons you can find to effect a cure because of their track record. So, for an instrument you go to the best maker, because of his track record.

The knowlegeable dealers and luthiers who select from the "junk" at auctions are very experienced, trained and educated. They know the methods the different makers used, the wood selection, how they worked with the wood. They can see and otherwise sense all that in an instrument, whole or fragmented - and they too have good track records.

As for the cost of the improved qualities of one instrument over another (that the congniscenti can discern) my usual 90% rule seems to apply (essentially a logarithmic scale of increased cost relative to sensible properties) to free market prices. "To get the first 90% of the properties, you have to pay 10% of the price. To get the last (highest) 10% of the properties, you have to pay the last 90% of the price." When you are in the antique market as well as the music market, the rule can break down (although not as badly)- as it would if you were buying antique cars using the same criteria you use for new cars.

Not all people agree on which violin best produces "their own sound," but that is what we tend to look for when we select - unless we are reeducated to look for something else or something more.

I posted more detail about some of this at the Internet Cello Society's "Instruments & Equipment" page a couple of months ago: http://pub1.ezboard.com/fcellofuninstrumen...age?topicID=571 .topic&index=3

So you can find it there.

Andy

[This message has been edited by Andrew Victor (edited 11-04-2000).]

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(Sorry, Andrew :-) You miss the point, David. The most serious error violinists make in evaluating instruments is to overestimate the dollar value of sound, so I'm not surprised to hear that point of view.

A violin with sound isn't necessarily expensive, or gain in value. The source of value is reputation. ONE factor which assists gaining a reputation, is of course sound, but without a couple of other things, the most important of which is quantity, there isn't any build up of value.

Lots of good sounding violins are cheap because there are only one or two of them from that maker, so he doesn't have the reputation to carry a price. A maker like Peresson demands a high price because there are enough of them that sound good to create a lively, verbal market, and demand.

It's even possible to create price without sound, if there's a large enough quantity of instruments available which meet a minimum of tonal quality, but have a very high level consistency. Old Roths are like that--no one in the business seriously considers that they sound all THAT good, but there are so many of them, and they are recognizable, that they have created a market niche based on their familiarity, not their good sound. You can see that factor at work here, when someone tells how great his "Weiner Schnitzel" is and all the other Schnitzel owners chime in with agreement, even though Schnitzel is only a factory namebrand, with no particularly high claim to value, and so-so tone. But he gains value as a naive audience then runs out demanding only Schnitzel violins in opposition to the superior, but less well-known, "Sausage" brand which can't muster a chorus of appreciative $187 customers the way the Schnitzel can.

In short, it's possible to build a reputation (and a higher price) with quantity, and little quality, but not to build up a reputation (and price) with quality and no output because a reputation, and the perceived value that goes with it is, by definition, something one gains through broad exposure.

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Mr. Darnton, Just curious. Is there a maker in the history of the violin who made only a few violins of sterling quality that do command a high price in spite of a short life, early death, something like that precluding his building up a large store of violins/violas/cellos/basses?

In other words, is there any notable exception to your perfectly understandable rule?

Best regards,

Theresa

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David,

Let me start by saying that I've read a lot of your posts and seen your web site and have high regard for you. Where did you get your dollar number on the Gemunder Art violins? From what I've read, Strads were selling around $1250 at that time. George Gemunder, after his head swelled up, was asking $300 - 650 for his violins. It doesn't seem possible that brother Auggie could get $600 for the Art violins.

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I'm not aware of any exceptions, though there probably is one--aren't there always.

I'm watching the Matsuda thread that popped up because he's an example of what I'm talking about--a very productive modern maker with a great reputation and a strong price. Though there's a host of "Maestro Gliga" owners on this board who pop up every time he's mentioned to say how *great* he is, there apparently aren't any Matsuda owners, even though he's a MUCH more important maker, who's make well over 750 violins, played in professional orchestras world-wide. In this (the Fingerboard) group, the student/factory Gliga has more respect, and it's not because of tone--it's simply market penetration--and I suspect a lot of readers on this board would rather have a Gliga than a Matsuda for that reason. So I'm waiting for someone to say "Why not a Cao or a Gliga, instead?" :-)

quote:

Originally posted by Theresa:

Mr. Darnton, Just curious. Is there a maker in the history of the violin who made only a few violins of sterling quality that do command a high price in spite of a short life, early death, something like that precluding his building up a large store of violins/violas/cellos/basses?

In other words, is there any notable exception to your perfectly understandable rule?

Best regards,

Theresa

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Michael,

I'm not trying to make any point here. I'm just doing some math trying to understand something. The Cremona Violin School lists Tetsuo Matsuda as a 1981 graduate, and as having been born in 1955. Assuming that his professional career began 1981, and that he has made 750 instruments, divide 19 professional years into 750 and we get 39.5 violins per year. Which is 0.76 violins per week. I've always heard that a handmade violin takes about 200 hours to make. So 0.76 times 200 hours is 152 working hours per week, out of 168 total hours in a week. And this assumes that he never takes a vacation! Without a doubt, some of my numbers are wrong. I wonder if you could tell me which ones? Does he have a staff that assists him?

Mark

[This message has been edited by mlbouquet (edited 11-05-2000).]

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For a professional, experienced maker, 200 hours is a completely ridiculous number. Those who've read stories about aprenticeships in Mirecourt will remember figures like two complete bodies in the white per week being an ordinary number there, completely without the use of any powertools, including bandsaws! Additionally, for many years he had an assistant who did much of the preparatory work for him (the really nasty stuff that doesn't make the violin better or worse), and his figures were much higher than your speculation. Now he works along, and the numbers are much lower. They have his birthdate wrong--I believe he's about 60 or so years old now, not 45.

The most prolific violin maker of all time was George Craske, who lived about 90 years and made well over 3000 instruments. If we call his useful working life 60 years (20-80), that comes to 50 per year, counting cellos, etc., working with no assistance whatsoever!

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The points about reputation have been oft-repeated.

However, makers themselves are typically setting their own prices, since there are many more of their instruments being made and sold directly to players, than there are instruments being sold by players to other people.

Thus, do the instruments of a maker end up being worth at least a minimum of what he prices them at, assuming that he can find takers at this price? Presumably he finds some level of compromise between maximizing the value of his work, and keeping his instruments at a price level where they'll move, preventing him from starving.

By the way, Michael -- do you think that Cao's work, and Gliga's, are comparable in quality? I know a number of Bay Area Fingerboard folk have played one or more of Cao's violins and been impressed by their tone, anyway, including myself. (I'm talking about his personal work, not the student instruments.)

[This message has been edited by Lydia Leong (edited 11-06-2000).]

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quote:

Originally posted by Lydia Leong:

Thus, do the instruments of a maker end up being worth at least a minimum of what he prices them at, assuming that he can find takers at this price? Presumably he finds some level of compromise between maximizing the value of his work, and keeping his instruments at a price level where they'll move, preventing him from starving.

. . . .

By the way, Michael -- do you think that Cao's work, and Gliga's, are comparable in quality?

Well, Lydia, you've pretty much given an accurate description of how the marketplace works--it doesn't matter if the seller is the maker or another player--the price floats until the item is sold, which establishes value, over a long period of time.

You bring to mind someone whom I met once who was charging a really unbelievable (as high as the most expensive new makers) price for his new instruments, which were REAL BAD and getting his price---twice a year (total annual production), which was all he needed to live on. And yet, now that the posts are way in the past, I can mention that he got a little cadre of owners posting here how wonderful his instruments are! (They are incredible crap, in my opinion, at any rate.) However, two people a year feel the price is right. . . . On the other hand, this isn't an unheard of scenario for players selling old violins, either, so I don't think the problem is new vs old, or player vs maker as the seller.

No, I'm not comparing a $1500 Gliga to a $5000 Cao--pick something from the lines with similar prices.

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