Collin-Mezin violin authentication

June 26, 2006 at 05:05 AM · Collin-Mezin violin authentication:

Help- I am looking at a Collin-Mezin violin made in 1909 and trying to determine if it is genuine. The color of the varnish of the violin bothers me as it is a dark deep brown and I know that these violins are usually yellow-brown or golden yellow. Also, the label is not the label of his later violins... Grand Prix Exposition - should it say that if it is made in 1909 instead of the former label saying Paris, Poisonniere #29? Also, how can I tell if the signature is genuine? There is a flowery signature in ink, I think, on the wood above the label visible through the f-holes. I don't even know if the violin is made by the son or the father (who apparently retired in 1906). The violin sounds nice and I am interested in purchasing it for my son but it is very pricey (close to $10k) and the seller will not let it out of his possession for a second opinion. The seller believes it is genuine and made by the father Collin-Mezin, not the son. I am not entirely convinced. Thanks.

Replies (16)

June 26, 2006 at 06:05 AM · Collin-Mezin instruments were made in a workshop setting. Collin-Mezin instruments from the 19th century can be rather nice, and some models can sell in the teens (I've seen some Guarneri models from the 1870s go at 16k+). Closer to the 20th century they begin to take on a more commercial look, in general (and lower prices reflect this)... and later on they get worse.

All of the instruments from the shop bear a signature. Some of the better, earlier (19th century) instruments also bear a second signature and date on the interior of the back at the upper treble shoulder. Later, the "signature" was inserted on a paper label. I don't seem to recall seeing a label in an instrument much after 1900 that doesn't mention the medals received in Paris, but I can't say there aren't some out there.

I really would suggest caution when considering the purchase of a violin that the owner won't let out for trial or for appraisal. Understanding that I haven't seen the intrument in question (so you must take this with a grain of salt), the price (if in US $s) you mentioned isn't any less than a I'd expect to find one from that period in a retail shop for... and may even be a bit higher, depending on the fiddle.

You might try working with a reputable dealer... part of what you're paying for in a good shop is service, experience, reliable valuation, and reliable historical data.


J. S. Holmes Fine Violins

June 26, 2006 at 11:43 AM · Jeffrey, you said: "Later, the "signature" was inserted on a paper label". Well, I have a Collin Mézin made in 1929 and the signature is inside on the wood (so not on a paper label) and written with a pencil (so not with ink). Does this mean my violin is not a real Collin Mézin? Anyway, it's a great violin and I think I wouldn't mind if it's not "real".

By the way, my instrument bears a label "Grand Prix Exposition Universelle 1900" with a number on it and I consider it one of the later instruments...

I also heard that there must be a register somewhere, a book in which the Collin Mézin family wrote a description of their instruments. I have also been told that each instrument has been numbered (the number is on the paper label inside) so in the past they could check the number to see in the book to check if it was a "real" C-M.

June 26, 2006 at 11:46 AM · Gregg Alf is representing a Colin Mezin violin from 1890. It is a Guarneri model that is internally signed in pencil and it has a rich and powerful tone. Mr. Alf will send it to you for a trial if you are interested in comparing violins. His phone number is 734 665 2012. I am sure he would be willing to discuss your concerns about the 1909 Colin Mezin as he is very knowledgeable and friendly.

June 26, 2006 at 07:24 PM · Saïdjah;

C-M violins were produced into the 1950s. I'm not sure when the paper signature label became commonplace, but I've seen it in the later instruments.

I'd be concerned with anyone who would authenticate any instrument based solely on a label and signature. That's really not how authentication is done... Labels can be changed and signatures can be forged. If the violin is authentic, the maker's signature and unmoved label support the attribution, but relying on the reverse is not a valid method.

There's no way I can tell if the one you have is "authentic" without seeing it, of course... but honestly, I don't pay a great deal of attention to the instruments made much after the mid 1890s... while some are very servicable instruments, they're a little too commercial for me. I did handle close to 50 of the 1870-1900 C-M instruments when I ran the Fine Instrument Division of Shar... and I've bought and resold a few from the 1870s since leaving... but these really early ones don't come up often.

I'm sure that the business had some sort of log... but I've never seen a copy... I'm used to seeing numbers in pencil written on the back (on the older instruments; as was the fashion for a number of 19th century French makers), BTW.


Is this Guarneri model C-M that Gregg has a new addition? The 1890 C-M Gregg showed me a few months ago was a Strad model, as I recall. Also, according to the profile, B. Young is in Canada... Shipping there from the US can be a little complicated (or expensive due to the GST tax). Most of my Canadian clients drive down to Ann Arbor for instruments or bows in this price range. For more expensive instruments, a CARNET (a trade goods "passport") can be arranged and the instrument hand carried to the player.


J. S. Holmes Fine Violins

June 26, 2006 at 02:29 PM · Here's some cracked advice that works for me and probably me only:

If you REALLY like the sound and look of the violin for the price, go ahead and buy it without worrying too much about authentication.

The trick of course is knowing that you're not overpaying for a specific name, which is the whole point of this thread. So follow Mr. Holmes' advice exactly - that's as good as it gets.

I've played so many violins in the $10,000 and under range that have suited me better than instruments double or even quadruple that price.

June 26, 2006 at 03:35 PM · M. B Young,

As usual, Jeffrey offered some very valuable advice. I don't see any need to rush for this violin. For your price range, there are many violins available, so take your time.

June 26, 2006 at 03:04 PM · At this price you should be worried about authentication, not just the sound. Maybe you don't worry right now, but when you try to sell it, or your heirs try to sell it, they will have to worry about authentication, or take a bath.

June 26, 2006 at 05:44 PM · Jeffrey

I am pretty sure it was a Guarneri model but could be mistaken. I don't know anything about the shipping costs involved. Thanks for the heads up.

July 31, 2006 at 07:07 PM · Alf Studios has a Ch. J.B. Collin-Mezin dated 1890 (which is available for purchase). It is made from a personal Strad model. We would be happy to answer any questions and send photos to assist.-Tina @ Alf Studios.

March 8, 2007 at 05:28 AM · The key is in the arching. In the later violins it is more prenounced (higher extremes at the edges). If you look at it sideways on the G string side and you can see a considerable lift. It's also from the later son's workshop. If the varnish appears thicker and chippy. That indicates the later son's workshop. The darker color is a dead give away to the later son's model.The son also used a wider flame on the back, with the perfling closer to the edge. However, I like the power and brightness of the later ones better. But, at that price range you should find a more secure investment. Never rush into a new violin.

The tone doesn't mean the value. You can have a very bad sounding expensive violin and visa versa. Best wishes.


April 9, 2007 at 11:05 PM · mine is marked as followss:


Luthier a Paris

Rue du Faub & Poissonniere No. 10 (not sure if that is really a &)


April 10, 2007 at 03:27 AM · Hahahahaha!

Tell the seller he can keep his fiddle. In a few years, when you want to sell it or trade it up, what are you going to say to a prospective buyer? "Hey, it's genuine--the previous owner said so!!" Yeah, that'll go over well.

The bottom line here is: you cannot go by how the varnish looks, how the label looks, or whether it looks like someone else's. Every single aspect of a violin can and has been faked. Unless you are a recognized authority, you MUST have a certificate proving authenticiy in you hand when you write the check. The fact that he's unwilling to let anyone else look at it is ridiculous.


July 7, 2007 at 04:21 AM · The address in earlier Collin-Mezin violins is Rue du Faubourg Poissoniere No. 10 (up to the 1890s or thereabouts), then he moved to 29 in the same street. But there is a later label with the "Grand Prix - Exposition Universelle 1900" line that gives no address at all.

Whether any of the violins were actually made or at least finished in Paris (rather than Mirecourt) is a moot point - I really don't know. But it seems that Collin-Mezin senior must at least have had a showroom there and possibly lived above the shop.



July 7, 2007 at 04:58 AM · It must be genuine. Why? Who in the name of all things decent and good would want to copy one?

July 8, 2007 at 02:45 PM · Not necessarily "copy one". But, anyone who otherwise would only be able to sell their violin for $500.

May 1, 2008 at 11:42 AM · Although not a violinist myself, I have in my possession a Ch. J.-B. Collin-Mézin violin that used to belong to my father. The instrument carries the signature Collin-Mézin plus the date, 1927, and the number 497. The accompanying certificate of guarantee (no. 729) is also dated 1927, and on this the number 497 is listed as the ‘No. D’ORDRE’. The instrument and the certificate contain the words Grand prix Exposition Universelle 1900 de Paris.

The violin hasn’t been played since the early 1930s and needs to be re-strung; it also has one or two minor scratches on it. The original bow also needs to be re-strung, if that be the proper term. The carrying case is original and contains a number of unused strings, in their original packing. Could these still be used?

How much might it cost to have the instrument refurbished and what would its subsequent value be?

Geraint Jones

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