Price difference across countries for a same "brand/maker" viola?

October 8, 2017, 9:22 PM · Hi!
Why is it that I am seeing this certain viola for sale on for 1300 euro in this online european luthier shop while when I try to buy the same thing here in Canada or USA, the same viola is around 3500 canadian dollars?

It just seems too good to be true when I can just order form europe. Is there catch? lol

Replies (18)

October 8, 2017, 9:42 PM · That's quite a difference even if that viola is being sold where it was made. Check if you can at least try it first. Could be that specific viola doesn't sound as good? Check if the other items are also much higher in that Canadian/USA site you're shopping from. Could be that shop is just overall more expensive. Just guessing.
October 8, 2017, 9:46 PM · I know. No they sell them in all sizes so I don't think that's the case. It's online so I can't try it out or anything but I'm just so tempted because I heard that specific model I'm looking at is apparently really good instrument for its price.

Not sure if I should get it or not just because its really cheap and makes me doubt.

October 8, 2017, 9:55 PM · Some online stores do trials, but then it's coming from Europe and shipping all the way to America. Will definitely be a gamble if there's no returns and shipping sounds scary too. Have you checked if there's possibilities of that viola brand being a counterfeit?
October 8, 2017, 9:59 PM · True. It's jay haide l'ancienne maggini viola. Not sure why anyone would copy a "copy" of maggini model lol

I know shipping does sound really scary coming all the way from europe but I'm just so tempted just because its so cheap.

Edited: October 8, 2017, 10:13 PM · If it seems to good to be true, it usually is. I'd guess that if you try to buy it at that price something will "come up" that will render the seller unable to come through. Surely you should use a payment system that will protect you if something goes wrong.
October 8, 2017, 10:21 PM · Maybe you can try emailing Jay Haide. Also email that European store if they have a certificate.
October 8, 2017, 10:29 PM · Unfortunately there's no way to know what you are getting. Sometimes, certain shop have a relationship with the supplier and are able to access a selection of the best of a batch, while others are just content to get anything that carries the label (i.e. what's left!) hence selling for less of profit margin. The instrument setup is also important. If ordering online, you should budget at least $200-300 for setup by a local luthier. Then there are the unscrupulous ones who put fake labels on cheap Chinese blanks finished locally. You know the saying... if it sounds too good to be true...
Edited: October 9, 2017, 4:41 AM · It could easily be the same model. Remember these are made in China which is a low wage economy and the mark up is around a 1000%. There is plenty of room for differential pricing in different zones.
You will also have to pay import tax and shipping, so factor that in too.

Cheers Carlo

October 9, 2017, 5:04 AM · There are all sorts of variables and trying to figure out why could be next to impossible.
Exchange rates
Duty charges
Shipping charges
Set up costs
Mark-ups


your best bet is to contact both sellers and get more details to make a proper comparison. The most important part is the return policy and shipping costs. Maybe the Canadian seller will reduce their price to get closer to the European one. Doesn't hurt to ask.

Edited: October 9, 2017, 5:22 AM · My son just upgraded his Jay Haide viola. Something to make sure about: there are at least 3 different viola levels in the Jay Haide lineup. The price you mention sounds like the basic or middle model price, not the l'ancienne.
October 9, 2017, 9:27 AM · Thanks for the insight!
I'm very sure it's lancienne. It's maggini model double purfling with antique varnish.

Just one more question, how does lancienne compare to 104 model?

Edited: October 9, 2017, 10:08 PM · Hi Mike,

Regarding the 'catch' to importing it yourself:

There should be no duty on a stringed instrument coming into Canada. There may be on the case or certain accessories, though.

Even though the importer will have to pay taxes on it (GST) the markup on it is almost $1500. That's quite a bit. You can try and negotiate a lower price and get freebies included, but keep in mind if you import from outside the country you will have to pay your own brokerage and taxes (HST/PST/GST) and shipping if you import from a different country. That will still be significantly less than $1500.

Brokerage fees vary from broker to broker (Such as Canada post, DHL, FEDEX, etc), but the taxes will be the same. For example, here in NB I have to pay the same 15% HST I would pay at the store on anything I import, as well as duty (where applicable). Duty will vary based on the items. Violins are duty free - their cases are not. Sometimes they'll be duty free depending on how they're invoiced, but that's a different story. Also sometimes you don't have to pay duty at the door - but that's rarer and mainly only from large distributors, they ship using a different procedure.

Depending on the materials involved (And how honest the shipper is, and if CBSA bothers to open the package) it may also require some extra paper work for CITES.

*This is not legal advice, and is offered freely to help in the making of a decision.

Edit: Also a lot of things coming from Europe that used to have duty won't anymore, assuming whoever clears it clears it properly and it has the correct paperwork.

Edited: October 10, 2017, 5:01 AM · Wholesale dealer price for a Jay Haide violin should be roughly half of retail, since the euro price is somewhat less than this I suspect something is not right, unless it is some kind of close out hard to sell model, or with some defect, etc.
October 11, 2017, 4:42 AM · Retailers have some leeway with prices (I got 20% off mine since I bought it as a set) but 1300 euros is suspiciously inexpensive. I would contact them just to see why there is such a price difference.

By the way, the Jay Haide maggini viola is wonderful!
I got a 16" European wood maggini last week, and am in love with it. Beautiful tone, strong projection, and very responsive. It sounds on par with $10,000 - $15,000 violas I've tried, so for the price I think it's incredible.

October 14, 2017, 9:03 AM · BTW, "Maggini" copies often sound better than "Strad" copies where violas are concerned.
October 14, 2017, 9:24 AM · Now there's a challenge: six Chinese copies of Curtin violins against six Chinese Strad copies.

Always remember that one thing you're paying for when you buy a violin from a dealer is service. If the dealer has a try-before-you-buy policy, you're paying for their (distributed) risk.

Aside from that I agree mostly with Carlo. The markup is so high they can price across a very wide range. As for reasons, who knows? Maybe they're just closing out that model so they can have room for something else. There are lots of possibilities.

October 14, 2017, 10:19 AM · I am not really surprised. Import tax and fees can add up, someones doubling the price of the product.
October 14, 2017, 3:04 PM · "Why is it that I am seeing this certain viola for sale on for 1300 euro in this online european luthier shop while when I try to buy the same thing here in Canada or USA, the same viola is around 3500 canadian dollars?"

Mike, this is the question ultimately you have ask the Canadian or USA dealers, not here. We don't know a whole lot of details required for seeing a clear picture. For instance, is it really the same thing or you think they are the same? Is the price stated and firm or negotiable? What are the trial period and what are the shipping policies?

Also, as far as I checked, if you are in Canada, you don't pay import duty on violin or bow shipped from the US, but you only pay GST and PST. It may have changed now but worth checking that too.

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