Why would a violin come without the maker's label?

November 10, 2017, 7:42 AM · Would love some opinions on this. My daughter has been shopping for a violin, she's a high school senior getting ready to audition for college. The price range we decided on was $8k to $20k. She tried about 30 violins in that price range. We have ended up with an $8k violin that sounds the best! It comes with an appraisal from Paul Becker appraising it at $9k. Both of my daughter's teachers have liked this violin over the others and suggested she purchase it. It comes without a label inside which is the reason for a lower price. The violin is about 70 years old and is from the Chicago school of violin-making. Daughter is in love with this violin and it comes from a very reputable dealer.

Replies (14)

Edited: November 10, 2017, 7:57 AM · Sometimes labels get lost in repairs. Sometimes labels are removed to try to increase/decrease the price of an instrument.
Sometimes the instrument sustained heat/water damage and the label got lost.
On older instruments, sometimes the label just unglues.

A label is not an indicative of quality, and most often not even an indicative of provenance.

Don't fret about it.

November 10, 2017, 8:52 AM · If you'd like, you can easily find labels on eBay. Just get whichever one looks the most interesting and glue it in. It doesn't change the sound of the violin very much.
Edited: November 10, 2017, 9:18 AM · Don't use elmers glue - hide glue, very thinned... all kidding aside, the label probably just got lost along the way. Judging the violin by sound is good, since her teacher gave the violin a test drive and two thumbs up- if you trust the teachers, go for it.
Edited: November 10, 2017, 2:32 PM · If you can get a good instrument without a label that is intended for playing rather than investment, that can be a good thing; you pay much less as you would if it did have one from a well known maker. Conversely, there's the possibility that certain labels bring a negative appreciation of an otherwise good instrument, hence a reason for some dealers to remove the label (it could also have fallen off over time). And last, there's the cases where labels are quickly dismissed as obvious meaningless fakes, which is even worse than not having a label at all as mischievous intent to deceive with the purpose to overprice an instrument is present. My take, having no label is way better than having a doubtful one, and sometimes better for quality/price ratio. Judge the instrument for what it is worth, to you, and don't look back.
November 10, 2017, 10:33 AM · Labels are portable. A friend in the trade recently purchased a crappy "Breton" with a nice JTL label in it. He called it a "Thousand-Dollar Label", meaning that it will add a goodly price to the Mirecourt violin that it will end up inside of.
You evaluate a violin and decide what you think that it is or is not. Then you look for a label. If it agrees with your evaluation, fine, if not, you look again and decide if the label goes with the instrument. Within the trade, labels mean little. For the retail customer, they are important, and that is why shops insert labels into violins that don't have one.
James McKean wrote that labels are like shoes and one can change them to suit their mood.
Trust the shop that offers you a violin without a label. They could have easily added one.
November 10, 2017, 10:36 AM · Could be a stolen Strad with the label removed so no one will ever find out :P
November 10, 2017, 11:13 AM · John C is joking, of course.

Take Duane's advice. The Becker shop is a good one. (I have bought a violin there myself.)

November 10, 2017, 8:56 PM · "Labels are portable...like shoes and one can change them to suit their mood."

A well known shop sent us an $18K instrument on trial from a well known maker who works independently on the other side of the country. They had more than one instrument by the maker and we chose a 2012 to be sent based on the discussion. But when it arrived the label clearly said 2017. "Oh we put the wrong date on it, happens all the time, it's pencil so we can easily change it".

It still bothers me for whatever reason but it illustrated to me how fungible the label can be.

November 18, 2017, 2:22 PM · "Oh we put the wrong date on it, happens all the time, it's pencil so we can easily change it".

On a 18K contemporary violin from a well known maker? No, no and no.

November 18, 2017, 3:21 PM · That one sounds wrong to me, too. The maker normally writes the date on the label, not the shop.
November 18, 2017, 4:01 PM · Depends...
November 18, 2017, 8:55 PM · Depends? On what? The whole thing sounds very questionable to me.
November 18, 2017, 9:01 PM · Well Duane you know a lot more about this than I do. Personally I have not come across this in makers-that work by themselves-in that price range.
November 19, 2017, 6:34 AM · Hendrik it's exactly what I said, it simply didn't feel right to me. The instrument was made by Ray Melanson, from a very well known shop.

After hearing 15+ instruments I ended up buying a new Stanley Kiernoziak viola for my son from the same folks that Smiley Hsu bought his instrument from...in a wider pattern he builds less often that reminds me more of Bronek Cison's violas.


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