Price of a Strad or del Gesu 300 years ago?

December 25, 2006 at 03:58 AM · How much did Stradivari and del Gesu sell their instruments for when they made them? (And out of curiosity, what currency was used at that time?)

Replies (56)

December 25, 2006 at 06:25 PM · How about you pose the same question about a DaVinci or Rembrant.

It is obvious these are all antiques which are highly prized for their uniqueness.

They were pized also at the time of their manufacture.

Merry Christmas!!

December 25, 2006 at 07:19 PM · You can read about values of Strads (up to the early 1900's) in the Hill book on Stradivari, Chapter 11.

December 25, 2006 at 11:52 PM · Alas, I don't have that book, so some numbers would be helpful.

December 26, 2006 at 12:44 AM · Its' going to be awhile before you get any numbers. First comes remarks reminding us how invaluable they are and insinuations that your question is insane. All I can say is I'm sure they were considered luxuries, because you couldn't eat them.

December 26, 2006 at 12:25 AM · Antonio Stradivari....His life and work was first published by William E Hill and sons in 1902.On page 249 of the book it states, we may, with considerable probability of being correct, conclude that the sum Stradivari charged for a violin or viola was approximately equivalent to from £10 to £15 of our money of to-day.So work that one out in you currency!

December 26, 2006 at 01:11 AM · There is a film about Strad's life played by Anthony Quinn. In the film, if it is reliable at all, there was a scene in the kitchen where he was trying to boast his order or something like that. His wife retorted that someone else (the Guarneris???) got higher price for their order (at 400 of their currency???)...

I will try to find the DVDs and update when I get the chance...It is an interesting film by the way.

December 26, 2006 at 01:17 AM · If we believe the stories about Tarisio traveling about, finding people willing to trade their old beat-up Strads for inexpensive new fiddles, we might also believe that they were fairly inexpensive at one time, or that their value wasn't widely appreciated.

David Burgess

http://www.burgessviolins.com

December 26, 2006 at 09:09 AM · If I recall correctly, I read somewhere about Vengerov. He said when he was young (well, he's still young anyway), his mother bought a violin more or less needing repairs at an auction. The violin was practiced by him daily and put left near the window. One day the wind or the storm caused the violin to fly out of the window and crashed beyond repair. It later turned out to be a real Strad. I could not find where I read it, but for some reason I am quite positive it was a story about Vengerov.

Vengerov was born in 1974, and started playing the violin at the age of 3 or 4. So in the late 70's a real Strad should still be relatively "affordable" then. I knew someone quite well who had a real Strad in the '70s, and he told me that the price back then was asn't "terrible" as it is now.

December 26, 2006 at 03:51 AM · Here is some interesting info regarding "A Market Perspective"

In London at the turn of the century, Stradivari violins sold in the range of four hundred to two thousand pounds, a considerable amount at that time. In this country in the 1920s, sales were in the range of $25,000 to $50,000. Throughout the Depression, World War II, and the post-war era, the violin market mimicked the art and antique markets. As the great art dealer Joseph Duveen observed, America was long on cash and short on culture while Europe was its opposite. Quite simply, Europeans sold and Americans bought and there was no other significant market.

Toward the end of the 1960s, the violin market began to change as examples of fine violins sold for amounts approaching $100,000.

At this time, the teaching method developed by Dr. Suzuki was leading to nearly universal education of Western music in Japan. As millions of children were taught the violin, audiences for Western music grew at an incredible pace. By the early 1970s the demand for classical music in Japan, and fascination with the violin in particular, were at an all time high.

This unprecedented growth spread similarly to Korea, Taiwan, and Mainland China resulting in new audiences, concerts, violinists, and collectors. In 1971, a particularly fine Stradivari known as the "Lady Blunt" was purchased at auction by Robin Loh for the record price of just over $200,000. Reputed to be the wealthiest man in Singapore, Loh acquired three other important Stradivari violins, yet it was the sale of the "Lady Blunt" that signaled the new market. During that time, C. M. Sin, an avid collector from Hong Kong, purchased over twenty Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesù violins. In the period of a few years, the previously untapped Asian violin market had outgrown the American market.

Thus, the violin market had become truly global in the 1970s. Three large markets Ð Asian, European, and American — put pressure on the limited number of fine violins. The prices reflected this change. A fine example by Stradivari or Guarneri del Gesù could command as high as $500,000 in 1980 and the prices of all violins had increased in similar proportion. The market continued to expand into the 1980s, and by the 1990s, exceptional instruments had crossed the million-dollar mark. Itzhak Perlman purchased the famous Soil' Stradivari from Yehudi Menuhin for $1,250,000.

Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesù violins are the da Vinci's of the instrument world.

Most of the post-1700 Stradivari violins and post-1730 Guarneri violins currently sell in a range of $2,000,000 to $6,000,000 depending on their condition and historical significance. Instruments of their early periods, or those with considerable restoration may sell for less — such examples represent excellent values for musicians as sound does not precisely follow price.

December 26, 2006 at 04:30 AM · The great art dealer Joseph Duveen makes me want to throw up on my shoes. What was Europe doing culturally during that period? What was America doing?

December 26, 2006 at 08:40 AM · Vivian,

I read a story like that about Vengerov, too. But if I remember correctly, I think it said that he put the violin out on the window and it rained and got completely ruined, and I don't think it ever said it was a Strad. I think they didn't know who made it and it still had baroque fittings.

Not that this has anything to do with the topic.

December 26, 2006 at 09:13 AM · Hi Enosh,

Do you remember where you read it? I actually remember it was said to be Strad years later for some reason, but then again could not find where I read it. And yes, the violin was not repaired or beyond repair.

December 26, 2006 at 09:50 AM · Fascinating stuff everyone...

December 26, 2006 at 01:19 PM · Vivian, you could have read this story on Maxim Vengerov's fan website. The violin was a Carlo Landolfi.

December 26, 2006 at 03:18 PM · Hi,

This may not necessarily be completely related, but some info regarding instruments in the 18th century. In their day, Stradivari's violins and Guarneri Del Gésu's were not the most highly prized. Most soloists until about 1770 prefered and used Stainer and Amati. Viotti was by all accounts the first soloist to use Strads and Guarneri as main concert instruments with the new prototype bow by Tourte (the modern bow). This accounted for the boldness of his sound. Also, most Del Gésu violins, if I remember well, were regraduated (except the Cannone and Leduque - someone correct me if I am wrong); so, who knows how they sounded in the 18th century.

I don't know what the market value of the instruments was in Strad's time, but there is a set of instruments that was made for the King of Spain and I believe that the sum paid by the King of Spain for the set is stipulated somewhere - don't remember where. I think that the set is from 1689 or so. Very beautiful - one can see them in the Palacia Real in Madrid.

My own recollections on a foggy winter morning...

Cheers!

December 26, 2006 at 03:33 PM · Christian wrote, "most Del Gésu violins, if I remember well, were regraduated (except the Cannone and Leduque - someone correct me if I am wrong); so, who knows how they sounded in the 18th century."

Wow, that's quite a statement, quite something if true. Can someone verify or elaborate on this?

December 26, 2006 at 05:20 PM · Christian,

With all do respect, I don't think any one player is able to stipulate such a thing.

Strangely enough, if you believe that the "Il Cannone" was never touched (in that way), how is it that it sounds similar to so many other great Del Gesus?!

Regarding performance practice and instruments of the time, we have discussed these issues a year ago, and I also discussed the bow during the same time and the introduction of the Viotti bow (The Tourte model).

Check out the archives.... some very interesting stuff.

December 26, 2006 at 05:35 PM · "Strangely enough, if you believe that the "Il Cannone" was never touched (in that way), how is it that it sounds similar to so many other great Del Gesus?!"

Am I wrong to remember that Il Cannone has thicker plate than other real Del Gesus?

I have a dumb question: If a violin has been re-graduated, can its merit be ascribed to the original maker???? This may not relate to Guarneri's case, but I am just curious.

December 26, 2006 at 08:05 PM · Hi,

Gennady, I said I wasn't 100% sure. I do remember this information from someone who used to work for Beare's in London and for a while was in charge of the instruments being put up for sale at Sotheby's and Christie's auction houses in London. He has seen probably all of the great instruments and bows at some point. What I recall was that, like said in one post, the tops of the Cannone and Leduque were not regraduated, and are quite a bit thicker than others.

As for Il Cannone, most of those that I know who tried it, and even letters from Paganini himself (or statements related elsewhere) mention that it does sound different than other Del Gésus.

I do remember your past info regarding bows and instrument practices and of course appreciate your great knowledge and expertise as always.

Cheers!

December 27, 2006 at 04:31 AM · I'm not near my books and grad charts right now, but it is a common story, and it does seem that many del Gesus have been regraduated to something more like Strad grads. But a goodly number escaped that, too, the Cannone being one.

I've seen half a dozen or so that have backs around 6mm thick, max, and tops over 3mm. Most of the untouched ones seem to be the later ones, and I always thought that perhaps he just got thicker as he got older (just as Strad backs get thinner, the later the violin) but I did finally see a 1736 that was even thicker than the Cannone--the top was 3.6mm in places--so maybe the idea of a trend of thicker = later isn't correct.

In general, the response of players that I showed thick ones (while I was working at Bein and Fushi I remember at least four very thick late ones) to was that they required quite a bit more push to get out greater volumes, and required focus to get anything good out. None were friendly violins to amateur players, and generally weaker players, who would have immediately liked a Strad, weren't very impressed.

I remember one particular one that Bein and Fushi had for sale for four years (an exceptionally long time) that was unusually thick, and very hard to play--I'm remembering that the top might have been 4mm thick in places. I only heard three people make it sound really good, but in their hands it was incredible.

The Cannone may be unusual in that it apparently isn't as difficult to play compared to the others. I got to hear the winner of the Paganini Competition one year reherse with it--she was playing a very early Strad, and when she made the switch she seemed to adapt immediately, and she told me that the transition wasn't as difficult as she'd thought it would be. I wouldn't say it sounded like the thin ones, myself. The way it sounds on the recordings I've heard isn't, in my opinion, the same as it sounds in person.

Regraduation of violins was extremely common in the past. It's interesting and unusual to run into really untouched instruments from 1700--they're often surprisingly thick (and often in remarkable condition--both because they are less fragile, and I suspect, because no one has wanted to play them and wear them out--usually they don't work all that well). I've worked on four or five violins by major makers that were just begging to be regraduated, if people were still thinking today the way they did 150 years ago. Of course no one with any kind of ethical standards would do such a thing now, which brings up the question of what you do with a rare violin no one wants to buy? Usually those things hang around until someone with a lot of money who appreciates them for what they are comes along.

It's an interesting aside that I just finished a very thick (thicker than the original) Cannone copy, and it worked great. The person who commissioned it was delighted. He'd tried over the last few years to get other makers to build him a thick one, and all were convinced it wouldn't work, and wouldn't do it. For about five years I've been making thick Cannones, and they've been my most successful model--but they sell mostly to powerful professional players.

I do think that making a violin that thick work well is more of a problem for a maker---when you make thick violins you can get away with almost anything, and that's one reason makers like to stick with thinner models; when they're thicker, you actually have to do it right or it doesn't work at all. I was initially unsuccessful with del Gesu models, and had to thin out all my early ones. Maybe del Gesu had the same path--could his early ones be the regraduated ones because they really didn't work that thick, but the later ones worked better, and were left alone? It's an interesting possibility.

Relative to prices, I believe Stradivari was extremely well paid. When he died, some of the instruments in his estate were valued at something around 150-200 lira. He also made provision for his unmarried sisters, so they could live on their own, with about 50 lira a year, so that gives a good idea.

It's true that Tarisio was picking up violins cheap, but he wasn't doing it by offering honest prices to informed buyers. He was dressing in rags and trading carpentry for "used" violins to get them out of the hands of places like monasteries who had no idea of the value of what they owned, and then selling them in Paris for a whole heck of a lot than he got them for, and all of the Parisian makers were trying to be his best friend so he could help them get rich, so the value he "stole" them for is really irrelevant.

Someone mentions 10-15 pounds as a possible price, but in a VERRRRRY different economy in which no one but nobility would actually have anything like that kind of money laying around. In the end, such a thing is impossible to calcualate--as Jim Miller said, they're luxuries because you couldn't eat them. Just having a couple of mugs, plates, some clothes, and one bed was a lot for many of the people of the time (and still is for a lot of our world, today!)

June 3, 2013 at 12:04 AM · On my daily walk home from school in Bristol in the '50s I would pass by an old violin shop that at that time serviced my cello. One of the cellos for sale there was an Amati, with a price tag of £400. In the '50s that sum would have been more or less an office clerk's annual salary, and in comparison the salary of the General Manager of a large metallurical company near Bristol was about £3000pa.

That Amati would have been within the reach of a professional musician or an amateur in a professional occupation. I don't know who purchased it, but I hope it went to a good home. It's value today could be well into six figures, if not higher.

That old violin shop was known as "Tinney's" in my youth, and dated back to sometime in the second half of the 19th century. It is very much in business at the same premises today, but is now called Cremona House.

June 3, 2013 at 12:35 AM · In one of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories the author describes Holmes as being very pleased with the bargain he had when he bought a Stradivari violin from a disreputable old dealer in London's East End for 5 guineas - that's £5.25, a sum that would have kept a working man and his family for the best part of a month in the late 19th century.

The story is fictional, but I have a suspicion it may have been based on something that may have been reported or known at the time, and I think Doyle, as a professional writer, would have been fairly realistic concerning the 5 guineas paid for an obviously good violin from a not very reputable vendor.

June 3, 2013 at 12:52 AM · In another (canon) Sherlock Holmes story, he and Watson are riding a carriage and Holmes starts discussing how the best violins are "Cremonas", and the reasons why! Unfortunately, this conversation is only mentioned in passing.

June 3, 2013 at 03:15 AM · Did anyone watch Antiques Roadshow last week? A guy bought a Gemunder for $1 somewhere in Montana. Nice condition, and actually did look like a Gemunder.

June 3, 2013 at 07:36 AM · The English dealer Betts bought the 1704 Strad that became known as "The Betts" for a guinea, in 1820.

It's in the Library of Congress, Washington. Various pictures are posted on the internet.

Doesn't look particularly like a Gemunder, but we don't see many of those in the UK.

June 3, 2013 at 07:43 AM · I have read that Stadivari's violins sold for high prices in his lifetime, similar to those of Jacob Steiner. However, the Strads seem to have responded better to modernisation, while the Stainers may sound more pinched and reedy with modern setup due to their very pronounced arching.

June 3, 2013 at 04:24 PM · "I have read that Stadivari's violins sold for high prices in his lifetime,.."

I have read, in Hill's book on Stradivari, that during the early days of the 18th. century an Amati violin would be worth 4 times as much as a new Strad. The passage of time plus the effects of usage on the Stradivari instruments enabled them to "come into their own" circa 1800; by that time they had begun to overtake the Stainers and Amatis in desirability.

"As rich as Stradivari" was a saying at one time; this must have been to do with volume of sales rather than high asking-prices for individual instruments. And when this maker died, there remained nearly 100 instruments unsold - they didn't all fly off the shelves.

There was a time when a job-lot of Guarneri del Gesù violins could be bought for peanuts (according to Hill's Guarneri tome).

The Concertmaster in my first "job", the Hallé Orchestra (1965) was said to have paid £2,000 at Hill's for his Girolomo Amati II. I'm guessing that this sum would have been slightly less than a year's salary for him. It's unlikely that players in similar positions now would hardly be able to purchase a comparable fiddle for a year's pay.

June 3, 2013 at 07:10 PM · I believe many were commissioned by Royalties, I can't imagine them being particularly inexpensive in those days either.

June 3, 2013 at 07:41 PM · I red somewhere that price of a Stradivarius violin was equal to a better musician's annual income.

What is even more interesting that Stainer violins were in greater demand, therefore more costly!

Once the Baroque sound, typical for Stainer, went out of fashion, the Strads took over.

All being said, modern hand made master violins appear to be on the cheap side. I can't believe I just typed this.

June 3, 2013 at 07:51 PM · Any luthier whose craft is his source of income has of necessity to be a business man and strike that fine balance between quality (which is a function of time and cost of materials, as well as skill) and a price which will attract sufficient custom for him to make his living. This would have applied equally three hundred years ago as today.

I believe that, making allowances for the manifold differences between the 17/18th centuries and today, the charges of a top luthier of those days to his clients would therefore be broadly equivalent to those charged by a master luthier of the 21st century.

June 4, 2013 at 07:24 AM · "I believe many were commissioned by Royalties, I can't imagine them being particularly inexpensive in those days either. "

Yes indeed. Noblemen would pay the asking price and as bonus sometimes offer either a title of appointment or an extra cash gift. In one recorded instance this "tip" was 3 times the normal asking price.

But the proportion of sales to the nobility would be small, and in one instance Stradivari proposed making a GIFT of a collection of instruments to a visiting Spanish noble - but seems to have had second thoughts.

In the Hill's book of 1902 they hazard an informed guess that the price of a new Strad related to a then current value of £14.

Now, what is that 1902 £14 worth today ?? That gives a high variation of answers depending upon whether RPI or Economic Power is the formula - according to the site I googled. Results from this site range from £2,562 to £10,000.

Yes, one can buy a new fiddle in Cremona within this range;- however, some makers ask MORE than that - so a new Strad could be purchased for a BARGAIN PRICE by today's standards !!!!!

June 4, 2013 at 08:29 AM · Lyndon wrote: - "My guess in actual buying power the Strad brand new was not much less than a quality Cremonese violin is today."

Yes, exactly what my post conveyed. And, yes, equating any old price in Gigliati or any other of the many Italian currencies around in 1700 to modern values IS problematic. This was made absolutely clear on the site I used, e.g. RPI versus Economic Power (whatever that is - ask an economist !). Maybe there should be a special index for old fiddles :- BPI or BS Price Index.

June 4, 2013 at 09:01 AM · Turnips. Haysheds. Cows and bulls. Silver platters, virgin daughters. Pretty much anything was and still is currency.

I doubt that any of the original violins consistently sold for any consistent amount, or for that matter, any consistent THING, before the industrial revolution. Stuff wasn't standardised, the world didn't work that way. Perhaps custom or requested instruments had a price on them.

June 4, 2013 at 09:59 AM · "Except that a high quality Cremonese today would be closer to GBP10,000-20,000 "

Precisely. I've been quoted workshop prices of up to €15k by present-day Cremona makers, that's slightly above £15k at the time, or nearly $20k. By the time such instruments reach Japan they can retail at around double - see the Kurosawagakki website.

Referring to a price-range of a postulated £2.6-10k I posted "Yes, one can buy a new fiddle in Cremona within this range;- however, some makers ask MORE than that - so a new Strad could be purchased for a BARGAIN PRICE by today's standards !!!!!"

So, Lyndon, why argue when we are in agreement ?

June 4, 2013 at 12:09 PM · "How much did Stradivari and del Gesu sell their instruments for when they made them?" asked Rachael Hobbs.

Lyndon, when you write "on topic" we agree; you seem to want to digress in order not to do so.

In real terms (tricky one, that) the documentary evidence adduced by the Hill's (alive as ever with the sound of music) points to a new Strad costing slightly less than a new Francesco Bissolotti, G.B. Morassi (senior), Davide Sora, Riccardo Bergonzi, uncle Tom Cobbley and all from the Cremona of today. Of course, he and the Amatis could command higher prices than their contemporaries, but Rachael disn't ask about that. A new Amati was 4 times the price of a Ruggeri, for example. Then as now many makers would be on the breadline unless supplementing their income with repairs, bar-work or identity fraud.

June 4, 2013 at 02:12 PM · Lyndon, the "math" isn't of my invention and I have been scrupulous in quoting my sources of info. No smoke and mirrors job.

Email David Burgess if you like, see what he thinks.

June 4, 2013 at 02:50 PM · "obviously the violin had a bigger place in 1700s society than it does today, so it really seems it was more valued, unless there was a glut of 1700s makers that kept the price down."

It seems that for high-end violin makers, business was already petering out early in the 1700s. Big shops with many apprentices or employees (like the Amati shop) had already become a thing of the past. In contrast to the Amati shop, there are no records of non-family employees in the Stradivari or Guarneri Del Gesu shops, and Antonio Stradivari is thought to have done the bulk of the making himself, with his two sons mostly engaged in activities like adjustment and repair.

It's also interesting to note that the Stradivari shop had approximately 90-100 unsold instruments at the time of his death.

Edit:

Just read David Beck's last post, LOL

June 4, 2013 at 03:36 PM · "It seems that for high-end violin makers, business was already petering out early in the 1700s."

I guess that after 150 years or so of industrious productivity the stage was reached whan nearly everyone who wanted something like that had either already gotten one - or could easily get hold of a pre-owned example.

June 4, 2013 at 06:03 PM · Are we approaching a new glut? I mean its distinctly possible that the classical music boom in the east will loose steam - maybe we'll be able to buy a Burgess for pennies on the dollar. Not hoping or anyting of course :D

June 4, 2013 at 07:58 PM · ... maybe we'll be able to buy a Burgess for pennies on the dollar.

Perish the thought! David needs to pay his gym membership!

June 4, 2013 at 08:23 PM · Elise, I think we're already well past the point of a glut. In addition to all the informal teaching situations, like "apprenticeships" and "learn on the job" environments, we have three formal violin making schools in the US alone.

Will this result in some killer deals on contemporary violins? I doubt it. While most students may enter violin making school with high hopes, and a sense of optimism about becoming a full-time maker, the reality is that there are only about 15 people in the US managing to make a full-time living at making. And most of these people have had training far beyond violin making school.

People may be willing to make violins out of a love of the craft for while (and we all did some of that initially... if one doesn't have what it takes to do that, one will probably never make it), but eventually one starts to consider whether they could do better financially by working at McDonalds. Most violin making school graduates end up working in other related fields, mostly repair. Some leave the trade entirely. It's not hugely different from what happens to musicians after getting a performance degree.

I might be considered to be a successful maker, but I live quite modestly, despite a two-income, "empty nest" household, lacking enough reserves to even think about retiring at a normal age.

It appears that Stadivari married two widows, both with significant financial assets. So he definitely had a lot more going on in the strategic department than I have ever had. :-)

June 5, 2013 at 04:45 AM · David Burgess says:

It seems that for high-end violin makers, business was already petering out early in the 1700s.

----------------------------------------------------

Wouldn't surprise me if the War of Spanish Succession had something to do with that. Much of the nobility that were buying those top instruments likely had more pressing economical and geopolitical issues on their hands than fiddle purchases.

June 5, 2013 at 10:01 PM · "The currency at that time compared to modern financial problems shows a hilarious amount of plain dishonesty going on. "

You mean better OR worse than today?

June 6, 2013 at 06:50 AM · "The Concertmaster in my first "job", the Hallé Orchestra (1965) was said to have paid £2,000 at Hill's for his Girolomo Amati II"

That would have been my teacher then.

I remember seeing this instrument years ago with a soundpost crack.

It took a lot of work to make a satisfactory repair I'm told.

It was resold for about 35-40K at auction back in about 1992, which I think was still a bargain.

June 6, 2013 at 07:45 AM · Martin Milner was the owner of that Girolamo Amati II. Later he persuaded the Hallé Concerts Society to buy the violin from him, the argument being that in the future even the best orchestral fiddlers wouldn't be able to afford such an instrument. By this time the orchestra had a Long-Pattern Strad on loan for the use of the leaders - who, it has to be said, didn't like it a great deal.

I gather this Amati was lent to the Principal Second Violin (no names, no pack-drill) who left it on top of his piano, when the cat jumped on it. Yes, a costly repair did ensue.

I don't know what fiddle(s) your teacher Joseph Segal played.

June 6, 2013 at 08:50 AM · Interesting story.

I can't imagine there were 2, H. Amati with the same problems, so I can't imagine what scenario ensued to have that instrument end up in Oxford.

It sold July 3 1992 for about 35k.

Maker: Girolamo (II) Amati

Year built: 1663-1729*

City: Cremona

What can you buy for 35k now, 20 years later?

I know this is all off topic.

If it's the same instrument, (it must be), it was not suited to leading an orchestra like the Halle, and I'm sure it wasn't the one used for the Valen concerto recording, which would have been the Gofriller, a marvellous instrument with huge sound.

I vaguely heard of a Strad being used about this time on loan, & it does appear to be the same instrument, (an early one), and wasn't great.

The Halle under Barbirolli was apparently quite some orchestra.

As an aside;-

It does appear that bows have followed roughly the same trajectory as violins albeit about 20yrs later.

Years ago, good bows cost nothing.

Some soloists/players used to use them, ruin them by not undoing them, throw them away & buy another one, including Pecatte, and the more fragile old ones.

I'm not kidding.

Now we're ruled by money vested interests,- the banksters, life itself has become unreal, and quite contrary to our best interests as musicians.

Fascinating to hear Burgess recount life "AS IT IS" for violin makers today.

Working at a fast food pays better?

What a verdict on our whole civilisation!

June 6, 2013 at 10:46 AM · "Working at a fast food pays better?"

Well, I should qualify that a little. If the instruments don't sell, the maker makes NO money.

I know of one maker, trained at the Cremona violin making school, who ended up closing their shop, and taking a job driving a FedX delivery truck, for example.

I should mention though that it's been the increase in the price of old instruments which has enabled the renaissance in quality making today. As the price of the better old instruments increased, it left a price niche near the lower end which began to look viable. It's a very competitive area though, such that many makers are involved in continuous education and training. For example, this month, about 50 makers will be spending in the neighborhood of three to five thousand dollars to attend a two-week workshop. Many of them attend every year. That's the kind of thing it can take to be competitive as a contemporary maker. The level of some of the making today is extraordinarily high.

Even some of the makers who I consider to be very good, with well-recognized names, can have trouble selling everything they can make, they have told me privately.

June 7, 2013 at 04:50 PM · "Even some of the makers who I consider to be very good, with well-recognized names, can have trouble selling everything they can make, they have told me privately. "

Not every conservatory-trained violinist will play Carnegie Hall, either.

Matthew 22:14 - "Many are called but few are chosen".

June 8, 2013 at 11:27 PM · Gareth THOMAS says:

What can you buy for 35k now, 20 years later?

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Properly adjusting for inflation by using the CPI market basket from 1992 to 2013 as a guideline?

That sum correlates to approximately $57,000 in buying power today.

June 9, 2013 at 07:25 AM · Benedict,

The 1992 price of 37k was probably GBP, i.e. £s Sterling.

An internet site gives the following values for 2013 depending on which index is selected.

£37,000.00 from 1992 is:

£62,800.00 using the retail price index

£57,500.00 using the GDP deflator

£73,700.00 using the average earnings

£81,800.00 using the per capita GDP

£89,700.00 using the share of GDP

A rough mean value of £74k equates to $112,761 according to my laptop today !!

In 1965 I was paid £20 per week (in cash, brown envelopes - not into the bank account as today !). I'd get around £300 per week now if on a regular R & F contract, I think. This rise in earnings would give an approximate "todays value" of Martin Milner's £2k Amati as £60k. The prices of instruments have escalated faster than any other index, however, - if in search of an Italian fiddle with £60 in your pocket you might just buy an early Garimberti !

June 9, 2013 at 08:09 AM · That sound about right.

It confirms the more or less steady rule of thumb & my experiences you can't get a decent (18th C) fiddle for under 50-60k unless you happen to strike it really lucky on a good day at Philips or Christie's, & then you have all the dealers there doing the same thing to make a living out of it.

Btw did you notice the Ashmolean have an exhibition of Strads atm.

The nauseating idiot presenting the program (who seems to have some connection with the museum), was making some hyped allusions about Ferraris & claiming how they are the greatest violins ever made.

With such people in vogue with the media, how on earth can you even be on the same planet?

June 9, 2013 at 08:34 AM · and £37k in gold in 1992 would be worth around £166,000 today.

June 9, 2013 at 09:09 AM · "It confirms the more or less steady rule of thumb & my experiences you can't get a decent (18th C) fiddle for under 50-60k unless you happen to strike it really lucky ...."

Well you CAN buy decent 18th.c. century fiddles below that level unless you INSIST on Italian, e.g. Tyrolean, old French or English perhaps. But though, being as I am a retired player of advanced age, I can remember the times every self-respecting professional fiddler would come equipped with an 18th c. Italian, those days are long -gone. Back then folk "in the know" would turn up their noses both at new work and at the French and other makes. Snobbery prevailed; then one day a London Concertmaster bought a Vuillaume and BOOM !!

The better Gaglianos, if in decent state, are well over £100k at dealer prices now. But, looking around circa 1966 for a"better" violin because I was still guilty of playing a new one, an assistant at a dealership told me he could recall the days when, if they had been forced to take yet another Gagliano as a trade-in, the fiddle would be consigned to a great heap of unsold Gagliani in the corner of the shop. At the same time, he and other dealers were expressing amazement at Vuillaumes selling for £1k !!

For many years "quality" new making as a professional activity was limited because I suspect there were more decent old Italian fiddles around than there were professional players, allowing them a choice within budget. As David Burgess observed, the market expanded, prices escalated, and a renaissance of quality fiddle-making resulted.

Didn't Ruggiero Ricci observe that if you haven't got $250k to spend, you'd be better off getting a NEW instrument ?

June 9, 2013 at 01:07 PM · "Didn't Ruggiero Ricci observe that if you haven't got $250k to spend, you'd be better off getting a NEW instrument?"

I think it was Isaac Stern!

June 9, 2013 at 02:22 PM · Darrett, I remember Stern being quoted as saying this in the NY Times, but I think it was as far back as the late 1990's...

June 9, 2013 at 04:23 PM · "I think it was Isaac Stern!"

A Stern rebuke ! Please forgive my senior moment. But I have bought a few new fiddles of late and have gotten over that guilty feeling of not owning a priceless 18th century masterpiece - I can afford the insurance, for one thing.

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