What is the 'true' value of an instrument?

October 24, 2012 at 06:43 PM · Hi,

I've been violin/bow shopping recently and I began to wonder, will the customer ever know the "true" value of the instrument/bow that they bought?

Stores will definitely put some sort of premium on the instrument, but as a customer unless we have the violin appraised elsewhere, we're never really going to know the true value.

I was looking at a violin couple months back and really liked the instrument (feel and tone), but the instrument was marked at $3500. This was over my budget. When I asked if the price could be lowered, the sales person punched some numbers on his calculator and very willingly knocked off $500. I personally felt that was a little too easy and probably could have brought it down more.

Similar story, I went back to the same store to buy a new violin bow. This Nickel Mounted Marco Raposo was labelled at $650. When I said it was over my $500 budget, the sales person punched in some numbers and brought it down to meet my $500 budget. Again, seemed too easy.

Is this a sign of 'good customer service'? Or the result of a significant markup in prices? This makes me wonder how much my "$3000" violin is really worth. Maybe it's only worth $2000 and they just pocketed $1000. Kind of depressing, but I might just get it appraised at another store some day just out of curiosity.

Anybody else have a similar experience? For people that own violin stores, is there a general "mark-up" (like 20%) on the actual value of instruments/bows?

Replies (30)

October 24, 2012 at 07:20 PM · Lyndon,

I find it a little absurd that your "AIM" as stated on the Maestronet forum is " Peace on earth with better violins played by angels."

How about peace on earth by not being a jerk?

Besides, you weren't fully correct or complete in your answer.


October 24, 2012 at 07:21 PM ·

October 25, 2012 at 06:04 PM · Lyndon, a link to your answer on Maestronet will doubtless be appreciated by many so that it may be read and considered on its merits.

October 25, 2012 at 06:33 PM · The value of any instrument or bow is simply what someone is willing to pay for it. Is the worth of something its wholesale value? I don't believe it is. Shops do have overhead etc., but completely overpricing things will not keep them in business for very long in a world with such immediate resources. That being said, shops whose instruments and bows established at a fair retail value have to have wiggle room for selling purposes. Perhaps it was easy for the dealer to discount your instrument because you may not have had an instrument to trade in toward it, that is a big difference to a dealer. Most of the time the mark up on instruments in and around the price range which you were looking is roughly 50%, so what I mean by that is a dealer may buy a Chinese handmade instrument for $500 and sell it for $1000, but take into consideration that then the dealer should allow the instrument to acclimate then make any necessary repairs such as gluing open bouts, planing fingerboard adjusting pegs, carving bridge, setting it up with strings and adjusting it for best tone. This work is not free. Then they may sell the instrument to someone who previously purchased an instrument from them for $700 and they "make" $300 (but they paid $500, so $200 loss, plus cost of set up,etc. They will not, in this case, make any profit until they sell the instrument that was traded in. Now if they are selling the same instrument to someone with no trade in, and they discount it by about 15%, which is close to the discount you received, then they can sell the instrument to them for $850, hopefully breaking even or making a dollar or two. Meanwhile the fair market value of that instrument is still $1000, but the actually value is $850 which is what this imaginary customer was willing to pay. This is my long winded way of saying you got a fair deal on an intermediate instrument that would probably translate across the board from dealer to dealer and that while it appeared "too easy" for the dealer to give you that discount, they were really just covering their costs, and hopefully for them making enough to keep the lights on that day. Beware however if you take that to another shop to sell it they will never buy it for what you paid, simply because they can usually get an equivalent violin at roughly half the price, after all, they are dealers and have access to wholesale pricing.

October 25, 2012 at 11:57 PM · duplicate post

October 25, 2012 at 11:58 PM · Here's Lyndon's link for those who want it.

The instructions are good.

October 26, 2012 at 05:19 PM · Well this is just silly Lyndon.

I didn't know there were 'rules' regarding how many forums one could ask questions in. Different people obviously frequent different forums. What if you happened to ask a question in a forum where the desired responder wasn't a member?

You also don't have to answer any given question more than once either,keep that in mind.

October 26, 2012 at 05:48 PM · No, you will not get much at the pawn shop for your violin but come back in a few days and see what sticker price they have put on it !

Violins are very strange things. Mostly we buy them for the sound they make (or don't make). Two violins by the same maker or factory can sound very different ; some can be great and some can be complete duds. Each violin has to be judged on its merits. Prospective buyers can have different requirements and hence their personal valuations of an instrument may differ greatly.

The other point I would like to make is that running a shop or any business can be very difficult in this economic climate. They have a right to make a good profit because they are the ones taking the risk. If you do not like their prices then shop elsewhere or go to ebay.

October 26, 2012 at 07:14 PM · "its find it just a little annoying when you post a long and detailed answer to a newbie question on one forum, and then i go to the other forum, and heres the exact same identical question posted, word for word, am i supposed to just answer it all over again"

I didn't see anywhere in Perry's post that he requested that you personally answer the question again.

However, Your response was so excellent and definitive! Perry surely owes you an apology for seeking any other opinions.

October 26, 2012 at 08:36 PM · Perry - getting back to your post, the answer is complicated. An expert luthier can give you an appraisal for insurance purposes which should tell you at least what the likely cost of replacement is, although if you actually had to replace your instrument, you might find you could negotiate a different price, or the shop might insist that it would charge you more. That is one version of value. Another, what you could get for the instrument if you sold it, may be significantly lower, because of the markup for resale that a shop will put on. So, there are a number of answers. Perhaps the best solution is to let your teacher hear it and see whether s/he thinks the price being charged is too high.

October 27, 2012 at 02:30 PM · "i dont hear any one saying a brand new mercedes is only worth what someone will pay for it, or a rare pink diamond is only worth what someone will pay for it, makes no sense for cars, diamonds, or violins. violins have a retail and a wholesale value (just like cars and diamonds)"

Violins, like cars or pink diamonds, are only worth what someone is willing to pay for them. None of these items has any fixed, intrinsic value, although car dealers, jewelers, and violin shops would have you believe this.

October 27, 2012 at 02:31 PM · "and obviously scott, you didnt bother to read my and other multiple posts on maestronet, take a look, you obviously might learn something"

I did read your post. It was rude and poorly spelled, just like over here.

October 27, 2012 at 05:34 PM · “Violins, like cars or pink diamonds, are only worth what someone is willing to pay for them.”

I remember listening to an interview years ago with Ferdinand Porsche (Dr. Porsche). When asked about pricing he stated something like, they could sell the cars for less, but that was not the clientele they were aiming at.

Yesterday I drove to trade in a $350 bow for at $495 bow. I was also returning the other trail bows, one at $595 and one at $695. In trying out the bows every time I had a wow moment it was with the $495 bow. Had it been the $695 bow then that would have been the one I bought. The prices could have been reversed and I would not have thought any different about the selection.

My favorite violin shop is very close to where I live. After getting on an access road I turn right and then a left and a quick right into the parking lot. To get back I can often just do a left and a quick right but with traffic I did a right and then a left into a strip mall parking lot and then out the side to the road I came in on.

On my way I found myself behind a black Bentley. On my way back, during the short time I was in the strip mall parking lot I crossed paths with the black Bentley.

I have no ambitions to ever own a Bentley. My current dream vehicle is a new Mini Van. Just as I have no aspirations of owning a Stradivarius, Guarneri or even a Vuillaume. I am very happy with my $1800 no label Chinese Workshop instrument and when I went to trade up my bow I saw the $2250 violin I rejected outright because it wasn’t better enough than the $1250-$2000 instruments I was trying, slightly better though it might have been. Well, not better than the one I bought, I do love my violin.

On a television program where Anne Akiko Meyers was showing off her second Strad she mentioned that the bow cost $200K. Hers is not my world

Years ago I was talking with one of the better jazz saxophone player is the Austin area. I asked about the horn played by Wynton Marsalis and the way the mouthpiece attached to the trumpet. He mentioned that the mouthpiece was integral to the horn to prevent blowby and he mentioned the added cost of a horn like that.

Having been a decent brass player in High School I asked if it really made that big a difference. His response was “does it really matter.” I guess you sometimes pay for an idea. But confidence is such an important element in performance; it just might justify the cost. Especially if you can write it off.

October 27, 2012 at 05:58 PM · I think I will just answer the OP, but I have been enjoying the preceding in much the same way that one would enjoy, say, Tyson-Holyfield or Kocur-Kyte.

The "value" of YOUR instrument is what it means to YOU expressed as a dollar value. That is, how much YOU would pay to buy it from someone else, or how much YOU would accept from someone else when selling it.

The problem is that YOU and someone else might not agree on that value. And a dealer might add something called "profit" or "commission" to the "value" to reach a selling price, etc., and it is difficult to decouple the skill of the salesperson from those quantities.

I see nothing wrong with posting something on two different forums as they have different clientele. I have never been to Maestronet because one time-wasting musical blogging and forum site is enough, thanks! :)

Spamming is when you put the same question into a bunch of different threads on the same web site. The OP did not spam.

October 28, 2012 at 04:17 PM · The nearest galaxy is, I believe, Andromeda, which is about 2 million light-years away. So it will take at least 4 million years to get an answer.

October 28, 2012 at 04:23 PM · Another "value", which I don't think has been mentioned, is the insurance value, which could be different to any of those already mentioned. For some players this could be the most important value.

October 28, 2012 at 10:09 PM · Again with the fretted instruments and tuning?

October 29, 2012 at 01:58 AM · One shouldn’t fret about it, though it may depend on your temperament. We might wish to open a fifth to modulate the frequency of the topic lest we become high strung.

(Sorry, low blood sugar. I’ll eat now).

October 29, 2012 at 03:57 AM · I think I see what John is getting at.

I know of a violin purchased some 40 or 50 years ago for $10K. It was appraised last year for $10K. We know good and well that in this cases $10K(1) > $10K(2). So the question becomes what is the value of $10K or we could ask, if the violin is lost or destroyed will $10K purchase an equivalent instrument? And then what is meant by an equivalent instrument?

Personally I have limited myself to just this forum concerning the violin, so I appreciate it when some responses are brought from another forum to this one. On another topic (lace making) I was once a member of multiple forums and the time requirements were staggering. So I would not want to have to go to other forums to get answers to question asked on this forum. A reference might be nice but should not be required.

The author of a book might reference another book to provide greater detail, but should not require it to cover the topic.

October 29, 2012 at 04:31 AM · "I know of a violin purchased some 40 or 50 years ago for $10K. It was appraised last year for $10K. We know good and well that in this cases $10K(1) > $10K(2). "

Obviously, one figure is simply wrong: either the purchase price was too high, or the appraisal was incorrect. Perhaps it was misidentified when first purchased.

October 29, 2012 at 04:33 AM · "You see what I mean?"


"Who wants to be in charge of them all?"

Lyndon, apparently.

October 29, 2012 at 05:38 AM · Lyndon, Scott’s link is flaky. I have clicked it twice and ended up at different websites. I won’t try again since neither site is where I would want to go.

Scott. It is quite possible for an instrument to be valued at the same numerical value as its purchase price half a decade later. This does actually mean that it has lost value. When I was elementary school the neighbors laughed at the pilot down the street because his XKE cost as much as a house on the street $9K. My parent’s house is certainly worth more than $9K in today’s market but in its current condition and location I doubt if it is worth the price of a new XK series. So has it lost value or is a Jaguar even more over priced.

The question here is how we determine the true value of a particular musical instrument. Some of us find this is an impossible question especially since we can’t even determine the value of the measurement (currency). If we have a violin of a specific insurance value and we seek to replace the instrument for this amount, is this possible?

I think part of the problem is we are trying to assign a qualitative value using a quantitative cost.

This is becoming the whole “subjectivity is objective” “no objectivity is subjective” argument in a different form.

October 29, 2012 at 05:49 AM · There are 3 words that are similar but not the same. Value, worth, and price. And it all depends at which level of the food chain you're looking at.

To me, the "true" value is the cost of materials, plus the cost of to create the violin. Basically the value of the violin is as much as it costs to make it. The craftsmanship, the sound, the name of the maker, condition of the instrument, the demand for that type of instrument, will determine its worth.

From the consumer's stand point, we usually just see the price of the instrument. And from the price the shop bought the instrument for to the selling price, there are a lot of factors that could came into play, like many of the previous posts mentioned.

October 29, 2012 at 04:57 PM · I know someone who bought a Harpsichord in the late 1950s and the appraised value of that instrument is exactly the same now as the original purchase price. Harpsichord music was a big fad in the late 1950s and early 1960s but it isn't any more.

October 29, 2012 at 08:12 PM · Perry has asked a serious question. Does anyone have anything further that will help him? This thread seems to have gone a bit off-topic.

October 29, 2012 at 08:50 PM · Lyndon, I don't currently have a website.

"i answered your identical question on maestronet, im not going to repeat it here."

But on of my areas of expertise is in jerk recognition. Not that it's that difficult with phrases like the one above.

October 30, 2012 at 03:12 PM · I think some people on this thread need to look up the latin word "ad hominem."

October 30, 2012 at 09:04 PM · Well "Lyndon," I did have time to read these rather entertaining posts by or involving you:



I'm sure everyone else will be entertained, confused, and perplexed.

October 30, 2012 at 11:31 PM · Lyndon, if you profess or hope to be one of us (the pro violin tech community), I hope you'll "cool it" a bit. It can get a little embarrassing at times.

October 31, 2012 at 01:19 AM · "i answered your identical question on maestronet, im not going to repeat it here."

Just for the record, Lyndon, I'm a professional violinist with a doctorate and 20 years of experience.

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