Violin CASES as investments?

June 5, 2013 at 12:39 AM · At the April auction at Tarisio New York there was considerable interest for violin cases as investments, and no longer simply as utilitarian objects, reinforcing a trend which has been in the making for some time now and distancing the object from its mere purpose.

At Tarisio, most of the cases sold went for at least double the high estimate value (estimated by the auction house) and one sold for ten times that! Interestingly, the latter was not an antique case but a contemporary oblong by M.A. Gordge, which had sold new for about a third of the hammer price just a few years ago.

I myself have a Gordge case in my collection, which was purchased brand new for $700 in 2007 and has been displayed only, never used. By this yardstick it is now worth about $2,000, meaning I have so far realized an almost 20% yearly return on my investment (if I chose to sell it now, which I won’t). My only regret is that I had bought only one!

These results mirror another auction late last year, in which several collectible cases approached or surpassed the $5,000 mark. Not to mention Heifetz’s double case by W.E. Hill & Sons, which sold for over $20,000, ten times its purchase price at Sotheby’s in the late ‘80s.

So more and more, it seems to me that violin cases are finally losing their relegated status as “violin accessories” to enjoy a dignity of their own. With the value of selected cases increasing this can attract investors and collectors that don’t even play the violin at all, which in turn can only broaden the market and thus vastly increase the potential of investment return. There is something for everyone: people can be attracted by rarity, aesthetics, provenance, or historical importance.

Of course, it goes without saying that not all cases are potential investments, au contraire. To appreciate over time, a case must meet a number of important prerequisites, and most importantly, it must be in absolutely perfect or refurbished condition (unless worn out by Paganini or someone like that).

What does this mean to us V.comers? Well, I think that for those with liquidity this may be a moment to invest in something that is more fun than a Treasury Bill and can offer a substantially higher yield. More and more collectibles seem to be coming online these days.

And, likewise, it’s also a moment to poke around in the attic for Grandpa’s old violin case, not because of the Made-in-Czechoslovakia Stradivarius it contains, but because it could very well be a treasure in its own right! That could be even more rewarding.

Any thoughts on this?

Replies (35)

June 5, 2013 at 02:19 AM · As with most tangible goods that consume more cash than they put out, cases are best invested in by people who can benefit from the untaxed dividends-- i.e., people who have an instrument to protect and who enjoy the quality of a fine case.

June 5, 2013 at 02:58 AM · I have a number of collectable cases. They include a Hill made of mahogany, that I bought from Glenn Wood, author of "The Art and History of Violin Cases", and in fact is illustrated in that book. I have another Hill made from oak and another old wood case that Glenn thought was French. The first and third have that charming, if not so practical handle on the top. I have a nice alligator case and a made-to-order double mahogany case from Ed Maday to house 2 of the 3 violins he also custom made for me. Glenn said that to have a well-documented situation of a case and its contents all made by a maker for a particular client (and the case also has a plaque, and the violins have labels to that effect) is as hard to find as the proverbial needle in a haystack. Each case is attractive and charming in its own way as well as, I'm sure, a good investment.

June 5, 2013 at 10:51 AM · Mr Symchych and Mr Klayman, you are both correct of course. A case is a case, like a car is a car. They are both tangible goods with a purpose. But if you had a perfectly restored, museum-quality 1936 Avions Voisin in your garage, I think you wouldn't use it for your daily commute. At least you shouldn't!

Likewise I saw a limited-edition famous name violin case (I won't say which) that sold new to a collector in 2004 for $1,080 and was never used. In fact, it still had the plastic protection on the handle when it was re-sold last month for $2,099. That translates into a gain of 94%, or 7.6% per year over nine years.

June 5, 2013 at 12:45 PM · Does this mean I am not meant to use the Musafia case I've just bought last week??? :D

June 5, 2013 at 03:36 PM · No, just that you should order another one to use instead :-)

June 5, 2013 at 08:34 PM · ROFL Dimitri, that is a good sales tactic!! :D

June 5, 2013 at 10:28 PM · Now there's an investment strategy-- find out from Dimitri which famous soloist is about to take delivery of a new case and break into his/her house.

June 5, 2013 at 10:29 PM · On the other hand, Dimitri may be better off to stop making them, hold on to all his cases (possibly loaning them out to famous instruments) and then sell at auction (for his retirement?) at a later date.

June 6, 2013 at 08:43 AM · Here's some food for thought: Stradivari made about 1,100 instruments during his career, and many, if not most of them, were provided with cases. In fact, the Stradivari workshop is known to have made cases, which the boss himself designed (see the sketches at the Stradivari Museum in Cremona).

These cases were luxurious, expensive items even at the time, with gold-embossed leather coverings, gold-plated protective studs, and other fineries, and today are quite valuable.

However, experts today are aware of only three cases which can be ascribed to the Stradivari workshop with any certainty. So where are the others? Most likely they weren't thrown out, being beautiful objects in their own right.

They must simply be lurking unnoticed - and most especially, un-attributed - in the back rooms of violin dealers, museum warehouses, and in a lot of people's attics or under the bed. Treasures waiting to be discovered!

June 6, 2013 at 12:22 PM · Sounds like we need another Luigi Tarisio - for cases!

June 6, 2013 at 08:43 PM · Shoulder rests as investments, anyone??? :-)

June 6, 2013 at 08:53 PM · Hey - who tossed the stink bomb into the room?

June 6, 2013 at 11:18 PM · It seems like the first fine antique cases started from the Hill Firm in London, followed by a more recent modern day renaissance anchored by the late M.A. Gordge.

The Heifetz case auction price was of course no doubt due in part of the provenance of who used the case. Any memorabilia from a famous persons' estate will command a high price due to the name behind the product.

But you are right, old cases in good condition, like many collectibles that are saved in good condition will command an antique price in the antique market, so long as there is demand for the product. Thankfully there are collectors of all sorts of items so that things of the past are preserved. I think it can be tough for a buyer to find the seller for something specific, however. It is getting increasingly rare to find 19th century cases in mint condition because of the fact that the majority of people would put cases to good use!

That said, I wouldn't mind having a mint walnut or mahogany hill dart case sitting in my teaching studio as a small investment and one of the centerpieces to the room! Anybody feel free to let me know if you have one for sale at a reasonable price...

June 7, 2013 at 01:15 AM · If you can collect spittoons you can collect just about anything. Whatever floats your boat.

June 7, 2013 at 03:16 AM · Hmmm...spittoons...the problem is what THEY collect!

June 7, 2013 at 05:37 AM · I want to see a picture of a Stradivari-designed case!

June 7, 2013 at 09:11 AM · Yes, I would like to see one too... so I know what to look for ! When was the last time such a case came up for auction ?

June 7, 2013 at 11:12 AM · Anyone who would like to see what a case attributed to Stradivari looks like, click on this link:

This particular case is dated around 1680, and is therefore an early one (later cases are straight-sided and round-ended). It was purchased at Bongartz Auctions in 2007 for EUR 5,000.

June 7, 2013 at 11:38 AM · "gold embossed leather coverings"-- amazing looking case, but can leather really survive in that condition for over 330 years? Even durable wood cases would have splintered or rotted. Leather workers or textile specialists may be helpful here.

June 7, 2013 at 12:16 PM · The leather was preserved with a lacquer. The work itself was done with the same process used by book binders of the time.

June 7, 2013 at 02:54 PM · I have a beautiful M.A. Gordge violin case received as a gift from an amazing musician who passed away and I have no idea it can increase in value. Thanks for this, D. Having said that, I want to keep it although it is good to know.

June 7, 2013 at 03:40 PM · On a personal note, I'd like to say that although I never met Mick Gordge personally, we talked occasionally on the phone and I even sold his cases.

In this dog-eat-dog world he was not a competitor but a colleague and a friend. It saddened me that I was unable to interest the specialized press of his passing (it wasn't even reported) despite my efforts, so I ended up doing so on my own website.

June 7, 2013 at 05:32 PM · That stradivari era case is truly old world in style. Thanks for sharing, an inspiration for a shaped case design.

June 7, 2013 at 05:45 PM · On the topic of Gordge's cases, check out Desmond Timms' violin cases:

As said on his website: “Everything we produce here is dedicated to the memory of one great true craftsman; the late Mick Gordge, who taught us everything we know about Case Making, and without who’s teachings, help and friendship, we would not exist today”.

August 3, 2013 at 06:17 PM · I have an original Jaeger violin case from the 80's. It has been used for less than a few weeks, so it is as new. I know it's not a vintage valuable case, but what is it worth?

August 3, 2013 at 11:36 PM · Jaeger cases can still be worth a good amount, I know a violin dealer who had a few of the old leather cases left back in 2009, which she sold for $800 apiece.

August 4, 2013 at 12:26 AM · Thanks for that info. This is not the leather one, but the "bullet proof" thing they ran over with a truck in their 80's adverts. I'm selling everything I don't actually need and moving to Vietnam. If I could get 6-700 $ for it I'd be very happy.

August 4, 2013 at 05:40 AM · A very nice example of the non-leather variety sold recently on ebay for $700:

August 4, 2013 at 04:02 PM · That's good to know, thank you! I think mine is newer than that one (it has a leather covered metal handle), but also in better (perfect) condition. I bought a violin from a retired orchestra musician, who had bought that case when he retired to store it in at home. I have never used the case myself, apart from the odd transporting of an instrument to and from the luthier, so it is practically unused.

Unfortunate I live in Denmark, and have never sold anything on Ebay, making it difficult to put it up for sale internationally. If anyone reading this is interested, send me a message.

August 6, 2013 at 04:33 PM · For those interested, Tarisio Auctions is featuring some interesting W.E. Hill cases as well as a large selection of M.A. Gordge cases.

August 7, 2013 at 02:21 AM · Instrument cases are one of the few areas where craftsmanship, quality and service can be found without going off the deep end in pricing. I think that's great, and something to be proud of in itself, without the addition of the factor of greed inflating the prices further as they have for violins.

March 15, 2015 at 06:47 PM · In my personal opinion .... having an expensive case is a luxury. Having sold my M.A. Gordge violin case, I learned that it was not an easy item to find a new owner taking time and effort. A player/dealer eventually bought it after I had to reduce my asking price thus lessening any expected ROI.

I also am selling an original mint condition Jaegar shaped violin case with brown leather exterior but have yet to find a buyer. Not in any demand as I have learned. Listed on Violinist.Com since 2012.

Violin cases are really not at all an investment.

unless maybe if you have a Heifetz case.....

Much Better off getting a good reasonably priced solid case that will protect your instrument when you have to transport it.

March 16, 2015 at 08:21 AM · Since I wrote this post almost 2 years ago, a lot of older cases have come on the market, especially M.A. Gordge cases through the auction site, apparently satisfying the demand for the time being and calming things down.

The lack of inflation in most industrialized countries also means that the prices of new cases aren't increasing every year the way they used to, so used cases don't appreciate either.

An old Jaeger case, which is a conceptually obsolete industrial product (no suspension, no screw-attached cover, no carrying strap attachments, no backpack provision, very heavy) has a limited appeal to players today even if in like-new condition.

Collectors' items however will always be sought after, whether they be cases or violins or anything else that people collect.

December 24, 2015 at 03:02 PM · Old case for an Old violin

...still works perfectly and did not cost over a thousand dollar.

Simple but purely elegant.

December 24, 2015 at 06:01 PM · Very interesting points there, guys.

I think violin cases are an investment because the quality of the case can be important. I have this terrible violin case. What's so bad is that there's no strap that goes around the neck with little padding and without a cloth on top, the violin could rattle in it in a car. One time I took home a violin in that case and the violin was rattled out of tune in the car. Over time that could damage the violin. When looking for a case, make sure that the violin will at least not rattle in the car.

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