Tracker devices for violins ?

July 31, 2013 at 11:14 AM · It has taken nearly 3 years for the Police to track down that Stradivarius stolen from Euston Station.

I suspect that some technological device such as a tracker might have made the search easier. If such a device exists, where can I get one ??

PS I don't own a Strad !

Replies (26)

July 31, 2013 at 11:55 AM · To track actively, a transmitter must be installed inside the violin, complete with chip and battery. The radio range and battery life would be extremely short. The police would need to comb every nook and cranny to detect the signal, quickly after theft. The negative affects on the violin could be huge.

For passive, an RFID chip could be used. I am involved with a company that has pioneered a chip and system. The chip is paper thin, and can be read by an rfid phone. The primary application is alcohol. By placing the rfid film on the cap of a bottle, we can prove the product is genuine and show a complete tracking history from producer to retailer. If the bottle is opened, we detect the broken chip, and notify the buyer the spirits may be counterfeit. A chip inside a violin would be broken too, if the thief attempts to remove it. Such a chip could be placed inside a violin without damage or ill effects (no different to a label). We can authenticate any product by this method. For tracking though, the chip (ie violin) would need to be registered with us, and the violin would need to pass nearby an rfid reader connected to our system. The range would depend upon the chip and readers, and would be max 30 metres. So if the violin were to pass by a metro gate, or retailer till, or the like, we could conceivably detect its location in real time. rifd readers can be installed at airport, train, etc security points to detect the violin before it leaves the country. A panic button can be on your phone, so to alert police the moment you detect the loss. The more rfid readers in the world, the more passive detection. The thief would not know he is being scanned passively. We could feed the scan info to police in real time. This would greatly help the police to narrow their search and much more quickly locate the final resting point. All this is possible, but not probable until the world decides this is valuable and is willing to incur the costs.

July 31, 2013 at 12:09 PM · I seem to recall from years ago, something - not just for the violin, but that could be put easily in a violin case - much bigger than a chip. It was in 2 parts. One part went in the case or luggage, the other in your pocket. When you got separated by a certain distance - which I think you could program - an alarm would go off. Or maybe I dreamt the whole thing?

July 31, 2013 at 02:15 PM · rattlesnake rattle in the violin is supposed to keep the devil at bay - one less suspect to worry about ...

the unfortunate thing is that most theft is committed by someone near to you. you could tag the violin and if stolen, visit everyone you know with a tag detection device:

July 31, 2013 at 03:13 PM · Just saw this the other day:

Put one hidden in the case somewhere, and you would be good to go I think.

July 31, 2013 at 07:56 PM · "So if the violin were to pass by a metro gate, or retailer till, or the like, we could conceivably detect its location in real time.

rifd readers can be installed at airport, train, etc security points to detect the violin before it leaves the country.

A panic button can be on your phone, so to alert police the moment you detect the loss. The more rfid readers in the world, the more passive detection.

The thief would not know he is being scanned passively. We could feed the scan info to police in real time."

Nothing new here at all:-

It's all been done.

This whole thing was developed by Pages in Mirecourt DECADES ago with the chip RFI and all.

Many fiddles were fitted with the chip, because of course who would be better qualified to fit it than a Luthier himself and feed the data into a DB complete with photos and other marks of the real fiddle?

The French were very far in front of the world at the time with their minitel and other clever ideas, and it was designed to interrogate a minitel DB at a distance via modem and a clever detection wand.

They were even going to introduce them in airports and railway stations!

It passed scrutiny by the French Ministere de l'interieur, and the insurance companies were all fire for it...were even going to introduce discounts for fitting the darn chips, and finance the project to the tune of millions (!)

What screwed the entire system, after an initial very encouraging start including adoption by French customs and Interpol (no mean feat!), was the LUTHIERS themselves.

This was fairly scandalous but absolutely typical of the double standards of the profession.

They said "we don't want to adopt this technology, and we won't fit the RFID chips!"



Selon eu!!!!!!!!

Because if by some error or we don't have this technology in every shop, it can be identified I handled and sold a stolen violin!

They can send me to prison!

So they shot the project to pieces and the rest is history.

I was very interested in porting his project to the internet/online DB via a proper secure web server and SMS interface, but it would come up against the same opposition from all the profession just like before.....

It was all about 10 years ago I spent hours discussing to revive the whole project.

So there you have it from the horse's mouth!

Unless the Luthiers cleaned up their act & you controlled A-hole criminals like Machold* actually handling stolen or dubious goods and the profession closing their eyes or being just as crooked.....

Well 'nuff said.


*Dietmar Machold would have been in prison within ONE YEAR instead of ripping of scores of people and making a giant ponzi scheme which pushed the prices of old Italian instruments up by 1000% in a matter of 2-3 decades.

Who profited from that tide of speculation & stolen or dubious goods?

The Luthiers/violin handlers of course!

Nothing like hindsight eh?

August 1, 2013 at 12:33 AM · I guess you can hide it in the case somewhere.

Instrument tracking device


$19.95 Activation

$5.95/Mo. Acct. Maintenance


August 1, 2013 at 10:30 AM · Gareth, I never heard of resistance in the luthier trade. Some were actively promoting it, and at one trade convention, we even scheduled a presentation by a company which was marketing them. Don't recall hearing any negative "behind-the-scenes" goings-on either.

Who, or what group of dealers or luthiers was resisting this?

August 1, 2013 at 11:20 AM · Almost the entire trade was against it.

As I say, a piecemeal attempt to adopt a technology solution won't work, because you have to get police (interpol) and customs on your side, which automatically follows that the insurance will too.

Everything I have ever seen of these kind of piecemeal approaches would fail for this reason.

What was interesting was how Jean Jacques' solution was adopted and approved by the interior ministry, but the entire (very large and important) violin trade in Paris rejected it for the reasons described.

I am not making this up, and I can assure you, you won't get ministerial approval by snapping your fingers.

It's a very tough process involving a large national operator France Telecom.

As I say, he would be the person most likely to be able to bring such a project to work, because he is a well known Luthier, and he already got approval from the most important public bodies in the EU.

Fact is it still ran into a resistance brick wall, and the only way to kill that off, would be for the insurance to make RFID MANDATORY.

Unfortunately FRANCE being France, people will do just whatever they like, even illegally in total impunity until someone gets caught.

(Just like Machold did!)

Can you not understand, that you can talk and have as many powerpoint presentations you like, but if a significant proportion of the trade are crooks, you'll never get anything done?

Machold needed plenty of accomplices to achieve the crimes he did.

Those criminals have all vanished & made themselves scarce.

This is what always happens when you have speculative bubbles, and the banks (who are every bit as criminal as Machold).

Those people are all there to speculate and scam the insurance industry.

When was the last time you heard a player "break" something to make a claim, and then you have the trade who make no scruples of doing that or restamping a bow.

Is it as bad as this?


I happen to know it is many times worse than you imagine.

August 1, 2013 at 11:29 AM · Zût alors !!!

(Pardon my French).

August 1, 2013 at 03:42 PM · Gareth, you've bought up Machold a couple of times now, so I hope you're not thinking that he is in any way representative of the fiddle trade. He was never considered to be "one of us". Rather, he was just some guy who went his own way and did his own thing, didn't interact with others in the trade very much, and others in the trade were largely unaware of his crooked activities. There was some suspicion, but what do you do with that? Law enforcement generally isn't interested much in that. They want someone to come to them with something resembling proof.

Also, law enforcement seems to view the fiddle-biz as "small potatoes", compared to other areas involving potential financial crimes.

It looks like they only got involved in the Machold matter after it became pretty clear that he had defrauded some banks and financial institutions. Go figure.

Which Jean-Jacques are you referring to? If it's Jean-Jacques Fasnacht, I know him pretty well. I'm also member of the world's two largest fiddle-trade organizations, yet have never been aware, nor heard anything about any attempt to beat down identification of instruments with microchips. Was this something which perhaps was exclusive to some group in France? I can call some of these people on the phone and ask them what was going on, if you'll tell me who they are.

August 1, 2013 at 04:35 PM · I already told you who he was.

Jean-Jacques (PAGES) Mirecourt.

You can ring him and mention my name, but you may be on the phone for hours in French.

As I say I have first hand non anecdotal evidence of what goes on this so called "respectable" trade in France.

It truly makes your hair stand on end.

As I say, the French have been very far in advance of the rest of the world on many things.

Front wheel drive, High speed trains, Supersonic planes, headlights that follow the movement of the front wheels and online data bases such as Minitel, as well as nuclear research, audio engineering etc etc.

Radioactivity was first isolated in France by the Curies, Pasteur found the world's first antibiotic, The world wide web was even invented in France by some bored scientists, and now they even find Higgs Boson.

Doing a RFID system locatable by online DB in 1980-85 was quite unthinkable for the americans.

Roland Moreno even invented the the bank credit card chip & SIM card!

The first mass use of the cards was as a telephone card for payment in French pay phones, starting in 1983.

Think about it.

Why French?

It makes complete sense in view of the concentration of international insurance companies in Paris.

August 1, 2013 at 05:08 PM · "As I say I have first hand non anecdotal evidence of what goes on this so called "respectable" trade in France.

It truly makes your hair stand on end.

As I say, the French have been very far in advance of the rest of the world on many things...."


You're suggesting that the French dealers are more advanced at committing fiddle-fraud?

August 1, 2013 at 05:28 PM · I would not say what I would say...but the French were never reputed for making exceptional violins.

Bows, however, that is another story, and who cares about a violin bow after all?

.. and since Vatelot is no longer with us, who is going to know anything about anything?


August 1, 2013 at 05:40 PM · M. Thomas, the first commercially successful front-drive cars were actually English (Alvis); the high-speed rail was developed in Japan in 1964 (Bullet Train); and the Concorde was half-British. The internet was invented by the USA.

Italy also developed a version of Minitel (called Videotel) but it was suffocated in the cradle by the powers that be.

My first car had headlights that swivelled with the steering, but that was way back in '74...

However, you simply cannot find a decent Camembert outside of la patrie!

August 1, 2013 at 06:05 PM · Sorry I did say the WWW, not the internet.

It was invented in CERN by T B L.

The French TGV was actually the first commercially successful international continental high speed rail project.

Alvis was not a commercial success, but the Citroen Traction was, and became an iconic way of expressing a whole generation of FWD cars through the DS to the CX and beyond.

Who in their right mind would have made a 6 wheeler high speed messenger based on the CX, that with its world leading hydraulic suspension could carry any weight?

In fact it's well known ALL the filming of race horses on the move was made with a camera atop a Citroen!

Ahum and who made the first fly by wire commercial airliner?

The French.

Anyhow, I come back to the modern violin bow.

Who invented that?


August 1, 2013 at 06:08 PM · Isn't the 1948 Tucker (a now-defunct American brand) credited with having the first swiveling headlight linked to the steering? I thought Citroen didn't have them until the 1960s.

August 1, 2013 at 06:29 PM · Model Year 1968, to be precise.

August 1, 2013 at 06:36 PM · The Citroen Traction Avant didn't arrive until 1934, and that was after Alvis, DKW, and others including Audi.

As I fail to see the difference between WWW and internet, the Japanese will defend their bullet train.

And my '74 DS was designed by an Italian, Flaminio Bertoni!

August 1, 2013 at 06:53 PM · I must step in here to correct a widespread misconception. WWW and Internet are not the same thing. The World Wide Web is just one of the many services supported by the Internet (which is the network that ties everything together). The next-best-known Internet service is e-mail, which uses completely different protocols and ports (although some software hides these differences). Other services include time, FTP (file transfer protocol), Usenet (a set of text-based discussion forums that existed long before WWW), and various network file systems.

OK, back to France, violins, and RFID tags...

August 1, 2013 at 06:57 PM · For what it's worth, I quote Wikipedia:

"The origins of the Internet reach back to research commissioned by the United States government in the 1960s to build robust, fault-tolerant communication via computer networks."

If this is false, I stand corrected and beg apology.

August 1, 2013 at 07:13 PM · "The world wide web was even invented in France by some bored scientists"

I just checked, inventor Tim Berners-Lee is English and we all know CERN is in Switzerland. Well, most of us do anyway!

August 1, 2013 at 10:20 PM · Don't be stupid and show your ignorance.

My father's employer at Rutherford laboratory had a permanent partnership with CERN.

Here is the extract of their web site.

"As CERN is situated on the French-Swiss border you must decide in which country you are going to live.

You are entitled to take up residence in either France or Switzerland.

The final decision is a matter of personal choice and will notably depend on your financial situation, family status and individual lifestyle.

Several social and economic factors may therefore come into play and influence your choice of one country or the other."


The mere fact that the inventor of the W3 was British has no relevance whatsoever to the discussion about French innovation.

August 2, 2013 at 05:40 AM · I simply pointed out that to the contrary of what you assert, CERN is Swiss (as the .ch domain confirms; the address is Route de Meyrin 385, CH-1217 Meyrin, Suisse; their phone number has country code +41) and the inventor of WWW was English.

That said, if for some reason you still want to claim the invention of the www to be exclusively "French innovation", along with the Japanese Bullet Train, feel free to do so.

August 2, 2013 at 02:07 PM · CERN.

"The organization, founded in 1954, currently has about 20 member countries.

In French, the acronym CERN stands for "Conseil Europeen pour la Recherche Nucleaire" which translates to the English "European Council for Nuclear Research."

The idea for CERN was born in 1949 when physicist Louis de Broglie (pronounced de BROY) suggested that all the countries of Europe ought to share a scientific laboratory. In 1952, a provisional CERN was formed and joined by several nations..."

Louis-Victor-Pierre-Raymond, 7th duc de Broglie, was an eminent French physicist who gained worldwide acclaim for his groundbreaking work on quantum theory.

In his 1924 thesis, he proposed the wave nature of electrons and suggested that all matter has wave properties - this concept is known as wave-particle duality or the de Broglie hypothesis.

He won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1929.........

Louis de Broglie was the sixteenth member elected to occupy seat 1 of the Académie française in 1944, and served as Perpetual Secretary of the French Academy of Sciences


"In 1991, a researcher at CERN, Dr. Tim Berners-Lee, essentially invented the World Wide Web.

Berners-Lee is credited with developing the idea of combining hypertext with the speed of today's electronic networks.

Working with a small team.......AT CERN.


Now can we go back to why France were the first to develop a RFID tag system and actually install them in violins, approve the system internationally and get Interpol to agree & certify it???

August 3, 2013 at 06:04 AM · Food for thought?

RFID creates possibilities that may provide universal benefits. For passive tracking by the police by the means I mentioned, the RFID solution we have would be of use, but currently would have its limitations for the reasons noted by many.

However, the key to theft prevention for any valuable item is to ensure: 1/ detection is 100% assured; and 2/ the stolen item is rendered useless or of no value. This is where our RFID system could provide a solution.

A paper thin RFID tag could be glued onto or inserted into the tailpiece without altering its function, strength, or sound in any way (I have tested this). That RFID tag would then be registered by the owner with our system. So what? Well, it means that all valuable violins have a global registry. Without the RFID tag, the violin is no longer authentic and thus its value is reduced to a very nominal level (who wants to buy a fake or stolen unlabelled Strad?). The more extensive and the more widely accepted the registry, the more violins can be identified and authenticated. Should the tag not be present, any valuable violin would be immediately suspect. The tag could not be copied, as all our tags are serialised and the system will detect all possibilities: tag present; tag broken; tag copied; tag not present; tag altered. Thus, we ensure any thief will be detected the moment he presents a violin that: is in the registry with tag present; or should be in the registry if tag not present; or is a copied violin; or has an altered tag.

This system requires cooperation between owner and us, only: it does not require integration with police, dealers, insurers, or any other third party. For new violins, best is to have the luthier embed the tag and register the violin with our system, so we have the data from source. The tag can be detected by any RFID reader, but best is the near-field mobile phone, such as the Nexus. Our system is simply an app to download. Thus, anybody anywhere can register a tag and read the tag, worldwide 24/7, and receive an authentication report from our system. When a user logs a theft into our system, any person reading the tag knows instantly the item is stolen. A system that is user-driven, on-demand, and 100% assured.

The value of this system goes beyond theft detection and prevention. It is perfect for anyone who wishes to prove the history of a valuable instrument. Our system tracks the violin between parties, locations, and times: from luthier or dealer to owner to owner to where it has been around the world and when.

If all owners, luthiers and dealers were to utilise the system, we could clean up the industry, prevent future theft, and authenticate all valuable violins.

Cost? Say $100 one-time, and pennies for each time the rfid tag is read. I just bought an antique violin from a dealer, and I would pay $100 extra to have it entered into a global registry so it could be tracked if stolen or any time I wish to prove the purchase. Any future buyer will appreciate this, and any insurer would as well.


August 3, 2013 at 06:27 AM · From my experience the main reason this issue hasn't yet been resolved is lack of interest among musicians.

Photos of the recovered Stradivari and bows depict them inside "the original case", which is a super-cheap far-east manufacture styrofoam model which offers very little protection to the instrument. I'm familiar with the model - if you press your hand onto the top of the lid it will cave in. And you can see from the photos published how badly the inside contours of the case fit the violin.

If someone entrusted to care for a Strad pays such little attention to its well-being, they will not even dream of a security system for it.

And unfortunately this is a standard. When I told one world-class soloist that this very model was unsafe for her Stradivari, she shrugged and said "nothing has ever happened so far."

On another occasion at a trade show a violinist picked up one of my cases, putting it down immediately as it was "too heavy". The case weighed only 2.4 kg. (5.3 lbs). When I said that you need a minimum of that weight in materials in order to make a case that was safe for the instrument, this person answered "I have other priorities."

If one can change this mentality, and make the vast majority of musicians (and instrument-owning foundations, and insurers) understand how important it is to protect their instrument, this will automatically generate the demand that will see projects like RFID safely above into port.

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