Seeking Suggestions For Selling

November 20, 2013 at 07:57 PM · My family is selling a violin that has been appraised in the $200K-$250K range. It has been owned by the same professional for nearly 60 years. Since it's not a "student" instrument, it has been challenging to find the right demographic for it. Is anyone able to recommend reputable, trustworthy shops in the U.S. that might specialize in this price range or offer other suggestions? Most appreciated!

Replies (36)

November 20, 2013 at 09:21 PM · There are any number of shops who can sell a fiddle in that price range, including David Kerr, Warren and Son, B&F, Prier, Ifshin, Robertson, Reuning, Carraba, and many, many others. I'd first try looking on websites and seeing if they have similarly-priced instruments for sale. Two other considerations are:

1. connections. Many shops have lots of connections, including international ones, that will enable them to network to get the fiddle seen and sold.

2. the deal. You need to find out what the dealer's cut will be. For an instrument in that range, just a few percentage points can mean a lot of money. Some go as high as 30% (or more).

November 20, 2013 at 09:52 PM · Recommend Chris Reuning.

November 21, 2013 at 03:18 AM ·

November 21, 2013 at 07:39 AM · There are violins in that price range and even more expensive on ebay. Just to throw the thought out there. Any place that sells it for you, whether it be an auction, dealer, or shop, it is going to cost you a LOT of money. If they charge a 20% commission, that is potentially 50,000 dollars.

November 21, 2013 at 09:32 AM · If the violin is in good shape, good sounding instrument and has a certificate from a reputable expert, it could probably sell "by itself", just advertirse in the right places and save a lot of money.

November 21, 2013 at 12:07 PM · As a general rule, on the open market, you're lucky to get half as much selling a violin yourself as the full retail a well established store can sell it for, so even if the store is charging a 25% commission you're still getting 25% more than you could get selling it yourself.

The other issue is who wrote your certificate, many certificates aren't worth the paper they're printed on, when you sell through a store they're guaranteeing their appraisal, and verifying if you're certificate is accurate, when you're selling it yourself, no one may believe your certificate unless it is written by one of the top names in appraisals.

November 21, 2013 at 12:56 PM · All excellent points and suggestions. Gives us more to consider, thank you!

November 21, 2013 at 03:07 PM · once we start talking about a violin that expensive, even from a shop, I would want to commission my own expert to come inspect it anyway. I can't imagine someone spending 250,000 dollars on a violin and not having it verified by someone who doesn't stand to profit off of it's sale, regardless of who it is being purchased from.

Private party to private party i wouldn't think you'd take a 50% hit to sale price. Selling private party to a store you would, because they intend to leave themselves room to mark up a product they may spend a significant amount of time trying to sell.

November 21, 2013 at 03:17 PM · Lyndon wrote:

As a general rule, on the open market, you're lucky to get half as much selling a violin yourself as the full retail a well established store can sell it for, so even if the store is charging a 25% commission you're still getting 25% more than you could get selling it yourself.

I'm not saying I agree with your assumptions, but if they are correct, then you would be getting 50% more, not 25%. Work it out.

November 21, 2013 at 03:42 PM · Jared, Wholesale selling to a store, tends to be closer to 25% of full retail, than 50%.

November 21, 2013 at 11:11 PM · OK, let me spell it out. A violin retails for $100K if sold by a reputable dealer. According to your assumptions, the seller would only get $50K if they sold on their own. But if they sell through a dealer, they would get $75K ($100K minus 25%). Compared to selling it on their own, they get 50% more selling through a dealer ($75K vs $50K). I reiterate, I don't necessarily agree with the assumptions, but if accurate, then that's how the numbers work out.

If you still don't get my point, then you should focus on violin making and get someone else to handle your books :-).

November 22, 2013 at 12:05 AM · Smiley, perhaps Lyndon does get your point and yes, perhaps, nevertheless, his wife has been handling his books for years - Pure speculation, of course, but I wouldn't be surprised if I were right.

November 22, 2013 at 12:39 AM · Of course I get the point, Smiley, I was speaking of 25% of the full retail price more.

You totally misunderstood my second post, this was in reference to Jared's implication that a store would be willing to pay 50% of full retail, and a private party more. I was refering to what percent of full retail you can get selling it yourself, maybe roughly 50% of full retail if you sell it privately, but if you sell to a dealer you may be lucky to get 25% of full retail, unless the dealer really wants the violin(rare) in which case they may be willing to pay up to 50% of full retail, entirely nothing to do with the slight statistical error I made in the previous post.

For instance, my 1972 EH Roth on ebay right now has a full retail value of about $3500, I'll be lucky to get the $1700 I'm asking, but if I were to sell it direct to a dealer $1000 is about the top I could get, if even that, even though he's going to be selling it for $3500.

I know in the really high end violins these rules figure a little differently, dealers are willing to take smaller commissions, the price it could get at auction like Tarisio becomes a factor, etc.

But thinking you can get more selling it yourself than you would get after commission at a top shop, is mostly a fantasy, with a few possible exceptions once in a while, the problem is you have to wait till it sells, but you have the same problem selling it yourself, putting it to auction is one of the quickest ways to get your money, but they charge a hefty commission as well. And auction prices are usually well below full retail, and thats before you take out the auction houses fees.

November 22, 2013 at 01:02 AM · The type of buyer that buys privately is expecting a better deal than they would get at a big shop, otherwise they would just go to the big shop and have many many more violins to choose from in the same price range. With a private sale (unlike with a dealer) you presumably have no guarantee or service contract if anything goes wrong, you can't trade in for another instrument, and you can't usually trust the appraisals that the private seller is throwing at you, all these reasons and others is why top shops charge more, and why the much higher top shops sale price minus their commission is still a better deal for you, in most cases.

November 22, 2013 at 03:02 AM · Hi Lyndon,

All valid points, but I still have to disagree with your math. In my example, $50K if you sell direct, $75K if you sell through a dealer, that is 50% more. Retail price should not factor into the equation. But at any rate, we are saying the same thing, so that's all that matters.

And you make a good point about selling on your own. I considered for a moment that I might want to buy Rachel's violin as a collectors item and my first thought was discounting the price by the dealer margin.

I recently sold my house and it was a prime house in a prime location and in prime condition. I could have sold it myself, and saved thousands in agent fees, but I decided to list it with an agent because "for sale by owner" means let's make a low ball offer because the seller is not paying an agent. So in the end, you might save some commissions if you sell direct, but you don't end up with more money in your pocket.

November 22, 2013 at 03:42 AM · On the Balkan peninsula, violinists (and Gypsies) say that every violin finds its owner.

If the instrument is genuine, in good condition and sounds great, there is a musician who will appreciate it and, if need be, take a loan from the bank, or find another way to obtain cash and acquire it directly from you. One thing you absolutely must do is to obtain the appraisal from a reputable (top) appraiser and be willing to pay for it.

Yes, it will take more time to sell it without a dealer, but is is possible. ... and I disagree that it means that you will have to sell it for less. In case of personal sale, depending where the transaction is done (different countries have different regulations), the buyer may or may not have to pay the sales tax, but once the violin is in store, tax and commission are added to the base price.

On the other hand, the dealer may help you to sell faster, and you don't have to deal directly with potential buyers.

[It is funny how some people in the violin trade business work very hard to convince buyers that great violins are rare and at the same time convince sellers that "serious" buyers are difficult to find. This reminds me on real-estate agents. Both of them laugh all the way to the bank!]

November 22, 2013 at 07:23 AM · You nailed it Rocky.

November 22, 2013 at 07:41 AM · Smiley you're the one not doing the math, I admitted you were right about 75 being 50% more than 50, and then didn't repeat it again, you on the other hand keep repeating this like you cant sort out the numbers and think they're all related and think every time I use the term 50% or 25% it refers to the original mistake I made in the first post, which they're don't at all.

November 22, 2013 at 03:11 PM · Hi Rachel,

Consider also: insurance appraisals do not always reflect retail price and may be a (fair) bit higher.

Is the appraisal up to date?

The violin may or may not need a bit of work; some shops can get a bit aggressive in their recommendations as to what they tell you needs to be done before they can sell your violin.

Consignment might be the way to go if you are not in a rush. It has some liability issues ( for example if the store files for bankruptcy you might lose your instrument to the creditors) but

gets you a better dollar than selling it to the store.

Tarisio is doing very well at the moment.

(-----If you could have a famous violinist play your fiddle for a while and then have it put on Tarisio as the "Ex - so and so soloist" violin you could exceed the appraisal value! ;) )

November 22, 2013 at 04:24 PM · Given the amount of information the OP provides, we may be talking about a Stradivari made in Germany appraised at Joe Blow's Hick violin shop!!!

November 23, 2013 at 03:10 PM · All--or most--of your feedback (and in Rocky's case, "wisdom") is much appreciated. The violin is in a shop currently, but we are considering making a change which is why I have put the question out there. Anyone interested in additional information about the instrument is welcome to send me a private message.

Thanks again!

November 24, 2013 at 03:35 PM · "Consignment might be the way to go if you are not in a rush. It has some liability issues ( for example if the store files for bankruptcy you might lose your instrument to the creditors)"

Can anyone verify this legally?

I found this:

"...consignment goods do not become an asset of the consignee until the moment that they are sold to a customer. For this reason, consignment agreements can provide a degree of protection to a trade creditor who wants to supply goods to a financially troubled retailer. If the consignor follows the proper steps, it should be able to take its goods back from the retailer upon its insolvency or the commencement of a bankruptcy case, although it may need to file a motion for relief from the automatic stay..."

My conclusion is that one would only be at risk in the event that the shop entered bankruptcy immediately after an instrument was sold and the shop had been paid, but prior to the payment of the consignor.

November 25, 2013 at 02:37 AM · Gosh. Lots of information, speculation and concern. :-)

If you wish to access the retail market, I suggest you spend a little time determining who in the industry have earned good reputations, "interview" (talk with) a few of us dealer types/shops who deal with and work on 6 figure and higher instruments on a regular basis (that in itself will limit the number of people you need to speak with), determine who you communicate with well, can offer the services you require (restoration, setup, simple adjustments, etc) and has a strong market for the particular type instrument in question (each of us has a different type/set of clientele and most of us know each other to some extent).

Standard commission in the general price range you mentioned is about 20%. The simple truth is, we have better access to the retail market than an individual would. Most who successfully sell instruments of this general value privately do so to someone they already have some sort of relationship with (and may already know the instrument) or to a person close to someone they already know..

There are advantages and disadvantages to both/either higher profile shops and/or smaller exclusive shops... again this may depend on the piece or the level/type of attention you yourself expect or require.

I'd advise not letting proximity be a limiting factor for those you speak with, but would certainly understand if you found it more convenient to chose someone close to you in the end.

If the situation requires a more public sale, you may wish to look into the auction venues available. Generally, the auctions don't yield quite as high a sales figure (though there are exceptions) and the total commissions are a bit higher (a sort of shared cost: often 10% paid by the seller, and 20% paid by the buyer). The net is paid from the "hammer" price (the high bid) less seller commission... but the buyer knows there will be an additional 20% added to that figure and bids accordingly.

Good luck.

November 25, 2013 at 01:44 PM · Great points. Thank you, Jeffrey!

November 25, 2013 at 05:52 PM · My view of auctions is that they are the very last option--for the truly desperate who just want to dump something. Maybe not for Strads or Guarneris, but certainly at the lower ends. You might get lucky, or you might get hosed...

November 25, 2013 at 08:55 PM · "...consignment goods do not become an asset of the consignee until the moment that they are sold to a customer. For this reason, consignment agreements can provide a degree of protection to a trade creditor who wants to supply goods to a financially troubled retailer. If the consignor follows the proper steps, it should be able to take its goods back from the retailer upon its insolvency or the commencement of a bankruptcy case, although it may need to file a motion for relief from the automatic stay..."

I believe that is correct.

There are some very high profile cases where conseignments went very wrong for the owners: for example the Machold situation and the Segelman - Biddulph case. No doubt these are exceptional situations.

It highlights the importance of a legally binding contract. As long as all the dealings are properly recorded and one doesn't engage in misrepresentations to avoid sales or other tax (tempting in highly taxed Europe) risk should be very low.

It might be better to hang on to any original appraisal documents or original descriptions of the instrument; provide marked photocopies only until final sale.

In the end the most important thing as Jeffrey says is to find a reputable dealer. Not necessarily close to home.

November 27, 2013 at 01:24 AM · Scott Wrote: "My view of auctions is that they are the very last option--for the truly desperate who just want to dump something. Maybe not for Strads or Guarneris, but certainly at the lower ends. You might get lucky, or you might get hosed..."

Hi Scott;

As a dealer, I guess I should be overjoyed to see these feelings voiced, but to be fair, I'd say that depends on the piece being offered and the specific auction venue selected.

A special piece (a great Pressenda, a Guad) may actually do nearly as well in an auction setting as in a retail shop. Easier to understand/popular items like Sartory bows and Vuillaume instruments can do almost as well. A piece with special provenance (the Lady Blunt, Wilhelmj's Tubbs bow, Sterns or Ricci's modern fiddles) can really take off.

Otherwise, I'd tend to agree that auction would be a less advantageous approach... however in some estate situations a open public sale venue is required to address the various interested parties concerns.

December 2, 2013 at 06:57 AM · I think eBay would be a great place to start. They sell violins from cheap to extremely exensive.

December 2, 2013 at 01:26 PM ·

December 2, 2013 at 01:40 PM · Rachel - what kind of violin is it? Who appraised it? Have you asked the appraiser for selling suggestions? You may want to consider an Auction house. Especially that I see that you are in NY like me and them, try Tarisio. See my blog on the subject of auctions. Speaking of doing the math, if you go that route make sure that they spell out what percentage they take and what you will net if it sells. Also, very importantly, make sure that you can live with the "reserve' - i.e. the minimum you agree to let it go for. Let's say they agree that it's worth $250 K (and if nothing else, you'll get a free 2nd, but just oral appraisal), they may say "we'll value it at $100 k to $150 K, to entice people to start bidding on it." The ideal scenario - for both you and the auction house - is for 2 or more people to get into a bidding war over it, and it may go for much more than it was appraised and estimated. BUT - maybe just one person may bid, and it will go for the opening asking price, and you will have to accept that. (If nobody bids, you just take it back.) So again, make sure that you can be satisfied with the reserve.

December 2, 2013 at 09:14 PM · "...BUT - maybe just one person may bid, and it will go for the opening asking price, and you will have to accept that..."

Yes, that's why auctions are for the truly desperate--those for whom the quick sale trumps all. I would only do it if I were broke or about to be foreclosed or something like that.

December 2, 2013 at 09:47 PM · Desperate? Not necessarily, by any means. I've bought and sold at auctions with good results. But I did have one bad experience along the lines I've cautioned about. Keep in mind that it's up to the owner about accepting or rejecting the reserve offer. You can always say no, and get up and walk out with your violin - which I've also done. If you understand that, and can be fine with the reserve - minus the auction house percentage - it can be quite OK, and yield much quicker results than consigning it to a dealer, who usually will make you sign a 1-2 year agreement to leave it with him.

It also depends on the instrument. With some exceptions, such as an instrument made by a well-known maker and owned by a famous player - contemporary violins at an auction are much more of a buyer's market than a seller's. Rachel hasn't revealed yet what her violin is supposed to be. I'm not all that up on the market. What would be appraised at $250 K these days - maybe a Pressenda? Let's say for example's sake that it is, and the auction house accepts it and backs it up as such. if it sounds decent and is in good condition, it will sell.

December 3, 2013 at 02:26 AM · I believe even at an auction house a Pressenda in good condition would be appraised well above 250k.

Retail is around 500k.

JB Vuillaumes would be appraised between 200 and 250k on insurance appraisals I think, if in really good condition. Plus they are multiple times more common than any other violin in that price range.

December 3, 2013 at 08:00 AM · As Lyndon T. wrote :- "many certificates aren't worth the paper they're printed on.."

My experience as a professional player has been that 20 years or so after purchasing an instrument promoted at the time of acquisition as "the best thing since sliced bread" the very same instrument is derided by dealers and the certificates declared erroneous - even if issued by reputable firms such as W.E. Hill and Sons.

Do dealers suspect you want to sell to them for "stock" and talk down the value ?

Faced with the situation where my local dealer declared a violin of mine virtually worthless, I took it to a leading London auction house, where it was sold for many times the maximum selling price my local shop suggested, despite that establishment proclaiming that they had consulted with a "trustworthy expert".

An auction house dosn't have to be the "last resort" - it can be a life-saver especially when the buyers there are more astute than the dealers you happen to know. But I agree that unless you happen upon someone who wants to buy directly from you then selling on consignment can be the best way, provided no-one argues with your appraisal.

One further thought- if the violin has beeen in the hands of a professional for this length of time, it probably needs "work done". Not botox or a nose-job ... but again, do shop around various experts - and hope against hope they aren't ringing each other up as soon as you leave their shops and working a price-fixing scam.

December 14, 2013 at 12:49 AM · Didn't I suggest How about selling to ME for a song, or was that in some other similar discussion?

December 16, 2013 at 02:28 AM · David Beck wrote: "My experience as a professional player has been that 20 years or so after purchasing an instrument promoted at the time of acquisition as "the best thing since sliced bread" the very same instrument is derided by dealers and the certificates declared erroneous - even if issued by reputable firms such as W.E. Hill and Sons.

Do dealers suspect you want to sell to them for "stock" and talk down the value ?

Faced with the situation where my local dealer declared a violin of mine virtually worthless, I took it to a leading London auction house, where it was sold for many times the maximum selling price my local shop suggested, despite that establishment proclaiming that they had consulted with a "trustworthy expert".

An auction house dosn't have to be the "last resort" - it can be a life-saver especially when the buyers there are more astute than the dealers you happen to know. But I agree that unless you happen upon someone who wants to buy directly from you then selling on consignment can be the best way, provided no-one argues with your appraisal."

Not all dealers are bandits... and not all owners are angels. :-)

I don't know the violin you once owned or the facts concerning it. I don't know the dealer involved or their level of honesty or expertise. What I do know is that no expert is, or has been, perfect, and that there are cases in which multiple certificates have been piled onto a faulty original opinion. The houses of expertise (Hill, Wurlitzer, etc.) have their good, and their not so good, periods concerning opinions. I also know of some rather shady tactics some dealers employ to beat the value of an instrument down. In addition, I know several players/owners who "opinion shop" for someone willing to attribute the origin of an instrument in their wallet's favor (the reasonable opinions be damned).

I think it's reasonable to point out that just because the violin sold at several times what the dealer said it was worth does not mean the dealer was wrong or the auction house more astute. All it really means is that at least two bidders thought it was worth more than the dealer said it was (maybe based on the old certs, the auction estimate, confidence in the action house, or maybe for other reasons). Conversely, it doesn't mean the dealer wasn't being a bandit. So... in this case, without more information, all that we can really discern is that you were happier with what the auction house brought you than what the dealer said they could.

As I mentioned earlier, there are certainly situations in which an auction sale is appropriate and advisable. Funny enough, if I had difficulty with the attribution on the existing certificates, the situation is one in which I might have suggested an auction venue (and have in similar cases). Within that venue there is flexibility to present "a violin" with "certificates from x, y, and z" and let the chips fall where they may. If I had any criticism of your local dealer, knowing what little I do, I'd say that not considering this option for you might be the extent of it.

It sounds as though the OP simply wants a reliable venue to sell her family's instrument. I'm sure that with some careful consideration and an interview or two, she will find someone she can communicate with and isn't going to take her to the cleaner. It sounds as though an appraisal exists... so in a pinch she could approach that dealer to arrange a sale. If auction is a more viable venue than a showroom, I'd expect any professional worth their salt to advise her of that option.

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