Emile A Ouchard violin bow

September 11, 2016 at 03:12 PM · I am currently trying out a violin bow made by Emile-Auguste Ouchard in 1945, Paris. The bow is fantastic and I am seriously considering buying it. There is only one issue with it. The bow has a repaired crack at the frog which you can see from the picture below.They are asking $18,000 for the bow. Do you guys think it is overpriced given its condition? Doesn't the crack reduce the value of the bow by a lot?

Replies (27)

September 11, 2016 at 05:21 PM · Ask yourself: would you buy a Mercedes with a damaged bumper or scratched door?

You see, details such as this are telling me volumes about the seller and rapidly diminish potential for trust.

If there is one crack, what else could be there?

Camber corrected just before the sale?

Dentist technology repaired invisible crack on the tip?

There is a possibility that the frog is original and that the seller wanted to keep it in order to respect the authenticity. However, frog is a replaceable part and one can be copied quite successfully to match the mass and original shape. The original frog can then be delivered as along the bow for the sake of lineage, etc.

18k is a lot of money for most of us and for some even unattainable sum in a lifetime.

I would say: unless there is a certificate of authenticity and they are willing to give you substantial discount, walk away.

September 11, 2016 at 05:39 PM · Thanks for the advice Rocky!

September 11, 2016 at 06:11 PM · The standard of contemporary French bow making is extremely high. For that money you could take a trip to Paris (I assume you live elsewhere) timing it perhaps for one of the upcoming expositions where there'll be many bow makers, and buy three superb bows all in perfect condition.

September 11, 2016 at 06:47 PM · It's way overpriced! I have an EA Ouchard in perfect condition which was appraised several years ago for $10,000. Granted, it's an early one from when he worked with his father - but still...

September 11, 2016 at 07:10 PM · Given that this bow was made in 1945 which is considered his golden period, do you think it can account for the significant difference in price? Also how much value can a bow lose for this kind of crack in the frog? If it were in perfect condition, how much do you think a fair price is for this bow?

September 11, 2016 at 07:27 PM · Ifshin's is a reputable shop with fair prices, as far as I know. I bought a violin from them many years ago. Ask them for a condition report; they should disclose every issue that the bow might have. There will probably also be a certificate for the bow (questionable provenance reduces the price).

It is not wrong for a violin shop to sell bows that have been repaired or which have replacement parts, as long as it's disclosed -- which it seems to have been, in this case. Recambering is not, to my knowledge, typically disclosed, but it doesn't matter when it was done as long as it was done competently. Note that a certificate has nothing to do with condition. A certificate simply vouches for the authenticity of the bow, and it may have been written years ago. A condition report is typically a written opinion of the condition of the item. Prices take into account provenance as well as condition.

Tarisio's price history shows EA Ouchard bows auctioning in the $12k range recently. That's a wholesale price; it's not unusual for retail to be double wholesale, as far as I know. The Ouchard bows that I've tried recently were priced in the teens, I believe, but I don't know what condition they were in.

Replacing the frog will chop the value of a bow in half, but this is merely the repair of the original. Repaired sticks severely devalue a bow because of the compromise of the structural integrity, but a repaired frog should not compromise the bow's playing qualities (again, as far as I know) and therefore does not depress the price in the same way.

Do you know if this is a shop-owned bow, or a consignment? Either way, the price is usually somewhat negotiable.

Other shops will generally be reluctant to comment on someone else's inventory. However, Vance at Stevens Violin Shop in San Jose has an excellent eye for bows and may be willing to offer an informal oblique opinion (he once looked at a bow I was trialing and gently suggested that I should buy something else), as does Joan Balter in Berkeley (she'll be similarly circumspect).

And Raphael: If you haven't gotten an appraisal recently for your bow collection, you might want to have them updated. I've been surprised at how quickly values are escalating.

September 11, 2016 at 08:28 PM · I don't think the price is so high at least compared to E.A. Ouchard bows here in Europe. Also there are other things to consider that can have an impact in the price like year of construction, quality of the stick, how it plays , sound, certificate. ... they maybe making up for the little crack in the frog from a dealer's perspective (and player). But of course, you can always try to negociate if that's an option. Nice bow!

September 12, 2016 at 12:08 AM · Not an expert in frogs, but it does appear to me that it could break any time under the pressure. Remember, every single day, you tighten the bow and use it with a lots of energy, bouncing, fortissimo, martelle, staccato, etc....

This bow may be original, but with that crack it is not in mint condition, period.

Even if the seller claims that crack is 100% cured and frog stable, it may not be in a span of few months / years.

Then what?

Unless you want to hang in your dining room it and adore it during every breakfast, you have to get it replaced.

Insurance: will you be able to get in insured? If you drop it mid-performance, after it breaks, and damage the stick, will they accept the claim with "preexisting" condition?

Lastly, think about re-sale value. How will you convince the next buyer with very same concern?

September 12, 2016 at 12:19 AM · Deleted

September 12, 2016 at 01:29 AM · Huh. It appears that the OP edited his post. When I read it, the post said Ifshin's was the seller.

Yes, you can get a bow insured even if it has previously been damaged -- even with serious damage, like a broken head. The bow has been devalued by the previous break, so the appraisal will be for a lower value (value will also be dependent on how good the repair was).

If the frog breaks again, you can simply have the frog replaced if it turns out not to be repairable. That will devalue the bow, granted, because the frog is no longer original to the bow. You can buy devaluation coverage as part of your musical instrument insurance policy. (I assume since you're considering an $18k bow you already have a rather expensive violin, which you hopefully have insured with Clarion or Heritage or other specialty musical-instrument insurance company, so you're just adding the bow to the policy.)

The shop should be able to tell you a lot more about the break -- how serious it was, how well-done the repair was, what's the probability of another problem and what sort of playing life it has ahead of it, and so forth. Reputable violin shops stand by their sales over the long term, and part of that involves being honest with their customers about the condition of an item.

Note that mint-condition old French bows are rare, and mint-condition great bows are even rarer, because great bows typically get used, which means they have been subject to playing wear. You will pay accordingly for mint-condition specimens.

By the way, when I was bow-shopping recently, I deliberately looked for bows that had replaced or damaged parts (like the frog) but no damage to the stick -- because the resulting devaluation could have helped me buy a great-playing bow at a much lower price.

September 12, 2016 at 02:03 AM · Excuse my ignorance, but, aside from the collector/history standpoint, how would replacing the frog hurt the bow's value? I would think frogs are fairly easy to construct near identical variants of, and wouldn't change the sound... I'm assuming it's purely from the purpose of originality and prestige that the bow would be so drastically hurt in value with a new frog...?

September 12, 2016 at 02:11 AM · More or less, yes.

Presumably if you're worried about a repaired frog coming unglued onstage, you could have a copy made for daily use. I've heard of some symphony players who have gorgeous antiques with lots of shell, ivory, tortoise-shell, etc., getting their 'travel frogs' put on when they re-hair before foreign tours. Makes Customs easier to negotiate, and lowers some of the stress involved with travelling.

September 12, 2016 at 03:03 AM · Violins and violin bows are basically antique art objects. So provenance and all-original parts are a significant part of the value, because the market does not consist only of players -- there are also a lot of collectors.

This is broadly true of art objects -- anything that's not original will devalue the object.

September 12, 2016 at 03:03 AM · Forgive my ignorance if that's the case, but I always thought that the frog, winding, leather, screw, they were all replaceable, the stick is what truly matters.

September 12, 2016 at 03:18 AM · For playability, yes. For value, no.

September 12, 2016 at 03:22 AM · Neglecting integrity, how would one even know that a frog was original...

September 12, 2016 at 03:55 AM · The frog and button are considered to be 30% of the value of a bow, the stick 70%.

Jay is fair and knows his stuff.

September 12, 2016 at 04:08 AM · The experts can tell at a glance -- or if the copy is particularly good, by very careful examination. It's not enough for a bow to just have a certificate, by the way; people prefer for those certs to come from recognized experts. For bows, Millant and Raffin are typically considered prime certs, as far as I know.

September 12, 2016 at 04:24 AM · Isaac Salchow, Paul Childs, Jim Warren, Raffin works with LeCanu and Bigot and I believe that their papers are by consensus. All are well respected, but for an Ouchard I wouldn't have any problems with just Jay's paper. If he had any questions, he would send it away for another opinion.

September 12, 2016 at 05:47 AM · Doesn't that look like a viola bow??

September 12, 2016 at 05:54 AM · No. Ouchard made violin bows with round heels, and the head looks too low for a viola bow.

September 12, 2016 at 07:45 AM · 18K for an Ouchard? I think that's a little nuts, mine (with a Raffin certificate) was a bargain by comparison!

It is also a violin bow with the round heel at the frog.

September 12, 2016 at 08:28 AM · Ifshin's isn't really known as a bargain violin shop, is it???

The good side to a shop like Ifshin's is that you will presumably get something that is what you actually paid for!!

September 12, 2016 at 12:13 PM · Ifshin's is definitely not a bargain shop.

I've been told that violins and bows sell for more on the west coast than they do on the east coast of the US. I don't know how true this is, though.

September 12, 2016 at 01:10 PM · Get your own personal Travel Frog!

September 12, 2016 at 03:45 PM · Lydia - thanks. I think I'm good for a while but will update my appraisals eventually. A couple of folks asked about the importance and value of the frog. Yes, as someone else said, a frog accounts for about 30% of a bow's value. It's considered to be a very important intrinsic part of the bow - unlike the lapping or the leather.

The screw cap (what we hold when we tighten and loosen the bow) is also considered to be an intrinsic part of the original bow. I have an FR Simon, unfortunately sans the original frog and screw cap. It was still appraised several years ago at $13,000.

As far as a rounded heel goes, yes they are more common in viola bows but some fine violin bows have them, too. My Louis Bazin and Hill/Napier violin bows - original in all their parts - both have rounded heels.

Now comes the question: time heals all wounds. But does time warp all heels?? ;-)

September 13, 2016 at 08:01 AM · You have to have a real sole to use a heel well.

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