Violin Bow Valuation

February 14, 2017 at 07:07 AM · Hi guys,

Just started my own little collection of bows and want to ask your expert opinion on valuing and judging a bow.

Aside from the importance of the maker (market value), the authenticity (certificate by well-known expert), and originality of parts, what sort of things is important to look at and what are not?

Did some research and some said that the stick itself is probably ~70% of the entire value, frog about ~20% and ~10% on the button screw.

Stick: condition, straightness, length, repair/crack, type of wood counts. Does the originality of over-lapping matters? What else?

Frog: originality (whether by maker), condition. Does the pearl eye condition matters? Let's say one has crack but is original? And?

Button screw: does the originality really matters? Pearl or wood part? Some bow I saw has aluminum instead of silver (original from maker).

Anything that I should pay attention to in terms of condition? What's important and what is irrelevant?

Thank you very much in advance.

Replies (23)

February 14, 2017 at 02:19 PM · Are you assembling a collection pretty much to vault away, or do you intend to use these bows as well?

February 15, 2017 at 08:57 AM · Hi Lydia, eventually I intend to use 2-3 for daily playing...

and the rest is probably for enjoyment (play once a while and for enjoyment purpose) :)

February 15, 2017 at 04:07 PM · What type of budget are you looking at per-bow?

February 15, 2017 at 04:17 PM · Starting around 5-10k. Recently bought a Morizot and currently trying out a Bazin.

I really like this Bazin, because it draws a very nice sound out of my violin. Much more warmth and depth. The stick is straight, and can see slight usage. Frog is in okay condition with very minor chip. Overall in good condition. But the one side pearl eye has hairline crack. So I wonder if it will affect its value, or can he replaced. Just curious if the value of bow would be affected if I replace the pearl eye or the overlapping (original).

February 15, 2017 at 04:40 PM · Kevin, I've got some extra storage space if you start running out of room!

February 15, 2017 at 05:47 PM · Basically, condition and originality issues will impact value. The worse the condition / more parts that are non-original, the less you'll pay, but the eventual resale value will also be proportionately impacted. You just want to make sure that you are aware of these things, and that you're getting a price that is reasonably in line with the market (recognizing that there's no absolute valuations, and that valuation may also vary with where you are located, and that some shops tend to sell at a premium).

A bow that plays really well is going to be easier to sell than a bow that doesn't play as well, all other things being equal (maker, condition, etc.). As investments, bows are extremely non-liquid even so.

If you want to maximize your investment dollars, I would look for makers whose value is going up more quickly than the rest of the market. If you want to maximize lifetime value, consider looking at outstanding contemporary makers; by the time you retire, those bows may have escalated significantly in value, especially since it's highly likely those makers will be dead. Your price range would allow you to buy top-notch current makers.

February 16, 2017 at 07:18 AM · Thank you Lydia.

But out of curiosity, a good condition old French (Morizot, Bazin) bow runs around 5-10k with others higher. But the top contemporary maker runs within the same price range. Wouldn't it be hard to justify the value of contemporary at 10k? If giving it 30 years, wouldn't the old French in good condition appreciate much more? Thanks

February 16, 2017 at 07:46 AM · I think the old French will go up more with rare exceptions.

February 16, 2017 at 02:34 PM · There's some contemporary makers closer to 10k -- Benoit Rolland, for instance -- but most are closer to 5k.

Not all older makers appreciate at the same rate. If you invested in a Sartory 20 years ago, for instance, you're doing much better now than if you'd bought most other makers.

February 16, 2017 at 02:51 PM · Thank you and appreciate your comment and help :)

February 18, 2017 at 01:56 PM · Hi Lydia/Lyndon, do you know what's the current run rate for a CN Bazin? I've got two CN Bazin im trying out. Condition for the first is alright and it's a James Tubb model with we hill stamp and certificate. Second one in better condition but hairline crack at one side of pearl eye. Both draw exceptional sounds with great dark pernambuco wood.

February 18, 2017 at 06:12 PM · I tried a really superb CN Bazin last year, but I cannot remember what it was priced at. (I tried a number of other CN Bazins as well, but none of them felt right.)

You just bought a Morizot, didn't you? I wouldn't be in a hurry to build a collection. I would enjoy the bow you've got, and casually look at additional bows until you find something you feel you've got to have.

In particular, I would think about what you feel the Morizot is missing and in what circumstances you would prefer to use another bow, talk to some dealers to note your interest in bows with particular characteristics, and have them keep you in mind for whatever comes in.

(Interesting, I ended up buying my most recent bow from Bein & Fushi on a long-distance trial. I'd been through a large number of bows in my hunt already, but I described what I wanted in the stick's characteristics, and they did a great job pulling three bows that fit what I wanted, one of which I ultimately bought.)

February 19, 2017 at 03:58 AM · Hi Lydia, thanks.

I have a modern bow by Rodney mohr (tourte style) as my main bow. It's rather flexible and nice sounding, but lacks the power and a bit hard to do spicatto. The Morizot has the power but is a really stiff stick. Really easy to control but lacks the warmth and depth. The CN Bazin (pecatte style camber) is rather in the middle.

If all the ones you tried, which maker do you like the best?

February 19, 2017 at 06:34 AM · I'm not really a multi-bow player. My normal preference is a bow that does everything that I generally want just fine, plus a backup carbon-fiber bow.

I own a Victor Fetique that has a powerful sound on my violin, articulates well, and does just about every bow-stroke effortlessly. It's a strong stick that is well-suited to how much weight goes into the string with a Russian-style bow arm. What it does not have is a quality that my teacher calls "seamlessness" -- the ability to make bow-changes at tip and frog with no effort and no noise. I would prefer that quality when playing lyrical works with lots of legato. However, it's also harder to make a bow like that articulate -- to start strokes with an easy consonant -- and right-hand technique more easily compensates for more difficult bow-changes than it does for a lack of articulation. I suppose if I could afford it, I could own a different bow that has that quality, but I felt that I was getting better bang for my buck buying one bow that is really excellent, versus two bows that had distinct strengths and weaknesses.

I do still have my previous bow, a Claude Thomassin that is light and elegant -- a great bow for Mozart, I'm told. I intend to sell it, though. It's not a great tonal match for my current violin and there are plenty of non-violin things I could use the cash for. I also have a contemporary bow that I'm selling on consignment with B&F, a very nice Douglas Raguse that isn't a good tonal match for my current violin, and though it's an excellent bow, everything it does, my Fetique does better.

I think of three great bows that I've tried as a kind of ideal. One, a bow that I deeply regret allowing my previous teacher to talk me out of buying on account of its price (fair, but at the time quite a bit of money for a bow), was a Maline that felt like an extension of my arm -- elegant and fluid. The second, an ex-Ricci Dominique Peccatte used by Ricci to record the Paganini Caprices, was not for sale and nowhere near my budget; it felt like playing a geared machine, with incredibly precise control and evenness. The final, a Tourte that I tried last year (for sale but of course unaffordable), provided a phenomenal ability to sculpt the sound and drew colors out of the violin that I was unaware that it could produce, with a tone quality that was just magical, although it felt quite different in the hand and would have required executing a lot of strokes in a different fashion. The Maline and Peccatte were such distinctive experiences that more than a decade later, I can still recall what they felt like in my hand.

If I were to own two bows, I would probably split along the liquid feel vs. precise feel lines. But I have liked just about all of the Malines I've tried (I've even liked a sub-$1k Chinese copy of one), and so if there's any one maker whose work I would like to own, it's probably his.

There are a lot of bows out there in the world. There's no reason to buy a bow that doesn't have the sound that you're looking for on the violin that you intend to pair it with. Then from there you want some combination of feel and tonal qualities, but at the very least, it should do all the basic strokes well -- be well-balanced, be easy to handle off the string, draw a rapid straight bow from frog to tip and vice versa, etc. -- and then you can decide how picky you want to be about an ideal sonic match and handling characteristics within the given price range.

Buying a bow that doesn't handle well is a recipe for making that bow extremely hard to resell later, unless it's got other elements that significantly increase its desirability to a collector. (The ostensible worth of a bow doesn't really help you if it sits, unsold, on consignment, for years -- or if you have to unload it at auction for a wholesale price, which is going to be well under the retail value in most cases.) Conversely, great bows typically don't sit around in shop inventory for very long, at least not if they have playing and tonal characteristics that suit most players. They get sold very quickly. That means that the inventory that you're playing in a given price range isn't necessarily representative of the best bows available in that price range.

February 19, 2017 at 06:42 AM · Avoid bows with tortoise shell or ivory frogs.

February 20, 2017 at 04:01 PM · Hi Lydia,

Thank you so much for such long and thorough suggestion. After playing the Bazin for a week now, the more I like it vs the Morizot... lol... I might consider trading the Morizot back and upgrade it to the Bazin.

What do a typical Bazin go for? This one in particular is retailing for 10k but I've been offered a discount.

Hi Mary,

Yes... I'm avoiding those since I play them regularly. And I'm in particular not a careful guy... lol

February 20, 2017 at 04:32 PM · Bows in that kind of price range don't have a "retail" price or a "discount". They have a price that is negotiated between buyer and seller, generally with the buyer having the upper hand in knowledge. The shop is effectively giving you a price as a starting point for negotiation. What a bow is worth is a result of many factors, as you've noted in your original post. Moreover, all damage and repairs are not created equal -- the same general category of damage can be more or less devaluing depending on its specific nature and how good the repair is.

If it's a consignment, the seller will generally have a figure in his head for how much he's willing to accept, and the shop will hopefully have given the seller good advice on what a realistic price is. For consignments, "cash in hand now" may trump "slightly better price at a later date" for the seller.

If you're not careful with your equipment, you can seriously devalue your bows. I would be cautious about expecting to make a profit from collecting if you aren't keeping your bows in fairly pristine condition.

February 21, 2017 at 01:31 PM · Thanks again Lydia :)

February 21, 2017 at 04:57 PM · That reminds me:

If you care about collectibility, condition matters a lot. Bows with repairs or replacements are players' bows -- they may still be great to use, and they will still appreciate, and their devaluation makes them more affordable to players. But collectors prefer pristine specimens.

Conversely, if you're going to buy a players' bow, make sure that it does indeed play really well -- it's something that a player would covet. Your description of what you've been buying to date does not sound like a resounding recommendation for the playing qualities of any of your bows.

And remember that it can take years to sell a bow on consignment.

February 22, 2017 at 03:14 PM · Got it. Thank you again for your advice Lydia :)

February 22, 2017 at 03:16 PM · Hi Mary Ellen,

Why avoid bows with tortoise shell or ivory frogs?

February 22, 2017 at 04:14 PM · Travel restrictions. You can take them out of the country, but might have them confiscated on your way back in.

February 23, 2017 at 12:02 PM · Also heard that if not done correctly, more prone to crack when rehairing.

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