quality and price for 3 old french violins

September 20, 2006 at 12:40 AM · We've been looking at 4/4 size violins for my daughter. The luthier we've been working with gave us 3 to try. I was wondering if anybody knows any of the makers and the general quality of their instruments.They are F. VanDerveken year 1900, Amadee Dieudonne year 1927, J.B. Colin year 1892. They are all in very good shape, with individual diferences in tone, pleasant- but I can't find anything exceptional- even though I have to admit that I am far from being an expert. The prices are between $8,000-10,000.I would appreciate any comments as to the asking price. Also, if anybody has any sugestions regarding very good instruments/ dealers/makers that would fall into that price range. Thank you.

Replies (93)

September 20, 2006 at 01:45 AM · Check out Gregg Alf's web site and then call him. He has new and old instruments, has great expertise and is very friendly. He will send violins for you to try.

September 20, 2006 at 02:26 AM · Yes he is a great guy, but the problem is his fiddles are starting at 24K.

For the budget of 8k-10k, you can also look at modern Italian makers.

To get a really goof French fiddle that is not nasal sounding, one has to spend quite a bit more.

September 20, 2006 at 04:02 AM · Greetings,

if you are going to spend that much I think it might be an idea to have your teacher more involved in the process. Just a thought,



September 20, 2006 at 06:17 AM · sorry but a Chinese violin around the same price as a modern Italian? not quite........never mind the sound and investment aspect.

A good Italian fiddle will always be a better investment, just as is a good French bow.

September 20, 2006 at 11:19 AM · I believe Shan Jiang won a silver medal at the VSA competition in 2004 and his brother apprenticed for Gregg Alf. Their violins aren't like Chinese shop violins. Mr. Alf usually has a selection of vintage violins from recognized makers in your price range.

September 20, 2006 at 12:16 PM · We spent quite a bit of time looking for a violin in the $10K-$15K price range for my daughter last year and did not find anything exceptional. Whether old French or modern Italian, we were consistently underwhelmed. So, then we started looking at more old French and modern Italians up to $25K -- only the level of disappointment increased with the price.

It wasn't until we tried a Terry Borman that we found the violin we were looking for. But that's $25K.

September 20, 2006 at 03:36 PM · Either Jiang would be a freekin steal at $10k then. Buy it today.

If his name wasn't Chinese would it be $30k? If so - what a sick bunch you are:)

September 20, 2006 at 03:02 PM · Mr. Filimonov; that was uncalled for. Looking at your credentials, I was surprised to hear you voice such a bigoted opinion.

September 20, 2006 at 03:26 PM · It was not a bigoted remark at all.

The market classifies instruments in a certain way.

Selling Chinese workshop fiddles at 10K, is not in accordance with the market. And if that is the case, then someone is overpricing them.

Italian fiddles are valued much more not only for the pedigree but for their sound. As well as their ability to increase in value.

There have been other makers from China who have won prizes in the past, but their instruments are not selling for such prices.

The French older fiddles, also would fair better in terms of investment.

September 20, 2006 at 03:50 PM · If violins by Chinese VSA metal winning makers are $10,000, it's kind of obvious what one should buy, at least if one's looking for something to play.

September 20, 2006 at 03:51 PM · The gold medal winner is charging 15K.

September 20, 2006 at 03:54 PM · I like Chinese Heavy-Metal violin.

September 20, 2006 at 03:59 PM · Amazing. Even from the point of view of investment and finances just keeping the extra $15k you would have spent looks pretty good. P.S. but the silver metal one is $10k. It probably has a $5k sandpaper mark in it:)

September 20, 2006 at 03:57 PM · A teacher of mine is a collector of fine instruments from the last century and also has a ton of contemporary violins (many of them Italian). Being Chinese, he's able to get the best comming out of Shanghai and Beijing for nothing... to be totally honest, a lot of the very good $5000 chinese violins sound better than the contemporary italians out there now.

I used to play on a G.B. Morassi, and I must say that I have tried many(and even owned) $5000 Chinese violin that would be as good if it had been played as much. If you don't have the money, get a Chinese violin. Their craftsmanship is as good or better than anything comming from Italy. The materials are the exact same, and most of them got their schooling in Italy. If you want investment pieces, buy stocks. At this price, it's pointless to consider investment value.

September 20, 2006 at 04:04 PM · really?

Funny you should say that. In 1970's, you could buy an Italian fiddle from the Maker for 5k. That included a great many of the best names today.

And today their prices are of collectables.

A good sounding violin without a pedigree, will not go anywhere in terms of investment and its potential.

10k is nothing to sneeze at ;0

September 20, 2006 at 04:31 PM · But you kept $15k in your pocket. That $15k will be worth $100k in thirty years. Plus you have a violin from a VSA winning maker. And even if you sell the violin at some point, the 15k investment is still ongoing:)

September 20, 2006 at 04:23 PM · Jim,

Sometimes pretty violins don't necessarily sound as good as they look.

That is the case with the one you are talking about.

Elmar Oliveira came last year to play here with us (using one), and everyone commented why his fiddle did not sound and why he was not using his Del Gesu.

September 20, 2006 at 04:40 PM · Fine. It's an entirely different thing if as instruments they aren't as good.

September 20, 2006 at 05:02 PM · Jim,

I think the point is to get the best instrument in every sense for the money. That includes sound, pedigree etc.


Elmar is always on the look out for the next Ex-Olveira fiddle from an award winning maker, if you know what I mean.

September 20, 2006 at 05:01 PM · Are VSA metals based too much on looks and not enough on utility?

September 20, 2006 at 05:20 PM · Hi. This is self-serving, but I have some violins for sale within your budget, including a nice 19th cent. one by Desire (not Derazy!) made in Mirecourt 1854. I don't ship instruments. If you can get to the NYC area please contact me. Thanks.

September 20, 2006 at 05:23 PM · Well the Morassi obviously wasn't 5k, but I've tried a few Chinese violins (a few of the makers actually trained by Mr. Morassi), and they're pretty astounding violins.

September 20, 2006 at 05:31 PM · I've heard that Shan Jiang's violins are as good as his brother's, but since Shan is still in China, the prices are lower. That's just what I've heard, never played either maker's fiddles so I can't say from my own experience.

September 20, 2006 at 06:11 PM · Yea, don't you just hate that feeling of never getting to try something?

September 20, 2006 at 06:23 PM · Actually what I fnd interesting about these discussions, includingthe one between Kevin and Gennady, is that a lot of what Gennady is saying is lost in translation. I don't mean lost in language bariers--I mean in the translation from real-world professional experience, to putting it into words.

I am definitely a bit fascinated by the strongly held opinions about the sound qualities, and how things are different from far away vs close etc. Unfortunately there is no way to demonstrate this effect in a web post!

A little expample of how these differences can be palpable though, even to an amateur like myself. A few months ago I had the pleasure of attending "The American String Project" at the Seattle Symphony. Besides being an amazing concert, at the end there was a Q&A and someone in the audience asked what instrument each was playing. Well, the interesting thing was that I believe Maria Larionoff (I may be misremembering this now) was playing an *Amati*. What was especially interesting is that I had noticed, when she was playing the melody line in the last or 2nd to last piece, that her sound was beautiful but distinctive in some way. That she played an Amati, which is from what I've heard a somewhat different animal, was instructive. Or so it seemed to me.

I guess what I would find fascinating would be a program where a pro (Gennady--go for it!) could, in a concert hall, demponstrate the differences between instruments to an audience. A "demystification programme" or something.

September 20, 2006 at 06:19 PM · I wouldn't argue that pedigree or resale value are not important. However, the market is rather distorted toward pedigree and physical condition. It's largely an antiques market. If you're buying as a collector, that's fine. If you're buying as a parent for a developing artist, or as a young artist yourself, looking for a tool to develop potential, the violin market is a bit bizarre. Once I gained a bit of understanding of market forces, it all made more sense. Though understanding the logic of the market still wasn't terribly helpful in finding a good violin in the $10K-$15K range.

It seems to be the best values for a student as he/she progresses, in terms of sound quality and playability, are around the $5,000 price point and the $25,000 price point.

September 20, 2006 at 06:54 PM · bill we should hear for ourselves and only give a little consideration to somebody else's opinion. One reason I'm so distrustful of the whole violin thing is that what people appreciate in sound is naturally so divergent. That and the fact that the wonder fiddles have had 200 years of whittling and tinkering on them, and so are pretty divergent themselves.

September 20, 2006 at 06:43 PM · Pieter,

Yes, it is annoying not getting to try something. You're STILL talking about the Rolland, aren't you?

September 20, 2006 at 06:51 PM · Bill,

How did you end up in Seattle?.........and did not look me up?

Around the same time Maria was playing, I was playing with my quartet. Too bad you missed it.

Next time feel free to contact me, we'll go for a drink.

September 20, 2006 at 07:10 PM · Hi G,

Yes, actually it was hectic roundtrip with two full days of surveying.

One evening though, I got to the hotel at 7pm and thought I better get dinner, and I walked down the hill a bit and there was the Seattle Symphony and I did think of you at that moment. I looked at the billboard and it said "American String Project: 7:30 PM". I went in, went upstairs, waited in line for tickets, got out my credit card and was told, "oh, I'm sorry, it is cash only--I hope ....so I opened my wallet and I had *exactly* $28 or whatever! So that is how I didn't go to the "show tunes" or something that was also playing that night! (Where you playing w/Odeon somewhere else I wonder? ) It was back in June.

Indeed next time I'm in Seattle I will look you up should I have a chance. Would be great to meet you!

September 20, 2006 at 07:07 PM · Jim--you are right about "we should hear for ourselves"--that's why I want to hear Gennady (or whomever) do a "demystification concert".

September 20, 2006 at 07:10 PM · Bill,

No, I was playing with my odeonquartet.

If you happen to be coming in October, we (odeonquartet) are playing with Bill Frissel at the Triple Door (Oct.20).


As for "demystification concert", that sounds like fun.

I try instruments in the hall quite often. My experience is that, there are many instruments that sound good under the ear, but when you take it into the hall, they do not project passed 3 feet. That is what distinguishes (for me) excellent fiddles from the not so ......

September 20, 2006 at 07:12 PM · Do you ever come East? If you play Philly/NY/Boston/New Haven/Hartford or even D.C. I'll make a point of it.

September 20, 2006 at 07:14 PM · OK, sounds good.

September 20, 2006 at 07:13 PM · In my opinion, it's not always the price that determines which violin is the best - it's how it suits the player and sounds to the player! In other words, there's no shortcut to simply trying the instrument.

My instrument (a mid to early 1800's Mittenwald that was passed to me by my father)is horrendously showing its age and the effects of time - it has about 4-5 mended cracks on the lower part of the body (top), its edges are wearing, it's not exactly pretty - but I LOVE the way it sounds! It's not exactly a valuable instrument, but it suits me.

I know of a 14-year-old I met this summer (she's a fiddler, not a violinist) who was on the search for an instrument for over a year - she took violins home from a luthier, and didn't find any that suited her. Apparently a neighbor had seen a violin in an antique shop that had horrendous damage. She tried it, loved the sound, bought it for a minimal price, and spent the money to get it fixed.

I know of a gentleman who bought one of the modern Italian violin maker's instruments this summer because "he fell in love".

If the student is young, one might solicite the advise of a teacher while trying out the instrument (just to see if the violin can handle eventually what the student will throw at the violin), but otherwise, I'm a bit of a fan of finding what you like (within your ability to pay).

September 21, 2006 at 01:35 AM · Funny thread... Did anyone really try to answer Michelle's question about the instruments? All I noticed a debate about instrument origin, two recommendations for makers (one well outside the price range in question), and one shop referral. Did I miss anything? :-)

Michelle; Dieudonne violins can vary slightly but often sell within the price range you mentioned. I've not met an instrument bearing a J. B. Collin label that I'd feel great about selling between 8 and 10K, but that doesn't mean one doesn't exist. I am not familiar with the third instrument you mentioned. As I am not able to see the instruments, I really can't comment further.

If you want a reliable second opinion, seek out someone who is qualified and pay them for an evaluation/appraisal; fiddles in hand.

I'm not going to tell you where to shop... but I will mention that in your situation, shop policies (the ability to trade in the instrument for a better one later on) and the depth of inventory (the availability of fiddles at that shop that can one can apply the trade-in value to) are probably as, or more, important than "investment potential" (which I think is minimal in this price range).

I will comment on origin... First there was some incorrect information offered about the Jiang's. Feng Jiang (who lives here in Ann Arbor and won the gold medal for tone/workmanship in Portland, '04) has significant waiting list and new orders are for more like 18K or 20K, not 15K. His brother, Shan, took the silver medal for workmanship in the same competition. He works in Beijing and his instruments usually sell for slightly under7K, presently.... but I have seen them offered higher.

September 21, 2006 at 02:19 AM · Thanks everybody for the imput. As we are not musicians, we are definitely involving our teacher, but we are comming to relize that we need to move up on the price if we better quality. Some of you have mentioned modern italian makers. Can anybody suggest names? we were given to try a new one (2002)by Massimo Semiani (a younger luthier out of Cremona) but our teacher suggested to keep looking. This one (Semiani) sounds nice, not really different from the other ones and since it's new there may be hope that it will get better in time. Also, the asking price is a little lower ($8,500) so we are giving it a little more thought.

September 21, 2006 at 02:39 AM ·

September 21, 2006 at 02:40 AM · Michelle,

There is a number of excellent award winning makers from Cremona including:

Ricardo Bergonzi, Maurizio Tadioli, Villa Brothers, Luca Salvadori, Stefano Trabuchi the Morassi family, and some younger makers such as Cecilia Piazzi & Gianluca Zanetti .

There is also Luca Primon from Milan.

September 21, 2006 at 04:28 AM · Ann Arbor has three great things going for it. 1. It's violin maker central. 2. The weed is legal. 3. If you're a guy, one day every year it's the best place in the country to be.

September 21, 2006 at 03:43 PM · "Thanks everybody for the imput. As we are not musicians, we are definitely involving our teacher, but we are comming to relize that we need to move up on the price if we better quality. "

Actually, moving up in price by a few thousand simply offers a wider choice, it does not ensure better quality (as the web is an odd place and you don't always know who you're "speaking" with, I should mention that this statement is being made by a person who has purchased and sold thousands of violins, from your range up...).

As I mentioned "investment potential" in this range is minimal. Finding an appropriate instrument that is healthy and will retain value is the real goal, IMHO. Secondary goals would be the shop policy for later trading and the depth of stock, as I mentioned above.

There are many excellent contemporary makers available starting at about 12K, but most of the makers with established reputations cost a bit more (15K up). I would not say that Italian makers are especially good buys in this range, nor would I exclude some of the ones Gennady mentioned from a recommended list... They are simply some of the choices available... and there are (a very few) makers in places like China and the Czech republic who produce things that will compete in higher price ranges (in terms of performace) but cost less (like the maker mentioned earlier in this thread).

In terms of "vintage" instruments; Frankly, in general, if an instrument is 100 years old and still only commands 10K on the market, it "didn't make the cut". You'd probably be better off with a contemporary one... but let your ears and the player's requirements be your guide. To illustrate value/quality of older instruments @ 10K in another way, if an older instrument requires restoration of any depth, it could easily cost as much or more than the 10K paid for the fiddle to accomplish it. That should tell you what kind of attention these fiddles actually get (in other words, they don't always get the best work). That does not mean that one in really good condition is a bad deal, just that one that isn't in great condition should be approached carefully.

Which makers I would personally recommend depends on the player (size, approach, musical interests) and teacher (where they envision the player "going"). A really good shop will be able to help you with these details... and a really, really good shop will even admit when they might not have what you need and advise you where you can find it.

Yes Jim, Ann Arbor is a pretty cool place... and a great city in which to raise kids; which is why I stayed here to start my own business after leaving "the company". :-)


J. S. Holmes Fine Violins, LLC

September 21, 2006 at 03:13 PM · Mr. Holmes: thank you for that enlightening posting!

I've been very interested in the market since I got back into the violin several years ago and purchased a decent instrument for myself to play.

I've since had the opportunity to 'test drive' several violins ($15,000 and under)and bows - just for fun. It's been a wonderful opportunity for me.

There seems to be endless confusion over what instrument to buy at what stage of learning/performance. I think what isn't clear is the difference between a good performing violin and a good collectors violin. While they maybe one and the same, for most people they're two entirely different animals.

To a certain level I can appreciate all the different qualities different violins have to offer - but what I've also noticed in that in the $15,000 and under price range I get to experiment with, that price has remarkably little impact on the performance of the instrument. The last violin I played that gave me the 'wow' factor was a brand new French instrument (small shop) that retailed for only $1900...if I wasn't happy with my current (more expensive) instrument I would've snapped that one up! It had amazing playability.

What I still find strange is the insistance that certain violins, ie. Italian are superior to other violins, ie. Chinese, REGARDLESS of the individual maker. In this day and age of Globaization, an individual's name really means nothing at all.

September 21, 2006 at 04:15 PM ·

Individual names have everything to do with it, but so does market history. And workshop fiddles tend not to appreciate as their counterparts do.

The region aspect has also a lot to do with the "investment" issue.

A Russian fiddle, a Chinese fiddle, an African fiddle or Martian fiddle for example, will never command the same prices as Italian ones.

Like the Italians, old great French fiddles (such as Lupot, Vuillaume for example) have also shown a steady climb in their appreciation and demand as concert instruments and collectables.

Here is a very interesting article in Forbes magazine:

"Connoisseur's Guide

Most Expensive Musical Instruments

Maya Roney, 04.11.06 "

this is a cool website

September 21, 2006 at 07:17 PM · Gennady,

With all due respect, these rules don't apply to all price ranges or all makers, and historical instrument market is different than contemporary market or student instrument market.

My comments included the words "in this range". Applying rules meant for instruments outside this range is unrealistic.

In the range being discussed, provenance really isn't a factor...


September 21, 2006 at 04:53 PM · Jeffrey,

very true. But old fiddles were new fiddles when they were made. 30-40 years ago makers such as P. Sgarabotto, G. Lucci, Sesto Rocchi, O. Bignami etc. were conemporary makers making new fiddles. Now they are collectables.

If one is trying to make investment on top of searching for a good sounding fiddle, one has to do their homework. It is placing your bets on the right ones that can give you an investment (or at least a good fiddle).

September 21, 2006 at 05:50 PM · "If one is trying to make investment on top of searching for a good sounding fiddle, one has to do their homework. It is placing your bets on the right ones that can give you an investment (or at least a good fiddle)."

What you are describing is speculation in the market.

I've found that, almost 100% of the time, players are more than satisfied if they set their priorities to find an instrument they enjoy playing and is appropriate for use, then check to ensure the price is "correct"... again "in this range".

In my opinion, speculation is for those who already have an instrument and/or understand the market... and in this range, results are not reliable (I don't waste my time on speculation in this range, if that tells you something). A reasonable, good sounding instrument will make a better artisic "return" (when considering how much all those lessons cost; the homework needed is practice) than a speculative purchase that may perform less well...

The safety net here, for the consumer, is the shop's policies and an appropriate initial cost... not what the fiddle will "do" on the market after the maker goes on to that bench in the sky. :-) Chances are, if the student is serious, this will not be the last fiddle they own... and they will be trading it in before any significant appreciation occurs. And what if the fiddle they buy out-performs another by, say, 20%. What kind of numbers are we really discussing? Would that really make a difference to you if you liked the one that only went up 10% in the same period? How 'bout if the one that simpy held it's value was a more appropriate fiddle for you?

If you're on the other side of this issue, I respect your opinion, of couse, but I do not agree with it entirely and would be cautious to offer it as advice to a student's parent (who most likely has little time to do homework on the market... and if they did have time, might only learn enough to be dangerous to themselves in the short time they'd have before the purchase).

September 21, 2006 at 05:59 PM · It is OK that we can agree to disagree.........:)

I think when one is looking for a fiddle from 10k and up, one should do their homework.

For fiddles under 10k, just find the best sounding one. Bu then again it is always a gamble when time comes to upgarde..........

And I am sure you know how I feel about bows as well:)

September 21, 2006 at 06:00 PM · If it is your one and only instrument, I think the advice to buy the best-sounding applies to instruments over $10K as well.

September 21, 2006 at 06:08 PM · ofcourse that goes without saying........but 10k and over , you can also be looking at instruments such as the person that was banned from this site, who was gloating that they sound as good as the real thing (and according to them it was, but ofcourse no papers were offered. And it was stuff that one would find on Ebay for under 1K).

September 21, 2006 at 06:38 PM · As far as contemporary makers are concerned there is nothing intrinsic about them having Italian names or origins. It is true that the violin was invented in Italy and that's where the tradition was born and passed down through the centuries. It makes sense that up to recently the best makers were Italian and that vintage violins of Italian origin are of superior quallity and have been better investments. In the last fifty years many luthiers from around the world have been trained in Italy and have returned to their native lands to pass the Italian traditions to their apprentices. They have names like Alf, Curtin, Jiang, ect. Some of them have proven to be superior craftsmen and there is no reason to believe that their fiddles can't be the Strads of the future. Future value of violins depends on who plays on what fiddle and the general level of acceptance that makers have with violinists, mystic, marketing, and luck. I don't think it matters anymore if living luthiers are named Joe, Giuseppe, or Jose.

September 21, 2006 at 07:39 PM · "It is OK that we can agree to disagree.........:)"

Absolutely... to be honest, I kind of enjoy that we do. :-) Keeps me on my toes.

I think there is more than one way to skin a cat (as the old saying goes).

Remember, both of our viewpoints may have something to do with the fact that we are "part" of the trade. A person who is not must rely on us to re-sell in most cases.

So, I'd like to propose a little "what if" game for you. I'll provide the time frame and the initial investment, and the return on investment for the first set, You provide the return on investment for the second, OK?

Here goes:

First set:

Initial investment; $10K

Term: Purchase in '02. Held for 4 years (which is probably average for the fist full size fiddle, no?).

Items; Shan Jiang @ $5,000 (that was their price then) & a silver mounted J. J. Millant bow @ $5,000 (which you could find for that price in '02).

After sale gross return: $6,500 (which is what Shan's fiddles sell for now) & $7,000 (which would actually be a pretty decent buy on a Millant).

Costs: 20% (average sales commission in this industry)

Return: !0,800

ROI: 8% over 4 years.

Violin alone: Purchase 5K, sell 6.5K, return $5,200, ROI 4%.

Second set:

OK, do the same thing with a Tadioli (from your list). I believe his price in '02 was $9,500, correct (you can put the $500 in an imaginary savings account and include the return in your figure if you'd like)? I believe they sell for about $12K now.

(With my rough figuring, I came up with a net return of just over 1%, BTW)

If you think this particular set isn't a fair example, pick any maker from your list you wish... or extend the time frame by a few years.

September 21, 2006 at 07:49 PM · As for trade-in value, I really feel the younger more global generation isn't going to care less whether it's Italian. Even I myself don't respond to that mystique at all now, although I did years ago. I would be sooo all over Shan Jiang. From any point of view being a VSA winner trumps simply being Italian to anybody who's sane. And at half the price? Give me a break.

September 21, 2006 at 08:11 PM · I think Gennady is speaking frankly WRT where the market is *now* and where it has come from. Where it will go is of course another matter and Jim's point is that the future paradigms may be different. In the short-term, Gennady's approach will work. In the long term, perhaps it is going somewhere else as Jim suggests.

September 21, 2006 at 08:26 PM · Jim, what you say SOUNDS logical. But are you in the market for a 10k expenditure? If so, perhaps you have a valid point. However, in my experience, when someone is about to lay out half to a quarter of a lower-middle-class annual income, they tend to become much more conservative about outside perceptions of their proposed investment. And the smallest of arguments against some aspect of that outlay is enough to kill the whole idea.

In fact, there's two broad categories of reasons why Chinese instruments don't fetch the same prices as their Italian counterpart. One category is their objective quality, which is what you're championing (or so it seems to me) and what Gennady is not denying. The other is the general population's perceptions and prejudices of how other members of the general population will value the proposed investment. Gennady is addressing this point - what the market will bear. It's beside the point to be idealistic in the face of that argument. It's just Realpolitik. Or RealMarketik. As the case may be.

September 21, 2006 at 09:44 PM · When it comes time to trade in and the dealer either says sorry I'm full up with Italians, or goes ewww it's Chinese, hold a simulated VSA metal in his face and say are you full up with these bad boys?

P.S. Emil, glad it sounds logical. I'm not championing Shan or anyone else, just taking a prompt from a VSA competition and assuming he must be pretty good, and then considering relative prices. That's all I'm doing. Sounds logical to me too :)

Anyway, as far as investment goes, something has to drive the price higher. What would it be in the case of Italians? No idea. In the case of Chinese it might be just the recognition of specifc undervalued makers and culling them out. Just guessing. Anyway he's undervalued and ready to pop as they say in investmentland. He doesn't have to win more competitions like his Italian colleagues.

September 21, 2006 at 09:25 PM · Sounds like fun Jeffrey...

I think an excellent Millant has come up much more than 7K.

His G/T for example is 15k and some finer examples in books are more. Silver/ebony in superb condition are going for much more than 7K.

As opposed to say William Salchow, who is of the same generation (and was considered one of the great American makers).

To give you another example, if one bought a Giuseppe Lucci in 1975 for 4K (from the maker), today you would have to add four zeros to that amount (no kidding). You know that is a fact.

Now as far as market history goes, we do not have to dig or go that far back to know, that there were many excellent makers.

In mid-1960's, makers such as W. Salchow, A. Schlieps, Anthony Wrona, Mario Frosali, Martin Beilke, were the Mohicans of their time. Anyone know of these names?

That is my point.

Where are they trading today?????????

But their contemporary like J.J. Millant is by far much more collectable and has increased in value and demand.

J.B. Vuillaume had some German makers working in his shop, are they commanding same prices as their French counterparts? ........No.

Sartory and Fetique had German apprentices as well, are their bows fetching the same as their masters or their French counterparts of the same generation?.....No

Tadioli actually has gone up in price quite a bit. In 2002 Luca Salvadori was around 10k, now he is more like at 18k.

Just call David Kerr to see where they are.

There is no question that there are trends, and people buy what is popular or what their teacher is pushing. Like it was with DeLay and JNL bows and Matsuda violins.

Now that trend has faded (for that combination).

But the reality is, that this argument has been ongoing for the last two hundred years, and one thing remains constant, people appreciate French Bows and Italian Violins the most.

And those are the instruments that become collectable.

Sorry, that is my point of view, and market history reflects that.

Perhaps in 2030, Martian fiddles will be in vogue, who knows but one thing for sure, people will still value & treasure their Italian fiddles and French Bows like they have done so since 1800's. And there is plenty of literature around including very old Strad issues from late 1800's where they discuss the same thing.

September 21, 2006 at 10:48 PM · "In fact, there's two broad categories of reasons why Chinese instruments don't fetch the same prices as their Italian counterpart. One category is their objective quality, which is what you're championing (or so it seems to me) and what Gennady is not denying. The other is the general population's perceptions and prejudices of how other members of the general population will value the proposed investment. Gennady is addressing this point - what the market will bear. It's beside the point to be idealistic in the face of that argument. It's just Realpolitik. Or RealMarketik. As the case may be."

So Emil; Perceptions not withstanding, and objective judgements on the side, are you saying you'd take the 1% ROI over the 4%?

Let's not get this wrong... Once you pass a certain level, I think you'll find Gennady and I agree about origin and value. The question is: At what level? All I'm saying is 10K isn't it. Now if it's appropriate for a player to "invest" depends on some other things (for example; if they are a professional, there are advantages that are present that don't exist if they are not).

September 21, 2006 at 10:05 PM · Jeffrey,

I think for the money those fiddles are very good, but I doubt they will compete on the same level at 10K with the Italians.

We have heard the Gold medal winner's fiddle played by Elmar, and everyone was disappointed. But it was a pretty fiddle.

Once you hit the 10k level, people get a bit more fussy and are looking with an eye of some kind of return on their money.

September 21, 2006 at 10:10 PM · "Giuseppe Lucci in 1975 for 4K (from the maker), today you would have to add four zeros to that amount (no kidding). "

Forty million dollars? I'm with you!

September 21, 2006 at 10:15 PM · Jim,

You know that I meant add the four zeros to 4 = 40,000 :)

September 21, 2006 at 10:56 PM · Gennady; I did say that a Millant at 7K would be a pretty good buy. I just examined a silver/ebony one that sold for just under 8K... and I thought that was actually a good deal (it was stunning). :-)

Actually, I threw the French bow into the works to illustrate that one can use remaining funds (by buying a less expensive fiddle) for other things. A great bow is a heck of a lot less money than a great fiddle of the same "class".

BTW; Good Gemunder violins usually sell for more than Bailly or Derazey instruments, but less than Pierre Sylvestre.... so I'm not completely with you on the Vuillaume workshop thing.

Becker was also an American maker in the '60s.

Also, my example used a "term", not an open end. I offerred to let you extend that term, but not back to the '60s. :-)

If we're sticking with terms, Sam Z's fiddles have out-performed any living Italian maker I can think of in the last 10 years... but maybe I'm forgetting someone... If this imbalance remains, only the future may tell (but I doubt it will).

Anyway, if we're going to play my game, we need to stick to the rules (term & budget). I was sticking at the 10K, not more. :-)

If you want to play a different game, you set the rules and I'll play along... but I'm sure we'll find ourselves more in a state of agreement. We'll need to invite Jim in to keep things interesting.

Back to the original poster; My advise was meant for Michelle, and for her situation... not for a pro who wants to speculate. When I work with a client, their situation dictates what I'll suggest, rather than an investment model. It was offered free, and she's free to take it or not.


September 21, 2006 at 10:40 PM · Sure thing Jeffrey,

And yes Sam Z. has done great.

But with "that card" you have to take into account of who bought one and when. If one is buying one today, how much further will it go? (I don't think much further). If you bought his fiddle in the 80's, you will have done very well.

But then it is on par with some of the fiddles from the Italian connection from the 80's ( S. Rocchi,Pietro Sgarabotto, Sderci, Lucci).

And yes Becker and Gemunder have done well, but they are exceptions.

September 21, 2006 at 10:40 PM · $4000 in the bank in 1975 gives you $17,000 today. The good stuff doesn't start happening for a few more years. This is the first time 1975 hasn't seemed like a long time ago in a while.

September 21, 2006 at 10:52 PM · "Sure thing Jeffrey,

And yes Sam Z. has done great.

But with "that card" you have to take into account of who bought one and when. If one is buying one today, how much further will it go? (I don't think much further). If you bought his fiddle in the 80's, you will have done very well.

But then it is on par with some of the fiddles from the Italian connection from the 80's ( S. Rocchi,Pietro Sgarabotto, Sderci, Lucci).

And yes Becker and Gemunder have done well, but they are exceptions."

Now here, and in this range, we're pretty much in agreement. :-)

September 21, 2006 at 10:53 PM ·

September 21, 2006 at 10:52 PM · and BTW Jeffrey,

Sam's fiddles today are by far better than his fiddles from the 80's.

In fact Jimmy Lin's fiddle is really superb!

September 21, 2006 at 10:53 PM · yea Gennady is right about Millant's finest bows... I just got mine on Friday.

September 21, 2006 at 10:54 PM · "and BTW Jeffrey,

Sam's fiddles today are by far better than his fiddles from the 80's.

In fact Jimmy Lin's fiddle is really superb!"

Also agreed.

September 22, 2006 at 06:34 AM · I think the best advice in all this thread was Jeffrey's where he said if an old violin is still selling at $8-$10K then they did not "make it". It's had 100 years to prove itself and has been left behind. Gennady's examples of violins made within the last 30-40 years that are now selling in the 50-100K range when originally sold in 5K range are instruments who have "made it" in the violin world.

All talk of buying contemporary makers is speculative. You don't know which ones will be valued at the top in 50 years. But since $8-10K is still significant value, you must make sure you're getting what you paid for in terms of authenticity and workmanship. Sound is subjective and will change on a new violin, and can be tweaked. Therefore at least with a contemporary maker, you can get authenticity. You don't know if the Collin Mezin for example is one made by the father, or the son, or the workshop [price varies greatly]. There is also the method violin building that was used, like Cremona school, or German school, etc. They used different methods, inside mold versus outside mold, and all sorts of details that differ. At least with a contemporary maker you can interview them, get assurance of authenticity (photos, certificates, signatures), and find out what their philosophy of making are. Here are some regulations for Cremona made violins.


For older German or French violins who have not "made it", it's a mixed bag. You don't know if they were factory, or workshop, or whether the labels are authentic or not. Maybe that's why people are recommending contemporary makers at this range. It is too low for violins that have considered to be valuable for their age, yet high enough to get a benchmade authentic violin from a maker whose resume you can check out [list of awards, methods used, schools attended, who their teacher was, etc.].

Some of the maker's bios mentioned by Gennady appear here.


September 22, 2006 at 08:19 AM · You've got 100 year old 10k violins that didn't make it that are selling for the same price as new violins that are going to make it. Or have made it. Or have almost made it. You can get violins that didn't make it for $500 but some of them are selling for almost twice as much as a VSA winner's violins who's unfortunately Chinese. You've got 100 year old 100k violins that did make it that are sloppy (I'm told) and were regraduated first thing out of the crate by persons unknown. You've got 200 year old 1M violins that have had everything in the world done to them and then some, that are immeasurably better than all of them. Just say no to drugs. But first tell me how something that's so sloppy it's barely a violin sells for 100k when a violin that's officially certified as one of the best that can be produced is only 7k.

P.S. and why do you say price isn't based on sound, but that the expensive ones sound better? Just say the expensive ones sound better or something. It doesn't make sense otherwise:))

September 22, 2006 at 08:29 AM · An aside form this interesting discussion...I followed Clare Chu's links- thanks Clare- and came across this in Piccinotti Barbara's biography "After the school she spent sex years of training in M. Stefano Trabucchi workshop where she learned to improve manual dexterity and style....."

September 22, 2006 at 02:51 PM · Mr Holmes, thank you for the advice. I think the whole discussion( and it looks like I stirred some emotions with my post!)was very helpful for us. Indeed, the most important aspect at this point is getting my daughter an instrument to develop. She is only 11 and we don't know exactly how far she is going to want to go with her music.I appreciate the honesty in refernce to price and quality for the older violins we were given to try, and most likely we will consider a contemporary maker( italian vs. somebody like Shan Jiang). Again, thaks everybody for the help.

September 22, 2006 at 03:31 PM · Jim,

with all due respect, if one is comparing fiddles for sound, the one you are talking about does not compete against some of the makers we have mentioned.

For the price it is fine, but when you are talking about 10K +, it is a different sound altogether (from the makers I mentioned).

September 22, 2006 at 03:43 PM · For 11 year old, are you sure a full size violin fits her? Well, she must have long arms or big hands or pretty tall.... In my experience, it was pretty delicate when my daughter changed her size from 3/4 to full. She used a 7/8 size violin short a while (about 10 months) before switch to a full size. You may consider this option while you are researching for a decent violin for your daughter.

PS: We rented a 7/8 size at that time.

September 22, 2006 at 04:11 PM · melissa, My daughter will be 12 in March. Last summer she switched to 3/4, but I think in the last 6 months she's had a growth spurt. She's been playing a full size for 2 weeks now, without problems. That is a cheap instrument that we got for school, for their orchestra practices. Her teacher didn't think she will have a problem moving straight to a full size, but remains to be seen if she has any complaints.

September 22, 2006 at 08:21 PM · Gennady, someone said that as you go up in price what really happens is the number of violins you have to choose from increases, which is something that makes sense finally. There are two old French violins I know of, one by V, and the other by one of the Lupots, and they sounded very bland in the hands of their players, who were good classical professionals. Those violins had to have held them back some. A different violin by a famous name later acquired by one of them sounded magical. I haven't been a violinist in a long time, but about ten years ago I saw a violin without strings or bridge in a guitar store by a maker I had met in my youth and I bought it for $300 I think, just because I had known him. I had no intention of ever having it set up and playing it, but sometime later I did, and sound-wise overall it does seem better than the two French violins. It does some things very well. The person who made it would probably be considered semi-informed, although I think he worked hard to learn. Now, there are many bluegrass (and etc.) fiddlers here who are playing relatively very inexpensive fiddles. They're making a rich smooth sound that carries, the sound you know and love, on those. The reason none of this surprises me I guess, is that those 100k Italians had to be regraduated to be any good. If price literally does mean only more fiddles to try, would not shopping for an inexpensive fiddle for a longer time give the same result? Makes sense, if time = money :) Almost forgot - a local violin shop said they could sell the violin I mentioned, for $3000. Now there was an investment :)

September 22, 2006 at 06:26 PM · From my experience, the Lupots (at least the ones that I have tried which were made in Paris not Orleans), were top notch fantastic fiddles.

As for Vuillaumes, Hillary Hahn plays one, and so many other great artists.

Many stars of the past owned them as well (a lot as back up fiddles to their Strads and Del Gesus).

My best fiddle is an Ex-Garcin Vuillaume which is in several important books. It is a Messiah copy, and is very dark sounding,a great fiddle that really projects in the hall.

As for older fiddles, at least the ones I own from early to mid 20th century have never been opened (top plate etc), and ofcourse never had any re-graduating done. They sound great. My P. Sgarabotto has a lot of wood, and yet it sounds superb.

The great Italians of the 17th century most of the time were looked after by the very best owners who took them to the very best shops of their time.

There are makers today who make the mistake of making thin plates, so the sound is more immediate and it sounds great for a couple of years, but in the long run these instruments die. They get fetigued etc. It is best when things are in balance. Thickness of plates in relation to sound etc.

You know, guitar players like violinists, are also on the look out for the very best old Les Paul or old Gibson etc.

By the way, if you are in Seattle October 20th, we (odeonquartet), are playing with Bill Frissel (thewell known Jazz Guitarist) at the Triple Door. It is an opening night concert of the Earshot Jazz Festival.

this is a cool website

September 22, 2006 at 08:23 PM · Sorry guys . . . I couldn't wade through and read all of this. I just wanted to let everyone know that I think this is one very lucky young lady. When I was in High School, my parents sold my brother's drum set, my sister's piccolo, our wood burning stove and a whole bunch of other junk just to be able to afford my $2500 Mittenwald which they barely afforded by the skin of their teeth. I still play on that instrument, and it has taken me miles. I cried for three hours after they told me they were buying it for me, and I think the gratitude I felt for something so sacrificed over has taken me way beyond what a great pedigree would have bought for me. Of course, I wouldn't have turned that down if it would've been offered to me, but this is a good little fiddle and I love it.

Play for love.

September 22, 2006 at 08:07 PM · kimberlee - what an inspiring story! Terrific parents.

September 22, 2006 at 08:26 PM · Thanks, Tom. They were great parents--of course my brother still hasn't gotten over the loss of his drum set to my violin. We don't mention it in polite conversation. Between you and me, though, I was in the right. He never practiced.

I am the oldest of twelve children. That should explain the financial strain.

September 22, 2006 at 08:40 PM · Kim, if it is any consolation, I still have my 3/4 size fiddle which we brought with us from Soviet Union. it is a German fiddle, but I always loved it. My mom bought that one for me for 200 Rubles in Odessa. For us back then, it was a very big sum of money. And I am keeping that one for my kids.

Things are relative aren't they?

September 22, 2006 at 08:50 PM · True. An important point for all of us to remember--I like that story about your 3/4 from Odessa too.

September 22, 2006 at 09:05 PM · thanks,

and one more thing I forgot to mention.......sentimental value of an instrument has nothing to do with the actual sound nor its actual vaue.

September 22, 2006 at 11:39 PM · ...sentimental value is another thing altogether...I still have my first violin, that my mother had to save up to buy - behind my Dad's back (he didn't want to spend the money) - and it's gotta be one of the worst violins out there...seriously! But it stays with me as a reminder of parental sacrifice and love...

September 23, 2006 at 05:31 AM · I still have my 1907 O. M. Robinson my dad bought me when I was 12. I don't know what he paid, one sister thinks it was $200.

September 23, 2006 at 12:18 PM · I noticed that earlier, there was a little discussion of good violins by modern makers. Has anyone played violins made by William Townsend of Austin, TX? I have been trying to find one to play, but I am out of the country for a little while longer. Does anyone have anything to say about his? His run at about $8K, which, to me, doesn't sound like that much for a benchmade instrument.

September 23, 2006 at 05:49 PM · Townsend is the former chief or owner of Lycos. From what I've seen, the price you quoted is typical for fine makers who're just beginning to establish their reputations. I'd just go visit him once I got back to Texas. He's also involved in projects which commission instruments from various makers and make them available to less advantaged musicians.

September 23, 2006 at 07:03 PM · Kurt,

A lot of great makers start out making instruments in the shop of an established maker, or by themselves. The price is irrelevant, try out the instrument and see what you think.

October 27, 2006 at 11:43 PM · I have one of Townsend's violins - with a false modern Cremonese label inside it (fictitious name) and complete with certificate ! It's very obviously his own work and I bought it from him on Ebay for $1,000 or slightly under, so I won't complain. Actually, it sounds pretty good and I think he's quite a decent maker, even if he isn't really Italian !



October 28, 2006 at 01:58 AM · Hi Michelle,

Although you might not be an "expert" when it comes to the field of violin buying and selling, don't ever ever settle for anything less than exceptional. This doesn't mean breaking the budget, as violins that are $10,000 can sound better than violins of $40,000. The most important issues are the following:

1) Do you absolutely LOVE the sound (because you'll have it for life, possibly)

2) Can you express yourself musically?

3) Is it in good condition - will you have to one day sell it and not get your money's worth, because it was not in tip top form when you bought it? Of course, old violin will have defects, but what is important is that these defects are repaired and repaired VERY well

4) Is the price right? Many dealers will inflate the prices and/or make you assume that you can't find anything better for less...Don't believe it. Bargain with them (reasonably) and see what you can get!

Good luck!


October 28, 2006 at 01:53 PM · I'm not a violin maker or dealer, so I can't offer that perspective. I'm a parent, and I just wanted to say that I have an 11-year-old daughter and I recently went through the search for her first full-size instrument (yes, she's the right size for it).

At least in our case, after some research, I decided I didn't have the money yet to go for an older instrument of quality, so I gravitated to contemporary makers, and eventually to Shan Jiang... precisely because I was hoping that the persistent prejudice against Chinese makers would work in my favor from a price/quality standpoint. Investment value? It never occurred to me. I wanted a quality instrument for my daughter that wouldn't destroy me financially. Period. I was prepared to go to 10k if I had to (and even started eyeing 12k-14k fiddles that I really couldn't afford)....but, I didn't have to. The Shan Jiang that came our way was everything she needed, and more, and we were able to use the savings to purchase a bow by Ole Kanestrom that matched it extremely well (which I would have hesitated to do had I spent eveything on the violin). She, I -- and her teacher -- couldn't be happier with how things turned out.

I'm not saying you should necessarily go with the same maker I did (although he might be worth a try; if you'd like to know where I purchased mine, just send me an email), but you might want to expand your search -- as some have already suggested above -- beyond the three older fiddles that haven't inspired you to some contemporary makers, perhaps Chinese or Eastern European.

And then when you get that all squared away, you can launch yourself on the search for an appropriate bow.

It's amazing how preoccupying the search process is, but it's also fun. I hope it all works out to your satisfaction. I'm sure it will.

October 29, 2006 at 02:02 AM · Going back to Michele's original question, I have to say I gulp slightly at the idea of paying US$8k to 10k for at least one of the violins mentioned - the J B Colin. There are a lot of these around and the all-up cost of acquiring one of these at a London auction would probably be about 1,000 pounds plus premium, say 1,200 pounds. Check the Red Book auction records on the Tarisio website. I have a good 1903 J B Colin that I bought on ebay recently for 900 pounds and I would be surprised if the example on offer is significantly better.

Dieudonne violins are usually a little more pricey, though it depends on whether it is his good personal work or one of his lesser "workshop" violins. But again, this is a rather high price to pay for one.

As for VanDerveken, I'm afraid I've never heard of him so can't comment.

Assuming you're in the US, it would be a good idea to go to a Tarisio sale and get a really good look at what it's possible to buy. Visit their website. I have just bought a nice modern Italian violin there for $2,500, and several decent modern Italians sold for less than the price you're proposing to pay, as well as semi-modern French. They also have separate sales of cheaper and "speculative" violins.

All the best.

October 29, 2006 at 02:18 AM · The original person who mentioned Mr Alf...

anyone thinking of calling him should not hesitate. A nicer man is not to be found anywhere.

Mr. Bedford is right about Tarisio. I know someone who just bought a Mario Gadda for $5000, and says it doesn't sound too bad.

I'd never go to Tarisio without getting the help of a pro dealer though, because I don't know what I'm buying besides whether or not the instrument works for me.

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