Scarampella Violins

Edited: July 11, 2018, 2:17 AM · Hey all,

What do you guys think about these two makers? Which would you prefer and why?

Replies (52)

Edited: July 9, 2018, 11:29 PM · I had a Stefano Scarampella that I got rid of in 1959 (damn it!) I did not like the overall sound (although there was plenty of it and the open E string felt like it cut through my ear, my brain and out the other side! What the dealer paid me helped pay to get our newborn first child out of the hospital, but was no more than my father had paid its maker for a new American made fiddle 7 years earlier. The American fiddle is still in my "collection."

So I would like to try a Fagnola.

But if I still had the Scarampella today I might be able to sell it for 300 times what that dealer paid me. On the other hand, now, almost 60 years later, an ear=piercing E string might be just what I need.

EDIT: Anyhow, see this:
The Scarampella was sold to my father by his violin teacher in the 1930s along with 2 bows (a well-worn F.D. Voirin and a Richard Weichold both very nice) for $125 - I recall being told. His teacher was a Mr. Frisoli, who had had been a violin maker working in the Scarampella workshop before immigrating to the USA. Who knows perhaps he made that "Scarampella" himself? In a biographical article published in the Southern California AAA magazine in the 1960s Frisoli was quoted as saying the Scarampella tops were too thick and needed to be regraduated.

The things one learns too late!!!!

July 9, 2018, 11:42 AM · With respect to what? Probably Stefano, or do you mean Giuseppe?

Personally, if all were priced reasonably, condition, sound and appearance were on a similar level, I would go with the Stefano Scarampella, even though the difference is not super huge.

Fagnola, for me, a great maker of course, is primarily the most successful of various luthiers in Turin at his time following the footsteps of Pressenda and Rocca without having a direct link to them. A Gatti or Guerra would be nearly as good from the "must-have-factor".

Scarampella, on the other hand, is the more "interesting" figure and has more the appearance of a true artist than a great business man.

July 9, 2018, 1:10 PM · All Fagnolas I've played sounded better than the Scarampellas. And looked much nicer too!
July 9, 2018, 2:39 PM · There are a lot of fake Scarampellas out there. I'm not sure about Fagnola.
July 9, 2018, 3:10 PM · everyone is faked
Edited: July 21, 2018, 6:50 AM · Michael, I'm referring to Stefano Scarampella. I recently tried one made in 1907, and found it better than the Fagnolas that I have tried.
July 9, 2018, 10:20 PM · Sounds like a dilemma between farfalle and rigatoni!
July 10, 2018, 2:48 AM · Rocky,


Edited: July 10, 2018, 5:48 AM · Have you read this article?

So the 1908 would be close to his "golden period" in case it is not one of the quickly made ones.

There is also an article on the Turin makers which sounds a bit, not much, less enthustiastic. If Gindin can be considered to become the Raffin of violins, his opinion will also have some long term value impact.

If you are interested in value perception, NeueTaxe can also be a source (needs payment however).

Again, just my own guessing!

July 10, 2018, 5:48 AM · Michael,

Yes, I have read the article.

Do you guys know if Scarampellas sell quickly? Should I make a quick decision?Is it a good investment?
How about Fagnola?

Lots of questions


July 10, 2018, 5:49 AM · What is price and condition like?
July 10, 2018, 6:07 AM · They say that it is in excellent condition, and I cant show it to you now, but it looks better than the images than I can find on the internet. They are offering it for $150k.
July 10, 2018, 6:16 AM · Certificate?
July 10, 2018, 6:37 AM · Certificate of John Dilworth.
July 10, 2018, 6:46 AM · Sounds good for me.

The price does, to me, not sound as if it would sell extremely quickly, but also not way to high. Maybe there is some room for negotioation.

Investment: You should not expect that you can earn much money with this. Yet, if you needed to get rid of it, you would be able to recover a lot of what you paid... just give me a call ;-)... the later the better for you, and maybe the price level becomes high enough to even get some bonus back.

July 10, 2018, 10:08 AM · In general, nothing in this price range sells quickly. (This should be a consideration for you as an investor, also -- you are generally looking at months, possibly even years, to sell a violin.)

Never let yourself be pressured into making a hasty decision over a violin or a bow. With the rare exception of a shop receiving something that already matches an existing client's search, you're generally not competing against other buyers in this price range.

July 10, 2018, 2:26 PM · There’s a 1903 Scarampella/Gadda that I know about selling for far less than $150,000. It used to belong to Sergiu Luca. Send me an email through my website if you’ll be in the NYC area and would like to try it.
July 10, 2018, 3:33 PM · What is a 1903 Scarampella/Gadda? Aged 3 little Gaetano probably did not contribute much. Hopefully it does not mean it comes with a Mario Gadda certificate. ;)
July 10, 2018, 7:26 PM · Andrew, what was your process for narrowing it down to these two makers?
July 10, 2018, 8:14 PM · "Do you guys know if Scarampellas sell quickly? Should I make a quick decision?Is it a good investment?
How about Fagnola?"

You have to decide if you are investing in an art object or if you are looking for a tool for making music. These are very different things.

July 11, 2018, 2:17 AM · David, my process for lowering it down to these two makers was just taking the violins by these two makers and then comparing it to violins made by other makers in the same period, eg. Antoniazzi, Bisiach. I had a friend do a blind test with me, and the outcomes were that the Scarampella sounded better than the rest.
Edited: July 11, 2018, 9:03 AM · You simply cannot generalize like that. Every instrument is unique, and just because in your little batch of testing, the Scarampella that you have wins, does not mean that it's going to win out over every other violin by those makers.

If you want this particular Scarampella, treat it like any other violin you're evaluating. If it won the shoot-out but for whatever reason you don't want this particular one, continue to search broadly rather than narrowing your search to just Scarampellas.

By the way, is there some reason that you're confining yourself to Italian makers of specifically this narrow period of making?

July 11, 2018, 9:27 AM · Hi Michael, the violin has a Stefano Scarampella label and comes with a certificate from Phillip Kass of Moennig in Philadelphia among other places. The violin is attributed as being a joint effort between the two makers. Really fantastic fiddle!
Edited: July 21, 2018, 6:51 AM · Lydia, I'm confining myself to Italian makers of that narrow period of making because the violins made in this period are usually in better condition than violins made 200-300 years ago. The violins in that period can also emulate the sound in the old Italian Masters.

Most of the violins I have tried coming from that period sound better than some Strads that I have tried!

I'm sorry I wasn't clear in talking about this Scarampella, I was making it sound like all Scarampellas were better than others.

One more question: If a violin like this, say, a Stefano Scarampella made in 1907, his Golden Period, in mint condition, selling for $150k, say, approximately how long will it take to sell?

1 year? 2 years?

Edited: July 11, 2018, 8:24 PM · Double Post
Edited: July 21, 2018, 6:50 AM · One more question: If a violin like this, say, a Stefano Scarampella made in 1907, his Golden Period, in mint condition, selling for $150k, say, approximately how long will it take to sell?

1 year? 2 years?

July 12, 2018, 1:17 AM · Forgive me for butting in, but it sounds like you absolutely want an old Italian instrument, even though there is no telling whether a 150K Italian is really better than a 75K (or 50K) contemporary instrument - even though looking for a contemporary instrument has the significant benefit the maker can make adjustments for you. And you get to keep a lot of money, which may be better than speculating this Italian will appreciate over time.
July 12, 2018, 4:55 AM · "One more question: If a violin like this, say, a Stefano Scarampella made in 1908, his Golden Period, in mint condition, selling for $150k, say, approximately how long will it take to sell?

1 year? 2 years?"

No way of knowing. At an auction, if no minimum price is placed on it, it might sell right away.

July 12, 2018, 8:42 AM · Also remember that on consignment you'll lose 20% of the purchase price to the dealer, and at auction, there are significant fees as well (and auction prices are usually wholesale ones).

You need to keep the violin for quite a few years to be able to break even on its sale, if you are treating it as an investment vehicle.

Edited: July 12, 2018, 10:09 AM · Hmm, it is of course completely up to you, but my obviously biased opinion would suggest you reconsider your motivation. I am big fan of old Italian instruments as well, and some modern ones such as Scarampella (I have a mid 20th from Genoa), but not because of any particular sound I would expect.

"I'm confining myself to Italian makers of that narrow period of making because the violins made in this period are usually in better condition than violins made 200-300 years ago. The violins in that period can also emulate the sound in the old Italian Masters."

I am sorry to say, but this sounds a bit like self-deception for me ;)

Travel has of course been going on before, but at latest in the 20th century knowledge about violin building was probably not very city or region-proprietary any more.

July 13, 2018, 2:56 AM · The problem is, I don't know when I will be able to visit the shop again, and I am quite eager to acquire that particular violin, so I was wondering how long it would take for the dealer to sell the violin.
July 13, 2018, 3:12 AM · an impossible question!!
July 13, 2018, 9:40 AM · That's really unpredictable. If you're uncertain, just tell the shop to call you if the instrument seems like it's about to sell.
August 4, 2018, 10:55 PM · I am happy to tell you guys that I now have the violin on trial. I made a few calls, and I went to the shop to take out the violin.
August 5, 2018, 8:36 AM · I agree with Tom, you have to decide if you are getting a tool for making music or investing your money. These are two very different things.
August 5, 2018, 8:49 AM · Well, I would hope that there are some nuances in between, namely that you can buy an instrument and have the chance to switch later if you want at low losses, no loss or even a minor profit.

With a really fair priced Scarampella, I would hope it is salable within the next 12 months with 15% loss (the commission) and this loss is reduced as prices increase (2-5% per year?).

Of course this is not an investment case, but if you bought a medium profile contemporary at say 30k or you irrationally fell in love with something overpriced and a small market of buyers, the scenario might be much more painful once your taste and desires changed.

August 5, 2018, 3:44 PM · The thing is that if you are buying in this price range, trade-in is basically meaningless for you. Searching for a concert-quality instrument, so to speak, is practically a personal journey that's likely to involve many shops and possibly a pretty large geographic range. There's a fairly good chance that whatever instrument you next want won't come from the same shop.

It's not unusual for an instrument to take more than a year to sell, and possibly many years. You have to assume that your investment is essentially entirely illiquid unless you want to put it up for auction, no reserve, in which case you might take a sharp loss.

On the other hand, if you're someone for whom $150k is worthwhile for the sheer pleasure of owning this particular violin, more power to you. Expensive sports cars lose most of their value the instant they're driven off the lot, and yet they're a totally reasonable indulgence for those who have enough money and take pleasure in owning and/or driving them.

August 5, 2018, 4:00 PM · I think it must be a really tough call. Tarisio lists S. Scarampella auction sales going back to 1976. If you just look at the 10 sales they list for the past 5 years the average sale price was $76,300 with a range of $15,000 to $151,000 (+97% to -80%) with no chronological trend I could eyeball over those 5 years.

Perhaps it is like the sale of my S. Scarampella to a dealer in 1959 (see my earlier post under this thread). I had just seen a new "high price" printed somewhere for this maker of $2,000, which I mentioned to the dealer. He told me even if that was true, that Scarampella was a lot better than mine. He offered me about $300, which I accepted (indicative of a retail price of at least twice that).

August 5, 2018, 5:19 PM · Dear all, we are talking here about trading violins in and suffering a loss. I assume that a player will do the rounds and find a violin that fully satisfies them. As such this player will in all probability hold on to this antique violin for probably the rest of their playing years. If one gets dissatisfied with it and provided they bought it from a dealer, they can trade it back in for the full price and upgrade. If however, they keep the instrument for a long time they will certainly make a profit, As an example, I'll tell my story. In 1990 I bought a Guarneri J.B. Vuillaume from Hills in London. I paid a premium on it as it was a particularly successful violin of the best period and in perfect condition. I never thought about replacing it as comparing it soundwise with other much more expensive golden period Italians, it would always come out on top. Now if I decide to sell it through a dealer, I will certainly make a huge profit on the purchasing price. Even if I put it in the auctions without reserve, I would still make a huge profit. So the moral of all this is that we should buy the best we can afford with the intention of keeping it for a long time, otherwise we stand to make a loss. If one keeps their violin for many years, then he gets the pleasure of playing it and at the end they will make a profit.
August 5, 2018, 6:08 PM · Kypros, I think part of what's being discussed here is that the OP (Andrew) is very concerned about investment value. If I recall correctly he's not a professional, so he's buying for some combination of playing pleasure and financial return. Thus he's getting a lot of cautionary advice about holding realistic expectations about potential return on his money.
August 6, 2018, 1:49 AM · "Now if I decide to sell it through a dealer, I will certainly make a huge profit on the purchasing price. Even if I put it in the auctions without reserve, I would still make a huge profit."

Please note that both statements are hypotheticals. This hasn't been put to a test.

Another thing is, but that's just me. I really don't understand why an amateur should need a 150K instrument. I take it his living room is not the size of a concert hall. What are professionals supposed to play on if amateurs take their instruments off the market?

August 6, 2018, 6:27 AM · Mr, West, this month, a Vuillaume Strad copy with a long BB crack and an SP patch went for 90000 Bromptons. If mine sold in this hypothetical situation for half as much I would still be making a good profit. I really doubt if the OP bought a nice sounding, top of the range Chinese violin, he would be making any money even in years to come. A violin in order to appreciate has to be well made by someone known, proven in time that the sound has not deteriorated, thus it has to be of some age. I can tell of a few makers that made superb sounding violins that did not pass the test of time and now they sell less than what the maker was asking 40 years ago. Going on to your second point that why should an amateur need or want an expensive violin. I do not see why not. It's a free market and anyone who can afford it can get anything they like, be it a supercar or an expensive violin or whatever else. It's the amateurs that have preserved the few good classical Italian violins we still have today and not the professionals who sometimes don't even have the time to look at the violin they are playing on. Violins in collections don't deteriorate but put a violin in constant use for 100-200 years and you will see the difference.
August 6, 2018, 9:19 AM · "What are professionals supposed to play on if amateurs take their instruments off the market?"

By implication, the fact that a lot of these instruments take a long time to sell means that there aren't professionals beating down the doors of dealers to grab these instruments the moment that they hit the market.

Professionals are likely to aim for best bang for their buck, which in many cases will be a contemporary. Many borrow, as well -- instruments held in the collections of patrons. This $100k-$200k price range is, I suspect, more the domain of well-heeled parents buying for their teenage or young-professional children, more so than experienced pros buying for themselves. (Many of those younger folks will get contemporary violins, though.)

Many years ago, when I wanted to buy a 19th-century Italian, a friend replied to my angst with, "Money can be used to purchase goods and services." Which is to say, if you can afford it, there's no reason why you shouldn't buy something.

Like Kypros, I'm reasonably confident my violin is a good investment, but I love it and enjoy playing it, so it was worth the purchase price to me. I routinely play in free concerts, though, so its use is not confined to my home.

August 6, 2018, 2:16 PM · Lydia, we all follow the auctions and we see that every few months a new record is achieved, we see that invariably the percentage of lots sold is high. Traditionally auctions were addressed to the dealers, but nowadays players are also involved because the descriptions of lots offered are more accurate as well as accompanied with reputable certificates.
I'm inclined to think that dealers buy them to sell them on at a profit and players and professionals keeping and using them.
I've also heard that a violin is not a liquid asset any more and violins stay with the dealers for a long time before they are sold. If this is the case, I would doubt that a dealer would tie up his capital for years on end until a violin sells. They do buy from the auctions though along with the commissions they sell. Why is that?
August 6, 2018, 2:34 PM · Why is that?
Probably because they have good tax accountants! As long as they can keep income recycling liquid assets back into non-liquid* they don't have to pay taxes on it - and being very knowledgeable (and lucky) they can maximize their profits over the long term.

*I recall spending some time in Ifshin Violins' back room years ago with Jay Ifshin (lots of asset instruments and bows back there). Also it was clear that dealers like him have lots of information sources that lead them to profitable purchases that may need some repair their luthier staff can work on during slow times.

Edited: August 7, 2018, 1:15 PM · Surely auctions are used to dump some unwanted stock which doesn't sell, but also there are some jewels to be had. As I live in Cyprus and do not have the chance to attend any auctions, I am proud to say that I bought a very fine J.J.Martin bow which I use all the time and more recently a C. 1850 Jacquot violin, again an excellent instrument I use in the orchestra. Both at very reasonable prices and well below market value. One word of caution. Auctions are not to be recommended for players who do not know the pitfalls of buying at auction. For example, I would never consider a bow unless it comes with a reputable certificate, the balance point is spot on (or at a place where bringing it to the acceptable BP it will not make it excessively light or heavy). It also has to be in good condition. AFAS violins are concerned, it's much more difficult as there repairs that can be well hidden and not disclosed in the condition report. Also, the inability of a player to take the violin home to test should be a big detterent.

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