Modern bow investment value

November 4, 2018, 11:11 AM · Do modern bows make good investments? Long term financially is it better to buy a top modern maker or an older well known maker?

Replies (27)

November 4, 2018, 12:01 PM · Modern bows can be an investment. Generally a maker that has made over 500-800 bows plus winners of Gold medals from the VSA Competition. Charles Espy, Rodney Mohr, and Bill Salchow are some examples, and there are dozens more. But to get real returns you have to spend big money. In general bows aren't good investments due to their delicate nature. Instruments are a better way to go. With a bow, you're really investing in the way you sound and should be able to retrieve what you spent and hopefully a small additional amount. If you're looking to make an investment in a bow, it's important to get one in pristine condition and I recommend to not play with it too often. As always there are exceptions of course.
Edited: November 4, 2018, 12:42 PM · If you purchase a violin-type instrument or bow for retail price and hope to make a future profit you have to figure in your marketing cost in the future. At auction you will be lucky if it sells for half its typical retail value at the time (and the auction house gets a reasonable cut). If you sell it on consignment, the dealer might take 20% or so of the selling price. If you sell it yourself a likely buyer will expect to get it from you less than retail and have full knowledge of auction and consignment practices.

The exceptions are very remarkable items which it would be a shame to not get the use of while they appreciate in your possession.

The "time value" of money can become very apparent to the owner/seller of a musical instrument. At various times I have had a violin and a bow for sale on consignment for one year each. Neither one sold. Had they sold I would have got 4x my cost for the violin (25 years after I bought it) and about 2x my cost for the cello bow (about 12 years after I bought it). Both were by 20th C makers whose names are "known." I've still got the items and they are probably still appreciating -- if anyone other than my kids ever want them they will be the sellers.

November 4, 2018, 6:27 PM · The best investment will be a bow that allows you to play better. Following the rules Andrew already explained, a good investment from a financial point of view can only be made if you can buy really cheap (like 50% retail or even less), for example from a legacy when the new owner wants to make money quickly. Otherwise there will be more profitable (and less illiquid) investment opportunities.
November 4, 2018, 6:32 PM · With antique bows, you know already which names are established and which are not. With contemporary bows, you have to carry more risk, but if you are rather looking for playing bow than an investment, chances are that you can find the quality you´re looking for for much less than on the antique market. At least, I wasnt`t able yet to identify an antique bow below 6k that plays and behaves any similar than my contemporary german for 2.8k.
Just my 2 euro cents...
November 4, 2018, 8:07 PM · Typical top contemporary (living) makers sell in the range of rough $4k to $10k. That's going to be the price point of, say, an early 20th-century Morizot or some Hill bows of that era.

A really fantastic living maker may have their bows appreciate faster than the rate of inflation, especially after their death. But that probably won't be the case of someone who isn't truly among the very best makers.

Assuming your budget is under $10k, either contemporary or antique is probably comparable in terms of long-term investment value. If you've got more available to spend than that, there are dead makers whose work is appreciating faster than average, though. (For instance, anyone who bought a Sartory twenty years ago has gotten a far better return than someone who bought a Morizot.)

November 5, 2018, 3:35 AM · It is hard to predict how fashions will change. Hill bows have moved a bit in the last decade, but sort of flatlined for many decades before that.

The main thing is to focus on the source of return. If capital appreciation is uncertain (or destined to be negative through dealer costs or bad days at auction), you have to look at the untaxed dividends. That depends on the quality of the stick vs its price. In many cases, that will be better with a new bow— but only if you actually play it.

Edited: November 6, 2018, 6:17 AM · If you want to invest your money may I suggest equities or real estate. They have worked well for me. :)
November 6, 2018, 9:48 AM · My suggestion is that you find a bow that you love. Once you've found that bow, your price negotiation for that bow is going to involve, in part, what its likely future resale value might be.

If you want something that will grow your money, go for more traditional investments instead. Violins and bows are exceptionally illiquid.

November 9, 2018, 6:51 AM · Thanks for the replies. While I'm not looking for an investment, I am looking to buy good equipment that will retain or increase in value when I am no longer able to play and decide to sell. I'm currently looking at two bows from great modern makers that are slightly cheaper than older bows from well known makers of their day. I'm more interested in knowing whether the older bows will appreciate faster than modern if deciding to spend a little more.
November 9, 2018, 7:39 AM · That is tough to say, there is no generalization. It depends on the particular bow and bow maker. In general you need to spend somewhere above 5K to get your money back, no matter modern or antique. Condition is a huge factor, so take good care of it regardless.
November 11, 2018, 5:25 PM · There are quite a few fantastic makers around and the price in general is cheaper than the old bows. I narrowed my choices to Fuchs or Mohr and I don't think I could go wrong with either of those
November 12, 2018, 12:57 AM · Apart from all these, I read somewhere that an authoritative book on the Bazin family of bowmakers will be out soon which will probably push prices up. Some Bazins, especially Charles Bazin are fine playing bows and not that expensive.
November 12, 2018, 3:15 AM · Not sure where Tom got the idea that instruments (dunno about bows) go up in value after the artist/maker dies, but I guess it all depends on the maker and the instrument. Very few violins by recently deceased British makers command retail prices comparable to a newly commissioned instrument. Anyone who bought, say, a new Rubio violin 30 years ago will have to wait a while longer to make any index-linked profit, and Rubio died in 2000. To illustrate the case of workshop-brand instruments, I just bought a nice-looking 1980 Roth viola for a hammer price of £800. Today I'll find out how it plays...
November 12, 2018, 5:48 AM · I have the book on British contemporary makers (published 1974) by Ann Marie Alberger and it seems British makers of that generation have not appreciated in value on par with the Italians of the same generation.
Look at how much the 1966 Ansaldo Poggi brought at Tarisio a few days ago. 250,000stg.
November 12, 2018, 9:21 AM · " authoritative book on the Bazin family of bowmakers will be out soon which will probably push prices up..."

I doubt that a book that very few musicians will buy or read will affect the prices of Bazin bows. What has made their prices rise are the prices of other, more desirable French bows, which are out of sight. Some French bows, like Morizot, never took off because they're often heavy and stiff. A book won't change that.

Edited: November 12, 2018, 11:58 AM · It's all a minefield, both old and new instruments. Sometimes one can make their way though the minefield without getting blown up, and even realize a significant profit.

Other times, prior attributions for historical instruments may differ from current attributions, so one may not realize the investment value they once thought they had in place.

Contemporary maker reputations have their ups and downs, too.

November 12, 2018, 11:21 PM · I own one bow made by Eric Grandchamp about the year 2000 and another made about two years ago by Rodney Mohr as a bench copy of a Persoit. Both are gorgeous. The Mohr is a dream to play, and I have owned bows by Hill, a C. Bazin, Ouchard, Tubbs, two Lamy's, as well as less expensive bows by Cuniot-Hurt, Prosper Colas, Weichold, Nurnberger, and a few others. The Mohr is superior as a playing stick to any of them.
November 13, 2018, 2:37 AM · As a business, trade and investment advisor: If you are not an expert in a product or trade, with contacts and insights in the sector, you are not investing. You are gambling.
Whether it's bows, art, real state or industry.
November 13, 2018, 5:02 AM · You can see a bow as a tool for making music or an art object that can be an investment.

Most players will see their bows and instruments as tools for making music.

November 13, 2018, 8:40 AM · Let me give you a recent example of how unpredictable this can be. I always watch the Tarisio auctions for cello and viola bows. In the most recent US sale, bows from Paul Siefried and Matt Wehling, both blue chip makers, sold with premium for around $5K, at least a few thousand below what a new bow would run, with even less to the seller after commission. A Charles Espey bow sold with premium for $13K, which is about what you can find a quite nice CN Bazin bow for.

Others have said all of this but I think you're better off not worrying so much about an investment in this price range as much as what makes you happy and play well and sounds good.

For an "investment" in a collectible that is not as much a gamble as Carlos says, it needs to be something from a very top maker whose work is not common and is both representative and in very fine condition, where you usually find yourself thinking to yourself that the price is far more than it should be :-) but still hasn't been so highly inflated due to recent fashion. Expertise and experience give you the perspective to choose something that is particularly special while not overpaying. It applies to just about any sort of collectible, whether bows or wine or art or whatever.

November 13, 2018, 9:10 AM · "Investment" doesn't have to mean you will make a profit over time. It can also simply mean that something is worth the money and gives a long life of effective service.

No one thinks they will make money buying a car, but one can certainly say a Honda Accord is "good investment," or a "better investment" than a Yugo.

I guess I date myself. Anyone else know what a Yugo is?

November 13, 2018, 9:19 AM · OP says "I am looking to buy good equipment that will retain or increase in value when I am no longer able to play and decide to sell" so it sounds like some of both.
November 13, 2018, 11:23 AM · I was out in Port Townsend, WA yesterday visiting with Ole Kanestrom and Charles Espey.
In the last Tarisio auction a viola bow, silver mounted, made by Charles sold for a little over 13k. His price for a new bow is under 10k. I asked him if that was a record for him and after a few moments of thought he said that one had sold at Tarisio, a violin bow, for 16k.If you look over the list of modern makers in the auction, I think that you will find that their bows sold at or below the present asking price for their work.
November 13, 2018, 2:55 PM · "Anyone else know what a Yugo is?" - Yupp. We're growing old and odd, Scott...

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