How to sell a violin?

April 9, 2019, 9:35 PM · I've decided to sell my "Cremona" violin made by Gustav Fassauer Ferron in Chicago in 1924. I bought it in 1995 from a shop north of Chicago, and about 2 years ago put $1,000 into it to repair some cracks and replace the block. A few years ago my son had a music teacher who is a professional violinist who said it would be worth $6,000 to 10,000, and later the luthier who fixed it said probably worth $6,000 to 8,000. Anyway, I'm wondering if before I put it up for sale if I should pay a luthier to put on new strings and set it up nice (possibly sound post and/or bridge, depending on his recommendation). Also, how do I sell a violin? On consignment? Straight out for cash to a shop? I've never sold one, only bought them. My goal is to buy a new "baroque" violin from the Charlie Ogle workshop (via Boulder Early Music Shop) and have money left over to pay off some credit card debt. How much would a dealer pay me in ratio to what he might sell it for? Any advice or insight will be appreciated!

Replies (7)

Edited: April 9, 2019, 9:53 PM · I prefer personal sale over any other type, but it all depends on how much are you willing to wait. It also depends on your personality - can you stand brief contacts with all kinds of potential buyers?
I wonder, if the fiddle has good sound, why not convert it into a baroque one? You may lose money in 2 transactions, for all kind of reasons (the discrepancy between 2 informal appraisals is already $2000), some of those outside of your control. In any case, good luck!
April 9, 2019, 10:55 PM · From what I've seen the best you can expect from a direct-to-dealer sale is half what he expects to sell it for fast. Consignment will cost you about 20% of what he sells it for - if and when he sells it.
April 10, 2019, 12:26 AM · Your other option is to put it up for auction -- Tarisio or the like. That will probably fetch you about 50% of its retail price from a dealer, if it sells.

Violins can sit in a dealer's inventory for years. The price range you're talking about is an awkward one -- too high for a student violin, but below the price range of people looking to buy a violin for professional use. If you're selling for $6k something that has the sound of an excellent contemporary violin (in the $10k-20k range, say), you'll probably get a quick sale. If not, it may take forever.

(Note that I always think that you should compare the sound of what you're selling to good specimens at a price range, because the not-good specimens simply sit unsold.)

April 15, 2019, 5:06 PM · Thanks MUCH to Rocky, Andrew and Lydia! A little good advice is appreciated as I prepare to take my violin to a local shop (Audubon Strings) to discuss selling it.
Edited: April 15, 2019, 6:20 PM · Just curious, what is a "cremona" violin made in Chicago? No shortage of shops in Chicago, why not go back where you bought it? How much did you pay for it back in 1995? If you get what you paid for it back then I think you are doing very good, not counting the cost of repairs. Reality might be to expect some loss.
April 16, 2019, 10:48 AM · There are ways to sell a violin besides shops or auctions:
Local violin teachers and their students.

This includes any colleges/universities in the area. Your violin would seem to be right in the price range for advanced students. Many college students are looking for a transitional instrument that is better than their HS violin and will carry them through to graduation. And they often don't have a lot of money to buy $20,000+ instruments. They don't want to pay retail if they can avoid it.

I'd simply call up teachers and show it to them, or ask to post notices. Why not contact someone at the Hartt School?

April 16, 2019, 10:57 AM · Some colleges have bulletin boards for things like this online. Might need to get an educator or student to post it though. Unfortunately most colleges are soon letting out for Spring here.


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