Description of instruments in auctions

May 25, 2019, 5:37 AM · I am quite confused with descriptive terms such as "good" "fine" "interesting"
Does it imply the craftsmanship, sound quality or materials of that particularly instrument is more superior than the others?

Are there any objective measurement for such the terms as "good" "fine" etc ?

Replies (11)

May 25, 2019, 7:22 AM · Have you ever been to a wine tasting? At least your violins are not being described as fruity or mineral.
May 25, 2019, 9:30 AM · The goal is to sell violins. What do you expect them say?
"Bad wolf!" "Thin, reedy tone!" "Definitely NOT Italian!"
"Poor projection"! "Shoddy workmanship!"
May 25, 2019, 11:44 AM · I bought a "good" violin at auction a few years ago. Of course it's an impossibly vague and subjective description but now that my eye is more educated I sort of see what they mean - good craftsmanship rather than sound quality which they NEVER comment on. "Fine" is better than "good" but "interesting" is just bid bait. Naturally there's no comeback even if on greater acquaintance you (backed up by a panel of experts) happen to find it deeply uninteresting.
May 25, 2019, 2:09 PM · The main violin price issues are basically origin and condition. Everything else is fluff. Violins YOU think sound better don't cost more; violins YOU think are pretty don't cost more because everyone isn't YOU, and you should be happy for both of those things. Of course, a lot of the question of tonal excellence is coupled with origin, but what's clear is that "fine", "good", "interesting", etc., are basically advertising words.
May 26, 2019, 7:16 PM · Those 'advertising' words are often used to denote instruments that have superior materials or craftsmanship, which can be subjective (like tone). So, buyer beware. A responsible auction house will supposedly use these terms with care, but it's up to the buyer to know what's what...
May 26, 2019, 7:23 PM · Ever been to a car dealer?

I swear their list of adjectives and "features" and "coverage" are more detailed than the ones NASA goes through before they launch something.

It's all fluff.

May 26, 2019, 7:28 PM · From Tarisio:

"Lots are cataloged according to the following terms:

Fine: of exceptional materials and/or workmanship

Important: of historically significant provenance or authorship

Good: of good quality materials and workmanship

Rare: a work of high quality that is unique or unusual or difficult to find

Interesting: a work that invites speculation but lacks a definite attribution

Contemporary: by a living maker or believed to be less than 30 years old

More at:

May 26, 2019, 8:31 PM · Slightly off topic, but I found an instrument with a label that reads O’Buttner 1910. It doesn’t say where it was made, but I believe it was New York. Has anybody heard of this maker, and what quality of violin did he produce if so?
May 26, 2019, 9:46 PM · There is no way other than personally testing it out to understand an instrument.
Edited: May 26, 2019, 9:46 PM · [Doubled]
May 27, 2019, 4:34 AM · Greetings and welcome Anne!

This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Find an Online Music Camp
Find an Online Music Camp

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Wangbow Violin Bow Workshop

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine