Purchasing a violin with a cracked top - bad idea?

April 7, 2020, 1:13 PM · I have the opportunity to get a very good price on a 20th century Mirecourt workshop violin.

The catch is a crack in the top that runs from the right side of the saddle up to approximately 1cm above the end of the tailpiece. Is this the dreaded "soundpost crack?" I know the soundpost is usually to the left of the bridge's right foot, and this crack would probably come up to just the outer edge of the right foot if it were extended (if that makes sense).

Should I run away? Is this a bad investment? Is the fix likely to 1) affect the sound or 2) be more than $500?

Link to a photobucket with a photo of the top:

https://app.photobucket.com/u/eblumquist/a/3fd8ae44-8d0a-44f0-bb99-692d4f5a6e2d

Replies (27)

April 7, 2020, 1:21 PM · If it doesn't already have a sound that already captivates you, with volume to match, I'd run away. And if it does, you need to make sure the repairer doesn't break the bass bar, because a replacement bass bar will not sound the same.
April 7, 2020, 1:40 PM · It would be worth getting an idea of how much a repair like this would cost, but a luthier would probably need to see the instrument in person to make an accurate costing for you. This could be difficult in the current climate.
I expect any fix would change the sound of the instrument.

Others on this forum are better qualified than I am for suggesting what you should do.

I personally wouldn't buy a damaged instrument, and save money for a Mirecourt violin (if that is what you are after), in better and playable condition.

April 7, 2020, 1:41 PM · I'm no expert but that "crack" (if that's what it is) doesn't look like it started at the sound post.
April 7, 2020, 2:26 PM · Photobucket does not allow other people to view your pictures, when I click on it shows the top half of the picture only, you will have to copy paste the picture onto another server, photobucket sucks I sure hope youre not paying their outrageous fees, I lost 250 photos to photobucket after they sold the company and the new owners jacked up outrageous pricsw. beware!!!
Edited: April 7, 2020, 2:59 PM · Lyndon if you double click or double tap the picture it will open full size ( though you’re right , photobucket isn’t what it used to be). The crack looks repairable but it would change the sound, but maybe not a lot. I’m definitely not an expert but also agree it doesn’t look like a soundpost crack to me either.
April 7, 2020, 3:04 PM · Lyndon, the bonus is that if you double-click the picture, not only will you get the full photo of the violin, but you'll likely get some ads for women's underwear on either side.
Edited: April 7, 2020, 6:55 PM · the picture isn't anywhere near good enough to show how far the crack goes and whether on not it is repaired or open, in any case it dangerously close to the soundpost which devalues it, might need repair which majorly devalues it, but if repaired properly should not negatively effect the sound in any way
April 7, 2020, 4:06 PM · Have the seller get it repaired. Then, and only then will you be able to accurately evaluate the sound. A violin with a large open crack might sound quite different once the crack is repaired.
Edited: April 7, 2020, 6:49 PM · David is right. It would be like buying a violin that isn't finished, and in this case it's broken. Who needs that? There are many violins out there that sound great and don't have cracks. So, don't buy it. The crack is really the seller's problem. It's frustrating, but keep looking. I'd pass up.
April 7, 2020, 8:05 PM · what I meant to say is the repair would not make the violin sound any worse than before the crack developed, of course it would sound better than with an open unrepaired crack, but so far no evidence has been given that the crack is not already repaired
April 7, 2020, 9:13 PM · If it hasn’t reached the soundpost area yet, I’d call it a saddle crack. Cracks like that can start small but spread until they reach the soundpost or even to the other end of the plate.

As to whether to buy, much of that decision depends on the conditions of the sale. If you’re buying it for very little, it may be well worth the cost. Since the crack is fairly long, it will devalue the instrument somewhat, even with a perfect repair. If the crack reaches the soundpost, the instrument’s value will be a small fraction of its normal retail.

If you’re just looking for a violin that sounds good, there’s a bit of risk. If the repair work is done well, it won’t harm the sound, but you can’t really know its potential until it’s whole again.

The cost for the repair will be fairly significant, several hundred at least, possibly more if the crack has been poorly closed in the past.

I would be cautious with this violin. It might be worth the money, but keep in mind that there are plenty of Mirecourt workshop violins out there that are in perfect condition.

April 7, 2020, 11:05 PM · It's likely the seller has already done the research and calculations, and determined that the cost of the repair will not provide a good return on investment in any final sale price they might get, so it's in their best financial interest to sell it as is. This should tell a prospective buyer that the seller's price plus the cost of the repair likely won't be a good investment for them either. I'd recommend not buying it, as others before me have said.
April 8, 2020, 8:57 AM · Hi Emily, I think you already suspected it's a bad idea to buy this violin, or you would not have asked here! There are so many instruments available for sale, please don't start with Trouble...just because the name starts with the M in Mirecourt. Be seduced instead by facts and good sound advice.
April 8, 2020, 10:22 AM · Lyndon wrote:
"what I meant to say is the repair would not make the violin sound any worse than before the crack developed, of course it would sound better than with an open unrepaired crack,.."
____________________________

Maybe, maybe not.

April 8, 2020, 10:35 AM · Thanks for the advice, everyone.

Erin - you're absolutely right. I was initially seduced by what seemed like an amazing deal. Then I started to think that it seemed a bit too good to be true...and I think that's the case.

April 9, 2020, 4:13 PM · If people "ran away" from violins that had cracks in the top, no one would ever buy an old violin.
It should not be a deal killer.

A back crack? Now that's a different story.

Edited: April 9, 2020, 5:08 PM · I bought an instrument with a cracked (badly repaired top).
It had a gorgeous immediate and brutal sound I fell desperately in love with. I payed about 1700 EUR for proper fixes to the top plate, including the new sound post and bass bar.

Sound post was made to modern standards, while the bass bar was closely replicated, because instrument is of strange proportions and shapes.

The sound changed to even more immediate and tight. It gained even more upper register, while the bottom end tightened up.

The instrument is very playable, has no noteworthy wolf tones and carries well in a concert hall.

Point being - I played it first and I fell in love.

April 9, 2020, 9:35 PM · There’s nothing wrong with buying a repaired instrument, so long as you know it’s solid and that its value will be lower than that of a pristine example. If trade-in value isn’t important to you, you don’t need to worry as much about how pristine it is.
Edited: April 10, 2020, 1:49 PM · Hi Emily, As Scott said, a high percentage of older instruments have had cracks and other structural issues. My Vuillaume had a little 1/2” crack on the rib that was well repaired before I bought it and it does not impede the sound one bit. I think it’s all about how an instrument is repaired - keep in mind, not all restoration work is of equal quality. On the flip side, I tried a violin by a very famous maker from the 18th century, that was in perfect condition (no cracks or even a scratch), and it was inferior to many violins I have tried with repaired cracks and worm damage.
April 10, 2020, 3:14 PM · The top restoration experts can make a crack invisible, so its not always clear that a mint condition historical instrument actually has no cracks.
April 10, 2020, 9:27 PM · That’s where expertise comes into play. Anyone who has the proper training will know how to spot restoration work, even when it’s invisible to the casual observer.
April 10, 2020, 9:33 PM · that does not necessarily follow.
April 11, 2020, 12:16 AM · My problem with this thread is that only Emily knows what the price was, so only she can know whether to buy or not.
Was the good deal $100?
Was it $1000?
April 11, 2020, 10:21 AM · Perhaps I was mistaken, but I figured that since she asked about the cost of repair exceeding $500, she likely spent that amount purchasing it.
April 11, 2020, 10:58 AM · I was not clear in my original post. It would cost me about $300. The seller is not a violinist, does not particularly need the money, and just wants to get rid of it. I asked about the cost of repair because I was thinking that by investing $500-700 in restoration, for a total investment of <= $1000, I could end up with a good instrument for well less than most shops in the U.S. sell decent antiques. I don't know if that repair estimate is reasonable, though. Or whether it's possible to tell from photos.
April 11, 2020, 11:09 AM · Well, I know someone who bought a viola for about $1000 at an auction. It has a full-length open crack all the way along the top over the bassbar. He plans to sue the auctioneer for providing inadequate inspection facilities, but still thinks the viola makes a great sound for the money!
At $300, your Mirecourt may be worth saving at any cost, but I don't envy you the gamble.
April 12, 2020, 12:43 PM · I had a violin given to me by a friend (who did not play), which had a similar crack which extended to about an inch and a half from the soundpost. It was a turn of the century European student level violin which seemed to be well made of decent wood. Apparently he had taken it to a big city violin shop who told him it could cost more to fix than it was worth, and that there was no telling what it would sound like if repaired. He gave it to me because he knew I played and I held on to it for a few years, occasionally playing it as-is (or as-was). I ended up moving to a smaller town and a local luthier repaired it for a few hundred dollars and it now sounds pretty good. No idea how the repair will hold up in the long run, but I don't have much money in it and it is way better than what an equivalent amount of money would buy in terms of a new violin, so I feel I came out way ahead. Your mileage may vary.

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