Can anyone help me understand how to interpret auction estimates, say for Tarisio's T2 auctions?
Tarisio is a bit vague, saying that they are based on "market trends" and "recent auction sales" but I'm curious about the following:
- Is the estimate a reasonable proxy for appraisal value? Or for what one would pay retail?
- Does it take condition into account? Or is it based on the general market price for instruments of the same age/provenance?
haven't done any instrument auctions yet, but have done plenty of other types. It involves a lot of reading between the lines, and learning how to interpret their ideas to make a sale and how that may actually pan out in real life. it is up to you to determine if you like the instrument enough to take a chance on it and what you are willing to gamble for it. Any information you can find by research and inspection is vitally important to success.
A knowledgeable appraiser will base the estimate on previous bids, market trends and the condition of the item. However they cannot control who will bid.
Auction and retail pricing are different. When you buy an instrument at auction, it comes as-is and without a guarantee of maintenance or trade-in value, so the price is lower. In the past, auctions were almost exclusively attended by dealers or shops who would purchase at a low price, then repair or set up the instruments and sell at retail.
To back up Andy's response, I once went to try some bows at Tarisio. There was a decent handful from some excellent modern makers, which I tried. Two I liked enough to bid on. One came to me at about half of retail. Of course, I had so little time to evaluate it that I don't care for its sound on my instruments, as brilliantly-made as it is. So feel free to get in touch if you'd like to try it! The other was a Japanese/French bow by Sasano, which had some real sex appeal. Sadly, two others must have thought so, as it went for something like $8,000. Well above estimates, and probably above retail if you knew where to find one in a shop.
As far as the T2 auctions, those are for instruments that have had significant damage or are almost impossible to identify. If you’re buying something from that auction, the instrument will need significant repair work or will need to be positively attributed and certified by an expert to appreciate in value. That’s why that category is speculative—in many cases, the instruments are not in playing condition, so you’re bidding in the hope that the instrument will turn out to be something better in the end.
It sounds like T2 auctions are where all the violins found in attics (and of course initially thought to be genuine Strads by the finders) end up.
So are plenty of experts, I'm guessing. It's a fickle business.
Most of the violins you find in auction sales are there because they would be difficult to sell by any other means. If pristine condition is important to you then you'll probably have to buy from a dealer, but if tone and playability are your main concern you may find an more-or-less shabby instrument that suits you for a fraction of what you'd pay for a pristine one of the same manufacture. Bottom-end auctions like Tarisio's T2 and Amati's "Affordable" where you have little or no chance to try out the wares before you buy are aimed at enthusiasts and speculative dealers rather than players.
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