Fake violin strings.

December 17, 2020, 7:11 AM · On another thread (now locked) I asked about a Tonica D string which was even thicker than the G string. We thought it might have been an aluminium string incorrectly put inside a silver string packet at the factory. But I sent the string to Pirastro in Germany at their request and they sent me an email yesterday saying that the string and the packet were both fakes.

How common are fake strings ? I have not heard of this problem before.

NOTE : I did not buy them from overseas ; they were purchased in Australia but I cannot remember where.

Replies (21)

Edited: December 17, 2020, 8:00 AM · I personally cannot fathom why anyone would try to make and market fake Tonica strings. The amount of cost involved in setting up production and distribution would be not be long term, as most violinists can tell what a real Tonica sounds like and weed out the fakes (and their retailers) right away.

Add to that the Tonicas are already sold an an extraordinarily low price compared to their quality, and with arguably the most famous brand on it (Paganini used Pirastro strings). Not to mention the fraud, trademark and trade dress violations.

Why bother?

Edited: December 17, 2020, 4:14 PM · Brian, do you remember what you paid for the fake, in comparison to what you may expect to pay for the genuine article? Also, was this fake D part of a purchased set? If it was then there would be a big question mark over the authenticity of the other strings in the set.

I wonder if the seller was aware that the string was not the real thing? I suppose some non-specialist music stores could be taken in by the occasional fake.

December 17, 2020, 9:48 AM · Dimitri : that is exactly what I was thinking.....why bother ?

Trevor : I paid full price which was $45 per set and yes, I realise that the other three strings are probably fake too.

December 17, 2020, 10:10 AM · My teacher bought some fake strings from one of London's top luthiers once (I can't name them in case it's libellous). Problem is, shops are buying in bulk online wherever is cheapest.
December 17, 2020, 12:15 PM · Fake Tonicas are common on ebay.
December 17, 2020, 12:29 PM · Well-suited to the fake Hopfs available from the same maker.
Edited: December 17, 2020, 1:56 PM · I don't think there's any violin maker that doesn't sell fake something, its a matter of whether they tell you its a fake that makes the difference. many fakes are still genuine antiques from the 1800s and early 1900s.
Edited: December 17, 2020, 9:20 PM · Fake strings are supposedly an issue on Amazon and Ebay. Surprise! Those Dominants you ordered are actually just a cheap set of steel strings from China. This is because these sites don't make any special effort to verify whether you're buying an official product or not. You always gotta check who the seller is.

I always bought my strings from Long & McQuade when I still played on synthetics so I have no idea how common it is to get counterfeits. But it's a thing.

Edited: December 18, 2020, 2:46 AM · The sad thing is, the fakes probably aren't much cheaper than the real thing - if they were, you'd probably smell a rat - so it's worth going to a reliable dealer. I've mentioned the Shure SM57 before.
Edited: December 18, 2020, 8:23 AM · Mr. Musafia, they don’t need to set any production. The fake strings are produced by Asian factories that are already producing cheap strings for a local market. So far, nobody managed to get rid of this.
Edited: December 18, 2020, 8:46 AM · What Bohdan writes makes perfect sense. They're already making knockoff strings by the thousands. Some get packaged as LOTUS BLOSSOM VIOLIN STRINGS and others get different colored silks and those get packaged as Tonica. Why Tonica? Maybe because a less expensive string has higher market share and -- sorry to say -- perhaps also a less discerning end-user. If you're a counterfeiter, you don't print $5000 banknotes. Back when there was a little violin shop in my town (run by my deceased friend, the luthier Daniel Foster), I would order my strings from him. Now I order them exclusively from SHAR. That's not a perfect firewall against the counterfeiter, but that's a business I've trusted all my life, and it would surprise me greatly if they were either complicit or complacent about counterfeiting in the synthetic string business.

Finally, this sentence in the OP caught my eye: "I did not buy them from overseas; they were purchased in Australia."

Depending on one's point of view, Australia is overseas.

December 18, 2020, 8:59 AM · @Paul, I wanted to mention too that Australia is "overseas" as far as many of us are concerned :-)

Bohdan, nice to hear from you, I hope all is well considering the circumstances. Let me ask you, as a string maker: are these "fake strings" making any effort to look and feel like the real thing (i.e. wound in synthetic gut, with the proper color codes at the extremities, for instance), or are they just junk in a look-alike package? ?

December 18, 2020, 11:15 AM · I recently got ripped off buying counterfeit thomastik strings online (not ebay). The strings looked convincing, the packaging was high quality. Interesting it was the tension on the package that tipped me off. I got a refund and learned a lesson.
December 18, 2020, 11:56 AM · @Dimitri: Both types of counterfeits are "available on the market" :-). The cheapest ones are just the lowest quality steel strings (with plain wire core) packaged into a renowned brands packages. The more sophisticated do aim to copy the original formulas. Chinese customers do ignore the first type, but if you visit Shanghai fair and ask for OEM strings displayed on instruments, you mostly hear "They are fake XY". The Asian sellers believe they are sufficient quality for the instruments they sell. They suppose the function of the OEM strings is just holding the bridge on its place during the exhibition and possibly during the transport. (The instruments are neither tuned nor with any decent set-up and the sellers are mostly surprised if you would like to play the instruments). They believe most of end users are supposed to change strings right at the moment of purchase in any case, so they do not want to waste money for any decent strings. The pity is when such strings are being distributed out of Asia and sold as a reputable brands...
December 18, 2020, 12:20 PM · Bohdan,

Thanks for the insight. I hope you haven’t been hit too hard by counterfeiters.

Edited: December 18, 2020, 1:57 PM · Counterfeiting of products is a problem in almost every market, including occasionally in the contemporary violin maker market.

The next big thing will probably be counterfeit Coronavirus vaccines. Potentially millions of dollars to be made.

December 18, 2020, 6:40 PM · David it reminds me of when a company in China used melamine to counterfeit baby formula.
December 19, 2020, 2:15 AM · Bohdan, please email me and I can tell you a few things about trade dress that might be useful to you. I actually made some money fighting those who were counterfeiting my cases. :-)
December 19, 2020, 4:08 AM · Paul Deck : when I said that I did not buy the strings overseas I meant that I did not buy them from a Chinese ebay seller. I can see right now that ebay has a few listings for Tonicas that are only $24 per set with free shipping from China. They would definitely be fakes.

I think I bought them from one of the big violin shops here. They are still in the shop plastic packet which has their catalogue number on them but I am not 100% sure so I will not be taking it up with them. I could have just kept their plastic packet from a previous purchase because it was useful.

Dimitri : those people who substituted melamine for baby formula were caught and quickly executed for their crime. Pity that faking violin strings does not bring the same punishment :)

December 19, 2020, 4:43 AM · To me , the US and (UK) are overseas.
The subtext would be, If you buy locally, you’re not expecting to get crappy knockoffs that certain countries are notorious for selling, often by disguising the country of origin for this very reason.
On eBay, even if you specify “australia only” the package will be posted directly from China.
Edited: December 19, 2020, 5:01 AM · I have three nearly identical shoulder rests.
Two are original Hidersine Maesburys and the third is a Chinese copy of them which cost half of what they cost (incl shipping) when I bought it.

The third of the three was a genuine one (from thestringzone.co.uk) because the Chinese copy had risen in price by 33% since I bought mine. It would be interesting if that were Amazon's doing. Wouldn't it make them almost culpable?

A curious thing happened with bows too. There was a time when you could get a decent functioning, straight carbon bow from China for £15 (i.e. as good as any 150 USD student bow, IMO). Then one day I noticed that their price had doubled and they were all coming from Texas.

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