Why a violin’s auction price is always much lower than shop price?
I have been observing Tariso and T2 auction price for violins in the past half year and I checked historical auction price for certain maker and it is so obvious that the auction price is usually much cheaper than price listed in a violin shop. Does it mean that it is more cost effective to buy from auctions? Apart from having no after-sale service, what are other main risks that come along with buy from auction?
Appreciate views from experts who have experiences in the field. Thanks!
I’m no expert other than being a professional violinist, but it is the difference between wholesale and retail.
I was on the other side of that, wondering if there are any people that buy directly from auctions, since there is no way to put one's hands on the instrument.
I bought an instrument from Tarisio and had a very positive experience. So I can speak about their particular auction format. It is a very transparent process. You can try the instruments in the auction at their gallery in NYC or London. They issue full condition reports on their website for each instrument and bow by request. In addition, in the regular Tarisio auctions, all instruments come with certificates and appraisals. T2 auctions are for instruments lacking documentation and clear attribution, hence the lower estimates and reserves. Tarisio is very honest about this and everything is out in the open.
There is often a lot of work that goes into a fiddle, between the time a dealer buys it at auction, and the time they offer it for sale.
I bought my main violin and several bows through auction at Tarisio, Bromptons and Amati. All my purchases were in the sub-$10,000 range. I should say, I am an amateur musician and don't have the most discerning requirements in my instrument purchases.
The dealer bears costs to prepare, risks that they might have got attribution (and condition) wrong, and the cost of capital to hold it in inventory.
I purchased both a bow and a violin blindly through Tarisio auction both in London and NY. I took big chances but fell in love with both my Mazzotti violin and Morizot pere bow. One of these days I'll attend a NY auction and try things out but I had super positive experiences. I will say the London auction did get me good with exchange rate and overseas taxes.
Violin auctions are like betting on the horses. My last little flutter was on a violin that looked superb and came from a highly respected stable. It wasn't possible to take it for a test ride but the odds were very tempting.
This is true of everything at auction, not just violins.
If I'm not mistaken, you can go and try the violins at auctions before you buy them.
The only person I know who bought at auction was allowed to try out an instrument - but in a darkish room with a dozen other people playing instruments at the same time. He liked the sound of his and got it for a good price but didn't even realise until after the auction that it had a 1mm wide crack the entire length of the top! last time I saw him he was trying to sue the auctioneer, but he still liked the sound of his instrument, and the price was good, so he didn't feel too let down.
Most of the instruments sold at major London auction houses can be played by appointment. Tarisio have a beautiful establishment with large auditioning rooms. Brompton's and Ingles & Hayday in my experience are much more chaotic and you may have to contend with other players bashing away almost at arm's length. Auctioneers' condition reports are of variable quality and cannot be relied upon as comprehensive. Their attribution, on the other hand, should be legally binding.
the premise of the OP is not true, auction prices are often just as high, and sometimes even higher than full retail, it all depends on how knowledgeable the bidders are and how badly they want it.
OK, that is sometimes true - I remember a few years ago a friend noticed a used Bruko uke selling on EBAY for 140 euros, when new ones were still available for 120. But EBay is often a special kind of stupid.
I'm not talking about ebay, I'm talking about established auction houses like Tarisio. ebay is almost always priced above retail.
For higher-end stuff in good condition with decent attributions that might be directly attractive to players, auction prices are going to be much closer to retail. But that's a tiny minority of things at auction, I believe.
But lower end stuff - as has probably been said - often needs a lot of work. I knew someone whose extra large viola (18 3/4") had been made by a luthier out of three cellos. Someone else commented that it was a waste of cellos, but if you can get some beaten up stuff for next to nothing, then it's a good use for them.
In the UK (and I believe the EU, don't know about US) if you bid online you have rights: 'A consumer buyer normally has the right to cancel the contract and claim a refund without giving any reason at all. The right is provided because, in distance contracts, there is no opportunity to examine goods before they are delivered. The consumer can cancel, at the latest, 14 days after they receive the goods.' Check the Consumer Rights Act 2015
I bought a violin bow at T2 Auction for $2k and I was very happy with the purchase. It feels like buying blind as I can only see some pictures and specification numbers. Agree there is good chance of having either positive or negative surprises. So I would not place big budget on it. Only the amount that I can afford if fails to meet my expectations.
I was very happy with my viola purchase from Tarisio (this was from the precursor to the T2 auction, the "trade and speculative auction"). I bought it while I lived in NYC and was able to try it out in the show-room. The premium for the viola's price range was 20%, so with taxes I paid about 30% higher than the hammer price. I bought it purely for the sound, so I wasn't especially concerned about attribution. For context, I paid less than 5k total, so as far as instrument prices go it was "relatively" low.
Keep in mind that unlike most players, most dealers who bid at auctions are life-long professionals at assessing things like what will be required to put a violin into really good shape, and potential profit margins.
I’ve had good luck purchasing from Tarisio and T2. Instruments at the fine auction are set-up and ready to play with no needed repairs. The T2 is for trade professionals so you have to be more knowledgeable and risk-tolerant for that auction. Tarisio works with some of the best luthiers, appraisers, and certification experts. If they give an instrument a certain attribution it is very reliable. Many of the instruments and bows come with certificates from the most noted experts in the world. I’m not sure about the prices being half of retail. I’ve seem many items sell over retail, sometimes vastly over retail.
Some notable shops have a standard for violins they will sell on commission, and they make sure they are set up properly, one assumes. The good shops I've been to wouldn't accept a crappy violin even in the hopes they can sell it. Not so with an auction house. You have to know what you're doing. And if you're buying blind, you're really taking a chance. Violins and bows can look amazing in pictures, and be extremely disappointing in person...even if the attribution is genuine. That said, you can definitely get a bargain at auction, but at this point that's often the exception. Educating oneself about what a good violin actually is, is the best defense when buying from either a shop or auction...
I was very pleased with my first auction purchase from Brompton's that I was able to try out before bidding. The violin was firmly attributed to an early 19th century English maker although the label apparently says "....Cremona..."! I compared it with one by the same maker in the shop of a knowledgeable dealer and the similarities were pretty clear; I didn't inquire his price but I suspect the differential would have been around 4:1.
I really think the points Mr. Burgess is making are excellent. Acquiring a violin is a process of getting to know the instrument, but is also a process of establishing a work relationship with the luthier who's been taking care of it. A reputable dealer who is also a luthier or maker will have invested a considerable amount of time into making sure that the instrument changes hands in excellent condition, and will already be familiar with its quirks. Even though I'd feel comfortable taking my violin to other good luthiers, I still bring it back to its "home base" shop given the chance.