Evaluating previous luthier works

September 15, 2022, 4:20 AM · Hi,
Is there any database online to get some feeling of prices of violin of some luthier?

I got in touch with some dealer who suggested me a lovely violin, but I think that in that price I could find much finer instruments.
He reason the relatively high price because the luthier "has a name", and it's not a simple apprentice work.
Please note that it ain't an old violin (it's listed from 1999), and the maker is not super famous (googling him didn't popped up any personal webpage).

I wondered if there any database which I could search his name?

Replies (28)

Edited: September 15, 2022, 5:08 AM · you tried searching Tarisio or Bromptons?
September 15, 2022, 5:39 AM · yes, auction results are about all you have, and results for contemporary makers tend to be artificially low in most cases, but general rule is auction price is half full retail, although some auction prices go up to full retail for in demand items
September 15, 2022, 7:05 AM · Thanks for the response. Yes, I tried searching there, but didn't find the maker there. Is there anything else to do?
September 15, 2022, 7:27 AM · not really other than google search of the maker to see if any shops have one for sale, are you sure this is a real maker and not a fake label?
September 15, 2022, 8:49 AM · You will probably have to post his name and any other info on the label - here and at maestronet.com to see if anyone can help you. There is a large maker community that posts regularly at "pegbox" on maestronet.
Edited: September 15, 2022, 9:02 AM · Yes, I'm quite sure its a real maker.
Sure, I didn't tried to conceal it, rather than finding a general solution.

The label says:
"Jose Luis Espana M., made in 1999, columbia"

It's look very similar to the one here I found on google (although it's back is composed of two boards, instead of one here):
https://reverb.com/uk/item/58780296-guarnerius-model-violin-2014-by-jose-luis-espana-pasto-colombia-video-sound

The price here (7200 gbp) is about the same my dealer asked me to pay.

As I said, you can find some information on the maker online (e.g. youtube interview)

September 15, 2022, 1:23 PM · "columbia"?! He misspelled the name of his country (Colombia) on the label? That's suspect, IMO.
September 15, 2022, 6:13 PM · I wouldn't buy it based on the reputation of the maker alone since he is obscure. You'll have to assess the violin on it's own merits. It had better be a really nice player and very well made for that price.
September 16, 2022, 4:19 AM · Paul, it's my fault, the country is spelled correctly.
Edited: September 16, 2022, 7:59 AM · The one that's listed on Reverb is a beautiful violin to my eyes. If it's the kind of violin you'd really enjoy playing and performing on for, say, the next six years, then $7200 is a good deal because that's $100 per month, and you probably pay more than that for your bespoke combination of Netflix, Prime, Hulu, etc., not to mention your baseline telecom and internet fees. At the end of the six-year self-rental period you can use your cryptocurrency winnings to buy a Vuillaume or a Guadagnini and leave the Espana for a promising young student. But if you keep the Espana even longer then the self-rental fee just keeps going down.

And if, as you say, you can get a much better violin for the same money, then I suggest you go right ahead and do that.

September 16, 2022, 1:07 PM · I have never heard of him, and based on quick google search, am able to find next-to-nothing about him.

I am pretty well acquainted with everyone in the trade who makes really good stuff, which is not to say that I know every such person, and couldn't have missed some people.

My impression from the photos is that the dude (if he even exists) is a bit away from top tier.

September 16, 2022, 3:53 PM · On the other side of things, 7200 is pretty cheap for a bench-made instrument. If you want someone who's actually well-known, be prepared to pay several times that amount.
September 16, 2022, 4:20 PM · If you want an investment, go off a name that has a sales record associated with it, that people play, that has won awards, and that is clearly in demand.

If you want a nice fiddle, then play it yourself and decide based on the sound and response, and maybe have an independent party comment on the basic construction.

Any other concept is magical thinking. Someone wants to sell you a bridge.

September 16, 2022, 9:56 PM · And after they sell you the bridge, you're going to have to pay them to fit it onto your violin.
September 17, 2022, 12:48 AM · It's infrastructure week at V.com
September 17, 2022, 4:11 AM · Is it possible to judge an instrument by a voice sample? E.g the link i posted earlier contain this reference for youtube sample

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6WqArBwCmU&ab_channel=FELIPEGALLON

September 17, 2022, 5:48 AM · There's no harm in trying/trialing it, but as (1) it doesn't seem to be a great deal and (2) it's not a well known luthier, you'd probably do better to just go and try a range of instruments. Sound will help you some, but you'll also want to know how it plays, and sound on youtube is not super reliable.
Edited: September 17, 2022, 7:36 AM · Napol-123, In my opinion, NO! A recorded voice sample is not a good way to judge an instrument.

I say this based on my experience. I have 4 violins that same quite different to me in sound and playability when I play them. However, I had my luthier play them for me in his shop, which has a sizeable room, and they sounded about the same.He is a professional cellist, so he played them in cello position, with a violin bow.

In my experience, as long as the instrument is within a certain range of "quality" what you hear when it is played is the violinist playing it.

Perhaps that is the reason, in my last bow purchase (some years ago), I tested 66 bows on my instrument before finding 2 that I thought met my requirements.

September 17, 2022, 9:37 AM · I wouldn't trust a voice sample either. Might not even be the same violin. Run away from that. Get the violin and play it. Does it sound good? Does it play well? Do you really enjoy playing it? Do you think it will have a good voice as a solo instrument or in the ensembles you frequent? Take it to your local luthier. Does (s)he think it's well made? If the answers to those questions are all "Yes" then that could easily be worth $8000. To hell with whether the luthier is famous or not. As someone else said, if you want a Burgess or a Zig, you can count on $8000 to pay the sales tax, and then get in line for 5+ years. I'd love to have one of David's violins but I can't afford it and I don't want to wait until I'm in my 60s to play it.
September 17, 2022, 10:43 AM · Have you ever heard a Burgess violin
September 18, 2022, 10:06 AM · $8000 is a reasonable budget and will buy a very good violin. Maybe not a new one from a top tier maker. But you can get a quite nice used modern or antique if you hunt patiently. I just don't see the appeal of this particular instrument/maker.
September 18, 2022, 10:49 AM · If the luthier is living, you can contact them and ask their current asking price. It is at least a gauge of what you might pay, now, for one.

Lyndon, I have heard a Burgess before in person. It was a wonderful instrument and worth the price.

September 18, 2022, 4:19 PM · I've tried a Burgess, which seemed to me to be a perfectly good contemporary violin.

I don't especially care for the sound sample. Could be either the skill of the player or the violin itself, but I'd like to hear more variety of color, personally.

If you think you can do better for the price, by all means, do that. There doesn't seem to be a compelling reason to buy this mystery instrument.

Edited: September 19, 2022, 5:54 AM · Like others have said, it is unlikely to be an investment violin and its sound quality should be tested in person.

That said, I have to say that there are local luthiers that don't get to be known internationally. They get their expertise by taking care and supplying instruments for their local orchestras, local ranging from the village to the country. So I would say that you could expect their instruments to be up to adequate to the needs of, say, their country's philharmonic. My experience is that they can be very experienced in setup and repairs because they are often the only fish in the pond. The whole violin is another matter because they don't always have access to the best wood and also because, TBH, they don't manufacture them expecting a big return to the effort.
I have first knowledge of 2 examples. One is my main violin, which is made by the same maker of one of @Andrew Victor's violins: Fernando Solar González. His story is quite similar to this Jose Luis España: Locally recognized luthier by local musicians, with some instruments being played by local soloists and celebrities. Some years ago you would just find Solar violins in the ads of the local magazines in Spain, and it was usually traded from one musician to another. They would rarely appear in auction sites. In Solar case, now it's changing and current valuations are up to 20.000 but that's for his violins from the 70s and he passed away years ago.He was, however, better positioned as he had a supply of very old wood from churches and monasteries, and pernambuco from French luthiers that closed shop in his time. I guess that being in Europe is not the same as being in Colombia, for that profession.
Another case I know is Tan from Vietnam. For the past 20 years, he was The Luthier for all bow instruments in Vietnam. His wife confessed to me that Tan would just make violins and would only rate them and price them when finished. Even then, the most expensive (best violin) he would have would be just 3.000 USD. The reason is because no local musician could pay more for that. He tried to link the business to USA and sell there, but failed. His shop definitely went under in the Covid crisis.
José Luis España (mind the Ñ; it probably makes a difference in the google search) appears in some local ads in Colombia as well as in some Concert programs (mainly universitary orchestras) as the instrument of the soloist. You have also a professor of music in Lebanon boasting about using a José Luis España.
He has won several Colombian National prices and recognition as a Luthier and Artisan
http://medios.ut.edu.co/periodicos/tercera_edicion/files/basic-html/page21.html

All that said, as I suppose with many other local Luthiers with years of caring about their local Orchestras, it seems to be an instrument that if it's of the master's top range, is making professionals happy and proud.
It still should be tested to see if it's better or worse than others in its price range.

September 19, 2022, 6:40 AM · Carlos, that was very interesting and enlightening.
Thank you!
September 19, 2022, 12:38 PM · David said the photos suggest the luthier is not a truly top-tier maker. Sometime I would love to learn what details he's seeing that I'm obviously not.
September 20, 2022, 11:10 PM · From what I see from a few Google searches, his violins have sold for between $6000 and $10,000 over the last few years. He also does have a website, but in Spanish; https://joseluisluthier.blogspot.com/ The sound sample I heard seems good but of course it's hard to tell from a recording. The tone is similar to my Sarmiento violin (made by a Colombian maker who trained in Colombia and then graduated from Parma); it's my favorite instrument for tone. Good luck!
Edited: September 27, 2022, 9:15 AM ·
I think that, in that price range, it all depends on whether you like how the violin plays and sounds. I would also want to listen to how it sounds when played by another.

I purchased a nice violin last year from a well known luthier in my locality. He had a number of instruments for me to try, in varying price ranges. Rightly or wrongly, I walked away from that experience thinking that, if ever I wanted to be serious about purchasing a violin for lifelong use, I could expect to pay at least $25K. (Sans bow.)

My luthier (from whom I purchased my violin) has a policy that, should any of his buyers want to upgrade later, he will give them full credit for the original purchase price of their instrument or bow. It's a fairly common policy among luthiers. For myself, I wouldn't purchase an instrument from any luthier who hadn't adopted that policy.

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