A.W. Kaufman violins?

November 23, 2017, 9:29 AM · Hi Everyone -

Long time lurker and first time post.

I have a violin on loan that was created by A.W. Kaufman, an American luthier who lived in San Jose (CA), in 1904. I think it plays beautifully and has a really interesting reddish varnish and cool/quirky label.

It's not a cheap instrument at retail (nearly $10K) and I can't seem to find any information about him or his instruments on the web. I was wondering if anyone on this forum is familiar with Kaufman and/or owns a Kaufman instrument. Thanks!


Replies (22)

Edited: November 23, 2017, 11:13 AM · I see 2 on a regular basis. One belongs to an older player who got it from her teacher as a young woman. Her teacher had two, both of which she had gotten from Mr. Kaufman.

The varnish is lovely and the 2 that I see are both quite red and clear. The label is hilarious, if it retains the orig. Good work, not a professional maker but an inspired and talented amateur, and worth every bit of 10k. The ones that I see are a stylized Guarneri pattern. When I say stylized, I mean a nice interpretation of the pattern by someone who had obviously never seen a real Del Gesu, not a caricature.

Edited: November 23, 2017, 12:24 PM · Hi Duane - thank you. It's super generous of you to answer this thread on Thanksgiving!

I'll post a few pictures when I get a chance, but the original label has been retained. For those who find this thread in the future, it says:

"Made from the body of a daughter of the forest and given a voice by the hands of a son of the mother whose praises I shall ever sing."

It's quirky, but I read it as an homage to the role of nature/earth in all of our string instruments.

By professional v amateur maker - you're talking about someone making violins for the love of making them versus making them for commercial (and mass) sale? Seems like a reasonable and cool distinction to me.

Thanks again!


November 23, 2017, 1:44 PM · American amateur maker for $10,000?? What is that about????
November 23, 2017, 2:07 PM · I guess that I should say, "Autodidact".

They are excellent violins, worth every penny of 10k, and if you have seen one, you would agree, I think.

November 23, 2017, 4:32 PM · Thanks guys. Autodidact it is.

I’ve been playing the instrument over the past few days and I really like it. I was introduced to this violin at Ifshin (here in the Bay Area). It’s the only Kaufman they have.

They have some Roth and Lanini models in the same range that I’ll probably try as well, but this particular violin is one of the nicer ones they have at this price point, I think.


November 23, 2017, 5:04 PM · Welcome to Violinist.com Chris,

I hope you do post some pictures of this Kaufman violin as I and a lot of others will enjoy looking at them.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone

Edited: November 24, 2017, 1:01 AM · Well it should be noted that when you shop at Jay Ifshin, like most top shops, you do expect to pay FULL retail prices!!
November 24, 2017, 1:05 AM · The Wemberg American makers book calls him an amateur maker and doesn't say anything good or bad about the quality or tone of his violins.
November 24, 2017, 1:11 PM · Thanks Lyndon. What does the Wemberg book say about Kaufman overall or is he just listed as an entry? I just started researching all of this and the Wemberg book is a new one for me too.
November 24, 2017, 1:18 PM · It just describes the time period he worked, the Strad model and the red? varnish and the lengthy label, some with pictures of the maker, nothing about the quality or tone of his violins as I have said, its a pretty basic entry, some entries go into much more depth.
November 24, 2017, 1:22 PM · Violins in this price range are not supposed to be priced on tone, and I find it difficult to believe an amateur maker appraising for $10,000, Usually a good American amateur violin, much better than average might price $3-4,000. Maybe there's some kind of demand for his instruments, I can't imagine an amateur German or French violin being worth that much either, Italian, yes, but this violin is not Italian.
November 24, 2017, 1:46 PM · Fair enough, Lyndon. I personally have no idea what else is driving the pricing here but this will help me explore that a bit as I look at violins in the range.

From what I've seen and from this thread, it sounds like we've got a pretty obscure (but talented and distinctive) amateur American maker who didn't make many violins. That doesn't make it easy to set a market price, I would guess. So it's good to have a baseline $3-4K proxy as a starting point.


November 24, 2017, 2:00 PM · A store like Ifshins should have at least 20 violins in that price range, and there are other stores in the bay Area that may have more reasonable prices. Is the violin really that good, have you compared it to multiple instruments in that price range??
November 24, 2017, 3:34 PM · I've only compared it to ~2-3 others in the range (or higher) so far so I have a bunch more homework to do. Heading back in a week or two.

Here are some pictures: https://www.flickr.com/gp/9623061@N06/81LeSa

Pretty distinctive red varnish and the violin itself is in great shape.

Thanks again, all.


November 24, 2017, 4:02 PM · The bridge doesn't look very well carved, is this a consignment, that would explain a lot. And its a $5 bridge blank, I would expect much better on a $10,000 violin.
November 24, 2017, 4:49 PM · Got it - so just reading into this a bit...

If the violin came to the shop on consignment, then you're surmising that they did some work on it (including adding an inexpensive new bridge) and appraised the repaired/updated instrument somewhere in the $7K-$7.5K range. When marked up 20-30% that probably takes them into the $9-10K range. Sound about right?


Edited: November 24, 2017, 5:55 PM · No I'm saying that on consignment, the store is often not responsible for the set up or the price, its what the customer asks for and supplies. I use Audert luxe or deluxe bridges on almost all my violins, they wholesale for $17-22, the bridge on your violin is just the generic Aubert that sells for about $5, I would expect better from Ifshin, unless it is a consignment, and then they waive responsibility. Although often shops insist on doing proper set up even on consignments, and then charge the consignee out of the sale price. I would expect a top shop like Ifshin to do a more extensive carving and lightening of the bridge, as is the proper way to do it. Perhaps the violin came with that bridge and Ifshin did not fit it,that's what I am saying.
November 24, 2017, 6:13 PM · I get it now. Thanks for taking the time to write on this thread, Lyndon.

So - if on consignment the shop is potentially just selling it in the condition in which it was brought to them at the seller's proposed price. And therefore the shop is (probably) uninvolved in the assessment of value and so price-wise... who knows?

It all feels a little like a crap-shoot. But that's what I'm learning reading about others' experience buying a fine instrument. :-)

Thanks again.


November 24, 2017, 6:23 PM · The shop rarely agrees to sell it at a price higher than they would assess its worth, though, at least we would hope??
November 25, 2017, 2:12 PM · If a customer brings a violin in to sell on consignment, in my shop at least, it needs to be in good condition and not need repairs. It needs to be properly set up. I don't offer instruments in need of repair or work, and I doubt that Ifshin does, either.
As for the price, it is worth what it is worth. You can't add 20-30% to the price just to get the customer what they want. That will just place an instrument on the wall that is overpriced and won't sell. If I take something on consignment, it needs to be at a price that will sell.

I still think, knowing the work of Mr. Kaufman, that the price that Jay is asking is fair. I think that to denigrate the price of the violin not knowing the maker or the violin is not acceptable.

Instruments in this price range are tools, not investments. Find something in good condition that you like the sound of and you will be happy. If you are looking for something that you want to use as an "investment" and sell for more than you paid for it in a few years then I doubt that any instrument that you find will make you happy.

November 25, 2017, 10:23 PM · Thanks Duane.

I am still enjoying the violin as a player - the sound is bright and focused, which is what I'm looking for. And in terms of price, I have no basis for judgment so I need to assume the asking price from a reputable dealer is the right price.

Regarding investment value - not an issue at this price range, I agree.

Overall, I like the combo of the violin's sound, its condition, its varnish and its heritage. So I'm favorably disposed so far.


November 25, 2017, 11:34 PM · I don't much deal in violins that expensive, Duane might have more experience in that price range, I'm pretty much student to intermediate grade fiddles, what I can afford to buy and fix up.

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