So, everybody wants a Strad, or a Guarnieri.
Problem. A Strad costs a LOT of money! Wouldn’t it be great if that old violin you received as a gift, was a Strad? What a great violin value.
Yeah, right. We’ve heard the story many times. You got that old violin that your uncle left you. And he used to keep it in his basement. In turn he had received it from his mother in law, as a gift for his 50th birthday. And she owned it because it was given to her by her grandfather who used to be a violinist in India.
Now, the violin is very old. and well conserved. It looks beautiful. And it has that nice label, looking through the f-hole, that reads “Stradivarius”. You google Stradivarius, and look at some of those Google images, and you find that your violin really looks the same as the great, 100 Million worth Stradivarius from the photos.
Bingo! Do you really own a true 18th century authentic Stradivarius?
Easy. Probably not. Even though it looks a lot like it. Maybe you got a great violin, mind you. But the chances of it being a true Strad are slim to none.
A few facts
Stradivarius violins are the most copied art items on the planet. There’s a gazillion copies of Stradivarius violins around. Some are good. Some are decent. Some are just plainly bad.
2nd fact. About all existing Stardivarius violins have been identified, cataloged, and are well known. The number of Stradivarius violins that are still not found, on the planet, is close to zero.
So, you see how it’s very very difficult that your uncle’s violin is a true Stradivarius. However it may very well be a good violin, worth something.
How to determine the value of your violin?
Well. First thing, look at the label through the f-hole. Now, take note that it’s very easy to fake, or to replace a label in a violin. So, don’t give to much importance to what’s written on the label.
However. Old 18th century labels were hand written. So, if you find that you have a machine-written label, your violin is not an 18th century one.
In more recent times, there’s been the advent of mass produced violins that are factory made. Especially in the 20th century, after 1920 or so, it was mandatory to add on the label the “made in” copy, that specifies the country where the violin was made.
So, if you find a Made in Italy, or Made in Japan label, it probably means that it was made in that country and chances are that it was factory made.
A factory made violin is usually much less valuable than a hand made one. Mind you, it may make a lot of sense to buy a factory made violin to use when you’re starting up with the instrument, or to use as a study violin. There are several violins, that are factory made, and that sound OK. It’s just that they’re less valuable, and they don’t sound as good as the finely handcrafted ones.
Anyhow, if you’re serious about determining the value of your violin, there’s only one sure way. Have it appraised by a professional. The best thing to do is to find a luthier, who works with violins, and ask him to appraise the violin.
Don’t go to the local shop that sells violins. Especially if they tell you that they want to buy your violin. They may be able to determine that your violin is of value, and make you an offer that’s way lower than what your violin is worth.
So, you determined that your violin is worth something, and you want to keep it. How do you conserve it? Well, not in a closet, not in your garage. The best way to conserve it is some place where there’s some air circulation, and not much humidity.
Oh, and don’t disregard your bow. Some old wooden bows can be valuable, up to about $5000. Even if your old violin is not worth a lot, your bow might be worth something, so, have that appraised too.
And what about that old case? Maybe your uncle violin came in some old case, that looks cool, and you’re thinking that it might have some value. Well, old violin cases bear no value. They’re just old cases. So there’s no point in having them appraised.
Actually, if you think your violin could be valuable, it may be worth to spend a bit of money to get a decent new case, so as to better conserve your uncle’s violin.
On older violins
Violins are peculiar instruments. They usually get more valuable, the older they are. 18th century violins are considered to be the most valuable ones. More modern violins can be great, but all other things remaining equal, an older violin is usually more valuable.
Oh, and violins like to be played. A violin that remains in a case all the time without being played, becomes “sad”, and gets less bright. While if it gets played regularly, it shines, and will perform at its best.
So, if you got a Strad (and even if you don’t)…go play right now!