What Do You Do if You “Find a Strad”?

By: Benning Violins-Studio City Music  12/10/2012
Keywords: Music, Restorations, The Premiere

A Stradivarius Violin in Your Attic? How to Know.

It would be a great shock to the world of fine stringed instruments if a lost violin from a great Italian luthier turned up. Many imitations were made 100 years ago.

It is not unusual to come across a violin in someone’s attic, at a flea market or any other such corners of life where forgotten items surface. Sometimes the condition of the instrument makes it obvious that a student long ago abandoned the instrument when other pursuits just took over. Other times, the condition of the instrument or its case or something known about the owner – an eccentric uncle with some money, perhaps – lend the situation a bit of excitement.

Could it be…? Is it possible…? This excitement is heightened even further when a name, presumably of its maker, is on a label or stamped inside the f-hole of the instrument, on the back plate. There it is! It says “Stradivarius”!

Alas, there are many that were made toward the end of the Victorian era, in the late 19th century, that were falsely labeled with the names of the fabled great luthiers: Stradivari, Stainer, Guarnerius, Amati or Maggini among them. They were considered of a “student” level of quality at the time, and the ruse of their violin shops was less a lie than homage: the makers were saying the violins were made in the same style or to approximate the physical specifications of the great Italian violinmakers of the earlier era.

Recently, the excitement around the dollar value of antique violins (and violas and cellos) rose considerably, and raised controversy, when Chicago rare violin dealer Jeff Fushi placed the 269-year-old “Vieuxtemps” Guarneri del Gesu up for sale for $18 million in 2010. At last check it has yet to sell, but it illustrates what has happened with rare violins. Over the past 50 years, their value has appreciated 26,000 percent (compared to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which in the same time period has risen a mere 1,400 percent). Indeed, the problem has now arisen that only millionaires and billionaires can afford them. At best, the instruments are loaned to great contemporary players, concertmasters and soloists with the world’s top orchestras. Otherwise, they are held as precious investments, perhaps seen by a rarefied group but only infrequently heard.

There are less than one thousand instruments by Guarneri and Stradivari in existence, and the discovery of a lost stringed instrument found by these or other great makers would be exceedingly rare. If you find one of the 19th century imitations, expect its value to be under $1500 (with a few exceptions) and that to restore it to playable condition could easily cost as much money or more. But do not be embarrassed about asking a professional in a shop for to look at it – they are accustomed to these requests, and are responsible to all ends of the market to encourage a love of violins (and violin playing) while providing a realistic assessment and encouragement. Even the fake “Strads” were once made, sold and purchased with intent to create beautiful music.

Keywords: Antique Violins, Cello Bows, Cello Cases, Cellos, Cellos And Bows, Gamba Strings, master violin makers, Music, Restorations, Restorations And Repairs, String Instruments, Strings, The Premiere, Viola Bows, Viola Cases, Viola Repairs, Violas, Violin Bows, Violin Cases, Violin Repairs, Violin Shop, Violins,

Contact Benning Violins-Studio City Music

http://www.benningviolins.com/

Email

Print this page

Other news and updates from Benning Violins-Studio City Music

11/24/2014

Dendrochronology and Fine Violins

Dendrochronology is the act of analyzing tree ring patterns in wood in order to determine the wood’s age. Dendrochronology has


11/17/2014

Choosing the Tailpiece On a Stringed Instrument

The tailpiece anchors the strings on the bottom end of violins, violas and cellos. As the top of the strings


11/09/2014

Standard Tunings for Violins, Violas and Cellos

For the practicing instrumentalist, tuning a violin, viola or cello is a daily task. Located in the peg box towards


10/14/2014

The Violin Bass Bar

The bass bar is a piece of wood on the underside of the faceplate or "belly"” of stringed instruments such


10/11/2014

Violins, Violas and Cellos: Straightening the Bridge

In time, as violins, violas and cellos are used, tuning the strings on the instrument eventually cause the bridge to


10/11/2014

Hourglass Shapes of Violins, Violas and Cellos

The shape of stringed instruments such as violins, violas and cellos consists of an upper bout, lower bout, and two


10/10/2014

Installing the Bridge on a Stringed Instrument

Careful installation of the bridge is necessary to achieve proper sound, tuning and maintenance of violins, or cellos. A poorly


09/24/2014

How to Keep Your Violin "Tuned Up" and Playable

Good care and maintenance are vital in preserving a violin, whether or not the instrument endures frequent travel or gets


09/16/2014

14-year-old Nathan Benning, 4th Generation Violinmaker at Benning Violins, Completes his First Instr

Nathan Benning, a 14-year-old violinmaker has completed his first instrument, a violin crafted after a Stradivarius model. Nathan, son of


09/04/2014

The US Federal Ivory Ban and Musical Instruments

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) director has worked with the Osama Administration to set in place strict


09/03/2014

Ivory, Violins and Violin Bows

Through the years some makers have considered Ivory as an essential choice when it came to building fine musical instruments,


08/19/2014

How to Choose a Case for Your Stringed Instrument

When faced with a multitude of options, determining the right case for your fine violin, viola or cello can bean


08/19/2014

Cellist Jacob Szekely Releases New Jazz CD To Critical Acclaim, Credits Los Angeles Violinmaker Benn

Innovative indie Jazz cellist Jacob Szekely has released a critically acclaimed self-titled recording of improvisations with the Jacob Szekely Trio,


08/09/2014

What to do About Bow Bugs

Bugs that attack violin, viola and cello bows are a nuisance but a simple problem to treat and prevent. If


08/09/2014

Violinmaking: The Tools of the Trade

The craft of violinmaking has changed very little in the 300 years since the time of Antonius Stradivarius and the