Vintage and Antique Violins
Collecting is an exciting and rewarding hobby. If you collect something beautiful and esoteric, like vintage or antique violins, the Internet has opened a new realm of possibilities. Sites like eBay have expanded your ability to find the perfect instrument, worldwide. While the possibilities for finding your instrument have expanded, you still need to have knowledge about what to look for and how to determine authenticity.
Whether you're collecting strictly for the artistic beauty of the instrument, or you're a performer looking for the perfect violin, understanding the history of antique violins and condition issues play an important part in your search.
Antique Violin Picture by Delwin Steven Campbell, Creative Commons License
Antique Violins History
First, A Little History about Violins
The famous luthier Andrea Amati created the first violin in 1555. He was the most well-know maker in the 16th century and his disciples Antonio Stadavari and Guarneri del Gesu would soon rise to prominence. Stradavari and Guarneri took Amati's design and would go on to improve and refine it. Many of the design changes made by these famous rivals are still in use. Today there are roughly a thousand violins in existence that were made by these master craftsmen. They command prices in the millions of dollars. Their true legacy lives on in the techniques and workmanship skills that were passed on to future makers.
While most of us will never own a Guarneri, there are many beautifully crafted antique violins in the marketplace. During the 18th and 19th centuries Italy, France and Germany were filled with skilled craftsmen creating quality instruments. Antique violins from this period are highly prized by collectors. While there were many important makers such as Carlo Testore, Santo Seraphin and Jacob Stainer, even a 200-year old violin by an anonymous Italian luthier can command a price into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Many of the special qualities of these instruments come not only from the workmanship of the builder, but also from the materials that were available during the period. Many antique violins are made from high quality wood that could only be found in Europe during this time. Many experts believe the special qualities of the wood contribute extensively to the unique warm tone produced by these instruments. What to Look For
There are several important things to look for when purchasing and identifying a quality vintage instrument. Along with the quality of the wood, you can tell a lot about an instrument by looking at the varnish. Fine old violins have an oil-based varnish that never really dries. Modern, or overhauled violins will generally have a more volatile lacquer or spirit varnish leaving a hard surface. Another place to look is on the back of the neck where it joins the head of the instrument. On a quality instrument, the neck is almost never varnished as the oil from a player's hand will interact with the varnish and create a stickiness that can interfere with the smooth movement needed when playing. Check the transition between the unvarnished neck and the varnished head of the instrument. A Little Bit About Labels
All violins from the time of Stradavari to today have a label located on the inside of the instrument. This is a great place to start when authenticating an instrument. The label will often be hand written and may include the makers name, city of origin and the date the instrument was constructed. As the price for antique violins can reach into the thousands of dollars, counterfeiting of labels does exists.
As with any antiques purchase, remember Caveat Emptor - let the buyer beware. Do your research, but when in doubt always consult an expert!
Antique Violins eBay
Resources about Antique Violins
Antique Violin Value
Antique Violin Values and Sale Prices - Antique Violin Values
These are some of the recent sales online of antique and vintage violins. Please note that I am NOT an antique appraiser and cannot give you any estimate of the value or worth of your antique or vintage violin. I am simply listing some of the recent sale prices so you can have an idea of the value of various models. The listings description is provided by the seller and does not guarantee authenticity. These are simply what has sold online and the price the buyer paid. As with any antique, the value or worth of the collectible item can vary due to many factors, including it's rarity, condition, and importance in history, as well as many other factors.
Old Violin labelled "Thomas Balestrieri 1767" - Sold for $80,000
Important and Fine Antique American Boston School OH Bryant Violin and Bow - OH Bryant Boston Mass 1939 No.172 with Rare Bryant Bow - Sold for $15,800.01
Fine Silver-Mounted A. Vigneron Violin Bow - Paris, c. 1900 - Sold for $12,900
Exceptional Antique Ernst Heinrich Roth XIR Violin with original certificate - Sold for $7,125
Fine Antique American 'Boston School' Violin by Calvin Baker 1887 - Sold for $3,755.55
Excellent Very Old Antique 18th century violin Labeled Laurentius Guadagnini fecit Placentae 1746- Sold for $3605
Old italian violin S.SERAPHIN 1746 violon viola cello geige violino fiddle - Sold for $3550
Old 18th Century Violin Labeled Laurentius Guadagnini fecit Placentae 1746 - Sold for $3250
SUPERB OLD ANTIQUE ETTORE SIEGA & FIGLI ITALIAN LABELED VIOLIN - Sold for $3250
18th Century Klotz violin, 4/4 violin, Authentic, Antique violin, old violin - Sold for $3059
Excellent Antique Boston School Violin- Quality Tone!! Made by Henry White and labeled Nashua NH 1919 - Sold for $3050
AMEDEE DIEUDONNE~~ ANTIQUE FRENCH VIOLIN ESTATE FIND 23" Long - Sold for $2950
Exceptional Antique Czech Violin-Vladislav Herclick F. Herclik, Mlada Boleslav, circa 1910-wonderful!! - Sold for $2938
Old Antique Italian Labeled Violin in Excellent Condition - Sold for $2550
GREAT VIOLIN BOW COLLECTION 12 BOWS OLD VINTAGE - Sold for $2527.78
9 STRING NORWEGIAN HARDANGER FIDDLE/VIOLIN HAND CRAFTED IN NORWAY 1912 Maker uncertain - Sold for $2500
SUPERB OLD ANTIQUE FRANCHI CELSO ITALIAN LABELED VIOLIN - Sold for $2500
RARE Carlo Micelli Joseph Guarnerius Iccit Tiger Oak & Mahogany Violin 1922 1736 - Sold for $2351
Antique David Christian Hopf Violin- labeled David Christian Hopf 1764 Very Good Condition - Sold for $2325
Vintage Albert Nurnberger Violin Bow Christian Boelandt Violin in Case Germany -Sold for $2275
Antique vintage 4/4 string violin instrument BEAUTIFUL grain w/2 bows and case - Sold for $2224.99
ANTIQUE FRENCH VIOLIN c. 1900, RICH TONE and POWERFUL, LISTEN TO IT, From PHILADELPHIA ESTATE of a PROFESSIONAL VIOLINIST - Sold for $2075
Excellent Very Old Antique 18th century violin- Labeled Laurentius Guadagnini fecit Placentae 1746 - Sold for $2035