Violins found in an attic - Careful it might be a lie

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So many violins being sold on ebay were apparently 'found in the attic' when the person moved into their new  house.

First of all, if the violin was of any value it would have been taken by the previous owner, after all, when you buy or sell a house you have to have a thorough survey done which includes looking in the attic, at which point I am sure the surveyor would inform the owners that they have left a violin in the attic.

If the house was inherited, then again the family members would most certainly have searched for 'hidden treasures' and would have looked in the attic. Not only that but it has to be the attic of an old house, to be an old violin. And let's face it, how many old houses have only ever been lived in by one person who happens to be a musician, but for some reason doesn't play his violin any more, and then leaves his violin in the attic, of all places (where it is left unprotected from the winter cold and the summer sun for decades)????

These people selling these 'attic violins' claim to know 'nothing' about violins but will answer questions 'to the best of the ability'. Why haven't they taken it to their local luthier who could give them some information without charging them for the service? Because then they couldn't sound ignorant and sell you a cheap fake.

These sellers are often first time sellers on ebay - you need to ask yourself why?

Their photos are often blurry (there is no excuse in this day and age) so you have to ask yourself 'what are they really trying to hide'.... a crack, the fact that it is a cheap Chinese knock-off, what???

They say it comes in an old case, so what? (These can be found anywhere for very cheap, as any real violinist knows that these old cases do NOT protect a violin from harmful atmospheric conditions).

These sellers often prefer a payment by cheque, so that you can't make a claim for 'not as described' through paypal. Opening a claim with ebay for a payment by cheque gets you no where and you end up wasting your time writing to the seller, only to be informed by ebay that there is nothing to be done.

If you ask the seller a question as to whether there are any cracks or splits, they carefully word their response by saying 'none that are visible' or 'not that I can see' 'I am no expert ...' any normal sighted person can see a crack or split, or one that has been repaired.

These dishonest sellers deliberately use the wrong terms to describe parts of the violin like 'the bit that holds the strings' 'the little rod inside the violin' How hard is it to google 'violin parts' and find the real words. These sellers want to sound ignorant so that you believe they know nothing and are therefore selling a valuable violin without knowing it, which encourages you to bid and go up to extortionate prices.

I had the misfortune of going up to £725 on a violin that ended up being worthless because of a soundpost crack on the back. Luckily I paid via Paypal sent it back, they claimed that they had never received it back and finally after 3 months I won, but I had forgotten to leave negative feedback and by now it was too late. They then relisted it and sold it for £745. Even though I informed ebay that this seller was dishonest, nothing was done to protect the next innocent victim and with ebay's new system of hidden identity we are unable to warn buyers.  

REMEMBER to read between the lines. I bought a violin from one seller who clearly stated that there were 'no cracks or splits', had blurry photos and only accepted cheques. When I received it, it had 7 splits. Stupidly I had paid by cheque and so I was stuck with the violin. The seller answered my ebay dispute and simply said that he couldn't see the splits and therefore his advert was true and honest!

Another seller sold me a violin that had been valued by an expert, after winning the auction they told me the name of the exert luthier so I phoned him up and he said 'stay clear of this violin, its worthless'. It had been sold at an auction one month before for practically nothing, yet the seller made out that it was of great value.

If the seller asks for a payment by cheque - ask yourself why? (Anybody with a cheque account can open a paypal account).

If the seller refuses local pick-up - ask yourself why? (So you can't see the violin and realise it's cheap)

If the seller puts blurry photos or distant photos - ask yourself why? (Are there cracks, splits, what?)

If the seller puts 'returns not accepted' - ask yourself why? (Any honest seller will accept returns and in certain countries it's the law to accept returns).

Also remember that 99% of labels in violins are fake (recent and old).

Also keep in mind that fake labels have existed for centuries so a cheap fake violin made 100 years ago, although considered old today, is still a cheap fake.

Many 'old' violins are made to look old and have dents and scratches and stains added to them to fool you into thinking they are over 100 years old. An old violin 'case' doesn't mean it contains a genuine old violin.

Please note that a 'copied' violin doesn't mean its a fake, the word copy has been misused for decades, the word used should be reproduction, but it's not. A 'copy' means that the luthier used the exact measurements used for an original masterpiece such as a Stradivarius, Magini or Amati etc.. and reproduced an exact copy of the original, trying also to use similar wood, varnish, colouring etc..

As we all know the thing that made a Stradivarius so unique was the type of wood used, the length of time the wood was seasoned (many over 50 years, before being made into a violin), the preservatives used in the wood, his personalised varnish formula, none of which have been successfully copied, scientists are still wondering as to what makes a Stradivarius a Stradivarius?

Cheaper 'copies' are just mass produced violins (often from Asia) with a fake label, unseasoned wood, varnish that has been sprayed on in one thick coating and often do not even have an ebony fingerboard but a piece of painted black wood.

If you really are looking for a quality old antique violin (of which the definition of antique is 'over 70 years old') then your best bet is to go with someone selling a violin that comes with a certificate of value from a known luthier that you can call up and ask confirmation.

Good luck with your search.

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