The Challenges Of Selling Antique Violins


Violins can be worth a lot of money can’t they? The answer is yes but from this point on the whole thing gets very complicated. Some are worth hundreds, others worth thousands and all the progressions up to those worth several million dollars for a very unique violin. The first challenge is to find out which value level your violin is worth. The first worry that comes to mind is whether the guy appraising my eastman violin 4 is undervaluing it so that he can cheat you. The next worry is that he says it is good but you must invest hundreds or thousands of dollars to fix it up to make it worth that amount. Then he wants a commission if he helps you sell it. If you go it alone, you will find that you have little credibility with potential buyers if you are not in the music industry or do not have a shop.

You are thinking it can’t be that hard aren’t you. I mean you just list it in the classified ads on line or in a local paper. Or there is always eBay. Sounds easy but here are a few of the challenges you will face.

1. To properly value your instrument you need to take it to a qualified, experienced and trusted luthier. There are a shrinking number of people that fit this description. This is their trade and it will cost you serious money to get a violin appraised properly. Beware of quacks and charlatans.

2. You need to decide whether to risk the money to fix it up. A finished ready to play violin is worth more money. But now you have more money invested and expensive antique violins can have a price starting at $2500 to $7500 for those who want to qualify to play in a Junior Philharmonic.

3. So you need to have it available at the right season and hopefully the family has some financial engines to indulge such an investment. Often Grandma or Grandpa have to come forth with the money and that can be a challenge within the family and you must be careful that it does not become your problem.

4. Should you list the violin on line be ready for a wave of spammers. You will get letters from the King of Nigeria, letters from the Irish lottery and e-mail from every pharmacy in the world. They all want your personal information. Hopefully you have a good spam filter.

5. Should you get through the spammers, there are the scammers. They will want to send you a check for more than your violin is worth. Then you are supposed to wire the difference back to them plus send the violin. When the check bounces or comes back as a fraud 6 months later, the bank takes all of its money back and you have no way to get your violin back.

6. So how do you get paid? You need a quality escrow service like PayPal with buyer and seller protection. Once you get paid you ship.

7. Shipping is four challenges in one. You need to decide how to ship it. I suggest by ground as travel in unpressurized airplane cargo holds can put enough stress on the violin top to cause sound post cracks which are the most serious kind of violin crack. Then you must pack it to prevent crushing damage. Most shippers have a protocol for packing for violins. If you get through all of that, you must make sure that you can insure the violin for shipping or choose your shipper for that option. Many will not insure violins. The final shipping challenge is if you are shipping across a border as “customs” gets involved. For anyone shipping into the USA, there is a mountain of paperwork to ship any violin or anything that is over value of $2000.00. And there may be a duty or excise tax.

8. You will need a clear and concise return policy with a deadline for when return is no longer an option. Outline how the refund will be issued and what costs will be accepted by whom. Also specify that the violin must return in the same condition that it was shipped. Do not spend the money until the return deadline is passed.

9. The final challenge is that many of these rules can change at any time. Violins do not sell quickly and the rules can change at any time. Having just one violin can be a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that you do not have to adjust to the constant landscape. The curse is that you have to learn the whole landscape just to do this once.

Violins can take years and even decades to sell. You will be told that you will sell it someday. That day may be a decade or two away in some instances but yes you or the next generation will sell it someday. But I must close on an optimistic note. That is that even less often than a lottery win happens some famous lost violin shows up in the strangest of places and the dream becomes reality. Yes it has happened. And so do some of the smaller dreams that you find a nice violin and you realize the value of saving it through the generations.

We inherited 60 violins a few years ago. Most folks only inherit one or two. The violin marketplace is like any market niche. You need to know the technical stuff, the movers in the market and how to get full value for your goods. The folks in the violin market do not give up the inside info easily and there is nothing in the form of a violin market guide except buyer beware and seller beware. So one of my missions is to use the new publishing tools to help folks raise their awareness of the violin market, how it is constructed and how the internet is opening up this market niche. I hope you find these insights helpful and use some of the resources that I offer up.

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