Saturday, October 27, 2007

Violin labels - What do they mean?

Violin labels are a constant source of controversy here at A. Cavallo Violins, LLC. Are labels really worth anything?

A violin label is merely a piece of paper glued to the back of the violin that can be removed or covered up easily. Sometimes makers resort to signing the inside of the violin in various places before it is assembled (less easily faked), branding it or some makers make no attempt to label at all.

Here are some guidelines:

  • Labels are only a starting point for determining who made an instrument, and since they are so easily faked they are not close to being the most reliable reference point.

  • Labels often do not even reflect the origination of the instrument. If they are made in Germany, China or Italy they should say so, but often do not. In fact many have invented names like "Gustavo Barbiere" or "Antonio Viovare" or "August Sebastian Stainer" which sound like possible makers, but in reality are names dreamed up by a manufacturer or importer. Labels often reflect the sellers name as ours do, not claiming to be made in the shop. Some of the most deceptive practices we have seen are statements like "made with German Engineering " (translation: made in a less well regarded violin making location), "made in the European tradition," or "Fully Carved" (as in Machine carved!).

  • It has been accepted common practice to re label instruments to protect competitors from exhausting a source of good instruments. Also instruments are usually set up in the shop they are sold in, so a violin made in the same workshop in Beijing may end up appearing and performing completely differently from retailer to retailer, so it is not really the same instrument after all.

  • Re-labeling an instrument so that it can be sold for a much higher price would be one of the practices we have commonly seen in A. Cavallo Violins, LLC that we would consider unacceptable. Sometimes we have seen instruments sold for three times the price they would normally sell at because the buyer was unaware of what the instrument really was.

The moral of the story is labels are only skin deep. Be careful and deal with someone who guarantees what they sell, since it is impossible to understand the complexities of instrument valuation unless you are an expert!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this information!


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