Ifshin Violins has always offered our expertise for insurance appraisals on instruments and bows purchased through our shop. On a limited basis, we also offer our experience for items purchased elsewhere.

Please call ahead to see if we may be of service.


How do verbal appraisals work?

Here are a few typical requests for verbal appraisals we get.

  1. “I found this violin in Grandma’s attic.” In most cases, this is not an instrument anyone in the family is going to play. But family instruments are great! No matter what they are, they come with fascinating family history. We can advise you whether the violin is worth fixing, worth insuring, and what some of your options might be.
  2. “I want to sell this violin.” We can advise you whether your instrument has any market value, whether it is something we would buy, offer on consignment, suggest for auction, or other options.
  3. “I’m thinking about buying this violin.” We do not get in between in a potential sale. Some violin dealers welcome the opportunity to pass judgment on instruments being offered by their competition, often with the hidden agenda; to "kill" the sale. We chose long ago not to get involved in this sort of behavior. Thank you for telling us up front that you are looking for a second opinion! We will not offer any market value opinions. We will discuss condition with you, if it is appropriate.
  4. “My parents bought this for me when I was a kid. Should I get a written appraisal?” If you are still using the instrument, we can advise whether it needs to have a written appraisal.
  5. “Aren’t you going to play my violin to see how it sounds?” No. Sound is very subjective! The same instrument played by several musicians, will generate several different opinions of its sound. An inexpensive German commercial violin worth $500 may "sound like a Stradivarius" to its owner, but will still only be worth $500.

So what is my violin worth?

The answer is; that depends on many things, including such things as:

  1. Who made it? For most contemporary makers, there is an established range of price. With old instruments, the difficulty is in establishing the maker. A living maker can charge any price they like, but the real test is how their instruments perform on the resale market.
  2. Country of origin. All other things being equal, an Italian violin will be worth more than one made in France. French instruments will be more valuable than German, and so on down the line. In recent years, the best old instruments from France and especially Germany have increased in value because so many of the finest Italian violins have been priced out of the reach of many musicians.
  3. Condition. This is an especially important factor. An perfect example by a maker with the best workmanship, in top condition might have a value more than double what a violin by the same maker in poor condition with many repairs and replaced parts might be worth. An instrument with a repaired back sound-post crack may loose 50% of its value, and a violin that has been re-varnished may have minimal commercial value. A bow with a broken and repaired stick will only be worth the salvage value of the frog and button. And while any of these instruments may still have an excellent sound, that doesn’t change the commercial value.

Who made it?

In most cases, it is difficult or impossible to establish who made a given instrument or where it came from. We’ve showed instruments of uncertain lineage to several well-known experts. In most cases, none could agree as to the maker or even country of origin. After all, unless you were actually in the workshop when the instrument was made, how can you tell for sure who the maker was?

These days, most experts (including us) feel they need to be cautious in their appraisal of fine instruments and bows. We are seeing more and more instruments described as “school of”, “by a follower of”, “from the workshop of”, or “possibly by.” If we say that something was “made by” a specific maker, we had better be able to back that attribution up. If we don’t know enough about the origin of an instrument, all we can give you is an educated guess.