Violin/viola size


Hello! My son began viola lessons at school 2 yrs ago. We did an intro $20/3mnths rental of a viola then decided to purchase a viola after that 3 months. He has used it for almost 2 yrs. We paid $275 at a different music shop than where we rented. Inside the viola it says Erich Pfretzschiner, 2001 handmade copy of Antonius Stradivarious, serial 212753 (the 5 might be an 8 as it looks handwritten on the label),  model 99513 but it has a "w" a little off from the model number. I can send you a pic if that helps.

My questions-
1)What does the "w" mean if anything after the model number?
2)What is the measurement a 13 or 13-1/2? FYI, I used your method on how to measure the size from a previous question you answered and it measures (the "B" measurement is just under 13-3/8)
3)how it the best way to clean it...Murphy's oil soap for wood, mild soap and water, linseed oil?
4)I am planning to sell it now that my son needs a 15" one. assuming many things as I understand condition is subjective.. does $150 seem reasonable to ask for it? My son has taken very good care of it and besides a few nicks where the should-rest attaches it looks very good.

Thank you, I so appreciate you sharing your expertize. I LOVE to hear my son play his viola and appreciate people like yourself that help us parents bring in the new generation of players!

Hi Sabina
The Erich Pfretzschner trade name, along with a number of others, is or at least was owned around that time by International Strings. There is no actual maker named Erich Pfretzschner, it is just a name that is used to denote a model/ brand recognition. There were in history, many actual Pfretzschner violin makers but yours is not one from that family but rather a student commercially made instrument. It might be hand made, but it was done in an assembly line in China most likely at that time. Often times the actual country of origin is difficult to determine. Legally since the early 1900's it is a requirement of import to name the country unless a substantial amount of the manufacturing process is completed in the end use country.

Many companies over the last 30 years or so have owned the rights to various Pfretzschner names. Erich Pfretzschner violins and violas are basic student beginner instruments and used tend to sell at a violin shop in the $250 range. This of course would comes with a warranty, trade in ability and any repairs and maintenance already performed.

So to answer your questions

1-2. the model is actually 995(13) The '13' in the model number denotes that it is a 13" viola. If it measures 13 3/8 and that does not include the neck button, it really is considered a 13 1/2.  I am not sure if the W was to signify that it was a plus size or usually the letters after the model denoted the kind of case and possibly bow that came with the outfit as it left the factory. The dealer would place his order with options from a list and then the importer would put the outfits together and denote the assembly with the use of a letter in the label.

3. As far as cleaning, the murphys will sort of work. It will clean dirt but probably not any dried on rosin. The Pfretzschners have a hard varnish and as such a little mineral spirits will also work but just dampen a cloth and try it first on a lower rib by the chinrest to test it.  Oils like linseed oil should be avoided unless you are absolutely sure that there are no open edges or cracks as the oil would prevent them from being glued.  I have also had good results with just using saliva if they area to be cleaned isn't too big. What we use in the industry is Zylene, which is very dangerous to breath.  This is a great cleaner and rosin remover, it still needs to be tested on a inconspicuous spot.  After cleaning with the Zylene, the instrument is then polished.  The appropriate polish is a special wax called Renaissance wax, however on the Pfretzschner you can use a clear floor wax as it can easily be removed later if necessary.

4.I have seen them for sale on Ebay for under $150. Viola's do tend to bring about 10-20% more than violins, but as it is a small instrument it is probably about the same as a violin. Here is one like yours that sold on Ebay for $80 -  I would probably start at $150 and expect to get closer to $100.


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


David Lashof


I can answer questions on violin, viola, cello and bass making, repair and maintenance as well as supply general violin value ranges and information on instrument makers’ assuming the instrument's as labeled. I don't give values for modern makers as many of these modern makers are yet unknown to me. I can only give you feedback based on what information you give me, and no authority on the instrument can know every maker's work that ever lived. I have access to many books on makers and auction prices on over 25,000 makers, as well as having 36 years of experience with selling and appraising violins. Without having the instrument in hand, any estimate over the internet is just a guess as the label inside an instrument is more often wrong than right, so just having that information is not very useful. Pictures can sometimes be helpful but only so much, as the "feel" of the instrument along with small clues in workmanship and varnish cannot be seen in pictures. Any pictures should be high quality close-ups of the top and back. Additional photos of the front and treble side of the neck are also useful. It is always best to have an instrument seen in person at a violin shop that does appraisals. I can also provide advice on bows, rosin, strings and other string instrument accessories. As I am now retired, I have no bias towards selling anything; I only wish to share my knowledge and experience by providing information for those that may be getting confused by misinformation, misdirection or conflicting statements. (While I have seen many thousands of instruments and have performed numerous appraisals; if I have not evaluated an instrument in person, any information I set forth in an opinion is just that, an opinion based solely on what you have provided. Thusly, no financial decision should be based on that opinion, but rather, further investigation should be performed by having the instrument examined in person.)


I am a retired violin maker and repairman with 35 years experience having worked in Chicago and Maryland at 5 different violin shops and music stores including the first violin repairman at William Harris Lee in Chicago, the head repairman at Weavers Violins in Maryland, and in my own shop of 25 years. I have made 160 instruments and have restored countless professional level and student grade instruments. I am an accomplished violinist having performed with semi-professional as well as amateur groups although I haven't played for years and mostly stay away from questions about playing. I have taught violin making and restoration to about 20 students; three of which have gone on professionally and now have their own shops. I know violins from playing, selling, repairing, making and teaching.

Violin Society of America (VSA). American String Teachers Association (ASTA)

I graduated from the prestigious 4 year Chicago School of Violin Making in 1981 under Master Violin Maker Tschu Ho Lee. I also studied with violin maker Willis M. Gault in Washington DC from 1973-75, who was the former owner of the oldest known example of an instrument from the modern violin family, an Andreas Amati Viola.

Awards and Honors
2008 Chester Petranek Award for service to the music community. ASTA award for service. Top All Expert in Violin for 2014 and 2015.

Past/Present Clients
I have worked with many professional musicians from DC area Symphonies as well as players from all over the US. Here are just a few, Leonard Slatkin - Former conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra. Doris Gazda - Nationally renowned string specialist and composer. Bernard Greenhouse, Tanya Anisimova - Internationally renowned Solo Cellists. Jody Gatwood, Mark Pfannschmidt, Lori Barnet, Doug Dubé, Judy Silverman - National Philharmonic Orchestra. Robert Blatt, David Hardy, Glen Garlick - National Symphony Orchestra. Eddie Stubbs, Brendan Mulvahill, Nate Leath - Professional Fiddle Players. David Basche, Pat Braunlich, John Knudson, Romano Solano, Ed Ferris, Fred Lieder - freelance musicians.

©2016 All rights reserved.