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Violin/Very old Stradivarius Fake

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QUESTION: I recently found a fake Strad.  I've done a lot of research and determined that it's not genuine due to two discrepancies on the label that differ from the legitimate Strad labels I've seen. The verbage inside is all accurate except for the following: The date is 1712 with both the one and seven being printed and the 12 being hand written.  There was also about a half inch gap between the date and the AS mark.  The violin does, however appear to be hundreds of years old.  I'm including a link to numerous pictures in the hopes you might be able to shed some more light on the age and origin of this instrument. Thanks for your help. http://www.facebook.com/media/set/edit/a.3512534727847.2127705.1106260151/

ANSWER: Hi Weston
The Facebook link for the additional pictures does not seem to work as it just opens to a blank page, but the two attached photos are basically enough. It appears to be a German made instrument from around 1860-1880.  It is in really bad condition having had some very poor repairs done to it. If the repairs had not been done, the instrument might have been worth a few thousand dollars but it really isn't worth anything any more.  If the back, neck and sides are in better shape, a new top could be made, but that would cost a few thousand anyway, so in the end you would still not have a violin that was worth more than a few thousand dollars.

These instruments typically were made by a group of makers working together with one making tops and another making backs and so forth. There is no way to ever know who exactly made this instrument and unless there are some additional markings or brands inside the instrument, we probably won't be able to tell what firm made it. It is always best to show an instrument to someone in person rather than through pictures, and a more accurate dating might be able to be done that way. In the end, it really doesn't matter since it was not and never will be an instrument of merit as far as who made it. It could still have a good sound, but without seeing it in person, I couldn't tell how much work was needed to make it playable, it certainly will cost more than the instrument is worth, but it could still have a nice sound and as such could cost less to fix it vs. how much it would cost to get an instrument of similar sound that is in good shape. At a very minimum, even if all the cracks are glued tight, it will cost several hundred dollars to make it playable. This of course would be a complete gamble as it will never be able to be sold for much because of the bad repairs.

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QUESTION: Thank you so much for your help.  I'm happy enough holding an instrument from the late 1800's despite it's poor condition.  Just for my education-  Could you tell me what signs of previous repair you're seeing?  My untrained eye sees a lot of repairs being needed but I'm not seeing where any have been made.  Thanks again.

Answer
Sometimes I answer these questions and they don't get posted, so here it is again. There are at least 6 old cracks on the top that were previously repaired and very poorly at that. When they glued the cracks, they didn't get the seams even and then to make things level, they scraped away varnish and possibly wood to make them flat. The cracks have since come open again. There is a lot of dirt in the cracks and of course now the original varnish is destroyed, both of which really hurt the value of the instrument. I hope that helps to explain what I can see.

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David Lashof

Expertise

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.)

Experience

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.

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

Education/Credentials
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.

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