You are here:

Violin/Casper Da Salo Violin


QUESTION: My grand dad bought a violin in the early 1900s, it is in very good condition considering it's age. I believe the bow is original to the violin as it has the same mother of peral design on it, as the violin. It has ivory tuning knobs and on the handle it is engraved into the wood, 'Caspar Da Salo. I do have pictures. What it is worth for insurance purposes?

ANSWER: Hi Lynda
I would be glad to look at pictures but don't get your hopes up, from what you have described, I am certain that it is a copy from the late 1800's to early 1900's These are very prolific indeed whereas finding an original be would extremely rare. The copies can still be worth a few thousand dollars but lets take a closer look before deciding anything.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Caspar Da Salo
Caspar Da Salo  

Caspar Da Salo
Caspar Da Salo  
QUESTION: I am sending 2 pictures that I hope will help in letting us know if this violin is the real deal or a copy. Are they marks that I can identify this violin as one or the other? My grand dad used it as a fiddle for dances in the 1920's and early 1930's. I can send other pictures, this site would allow only 2. Thank you so much for you time.

Caspar da Salo Scroll
Caspar da Salo Scroll  

Caspar da Salo Back
Caspar da Salo Back  
Hi again Lynda
As I guessed from your earlier description, what you have is a copy made in the early 1900's in Germany. Just looking at it, I can see that it is not 400 years old as da Salo lived from 1542-1609.  The workmanship is not up to his style and the varnish is not the same.

Some clues that don't require an appraisers eye, the real makers actual name was Gasparo da Salo with a "G" and when he wrote his name he used the Italian form which actually read as "Gafparo da Salo". Although he did carve some ornate scrolls, he did not ever carve his name on it. The pegs, although they are probably aftermarket additions from the 30's, are actually an early plastic (probably celluloid) which show up in the catalogs - like Sears, around 1900. A seam in the peg head created by the form is noticeable around the edge. These pegs were added because the original pegs were difficult to keep in tune.

Almost all bows have pearl on them usually on the frog and on the turning screw, however sometimes the bows from this period are actually better than the instruments.  Although I can't tell for sure from the photo, the large top crack on the lower end, may actually be a "fake" crack.  This was common and was used to help with the illusion of age. Your "Caspar da Salo" is commonly found, they were sold by a number of firms in the early 1900's.  

I have attached a photograph from my archives of the same scroll as yours as printed in a 1910 catalog of the J W Jenkins violin Co. Typically these instruments also have a fancy inlay in the back of the instrument at the top and bottom.

These violins when new sold for around $35 and in 1978 sold for around $1000.  Today, many of them are valued around $1800-2500. Because of the geared pegs that were added, the value would probably be on the low side or even below that range depending on the rest of its condition.

It would still be a good idea to take it to a violin shop to have it evaluated for the cost of repairs and set the actual value.


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.

©2017 All rights reserved.