i have a josef guarnerios fecit cremonae anno 1724 violin with i h s and a cross over the h label inside is yellow beige color mom inhearted it as a child she passed away at age 89 it is now mine it is in the original case thank you for your help

Guarneri label
Guarneri label  
Hi Vickie

I don't know if I can help you as you actually didn't ask any questions, you just made a statement. But I will assume that you are asking if the violin could be an original and how much it is worth.  

I won't say absolutely it isn't an original because you have not provided any pictures, only what the label says. I get about 2 emails a week identical to yours all saying they have a violin with a Guarneri label. I have sold in my career, hundreds of violins bearing the label of Guarneri.  Guarneri only made several hundred violins in his short 45 or so year lifetime.

There are hundreds of thousands of violins bearing a label with his name. This is because Joseph Guarneri became the second most famous maker next to Stradivari and thus many, many copies of his instruments or models of his instrument were produced. I say produced because most of these were factory instruments like I suspect yours is.

If you only look at the label inside your violin, spelled the way you have spelled his name, the label itself is not original to the maker as he used the Latin spelling of Joseph which replaced the s with an “f” making his labels read "Jofeph Guarnerius". I have attached a picture of a real Guarneri label.

So, going forward, you need to take your violin in to a violin shop or a musical instrument auction house so that it can be evaluated properly. I suspect that the violin that you have was made between 1870-1930 which was when the vast majority of the copies were made.  These can range in value from almost nothing to a few thousand dollars and sometimes more.  Pictures might allow me or someone to access when the violin was made, but the only way to get an accurate valuation is to have it seen in person.


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.