Violin/Gagliano 1793 violin


QUESTION: Dear David,
    I am interested in a Gagliano 1794 violin by Joseph and Antonio Gagliano and it is in decent conditions. Could you please provide an estimated value for it?
   Thank you!


So many things go into a price evaluation and only part of that is the makers name and year of work. What you might see as decent condition, to me might be poor condition. Is the instrument all original or does it have a replaced top or scroll? How much restoration has been done? Does it have any thickness patches, repaired sound post cracks or repaired button crack? How much original varnish is left? None of these things can be answered without a close up examination and all can adversely effect the value. However, based on auction records and estimated value ranges, I would say that one by the brothers of that year (the highest auction price for that year - $105,000) could be valued on the retail level up to $250,000. One sold at auction, a different year - in 2010 for $133,000. If it is selling for considerably less (under $100,000), than you may have to ask, Why? And others have sold for under $50,000  Keep in mind that the retail value is established by these criteria and in general in this order:

Who made it
Where it was made
When it was made
The Condition
The Sound

The first three remain constant except where parts have been replaced, the condition obviously changes over time and by the specific instrument and the sound is subjective to the player.

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

QUESTION: Dear David,
    Thank you so much for your prompt and such detailed reply! It is very helpful!
    Before I consider buying this violin, what paperwork (certificates) shall I request from the seller to get more info about it?
    Also, why is there such big difference between the auction value and retail value?
    Thank you again for taking the time in reply!


You would want a Certificate of Authenticity, it is always best if it is issued by a different firm than is selling the instrument and also best if it is one of the top violin shops or auction houses. A description of what restoration has been done would be nice to have but is not necessarily readily available.

As far as price goes, I just gave a potential value range.  Ones that have auctioned for under $50,000 won't be selling for $200.000 because there is obviously some issue with them: lessor date, condition, replaced parts like a different top.... I don't know how much the one that auctioned for $133,000 sold for if it ever has even done so. The thing about prices are, I see auction prices, value range prices, sometimes what shops listing the instrument for sale for, but rarely what it actually sells for. So that $200,000 price being asked, may end up at $150,000.  If that was the $133.000 violin that needed $10,000 in restoration costs, that ends up not being a very good profit for the shop.  

When an instrument is sold at auction, no specific information goes along with the sales price that talks about the condition. The buyer, often a violin shop, will then need to invest potentially many, many thousands in restoration costs. They also have to hold onto their purchase until it sells, sometimes for years. In addition they have to warranty the product and almost always offer a trade in policy.  This means a huge cost in insurance and other overhead costs. The other thing that I don't know is if that $133,000 sale was purchased by a shop or an individual. Multiply that investment and cost by a dozen or many dozens because of the stock that the store has and you can see why they need to make a decent profit on these instruments. Some of the violin shops that specialize in these top quality instruments will go weeks or months between those kind of sales, all along having the high cost of overhead.  

Sometimes private buyers will go to auctions and the bidding will keep going up until the shops figure they can't make any profit, they will stop bidding and the private purchases will win the bid. So auction prices are only of so much help. So, just because my retail value range may go up to $250,000, there is no way for me to really find out if one was actually  ever sold for that much. It is somewhat of an arbitrary range to differentiate grades of instruments. Trade instruments in the $0 - $2000 range.  Bench made by lessor know makers works in the $2000-10,000 range, Lessor Italian makers in the $10,000-$25,000 range and so on. Until the auction sale in 2010 of that Strad that sold for 16 Million, the value range was listed at a high of around 6 Million.

There is no magic number, much of it depends on what the seller feels that it can fetch, just like any other piece of art. I certainly have sold instruments for much less than I had originally thought that it should have sold for and have thus made much less or almost no profit.


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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.

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