Violin/Stradivarius violin?


QUESTION: Dear Mr. Lashof,

I have an old violin with the following label:

Antonius Straduarius Cremona
faciebat Anno 1743  [and a symbol to the right of the date]

The bottom of the label is cut off and some partial letters can be seen. I don't see any other markings on anything - just the label inside the violin. The year “1743” is hand written. The case is wood and looks very old.

I’ve been wondering about it for many years, so I’m glad that I found “”. Can you tell what the violin is, and if its worth anything?  If not, I’d like to throw it out since its been in my closet for a very long time.

Ps. I have additional photos of the f hole, scroll, back, neck and case if needed.


What I can tell you with 100% certainty, is that the violin is not a real Stradivari but instead is a copy, probably German, made in the early 1900's - most likely after 1914. A number of clues are on the label itself.
1 - the paper is post 1850, 2 - they forgot the first "i" in Stradiuarius, 3 - he always used the Italian spelling of his city "Cremonenfis", 4 - He died in 1737. In addition, the workmanship, the wood and varnish (that I can see), is not of the quality of a real one.  I think what was cut off on the label is the part that says "Made in Germany" - I think you can see the top of the "M "in "Made" under the "o" in "Anno".

As far as value goes, I really can't see enough in pictures to be very accurate. Instruments of this type - what are referred to as "Trade Instruments", can have a value from almost nothing to about $2000. Yours is probably somewhere in the $600-1200 range. This value within that range is based on a number of things, wood quality, craftsmanship, condition and sound - most of which I can't tell from pictures.  What I can tell is it needs lots of repairs: New pegs, bridge, strings, nut, saddle, lots and lots of cosmetic work (and it could need lots that I can't see). Some of these instruments can still have a very nice sound. Obviously you need to weigh the cost to restore against the potential value.  I would certainly not throw it out, if you don't want to deal with it, donate it to a school or someplace.

I would recommend that you take it to a violin shop for a personal evaluation, they will be able to give you a value and the cost to restore it.   

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

QUESTION: I want to thank you and for identifying this violin for me. It's been puzzling me for 23 years so your answer is appreciated very much.

I’d like to see if a local music school or someplace else would want it as a donation. It would be great to show students what a replica Stradivari violin “Trade Instrument” looks like, and of course they could restore and use it if they wish. I'll be happy to refer them to and specifically to your analysis of this violin.

Would you have any advice on how to approach a school or music school on this matter, and also what the “someplace else’s” might be?

Thank you very much!
Ps. Now that I have experience using I won’t hesitate to see what other historic items I may want to get an opinion on, and will also refer my friends to the site.

Hi again

As I don't know what type of groups are in your area I will be just guessing. Just tell them you want to make a donation, tell them it needs work, but most likely it will be a much better quality of instrument than the cost to repair it. Check out music schools (ask some violin teachers in the area- maybe through a music or violin store), some violin stores are very in tune to the needs of local schools youth orchestras (they often will have deserving musicians that need a better instrument, the local high schools.  There are also charities that take instrument donations. One that I am familiar with is the Mr. Hollands Opus Foundation -  After hurricane Katrina, my shop helped to organize an instrument drive, we collected over 200 instruments.  We restored them and donated them to the schools in New Orleans.  I'm not sure if they take instruments that need work, but you can always contact them.


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.