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Violin/Pre-Civil War F.A. Glass Violin

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Expert: Jim Fisher - 3/1/2013
PICT0139copy
PICT0139copy  
QUESTION: Hi my name is Robert I asked a question the other day about my violins signature unfortunately you could not read the name. I have finally figured it out . I come up with F.A.Glass.du the du could be de its very small and hard to read. This was owned by my wife's grandfather when he was a boy which would have been around 1900 as my wife is 60. Any info? Is it worth fixing? It has a one piece very curly back. Thank you Robert Jarrel

ANSWER: Hi Robert,
Thanks for your question. Friedrich August Glass II was a well-respected German maker of the mid 19th century. Instruments actually made by him sell in the low thousands, depending on the original quality of the instrument (he made a wide range) and the current condition. However, there were many instruments produced in his shop that bear his label, but were not made by him. These are worth less, although many of them are still fine instruments.

There are also instruments bearing his name on the label that are simply cheap factory copies. From the little I can see from the picture, I'm inclined to think that yours is one of these. The quality of the wood and varnish, along with the unusual decoration at the edges, leads me to think that this is a factory instrument.

However, I really can't tell you much for certain without having the instrument in my hands. I would recommend that you make an appointment at a respected violin shop in your area to have its value and condition appraised. If possible, try to find someone with experience appraising older violins.

Best of luck!
Jim Fisher

The above question was sent to Jim Fisher 3-1-2013.
I have a violin almost identical to the one Robert asked about also signed F.A. Glass.de or .du on the inside of the violin. This violin has been in the family since before the civil war. Have you found out any added information on these violins, is it fake or real. Thank You, Gregory

ANSWER: Hi Gregory

The only thing that I can add to what Jim has said is that if your violin is truly pre Civil War, it could have been made by either Freidrich August Glass I or II. However. I have never seen a real one with the name F A Glass but rather always Freid. Aug. Glass.  I have seen copies with the name of F A Glass.  Even if it were to be a real one, the most one has auctioned for is $3000 while the rest have sold for under $1000. I would also like to say that it is really not possible to determine the maker of an instrument from a photograph, especially one that is not of a very good quality or clarity.  You need to take the instrument to a violin shop where it can be evaluated close up and in person.  So much more is looked at than just a rough look at the instrument.

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Letter and Inscription  

Violin Daily Journal Tupalo, Mississippi
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QUESTION: Thank you so much for your reply. You said in your reply that you had never seen real violins with the name F A Glass;I am sending you pics of the name inside the violin, copy of a letter written to my cousin and aunt, and a copy of a newspaper article.Elija was born 1840, so the violin was obtained some time before his birth. I am not interested in the worth of the violin, just want to know closer to when this violin was made and who made it.
Thank you,
Gregory

Answer
Hi again Gregory

The signature is exactly the same as some of the copies that I have seen, some of which had the name branded on the back of the instrument below the neck button.  Yours could also be a brand as I can't see a paper label but the picture isn't very good so it is hard to tell. Not that I think this is the case, but instruments have been known to have been switched over the years and family lore has a way of getting mixed up from generation to generation. I will assume though for our conversation, that the instrument you possess is the one from the early to mid 1800's. The documentation that you have, although nice for your family history, doesn't really mean anything in the validation of who made the instrument. There were copies made of makers works soon after the first ones were turned out.  Stradivari copies exist from the mid 1700's only a few years after his death. I have seen Glass copies from the early 1800's.  As I said before, and Jim said it to the other questioner, the only way to get an evaluation of an instrument is in person, but certainly I can't do anything without quality photos of the instrument.  Even if you had papers of authenticity from a major violin or auction house, they would still need to be accompanied by the instrument that they are referring to.  You certainly won't get that type of paper on a Glass since the cost of the paper would be more expensive than the instrument.  A regular appraisal would give you an opinion on the instrument, but that is still not a certificate of authenticity, which includes professional photographs. So to get an idea of who made and when your violin was made, the only way I would recommend to do it is to have it seen in person at a violin shop that does appraisals.  If it turns out to be a copy, there will be no way to know who made it, but an estimate of when it was made could be given.

I certainly wish you luck in your quest for more information, but from what I have been given thus far, my opinion is that it is one of the copies.

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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.

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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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