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Violin/approximate worth of fractional violin


I have a 1/2 size violin that my son used 15 years ago that I would like to sell.
William Harris Lee Chicago 1993 No. 130 in excellent condition.
I don't have a violin shop near me to have it appraised so I would really appreciate an approximate value.  Thank you!

Hi Leslie

I hope I can help with this. I worked for Mr. Lee back in the late 70's when he got his start, before he ever starting making instruments. Very few instruments out of the Lee shop make it down to where I was working, especially the small size ones. The one that I am familiar with is the model 150 and they are I think around $5000 today when new. The 130 is a lower model that is not sold any more. From my recollection, they sold new for around $3500-4000.  Even though it has been 15 years, the value has probably not increased back to the price when new.  I would expect it to be worth in the $2500-3500 range.  I may be off a bit, as I said it is not a model that made it's way to Maryland and I didn't sell the Lee instruments so I never had his catalog. Because he was in Illinois, he was known mostly in that region. Much later, he started to have salesmen go around to the different regions showcasing his instruments, but by then I was getting ready to retire.

Modern instruments of quality, and yours is still considered modern, are much harder to evaluate for value, even when seen in person.  The pedigree is less important and so the value is mostly based on the condition, the materials and the sound.

In all honesty, the best person to give an approximate value would be the Lee shop himself, as he probably is better aware of the trends and may have taken some small instruments back in trade.

Leslie, just some additional info.
Since I'm not familiar with that model, your memory or records might be the best help. If you purchased it new for $750-1200, plan on the value to be around 75% of the new cost. $1200-2000 around 80-85%. $2000-5000 around 90%. These numbers are of course subject to condition and sound issues. I hope this might be of some use, the best of course is to have it evaluated in person.


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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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