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Violin/1917 Wurlitzer violin


The violin that currently resides under my bed was given to me by my mother.  It looks like it was purchased in Cleveland, Ohio in the early 1900's for $35.  My mother came from a poor Catholic family so I am thinking that this is not a high quality violin, but I do not know.  It is in it's originally case with extra bows and horse hair string.  I do not see any markings on the instrument itself or maybe I am not looking in the right spots.  I have taken it to a music shop and they seem to indicate that it was not worth much and would take a lot to make it playable again.  I am wondering what to do with it.  Would the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company enjoy getting an old violin for historical purposes?  In a museum perhaps?

Hi Michele

Wurlitzer imported many thousands of instruments from Germany, France and Czechoslovakia from around 1890-1930.  They also sold many fine instruments by individual known makers. In 1917, a $35 violin would have been one of the former more factory made instruments and as such of no historical importance to either the Wurlitzers or any museum.  These art very common instruments that were made for beginners to slightly more advanced players. Today this quality of instrument typically sells in good condition in the $750-2000 price range but without seeing it in person I couldn't get any closer than that.

Besides being a Wurlitzer import, value will be determined by the workmanship, wood selection, condition and the sound.  I would recommend taking it to a violin shop (most general music stores don't have a clue about violins unless they have a factory brand and model on them)  for an evaluation so that you might get a closer sense of what it is worth. While at the violin shop you could ask them if they are interested in purchasing it.

Here is an example of some of the many instruments that Wurlitzer sold, these were from about 15 years earlier and are worth in the $500-750 range today -


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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.

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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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