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Violin/Nicolas bertholini gasparo da salo violin

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QUESTION: Hi David Lashof,
I am considering the purchase of a violin that is labeled nicolas bertholini below the neck and on the inside label says Gasparo da Salo in Brescia. There is nothing else legible on the label, but it is dull/dirty and faded. I noticed in a previous post that these violins are frequently slightly long, 14 3/16, and that is true here. You estimated the price range for a similar question in the $1200 to $1800 retail. The asking price for this one is 3 times higher than the upper estimate. So that seems out of line? Does the gasparo da salo tag indicate a higher end model for this maker? The kicker is I have been violin shopping for some time and this is the first one both me and my instructor like. The seller is reputable and we and others have had good dealings with them in the past. Your opinion appreciated. Pictures attached (only allowed two? Can send others). Thank you.

ANSWER: Hi Matt
Things have changed some in 3 1/2 years. I am typically seeing these trade instruments selling for more but 3 times seems a bit high considering a specific maker can't be assigned to this label. As it is oversize, that also hurts it's potential value as there are less people willing to invest in a "large" violin.

Obviously I can only comment on trends since I haven't been able to examine this instrument in person. Pictures only show wood selection and sometimes condition. These pictures don't show me much as they are too blurry when I attempt to look at closeups. I can also see a crack that wasn't repaired to the best level of workmanship.

With all that in mind, I have seen a few for sale in the 4-5k range.

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QUESTION: Hi David,
Thanks again for your reply. Helpful. I uploaded what I hope are better quality photos. I also have a picture of the bertholini stamp on the back, if that helps. I couldn't find any references to these with the gasparo label, so might this be something else even? A knock off of a knock off, haha? I really like the sound so will probably just get it, but would be nice to know what I'm getting. Thanks again.

ANSWER: Hi again Matt

These pictures aren't enough better and still become blurry especially at the edges when I zoom in. This prevents me from seeing the edge work clearly. The problem may be that you are trying to get the entire violin in the picture rather than a close-up of just the top and back as I describe in my profile page. The label picture might help, but I don't doubt this to be a Bertholini.  It is a good one, at least from what I can tell in the pictures, but that says nothing as to it's sound, which especially on commercial quality instruments effects the sound more than  a collectable. I can also see from the photos what appears to be rippled wood along the curl on the back.  This comes from improperly dried material when it was made and is more typical in the trade instrument grade than the fine hand made instrument grades. That is not to say that some much higher priced instruments don't have rippled backs, but it is much more typical in lower grades.

As I mentioned before, there is no maker named Bertholini and as such, the value will be hindered. Another such maker, E. H. Roth, although there was a maker by that name, only made the highest grade instruments and had many more qualities levels and has become very sought after. Your violin appears to be similar in workmanship and materials to a middle grade Roth, which can sell up to around $6000.  But as I said, Roth's are very sought after, Bertholini's really aren't.

It is possible that the seller is pricing this based significantly on it's sound quality, which is a way to do it, but as sound is very subjective it is not the way most shops price instruments. Rather, they base it on these items and in this basic order: WHO made it, WHERE it was made, WHEN it was made, the WORKMANSHIP, the WOOD SELECTION, the CONDITION and lastly the SOUND.

We don't know who specifically made it since Bertholini is a made up name and JTL had hundreds if not thousands of workers producing thousands of instruments per year. It was made in France not Italy, where the highest value instruments were made. It was made in the early 1900's, the most prolific time for commercial violin making. The workmanship and wood selection is good, but not top quality, it has a lot of commercial French look to it. The condition is only partially visible and I have already mentioned something about that and as I said, the Sound is not the way an instrument is priced by most violin shops. The condition and sound can change, the rest can not, and that is why instruments are more properly priced the way they are since the violin has become a collectable art form. Otherwise you might find a $50 cheap Chinese instrument that should be sold for $20,000 as it may sound better than a professionally hand made instrument by a well known maker.

FYI, I also have not run across a da Salo Bertholini and this is not really a da Salo in the sense that it doesn't have the more typical double row of purfling or da Salo style edge work or scroll. Good copies usually try to hit upon at least one of the stereotypical styles of the maker, more commercial copies often look very little like the maker they are labeled after. It is also possible that the label was inserted at a different time.



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QUESTION: Hi David,
Thanks for the detailed and informative information. I tried again to attach better photos. One a close up of the maker stamp on the back. Bit of a handicap to be limited to two photos. Please let me know if these provide you any additional insight.  By strange coincidence the instrument I am replacing is a Roth. It was a family gift but I was told a few years ago it would retail about $7500. But everyone agrees it doesn't sound all that great and "should sound better." Illustrates your points nicely, I think. Thanks again for all the info.

Answer
Matt

Yes, these pictures are much better. The outline is slightly that of a da Salo  with the shorter corners. Although not many Bertholini have the brand stamp, some do and this is typical of those.

As per condition, I am a little concerned by what I see with back button. It appears that the button isn't well glued to the neck or the neck wasn't set properly and could be low. I can't see enough to say what the problem is.

If you purchase this and it's from a violin shop, you should make sure it's cleaned, edges repaired, neck repaired if needed, old tailpiece replaced and top crack checked and warranteed. If it's from a private individual, ask they have the work done first or adjust the price accordingly.

The pegs also look worn in and very fat. This could indicate oversize pegs and holes and can indicate additional issues to follow like strings hitting the bottom of the peg box, weak scroll at A peg and needing to fill and re-drill holes and replace the pegs. Oversize pegs can also indicate misaligned peg holes where one string hits an ajacent peg causing potential tuning issues. This is just what I can see, a close inspection might expose more.

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David Lashof

Expertise

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.

Organizations
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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