Going for a Song

31st May 2019

Going for a Song Image

Musical instruments are providing sound investments at auction . From violins to bagpipes there is a huge contingent of UK and continental collectors and players showing interest.

The name Antonio Stradivari (1644 – 1737) is as synonymous to antiques like Ming vases and Chippendale tables; an original Stradivarius would require deep pockets with the highest price paid for a violin topping £9.5m and a viola tipping the scale at £27m.

Before everyone looks in the loft and dusts down their violin be cautious, with good names come good (and not so good) fakes with 99% of violins labeled Stradivarius being reproductions. These reproductions can still present a pleasing example and can be readily purchased for little money.

Other contextual names of a similar ilk include Giuseppe Guarneri, Andrea Amati and Sanctus Seraphin; twentieth century makers of repute include the Italian great Vincenzo Sannino.

So what constitutes a good violin? Condition is key; any splits need to be properly repaired as cracks cause trouble to the sound, damage on the soundpost is unfixable. Materials are also important spruce being a wood of choice, typically with maple sides and polished veneered one piece backs. Deep curves to the back can produce the best sounds, straight necks, symmetrical pieces and named pieces are also good indicators, either with body stamps or interior labels.

Saleroom highlights include £4000 for a Hart & Son example, but for the modest player or learner, it is as well to know violins sell regularly for between £50 and £500.

It is not just violins that excel. Cellos are popular and a Goulding and Co named example in poor condition recently fetched £11,000.

Bows are similarly sought after and often make more than the instrument itself. Bagpipes are also highly collected. With internet bidding comes higher prices for quirky items like this and there has been notable successes with Les Paul and other guitars, pianos from Bechstein  to Yamaha and anything from brass instruments to  banjos and electric keyboards.

It is important with modern pieces such as guitars that they aren’t made of Brazilian rosewood thus being illegal to sell in this country without license.

With prices ranging from a few pounds to many millions there is a range for anyone and any budget.

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