We provide instrument valuations and insurance appraisals for individuals and estates as well as advise what insurance may be best for you. An appraisal states our opinion about an instrument. There are several types.
Verbal appraisals are an informal spoken assessment of the origins and current market value of an instrument. They are useful if you do not want to insure your instrument but want to know about its origins and an idea of its worth.
Written appraisals are necessary to acquire insurance or for estate settlements. If you purchased an instrument here, you automatically receive an insurance appraisal for free as well as advice on what sort of insurance may be best for you. Read our pamphlet for more information on insuring your instrument.
If you are curious about an old instrument in your possession, please read the following before contacting us.
We have an old instrument in my family. What is it worth?
We can evaluate violins, violas, and cellos for their market value, which may not reflect your sentimental value in a family treasure. All other instruments are outside our field of expertise, and we suggest you contact the closest museum that has a collection of musical instruments or a reputable dealer in that instrument.
Can I call you and describe it to you?
Unfortunately, we must have an instrument in our hands to be able to give you any information. Describing or reading the label is not helpful at all. The labels inside instruments are easily inserted after the instrument is completed and are not significant for establishing the maker or market value.
We do not charge to look at photographs or instruments in person. If you want a verbal opinion and consultation (how old is it, where is it from, how much is it worth, etc), or a written appraisal (which you will need to insure the instrument) there is a charge. Written appraisals do not establish authenticity and are not valid or necessary to sell an instrument.
But doesn't it count for something if it says "Antonius Stradivarius 1723" inside?
Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) was one of the greatest violin makers who ever lived. He made about 2,000 instruments of which roughly 600 still exist. In his lifetime he sold instruments to royalty and the rich, and few Strads today are not well documented. Because of his fame, his designs were widely copied and many have little or no value, just like an inexpensive print of the Mona Lisa or any other great work of art.
Since the 1850's, instrument factories all over the world have produced millions and millions of cheap copies with labels that read something like "Antonius Stradiuarius, Cremonenfis Faciebat Anno 1721". The chance that you have a genuine Stradivari, while not impossible, is very, very remote. The same holds true for other great masters of violin making such as Giuseppe Guarneri, J.B. Guadagnini, Nicolo Amati, Jacob Stainer, and others. While photographs may be of interest, an instrument must be in our hands for us to give an opinion.
Can I send you photos?
To send us electronic photos, please photograph your instrument in front of a light-colored gray or neutral (not black) background. To avoid reflections on the shiny surface use several small lights rather than a flash. Shoot 640 x 480 pixel VGA images and send them in a JPEG format no bigger than 400KB. Shoot the full back and full front of the instrument. Take separate pictures of the scroll from all sides, the corners of the back, the left soundhole, and any other unusual features. Photos of the case and its contents may be of interest. We will let you know if we will need to see the instrument.