When it comes to a safe haven for your money, little can beat a rare old violin. Other things always have their ups and downs. In the boom years of the 1990s, everyone assumed property was “safe as houses,” but then came the crash of 2007.
Gold was the miracle investment from 2005 to 2012, but in the last two years it has bombed. Shares are good for the long-term, but in the short-term they can be scarily volatile. In the crash year of 2008 they fell around 30 per cent, and bounced back by the same amount the following year.
Compare that with the steady rise of stringed instruments, particularly violins. A study quoted in the Economist concluded that the annual rate of return for a Stradivarius violin between 1980 and 2011 was 15.4 per cent, without any of the sudden surges and drops that send investors’ stress levels through the roof.
Until now, the virtues of instruments as an investment vehicle has been hidden from view. Instrument dealers inhabit an old-fashioned world, shut away from the rough-and-tumble of the financial world. That may be about to change, if the recent on-line instrument auction from Beares, one of the most venerable violin dealers in the world, is any sign. Simon Morris, one of Beares’s directors, says the motive was to show the world that the trade is moving with the times.
“Not so long ago there were just a handful of dealers in Europe and America, who were on first-name terms with buyers and sellers,” he says, “but it’s changing fast. The trade is becoming much more international, and we have to reflect that, and open ourselves up to a new market.” However, Beares isn’t about to abandon its old ways. Visiting their premises near Oxford Circus is like stepping back into the past.
n the workshops, the craftsmen still work with tools barely changed since the days of the great Cremonese makers of violins and cellos, such asGuarneri and Stradivari. Racks of wood slumber in quiet corridors, maturing like fine wines. And Simon Morris himself has the comforting air of unshakeable probity that was once the hallmark of the English banker.
He takes me up to a showroom where two would-be buyers are putting a couple of instruments through their paces. “Here they are,” he says, gesturing airily at the wall-racks where nearly all the 29 violins available in the auction are hanging. On the other walls are the bows, violas and cellos being sold alongside them.
Missing from the racks are the so-called “Cabriac” violin by Antonio Stradivari and another Cremonese violin made a century later by Guadagnini. These are the two most valuable instruments in the auction, with guide prices of $2.5-3.5 million (£1.5-£2.2 million) and $1-1.5 million (£630,000-945,000) respectively. The other violins are priced at anything between £4,000 and £500,000. “Generally auctions are clearing-houses, and the rule of caveat emptor [buyer beware] definitely applies,” says Harris.
“That’s not the way we want to go. We’re only prepared to have an auction where absolutely everything has been authenticated by ourselves.” Is he ever caught out himself? “No, but I don’t always get it right at a first look, when someone tests me.” I can’t resist pointing quizzically at one of the violins. “Well, hmmm... it looks like a French copy of a Guarneri pattern,” he says. Sure enough, the label says it’s exactly that.
Back in his office, I ask Morris whether he agrees that stringed instruments, especially violins, make good investments. “They do, because it’s an almost completely risk-free investment. At the top end there’s a diminishing supply, because certain instruments are bought by banks or foundations and will probably never come onto the market again.
"And on the other hand, the demand is constantly increasing, as new countries enter the market. It’s especially strong in the Far East, where excelling at the violin is a way of demonstrating that you’ve reached the West’s level in cultural terms.
"First it was Japan, where there are now around 35 Strads, then South Korea, then Taiwan. In China there are apparently 30 million people learning the violin, and it can’t be long before we see Chinese collectors in the market.”
from the Economist: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/classicalmusic/11211888/How-good-an-investment-is-a-violin.html
Featured Violin - the Szasz Friderich line exclusive to Golden Music; we have been visiting Romania and buying the "fritzy's" since 2007. At an affordable price for a single maker master instrument, the Fritzy's are hand crafted in Reghin, Mures, in the heart of Transalvania, population 33,000. The industry of Reghin is closely related to the traditions of the medieval trades, starting with the resources in the close vicinity, rich in wood and farm produces, the goods of the private producers from Reghin are in the market all over Romania and abroad. Reghin is well known for the industry of the musical instruments, especially of violins. There are many companies that produces instruments using the famous resonance wood from Calimani and Gurghiu forests. The violins made in Reghin are used abroad.
Szasz (nickname "Fritzy") began his work in a violin factory in 1977. He left the large factory for a small workshop in 1990, where he was an apprentice to Ciurba Nicolae. He perfected his technique alongside a master with his guidance and experience. In 2003, Szasz opened his own workshop. Hemakes instruments for people all around the world.
Here is an example of one of the Golden Music "Fritzy's (click here)" Right now we have several in stock including product number 4579 and 4580.
This picture is from our first trip to Reghin in 2006. It is the owner, Mary and Fritzy.
We carry a full line of bowed instruments strings. From Helicore to Dominant, from Pirastro to Obligato, Vision to Evah Pirrazi. We have all of them in stock in Lakewood ready for you. Our prices are competitive also, to internet pricing.
You can play your Strad to your heart’s content, or rent it out to violinistJoshua Bell. Just be sure not to drop it.
Of the 1,100 violins that Stradivari is believed to have made during his lifetime, only 650 are known to remain. Although there were other noted violin makers in Stradivari’s timesuch as Guarneri and Amati, whose works now fetch great sums of moneythe surviving Strads are more numerous, more famous and more expensive.
Even the most successful and celebrated luthier of all time might have been surprised to learn that his “Lady Tennant” violin was sold last year byChristie’s for more than $2.03 million, the highest amount ever paid for a musical instrument at a public auction.
In 1998, Christie’s auctioned a very similar Strad (crafted in 1698, one
In private, they may go for even more: The Stradivari Society, a private Chicago-based organization that purchases rare violins and loans them to promising young musicians, values some “golden era” (post-1700) Stradivari violins at $6 million each.
Stradivari (born 1644, died 1737) is believed by many to have built his finest instruments as an older and consequently more skilled craftsman. An early-period (pre-1700) Stradivarius, therefore, may sell for less. However, “such examples represent excellent values for musicians, as sound does not precisely follow price,” write Stradivari Society founders Robert Bein and Geoffrey Fushi in their essay, “The Masterpieces of Antonio Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù: A Market Perspective.”
According to the Stradivari Society, the value of Stradivari and Guarneri violins has tripled since 1990.
“As institutions and museums hold an increasing percentage of the great violins, the competition intensifies for the remaining instruments when they do become available, and the continued increases in violin prices of the current decade dramatically reflect this fact,” say Bein and Fushi.
What gives this particular fiddle its unrivaled appeal? Some scientists have suggested that Stradivari used alpine spruce that had grown during an era of uncommonly cold weather. This may have made the wood abnormally dense and contributed to the brilliant sound quality of his instruments. Others insist that no instrument maker has ever worked harder.
Perhaps the answer lies closer to the fact that instrument connoisseurs, like stock investors, are drawn to a great story. Strads are undoubtedly beautiful in sound and design, and many have been passed down through the hands of generations of great musicians, from 18th-century master Nicolo Paganini to 20th-century virtuoso Yehudi Menuhin.
The allure of rich provenance may also explain how rock legends can turn cheaply-made guitars into million-dollar purchases. While violins still top the list of the most expensive instruments, their fretted cousins are quickly catching up, especially those attached to celebrity names.
“Musical instruments have been great investments, such that I now consider them to be far superior to
In fact, Gruhn suspects that Clapton’s “Blackie” guitarthe most expensive ever sold publicly, at $959,500 in 2004was assembled from guitar parts purchased in part from him in the 1970s for, oh, maybe a few hundred bucks. (Read Forbes FYI’s 2005 article on collecting rare guitars, “While My Guitar Gently Reaps.”)
But is this kind of growth sustainable? “Only if one does [one's] due diligence,” cautions Christie’s Keane. He cites six fine-instrument value determinants:
1. Attribution (who made it)
4. Provenance (who played it)
5. Freshness to the market. An instrument brought out of 200 years in hiding incites “an air of discovery,” Keane says.
6. Fashion. For example, “classical guitars are hot right now.”
Once you’ve done your homework and put in your winning bid, don’t closet your new acquisition or display it on the mantle under your Picasso. Like wine or art, fine instruments need to be stored in a carefully monitored, semi-humid climate to maintain their worth.
As for the most expensive instrument ever sold”The Lady Tennant”it could fetch up to $3 million today in prime condition, Keane estimates.
Not a bad return for an old piece of wood.