7 Things You Should Know Before Buying a Violin at an Auction

A violin auction can be a great way to find a good violin at a reasonable price. But, before heading down that path, there are some things you need to know about auctions in general and violin auctions specifically.

Join us as we walk through 7 things you should know before buying your next violin at one of the forthcoming sales!

  • Keep in mind that musical instruments are sold 'as is'
  • Beware of time pressure and bidding competition
  • Take the Buyers Premium into account
  • Be aware of the exact wording on the lot description
  • Consider the pros & cons of Auctions vs private sales
  • Thinking of selling at auction?
  • How MyLuthier can help

Musical instruments are sold 'as is'

When inspecting a lot at an auction, it's important to be aware of any potential damage that may not be visible at first glance. Hidden damage can include problems with the violin's plates, ribs, or scroll. Be prepared for hidden problems as well, such as cracks, historical repairs and worm damage.

Many auctioned violins are sold 'as is,' so there's no guarantee you'll be able to return it if something goes wrong. If you're not an experienced buyer, it can be difficult to judge whether an auctioned violin is a good deal or not.

If you're not comfortable with the idea of buying a violin without a guarantee, an auction might not be the right place for you.

Auction houses typically do not offer any type of warranty or return policy on musical instruments. So, if something goes wrong after you've purchased your instrument, you might have to pay for any repairs yourself.

It is important to note, however, that some auction houses may offer a limited warranty or guarantee on specific items. Make sure to ask about what kind of guarantees are offered before placing your bid!

Time pressure and competition

There's often a lot of competition at musical instrument auctions, so make sure you know how much the violin is worth before making a bid.

A violin auction should be fun and exciting, but not at the expense of spending too much money. Have a clear idea of what you're looking for in terms of price range and violin model before bidding on an instrument!

The auction model works by putting time pressure on buyers, which can lead to impulsive decisions.

Make sure you know what you're bidding on and have a clear idea of the violin's value before making any bids. There's often a lot of competition at violin auctions, so be prepared to walk away if the bidding gets too high.

Take the Buyers Premium into account

You'll often have to pay an additional buyers premium on top of the final price, which can take your cost up even higher than expected.

This is particularly true of violin auctions, where the buyer's fee can be as high as 20%. Make sure you take this fee into account and keep your head cool during the last moments of bidding!

Be aware of the exact wording on the lot description!

Before bidding on any musical instrument auction, beware of the exact auction terms! these can give many clues as to what the auction house believes the lot actually is:

An instrument described as "by Stradivarius" is a lot more valuable than "attributed to", "ascribed to", "probably by", "workshop of" or even "circle of" Stradivarius. This article from Tarisio auctioneers is a good introduction to this topic.

It is also very important to pay close attention to condition reports and you need to make sure they truthfully reflect the condition of the instrument. Otherwise, you might end up spending more money on repairs than the violin is worth.

Auction vs private sale

A violin auction will most likely have fewer options than buying from a dealer or luthier directly. This is because the dealers and luthiers have had more time to inspect and select the instruments that they are selling. There is also a much more generous trial period and not as much time pressure to get you to buy something that might not be the right fit for you!

A violin auction can be a good place to find a low-cost violin, but if you're not an experienced violinist, it can be difficult to judge the violin's value and whether or not you're getting a good deal. And if you end up spending more money on repairs than the violin is worth, you might have been better off just buying from a dealer, luthier or through private sale.

All in all, buying a violin at an auction can be a risky business. If you're not confident about your ability to judge violins or if you're not prepared for the potential pitfalls, it might be better to avoid auctions altogether and buy from a more reputable source.

There are many things to consider when buying a violin, and the process can be daunting for beginners. If you're not sure whether an auction is the right choice for you, consult with a violinist or luthier before making your decision.

Thinking of selling at auction?

It might be tempting to sell your old instrument at the auction but if you're thinking of selling your violin at auction, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Make sure you understand the auction process and what to expect from the sale. Familiarize yourself with the types of violins that usually sell well at auction, and be realistic about your violin's value.

If you're not confident about your ability to judge violins or if you're not prepared for the potential pitfalls, it might be better to avoid auctions altogether and sell through a more reputable source.

How MyLuthier can help

At MyLuthier, we feature instruments for the best contemporary makers in the world, so you can find the perfect violin for your needs.

We also have a generous trial period, so you can be sure that the violin is right for you before committing to buy. Contact us today to learn more!


Now that you know what to watch out for, violin auctions can be a great way to find your next instrument! But always remember: do your research, inspect the violin thoroughly, and be prepared to walk away if it's not the right fit.

Happy bidding!

About the Author

Pedro Silva is a cellist and one of the co-founders of Myluthier.co. He graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in 2018 with a Master of Arts in cello performance, studying with Guy Johnston. He enjoys an varied freelance career as an orchestral, chamber musician and frequently collaborates with Early Music ensembles and West End productions.

Pedro Silva
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