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How do violin cracks affect value?

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Posted 27 January 2007 - 09:21 PM

Do certain types of repaired cracks in old violins affect the value
of the instruments? I've been advised that a crack in line with the
e string,  from the rear edge to half the
length of the tailpiece, can be responsible for a 30% decrease
in the instrument's value. Does it matter if the tone is not
compromised? Does appearance matter?

#2 Andres Sender

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Posted 27 January 2007 - 10:13 PM

Yes some cracks affect value on some instruments. While we await an answer from someone who really knows, I'll regurgitate what I've picked up around this place. As I understand it back cracks are more of a big deal than top cracks. The percentage decrease depends on the instrument's value and age. Appearance matters--a competent repair can make a crack disappear.

I suspect an instrument from the 19th c. or earlier, of value at least a few $1000, with a competently repaired crack would hardly have its value affected at all. On the other hand a recent fiddle worth $500 might lose even more than 30%, depending on who the prospective buyers and the seller are, and on whether the repair was in line with the instruments value, or outstripped it.
The problem with the ignore feature is that if one has a sort of morbid fascination for train wrecks one can keep peeking and then the benefit is out the window.




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Posted 27 January 2007 - 10:24 PM

Thanks Andres. I wonder of it pays to spend $1500 to repair a top crack for an instrument that is reputedly worth between $4000 and 5000.

#4 Banzai


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Posted 27 January 2007 - 11:00 PM

A crack in line with your E string is likely a soundpost crack.
 I'll assume that by "in line" you mean basically right
underneath or nearly so and running parallel with the E string.

Soundpost cracks can be the worst.  They can be repaired, and
aren't always fatal...but at the same time, sometimes a soundpost
crack is almost fatal.

If you wanted to find a crack that could devastate the value of the
instrument, a soundpost crack on either back or belly could do it.
 Since a soundpost exerts pressure in that area, a repair
there will also be under constant pressure, making it more likely
to open up again.

However, I'll include the same caveat that Andres did, and perhaps
someone more knowledgeable than myself would care to chime in.
Good night...and good luck.




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Posted 28 January 2007 - 12:21 AM

Banzai, I guess my description of the crack was faulty. The crack
was running parallel to the tailpiece and directly towards the E
adjuster from it's starting point at the rear edge of the violin.
The end of the crack never got to the bridge, but stopped alongside
the center of the tailpiece. This is well above the soundpost. Is
it still considered a soundpost crack if it never reached the
soundpost area?

#6 Banzai


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Posted 28 January 2007 - 12:33 AM

That probably would not be considered a "soundpost crack" per
se...but at this point I will definitely have to defer to the more
knowledgeable members of this forum.  I'm a player with an
ever growing working knowledge of the ins and outs of violins...but
I am ill qualified to get into some of the minutiae and specifics
of repairs and damage.  (i.e. just how close does it have to
get before being considered a soundpost crack?)

From my own limited knowledge, your crack may be easily repairable,
depending on how close to the soundpost it is.  (Remember,
your soundpost is set behind the bridge ever so slightly)  It
is possible that without repair it may continue to propagate
further into the instrument, eventually becoming a bona fide
soundpost crack.  

The impact in monetary value to your fiddle honestly depends
entirely on the fiddle itself, as Andres alluded to.
Good night...and good luck.

#7 Michael Richwine

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Posted 28 January 2007 - 12:54 AM

That would probably be a saddle crack, running from the end of the
saddle toward the bridge.  It should be attended to promptly,
lest it become a soundpost crack.  A soundpost crack is
defined as a crack that runs over or very near to the sound post,
either on the front of back of the instrument.

$1500 to repair a crack such as you describe, that goes about
halfway up the tailpiece, is way high, in my experience.  We
routinely do such repairs for $80 to $250, depending on how much
labor is involved.
Michael Richwine
KC Fiddles
"You'll love the way you sound"

#8 Magnus Nedregard

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Posted 28 January 2007 - 06:22 AM

A table crack like that is not a soundpost crack. The difference is that a crack that comes very close to or directly over the soundpost has to patched. That makes a big difference as for the labour involved, and for the price. As Nonado mentioned, a crack running from the saddle on the treble side that stops severeal centimeters from the post aerea, is not that expensive to repair at all, and doesen't affect value if well repaired.

However if the crack is on the bass side it might get in trouble with the bass bar and cracks low on the instrument are thus often more serious on the bass side.

In any case even a sound post crack doesen't affect value much at all on a valuable instrument, whereas I'd say an inexpensive instrument with a badly repaired sp crack often IS affected somehwat.




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Posted 28 January 2007 - 07:04 AM

We may have the A violin with 30 well repaired (and almost invisible) cracks. And the B violin with just one crack, in a place that is not important, and with a visible repair. Violin B is obviously in better condition but 90% of people will frown upon it and say that violin A is in marvelous condition. Violin A may visit the luthier soon to reglue some of those cracks...




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Posted 28 January 2007 - 09:53 AM

Thank you all for the very informative responses. Apprenently, the first person who looked at the instrument rushed to judgment, and didn't notice that the crack stopped well short of the sound post.

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