See photos below. Sorry they aren't better; I didn't take them. This is a fiddle that just came into the antique mall where my wife sells antiques. I'm aware of the broad history of Hopf-marked violins, and I know they can be hit-or-miss on quality and sound. Based on the photos, this fiddle would need some work. New bridge, for starters. And at least one of the peg holes looks trashed. Possibly some issues at the seams. But if you saw this fiddle in a local antique mall, would you buy it? What do you think would be a fair price to pay for it at the retail level, in its current condition?
When I can get over there to look at it, I want to take a closer look at the carved head. It looks pretty tacky/ugly to me, but maybe I'm just not seeing it at its best angle. Any idea what it's supposed to be? Ever seen one like it before? It obviously took some time to carve, although the rear of the peg head looks pretty rough. I can't tell if this is a "good one" or just cheap garbage from the photos. I'll also need to have a keek inside to see about the sound post, corner blocks, etc.
Edited by - Tobus on 05/17/2017 10:38:02
I think that scroll is supposed to be a lion. Some are pretty nice and that one is about as crude as they get (and lots are like that). Sorry, no opinion on your other questions.
First off, I'm no expert, but I do like Hopf's. It's my understanding that as many as 28,some say 42, different people with the last name of Hopf made instruments. Only a couple of them, were really considered to be well thought of makers. I'm really sure this would not be an instrument made by one of those two. That being said it's kind of like any other trade fiddle, if you're going to have more than a couple of hundred in it, with the repairs included, you probably shouldn't buy it. Now the carved scroll does add a bit of collectible value. It's a Lion, by the way, and to my eyes not a bad looking one. It looks like it still has the tongue, that's a bit important, since most broke off right away. The repairs you mention sound to me like they might run $150 or so, depending on the shape it's actually in, so in my opinion I would not pay more than $100 for it, and would rather be at more like $50. Again the Lion head, with tongue, does give it a bit of extra value.
Now, is it a real Hopf???? That's a really good question, because the body shape is not the typical square shouldered shape, you think of with a Hopf. Some factories, took them as they came off the line and labeled them whatever name the order was for the day. In a late 1800's Sears and Robuck catalog, there were 3 Hopf's listed, a $2, a $5, and an $8 version. The wood quality improved with each level, but also the blocking inside improved: i.e. $2 one had no blocking, $5 had only 2 of the points blocked, and finally the $8 version had full blocking. You might easily have a carved in bass bar too. I have owned several, and I had what I considered to be a $5 version. It only had 2 of the points blocked, but the wood was very nice compared to this one, and it sounded really really good.
I hope this helps a little, and again I'm no expert, but for some reason a lot of Hopf instruments, show up at sales in Iowa. I looked at one last Saturday and passed on it, because it had been refinished, but it was the more traditional shape. They were asking $45 for it. The wood was a bit nicer than this one, but no lion head. Good luck you'll have to let us know what you decide.
By the way here's a picture of the one I currently have. The shop felt it was an actual Hopf, from the late 1800's. It has a bit more of the square shouldered thing going, and the high arching on both top and back. It was in great shape, well set up, had Peg head tuners. It has a sound that to me, just sounds like a fiddle. I'm always thrilled when I play something right, with this instrument, because it just sounds right. to me. Posting this for comparison purposes.
Thanks, that was indeed helpful. Once I look at it in person and see what else it needs (if it can be made playable again without major repair), I may have to negotiate a little on the price. I'm not exactly in the market for another fixer-upper cheap fiddle, as I already have three of those that need attention. But if nothing else, the lion's head may make it an interesting wall-hanger.
Just so you don't think I'm a "Hopf hater," here are pictures of a couple fiddles we have.The lions head one is obviously not a Hopf model, but the scroll is similar. A small fiddle with a small voice. I think it was $100, but that was quite a while ago, and it needed some work. I've seen quite a few fiddles over the last 50 or so years, but I doubt that many of the "Hopf" branded instruments ever had much association with a member of the Hopf family - they were just stamped that way coming out of the "factory." But that model was apparently popular or traditional in Klingenthal, where the Hopf family was from and I have a 19th century instrument made on that model by Christian Wilhelm Seidel. Lutgendorff describes a "deutschen Modellen" and a "Vogtlander Modell" made by members of the family, although they were from Markneukirchen. I think mine is quite a bit nicer instrument than what you're looking at. I think it was $125 at an auction, but it had a serious A string peghole crack, and that was also quite awhile ago.
BTW, I think some of those pegholes will be a problem, as you said.
I wouldn't give more than 25 dollars for it. It has a badly cracked peg box and ill fitted pegs. The neck angle is too low, so someone has put a wedge under the dyed fingerboard to raise it That probably indicates that it is very cheap construction that is not a neck set into a mortise, It may well be that the neck is shorter than standard, its hard to tell without handling it .Not only is the carving of the lions head crude, the neck looks like it's beech rather than maple. Unless you want a difficult and unpleasant task, that will likely produce an inferior fiddle, it's probably better to let this one go. Its a wall hanger.
Good eye Cornfed!! In the picture that shows the head/scroll from the back the crack is obvious, I missed that when I looked at the pictures the first time. I wouldn't buy it all, now that I see that, unless a wall hanger is really what you want.
I went and lookedat this fiddle today in person. The pehead was split and glued back on. Peg holes trashed and wallered out. Some cracks in the front and back. No corner blocks, no label inside.
But it has an interesting tailpiece with a brass insert, marked Worcester. Also, a bow marked Vallon Paris. The bow needs new hair, but it seems to be straight. Any value in the tailpiece or bow?
I don't know on the tailpiece and could only find a little on the bow. I read that a silver mounted bow labeled Vallon Paris, was estimated to sell for between $400-$800, back in 2009. That was the only thing I could find, and I'm not sure how much help that is. It also said the weight was 62 grams which is a bit heavy, maybe. I know I like them lighter than that. I wish there was more out there that would be useful. Can you tell if it's Pernambucco? If so, just that would give it a certain value that would approach that same range. I have a no name pernambucco bow, and had it appraised, they told me to insure it for $500, just because it would cost at least that to replace it with even a modern day Pernambucco bow.
Thanks. Yeah, an auction site is the only place I found any reference to Vallon Paris bows, and I saw the same value estimate there. As for whether it's pernambuco or not, I have no idea. I wouldn't even know what to look for. It may be no help at all, but below are a couple of pics of the bow. As you can see, it needs new hair and new winding/wrapping. I'm also including a photo of the tailpiece.
So the tailpiece certainly is fun, makes you think it would be from England, I still have no idea of the value. I have a hard time telling the difference between pernambucco and brazilwood, but backed into a corner, and forced to guess, I'd say this one is brazilwood, thus probably not as valuable. On the other hand if it's straight and feels good to you, it's hard to put a value on a bow you might use the rest of your life. I hope some others respond also, I always try to learn from these threads as well as help out if possible.
Well it's a moot point now. Apparently someone else bought it yesterday while I was still trying to make up my mind. Oh well. They probably saved me from myself.
I would definitely look at that situation and say fate intervened on your behalf. The coolest thing about the whole deal was the carved head that still had the tongue, but that was also the weakest part of the whole thing too, because of the bad peg holes and the fact that it had been previously cracked. I would assume whoever bought it can do the work it needed themselves, and thus save a lot of the cost associated with restoring it to playing condition. You'll have other chances at something cool, I'm sure of it.