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Jun 5, 2022 - 5:30:39 PM
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5733 posts since 7/1/2007

I recently set up a fiddle for a full-time show fiddler. He had received it as a gift, and been told it was something special. It was an E. R. Schmidt, 1900 - 1930 or so. A "better" brand of trade fiddle. I didn't think much about it, just went ahead and did "the works" the best I can, that I would do for a pro: planed the hump out of the fingerboard, put in minimal scoop, new pegs, set the nut just right, new tailpiece and button, installed a Baggs bridge, new Helicores, new sound post.

I was really impressed with the way this fiddle came out sounding, given that I set it up as a dark-bright plugged-in stage fiddle and not a brilliant soloist concert violin. Powerful, responsive, even across all the strings, it compared well to the high-dollar "violins" I have in the shop.

Curious, I got to doing a little research. That Schmidt sold in 1928 for $40 to $75, depending on the model. The $8000 (present day high retail) Eugen Meinel that I just bought, equivalent to a Roth X-R, sold in 1928 at Montgomery Wards for a flat $50.00 Now, at the time, the Meinel brand was a way of allowing Roth to sell more violins in the US, and Schmidt had been building their brand for 40 years. Still the Schmidt brand was good enough that the catalog sellers would price a top-end Scmidt 50% above a top-end, off-brand Roth.

Seems like I haven't been giving the Schmidt family firm enough credit. Present day retail for a good E R Schmidt seems to be around $3000. Is that based on actual performance, or just market perception because of lack of marketing support? Or are Roths actually that much better? In the meantime, I've been looking for some good Schmidts, because the present a good value to my customers, as to the Neuners I buy whenever I find them.

Jun 7, 2022 - 2:35:43 AM

768 posts since 3/1/2020

The E.R. Schmidt workshop produced an extensive line of instruments, from inexpensive to higher grade examples. They were widely distributed, much like the other popular German workshop lines. Workmanship is usually good, and that gives them a lot of potential. The wood selection varies considerably.

They are not as highly valued as violins from the Roth workshop. Some of it is to do with the greater name recognition of Roth productions and the business acumen of the Roth family in promoting themselves as producing the highest quality instruments (a debatable claim, but one regularly accepted in the US). Another distinguishing feature of the Roth instruments is their system of serialization. It’s easy to look up information about one using the label and brand. Over time, dishonest sellers have begun to mimic this system to either backdate newer models or to attribute other German workshop violins to the Roth factory. With the Schmidt violins, one is more likely to see one relabeled as something entirely different (perhaps even a Roth).

I just set a Maggini model Schmidt up over the weekend that has a huge amount of power, although it’s a bit encumbered by some of its design characteristics. The shop that owns it is convinced that they can get a considerable amount for it. Their opinion is that Schmidt is a somewhat undervalued brand, one that falls just below Heberlein in the hierarchy, which in turn falls below Roth. I see Schmidt violins all the time in bulk boxes sold by dealers.

Perhaps with some targeted inflation of the name, the value will increase, but I feel it’s a lot better for the players for brands, especially commercial ones, to avoid being artificially pumped up so that they can be bought by shops at very modest prices, made playable again, and sold at a price that ought not make the seller blush for shame.

Jun 7, 2022 - 8:06:52 AM

Swing

USA

2144 posts since 6/26/2007

I have an E Reinholt Schmidt fiddle.... my Luthier says that it is a step up from the trade fiddles... one piece back, fine grain spruce top... very well crafted and most of all it plays easily with great deep tone.... the label refers to it as an Amati Pattern....I have had this fiddle for many years before getting my other two fiddles, it is a keeper

Play Happy

Swing

Jun 7, 2022 - 11:56:39 AM
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768 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Swing

I have an E Reinholt Schmidt fiddle.... my Luthier says that it is a step up from the trade fiddles... one piece back, fine grain spruce top... very well crafted and most of all it plays easily with great deep tone.... the label refers to it as an Amati Pattern....I have had this fiddle for many years before getting my other two fiddles, it is a keeper

Play Happy

Swing


That comment is a bit perplexing, because those instruments are textbook examples of "trade fiddles," simply that some are toward the higher end of the range and some are lower.

For those who didn't know this, just about all the names put on German production makers did NOT identify individual makers who made each instrument from start to finish. In the mid- to late- 1800s violins were made by a "cottage industry," where families would make individual parts which would be assembled later on (e.g. one person might carve only scrolls, one might rough out plates, one might put in purfling, etc.). As business became more industrialized in the 1900s-1930s, more began to be produced in large warehouses. Around 1910 a milling machine was invented that allowed plates to be roughly thicknessed on the inside. As a result, it was no longer possible to make the integral bass bar, a common feature of the cottage industry, and that practice quickly fell out of use.

There's a romantic notion that these makers sat alone at their benches making one masterpiece at a time and scraping for hours by candle light to perfect their arching. That simply didn't happen, not in Stradivari's or Guarneri's workshop, not in Vuillaume's, not in the Roth factory, and certainly not in the Schmidt workshop. It was a high-volume production industry where speed of work was essential.

This should not be taken as a dismissal of the German production instruments. On the contrary, most were made by workmen with very skilled hands simply under immense time pressure to produce, which meant that many things would fly under the radar. Compare this to the JTL factory in Mirecourt, which had a massive line of benches and people working at them. All of these production instruments form the "bread and butter" of most violin shops as serviceable instruments at generally reasonable prices. With some investment of time and attention they can last many everyday players a lifetime. 

Edited by - The Violin Beautiful on 06/07/2022 11:57:12

Jun 7, 2022 - 12:16:58 PM

Swing

USA

2144 posts since 6/26/2007

Rich, I agree with your comment.... perhaps my luthiers comment is simply a statement of quality rather than a blanket phrase.... He noted that the scroll carving on my fiddle was particularly fine as the purling and edge finish... I do have another German fiddle that while it sounds pretty good, the fit and finish is nowhere near as refined as this instrument is, very much a mass produced instrument.

Play Happy

Swing

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