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Jun 20, 2023 - 10:38:16 AM

RichJ

USA

989 posts since 8/6/2013

A friend of mine called to tell me a violin with the above name on the inside label is up for auction here in CT. The label also states Smith is the "manufacturer and salesman" of the violin and that it was made in 1912. My hunch is this is probably a standard German trade instrument, contracted by Smith who wanted his name shown inside. Has anyone here ever seen or heard of violins with a similar provenance?

Jun 20, 2023 - 11:53:41 PM

1541 posts since 3/1/2020

It was pretty common at that time for American dealers or workmen to put their own labels into German violins and either pass them off as their own work or as the products of their workshops. This issue comes up from time to time when evaluating an instrument that’s labeled similarly.

A while back I had a customer who brought in a violin that was supposed to be by a maker from Texas who was admired among fiddlers. The violin was labeled in a way that it appeared that the maker wanted everyone to believe he’d made the violin, but it was very obviously a commercial German violin that he’d regraduated and revarnished. No amount of evidence could convince the owner of this, as he was so enamored of the maker’s name and reputation that he wouldn’t accept that it was possible for the maker to have put his label in anything but a violin he’d made.

I’ve come across at least a couple violins by makers with the Smith name (I learned making from a Smith, too), but not an LT Smith from Nebraska. There were all kinds of small one-man operations around the country at the time, and many of them never made it into the books.

Jun 21, 2023 - 4:31:49 AM

RichJ

USA

989 posts since 8/6/2013

Hey Rich - Thanks for that detailed explanation. Guess it's pretty much what i thought. Although, all this brings up the technical question of how those labels got inside the violins. Were they pasted in during assembly in German, or was this done here in the United States? If the later, it makes me wonder if the violins were sent here with the tops unglued. This would allow labels to be easily glued in and maybe some regraduation work as well. I guess it's also easily enough to glue a label in through the F hole of an assembled violin. Any thoughts on this?

Jun 21, 2023 - 6:53:30 AM
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1541 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by RichJ

Hey Rich - Thanks for that detailed explanation. Guess it's pretty much what i thought. Although, all this brings up the technical question of how those labels got inside the violins. Were they pasted in during assembly in German, or was this done here in the United States? If the later, it makes me wonder if the violins were sent here with the tops unglued. This would allow labels to be easily glued in and maybe some regraduation work as well. I guess it's also easily enough to glue a label in through the F hole of an assembled violin. Any thoughts on this?


The labels were installed by the sellers in the US. The factories that made them in Germany were just making finished or semi-finished instruments and not involved in the labeling. Nowada shops will often buy Chinese violins and put their own labels in. You can get private labels made by some of the manufacturers, but it isn't really important, because it's just as easy to take a label out or cover it with a bigger one. The private labeling is a way for shops to get around rules for setting MSRP, as once the instrument isn't identified and advertised as what it originally was, there is no longer a way to hold the shop to any certain price. Sometimes this is done to sell violins for less than MSRP, but most of the time it's a way to make a few minor changes and then relabel as "made exclusively for ____" and charge more.

Most labels are glued in after the instrument is finished, whether by a maker, factory, or a dealer. It's actually easier to do it that way so that the label is in the best position for viewing. 

Jun 21, 2023 - 7:55:58 AM
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DougD

USA

11998 posts since 12/2/2007

Richj - As you surmised, some instruments were shipped here "in the white" and sometimes with the tops loosely glued on, with the intention that they would be graduated and varnished by a shop here. I think Rich may have worked in a shop that did some of this.
There was a recent thread here about a violin similar to the one you're asking about, including some promotional materials from the "builder," worded in such a way that implied he actually made the instruments, without actually saying it.
Here is the thread: fiddlehangout.com/topic/57888

Edited by - DougD on 06/21/2023 08:05:19

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