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Jul 1, 2023 - 1:55:29 PM
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4406 posts since 6/22/2007

I was recently gifted a nice violin by a very dear, and long-time friend. An 1895 Wilhelm Duerer violin. It was in excellent ++ condition!!! One small minor scratch on the top plate near the fingerboard where a bow had rubbed against it, but otherwise a few insignificant dings and marks from being unsecured in a basic, unlined case. This wonderful gift is entirely serendipitous since I have been actively search for a new instrument for the past year or so.


The instrument had not seen daylight (really!!) since about 1970. (Yes, this is true!) It had been living under a bookcase all these years. And, it had not been played at all since well before 1940. It needed at a minimum a good cleaning, new strings and potentially a new bridge and sound post. (Thankfully, the sound post was in place.) Not knowing whether it was even worth messing with, I took it to my trusted luthier who thought it might be playable. He cleaned it and put on new Helicore strings. But before he finished, he told me that the sound post was good, but the bridge was wrong. It was too big (wide) for the instrument's construction. I told him to go ahead and cut a new bridge that was appropriate for the instrument. Even if it wasn't great, the instrument would be at least playable and I had only spent a bit over $100 on it. A few days later, he calls and tells me that it is ready and that I will "really, really like it." He added that it was "Phenomenal!" He was not exaggerating! It was very nice and looked like the new instruments he had on the wall. I sounded great in the shop, but I needed some alone time with it.

I played it at a jam recently. It was not the same instrument that I came with! It's voice totally changed over the 3 hour session. It was different! It opened up. The resonance was incredible. It was responsive. It was easy to play. It was true. It projects - and, holy cow, does it project!!! It fills the room! It is better than any of my other instruments!

And, to top it off, today I just received a very nice (!) JonPaul carbon fiber bow on a trial basis. (A gift to myself.) It really out performs my nice pernambuco bow that I bought 20 years ago. Between the instrument and the bow, I feel like I am now driving a Lamborghini and not a 1965 VW Bug!! (Right now, I think I am keeping the bow!)

What is even more remarkable its story of how this instrument came to me. It is deeply personal and private, but what I can say on this public forum is that there is a strong connection with the original owner and my father - something that I did not know until I learned the history. That alone makes it invaluable to me!

I would welcome any information anyone may have about Wilhem Duerer violins. I have found some information on line, but there is not much. I know that he was likely not the maker but was probably a shop owner who gave his name to a line of violins. I know that this was made in Saxony and was probably sold though Sears & Roebuck or Montgomery Ward catalogs. Duerer violins were sold from about 1890-1920. They seem to be of good quality. I know the value is somewhere between $50 and $50,000 <grin>, depending on lots of factors. Here are a few photos. (You can see the scratch in the top plate just beneath my thumb.)


Jul 1, 2023 - 2:54:21 PM
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DougD

USA

11992 posts since 12/2/2007

Kirk - I'm attaching a page from a Sears catalogue from I think about 1902. Hope you can read it. There are two "William Duerer" violins shown - #12R268 and #12R270, which looks something like yours. They are among the most expensive violins listed.
Great story.


Jul 1, 2023 - 3:16:05 PM

Fiddler

USA

4406 posts since 6/22/2007

quote:
Originally posted by DougD

Kirk - I'm attaching a page from a Sears catalogue from I think about 1902. Hope you can read it. There are two "William Duerer" violins shown - #12R268 and #12R270, which looks something like yours. They are among the most expensive violins listed.
Great story.


Thanks, Doug. Yes, the story and connections makes this instrument quite special to me.  But, additionally, it is really one of the most balanced and powerful instruments that I have played.

Thanks for the catalog image. Interesting!  Using an inflation calculator, $18.85 in 1902 translates to about $670 today. So, these were not totally out of reach for those with comfortable incomes and some disposable cash. 

Jul 1, 2023 - 3:30:46 PM
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1539 posts since 3/1/2020

Wilhelm Duerer was a trade name for mid-level German violins that were mass-produced and marketed extensively in the US via mail order catalogs.

The wood choice varies, but they tend to have a fairly hard varnish that chips easily. I set one up for a shop a few weeks ago.

Jul 1, 2023 - 3:46:07 PM

Fiddler

USA

4406 posts since 6/22/2007

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

Wilhelm Duerer was a trade name for mid-level German violins that were mass-produced and marketed extensively in the US via mail order catalogs.

The wood choice varies, but they tend to have a fairly hard varnish that chips easily. I set one up for a shop a few weeks ago.


Thanks! I don't see any chips right now, even under the bridge feet. I will certainly keep this in mind and handle it with care! 

Jul 1, 2023 - 4:39:55 PM
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1539 posts since 3/1/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Fiddler
quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

Wilhelm Duerer was a trade name for mid-level German violins that were mass-produced and marketed extensively in the US via mail order catalogs.

The wood choice varies, but they tend to have a fairly hard varnish that chips easily. I set one up for a shop a few weeks ago.


Thanks! I don't see any chips right now, even under the bridge feet. I will certainly keep this in mind and handle it with care! 


Glad to hear you found a fiddle that you're so happy to have.

Jul 1, 2023 - 8:34:58 PM
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Fiddler

USA

4406 posts since 6/22/2007

quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful
quote:
Originally posted by Fiddler
quote:
Originally posted by The Violin Beautiful

Wilhelm Duerer was a trade name for mid-level German violins that were mass-produced and marketed extensively in the US via mail order catalogs.

The wood choice varies, but they tend to have a fairly hard varnish that chips easily. I set one up for a shop a few weeks ago.


Thanks! I don't see any chips right now, even under the bridge feet. I will certainly keep this in mind and handle it with care! 


Glad to hear you found a fiddle that you're so happy to have.


For right now, it will suit me quite well.  Thanks again for your insights.

Jul 2, 2023 - 4:26:56 AM
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2595 posts since 10/1/2008

Enjoy. It seems to me fiddles are a lot like cats. When a one is needed it just shows up. Do enjoy the music it / you make and the story it reminds you of. R/

Jul 2, 2023 - 6:08:43 AM

Fiddler

USA

4406 posts since 6/22/2007

quote:
Originally posted by UsuallyPickin

Enjoy. It seems to me fiddles are a lot like cats. When a one is needed it just shows up. Do enjoy the music it / you make and the story it reminds you of. R/


Thanks! It really was just being the right place at the right time! And, as a matter of fact, I will visiting my friend this afternoon and playing some tunes. So, creating more memories!

Jul 2, 2023 - 5:49:31 PM
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393 posts since 12/2/2013
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I have a 1902 Durer that I got 45 years ago by trading a cream telecaster guitar for, mine has leaves carved into the back of the peg box.

Jul 5, 2023 - 7:08:26 AM
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5823 posts since 7/1/2007

I like Duerer fiddles. Always buy them when I can find a decent deal, Have two or three in stock now. They usually have some kind of fancy carving on the back of the peg box, and usually end up sounding good. Never could find out much about the maker. Usually say "Eisleben", which is up near Leipzig, but never found any biographical information. If they were big enough to supply Sears. they might have been a small production "Verleger" with good control over varnish, style, and overall QC.

Jul 5, 2023 - 8:19:50 AM

Fiddler

USA

4406 posts since 6/22/2007

quote:
Originally posted by KCFiddles

I like Duerer fiddles. Always buy them when I can find a decent deal, Have two or three in stock now. They usually have some kind of fancy carving on the back of the peg box, and usually end up sounding good. Never could find out much about the maker. Usually say "Eisleben", which is up near Leipzig, but never found any biographical information. If they were big enough to supply Sears. they might have been a small production "Verleger" with good control over varnish, style, and overall QC.


Thanks, Michael! This one has no carvings. It is just made well and in almost mint condition. From what I have found so far, it seems that the carving on the back of the peg box started appearing around 1898-1900. This one does say "Eisleben" and "Registered". (Not sure what this means.) 

The one issue we had is with the placement of the bass bar when it was made.  (I would not have recognized this issue had not my luthier pointed it out.) The distance between the f-holes is smaller than on other 4/4 violins. This makes the foot of a full-size bridge stradle the bass bar. The result is a very thin low end and only a moderate balance across the strings. When he cut a 3/4 size bridge, the feet sat exactly where they should. The result is just a incredible, full and balanced sound across the strings and quick response!!

Thanks again for the information. Every little piece helps complete the picture!

Jul 5, 2023 - 3:48:56 PM
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2556 posts since 4/6/2014

smiley Enjoy, I reckon fiddles are like cats, they find their own homes and stay there if they like it....And you like them. .My favourite fiddle was given to me also.

Jan 6, 2024 - 8:06:37 PM

1 posts since 1/6/2024

Hi all, I wanted to see where else you got your information on Wilhelm Duerer violins. There’s one for sale near my that needs quite some work and I’d like to read up before making any offer.

My local luthier has indicated these instruments would roughly retail for 700-800.

Jan 7, 2024 - 7:35:56 PM

Fiddler

USA

4406 posts since 6/22/2007

quote:
Originally posted by almedakarlito

Hi all, I wanted to see where else you got your information on Wilhelm Duerer violins. There’s one for sale near my that needs quite some work and I’d like to read up before making any offer.

My local luthier has indicated these instruments would roughly retail for 700-800.


That seems to be right for a fixer-upper. I have seen some Duerers on various sites selling for $200-$600, but they appear to have severe structural issues, cracks, separated seams and harsh surface blemishes.  Since I am not a luthier, I'm not willing risk my money, not only to purchase a damaged shell, but also to repair it to make it playable.

I've seen some later model Duerers selling for $2-4k that were in excellent condition - no cracks, repairs, blemishes, etc. From what I have found in my research, these are mid-upper level German trade instruments that tend to be better quality that other trade instruments. Their target market was advanced students seeking professional orchestra or soloist careers. (I know - there are better instrument options! But, this is marketing.)  Doug posted a link to a Sears catalog page showing Duerer violins priced at about $19 - much higher that the inexpensive ones which sold for $5-$12 or so. 

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my luthier set mine up and fit it with a proper bridge and tailpiece, and this thing is a monster!! I couldn't be happier. I also have a wonderful J.B. Schweitzer copy (also a German trade instrument) that has impeccable craftsmanship and also great sound and projection qualities. But the Duerer is in another class! And, my Duerer has an incredible story and connects me to my dear friend and my father.

Keep in mind that the market value of these instruments is what someone would pay for it. Replacement value for insurance purposes is a different matter. So, check recent sales of similar instruments and consult with several knowledgeable appraisers. I know what mine would sell for and the insurance value and it shocked me!! Same with my Schweitzer. I have been also shocked at the amount of unsolicited offers for my Schweitzer! Needless to say, neither of these will be left out of my sight.

My advice would be to find a reputatable violin shop, or event the Fiddlehangout Marketplace!, and find your forever fiddle there that is within your budget. Don't waste your money on an unknown unless you know what you are doing.

Edited by - Fiddler on 01/07/2024 19:51:31

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