Updated Sept 27, 2023
Inquiry on a ”Stradivarius violin”
By Ryan Thomson
A letter I received:
I found an old violin several years ago in an old turn of the century theater before it was torn down. I realize many old violins carry the Stradivarius label. I was told by one dealer that one could distinguish a Strad by the blocks of wood glued inside the violin. He supposedly was the only maker who did this.
My label reads Antonius Stradivarius Cremonanlis Faciebat Anno with the AS + insignia. There appears to be a date of 1718, but it is not very legible. However, penciled in on the inside of the violin is a date of 1730 that is preceded by Aar. I have no idea what this means and hoped you could maybe help me.
The violin is in perfect condition with a one piece back. It is definitely hand made. It is complete with three bows and has a very old case made of wood that appears to be overlaid with a very old type of leather material. I would be interested to know if the worth of the old violin might be worth my while for investigating.
Thanking you in advance,
Thousands of makers try to copy Strads as exactly as they can, and so add the same blocks as he did. I own a beautiful and high quality Strad copy myself. The maker actually scratched it and gouged it purposefully to make it look exactly like the real Strad he was copying! Labels are often meaningless.
Your violin must be in the hands of a knowledgeable person to tell anything about its condition, value, age, etc. Imagine buying a used car over the internet with out seeing it, getting in it, starting it up, driving it: "1992 Dodge pickup, great condition, new paint job, make offer."
I have to admit though, someone last week actually sent me a dozen close up pictures of a violin via email. It looked nice, but I still had to give him essentially the same advice as I'm offering you.
If you have access to my web page, and can check my performing schedule, bring your violin along to somewhere that I'll be, and I'll look at it, if you live close enough. If I were you though, I'd get several opinions! I've also written an excellent (and inexpensive) do-it-yourself book titled - The Fiddle and Violin Buyer's Guide.
PS Another useful resource for those interested in researching old violins is the book - Practical History of the Violin, which has life size reproductions of 1200 different actual violin labels of makers of vintage violins.
This article written by Ryan Thomson, 2001