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frlogo4.JPG (4715 bytes)REUTER'S FOCUS REPORT
English Report Summaries-Available German Titles

The Great Violin Hoax -- or,

“Birds of a Feather Racketeer Together.”

Variations on a Scheme by Ponzi.
 Copyright © Fritz Reuter and Sons, Inc. 2006 All rights reserved
By Fritz Reuter, Jr.

Also read this article published in The Strad about
teachers and kickbacks ("Bought and Sold?").

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 1.*    Lying and deception are commonplace in today's world.   The deceptions have come in many forms and they have crept into nearly all aspects of modern day life --- the violin business included.  Witness the testimony of Professor Colin Gough:

Science has not provided any convincing evidence for the existence or otherwise of any measurable property that would set the Cremonese instruments apart from the finest violins made by skilled craftsman today.  Indeed, some leading soloists do occasionally play on modern instruments.  However, the really top soloists --- and, not surprisingly, violin dealers, who have vested interest in maintaining the Cremonese legend of intrinsic superiority --- remain utterly unconvinced

Excerpts from Professor Colin Gough's "Science and the Stradivarius," April 2000. Colin Gough is at the School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK (http://physicsweb.org/article/world/13/4/8/1

Moreover, media reports are filled with examples of perfidy --- politicians lying about their actions...(Such as Operation Greylord, Operation Silver Shovel, etc http://www.usdoj.gov/). A couple of documents will make my reasons concrete --- and further dramatize the special relevance of all this to the violin business.  And what a business it is!

2.*     My first document is an excerpt from one seller's response to a letter I had written him, dealing with the secret and underhanded workings of most violin sellers:

March 21, 1984

Dear Fritz ....

     Your second question regarding the payment of commissions, finder's fees or any other remuneration in money or kind is much easier to settle.  If you are in business and want to sell instruments, you will find it very difficult to be successful without doing it. [Note, this is done without telling the buyer.]  It has become an established and accustomed practice that has become a necessity for survival for many.  [Sellers of Stringed Instruments] And regardless of the protestations of many, this practice [paying up to 50%  kickbacks of the sales price to teachers, etc.] will survive and be part of our life, the same as prostitution in all its many forms has been part of our lives since time immemorial.  So take it from there as a strictly philosophical observation on my part; it is an existing condition and not necessarily my idea of what is better or more ethical.

Hans Weisshaar
Founder and President of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers.
Former President of the International Society of Violin and Bow makers
(See my letter and his response: RIN:067 & RIN:068)
Answer to Question 1: Regraduation --  Answer to Question 2: Kickbacks

3.*     With no immediate comment on Mr. Weisshaar's letter, I ask that you also consult the fascinating account by Susan M. Barbieri in Strings (See: RIN:347).  Her title posed a question: "An Elegy for Ethics?"  Of course, the magazine in which her essay appeared made it obvious that she was talking about the ethics of string instrument dealers, performers, and teachers.  She points out that, unbeknownst to buyers, music teachers accept instrument dealers' commissions --- a genteel word for what most would call kickbacks --- for "helping" students find instruments.  Yet this is only to make a beginning.  To appreciate the level of racketeering in the violin business, take the time to read the sobering accounts of the "Axelrod Story" from a variety of news sources.  They are listed on our website: RIN:258.  At he bottom of all these stories lies a single untold story‑a kind of master plot (in both senses of "plot"!).  It is the story of infighting between dealers and their collaborators.  (1) The more established group traces back to, and honors the ethical code of, the European guild tradition; they're dealers who are instrument makers.  (2) The new guys on the block are not makers, though they're sometimes musicians --- but first and foremost they're businessmen, dealers who at best honor only the minimal norms for commercial transactions.  Too often, they neglect even these, what philosopher David Ozar has called "the minimal morality of the marketplace .  .  .  a general prohibition on coercion and fraud."

4.*     Most of them are prominent and leading members of various Violin Making Associations.  Also prominent are teachers, many listed on the honor rolls of ASTA, the American String Teachers Association, (See RIN:029) and also the aficionados of the VSA, Violin Society of America.  Given our present focus on dealers, however, of special interest are those whom we listed in our Focus Report of Spring, 1992 --- individuals we identified as part of the International Violin Maffia.  (See: RIN:131)

As an acronym, MAFFIA (standing for various fleecing arrangements)

Makers And Fiddlers Fleecing In Accord
Merchants And Fiddlers Fleecing In Accord
Music Men And Fiddlers Fleecing In Accord
Mythologists And Fiddlers Fleecing In Accord.

well describes their business strategies.  It is quite an experience to review the names, Big Names, and to trace the attached histories as they unfold from 1992 onward.  I urge you to check out the following:

Hans Weisshaar, former President of the International Society of Violin and Bow Makers, and Founder of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers. (See RIN:128)

Charles Beare, former President of the International Society of Violin and Bow Makers (See RIN:071)

Peter Biddulph, convicted felon (See: Segleman Estate "Fiddles") and violin dealer.(See RIN:325 and RIN:296). Biddulph was also formerly employed in the shop of Charles Beare.  Formerly employed by Sotheby's and Christie's Auction house and was a consultant to Tarisio auctions.

Jacques Francais, former President of the International Society of Violin and Bow Makers, as well as Co‑Founder of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers. 
(See RIN:128) Also see , (fake instrument labeling-Montagnana)

Yuko Kanda, convicted felon and violin dealer. (See RIN:024)

Kenneth Warren & Son, non‑violin makers yet former member(s) of the International Society of Violin and Bow Makers -- as well as co‑defendant(s) in the infamous "Segelman scandal." (See RIN:023, and RIN:143)

Carl Becker & Son, members of the International Society of Violin and Bow Makers, and Co‑Founder of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers. (See RIN:016 and RIN:019)

(Sons of Ron Hubbard), violin dealer

The more recent arrivals on the scene are:

Dietmar Machold, violin dealer with locations in Bremen, Vienna, Chicago, Aspen, Seoul, and Zurich.

Keith Bearden, convicted  felon, bow maker and violin dealer and former Secretary of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers (See RIN:073). Currently, Bearden is employed by Dieter Machold.

Christopher Reuning of "Tarisio Auctions," Vice-President of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Maker. (see fake instruments)

5.*   And there are others.  For now, however, let me extend my catalog through mention of a different category of actors.  Not to be forgotten are some former members of the editorial staff of The Strad magazine.  Nor should we forget German Maffia representatives (my list is not exhaustive):

Hironymus Koestler, violin maker and dealer (See: RIN:066)
Wolfgang Bünnagel, violin maker and dealer
(See: RIN:118 RIN:417  RIN:434
Peter Benedekt, violin maker and dealer
Wolfgang Zunterer, violin maker and dealer.

     And, as I've already indicted, there are others.

6.*    Aside from vying to monopolize the violin business, a prominent part of their quest was to take possession of what I will call this business's "Royal Crown Jewels."  I refer to the full archives of the prominent and internationally recognized experts, themselves violin makers as well as dealers --- namely, the famous Hills of London.  "Their certificates are the password of authenticity," according to Anne Inglis of The Strad.  And this is true even though Hill & Sons closed their business a number of years ago, their descendants, Andrew and David R. Hill, retain their tradition.

7.*    To verify the authenticity of any prominent stringed instrument or bow, the Hills and their voluminous archives were and are the final, ultimate word in the violin business.  The same holds for their certificates of authenticity, which remain the most sought‑after authenticating documents in the violin world.

8.*     No other dealer came close to their expertise as well as their recognition, among their peers, for absolute honesty and fairness.  Worldwide, they were known for their willingness to share their great expertise freely.  No customer of theirs is know to have ever experienced any financial loss in their dealings with Hill & Sons.

9.*     Not unlike the Hills, most of the violin dealers in the past were also makers.  When the world did not have airplanes and telephones, let alone faxes and email, a local dealer's existence depended on integrity and reputation.  The world was not their marketplace.  Communication with other dealers was not easy.  Price fixing was an impossibility and violins were not considered a major investment; therefore, dealers had to protect their good name, especially if they belonged to a family business.

10.*     But what happened to the Hills enormous, and enormously precious, archives?  Who was able to afford, and profit from, this resource?  Perhaps surprisingly, it was not any of the "MAFFIA" figures in my list above.  It was one Dietmar Machold, an exceptionally prominent and internationally recognized violin dealer.  His dealership includes branches in New York, Chicago, Tokyo, Vienna, Bremen, Seoul, Zurich and Seattle.

11.*    It was exclusively to Dietmar Machold that Hill & Sons sold and entrusted their most prized possession.  A British National Treasure was, so to speak, irrevocably lost.

12.*     But who, beyond his business identity, is Professor Machold?  Perhaps oddly yet in fact, he is the descendant to several generations of violin makers though he himself was not led to become a luthier.  He is not a maker at all --- unless, that is, you want to say he makes deals.  In any case, he purports to have a vast background and expertise in appraising stringed instruments.  He also holds degrees in business administration and in law.  And beyond this, he is a director of one of Europe's largest insurance companies, the "Manheimer Versicherungs Gesellschaft."  But there is more.  Aside from having possession of the "Royal Crown Jewels," the famous Hill archives, he has scored an additional coup.  So he now owns the archives of another noted firm ---that of the Stuttgart violin dealers and makers, Fridolin and Walter Hamma.

13.*     My paragraphs illustrate an ongoing polarization between those who follow the honorable tradition of Hill & Sons --‑ and others.  Yes, the Hills were violin dealers and makers.  They were also, however, members of antique dealer associations.  They looked upon old violins for what they are, objects of antiquity.  Regarding any particular instrument, their objective knowledge emphasized (and their certificates of authenticity reflect this) two things: the issues of originality and physical condition.

14.*     This stands in real contrast to the more recent tradition of prominent dealers, dealers who promote scientological schemes a la the late Ron Hubbard's science fiction --- dealers who, in peddling their wares, emphasize the violin's most subjective attribute, its sound.  In their advertising fictions, they claim that violins keep improving with age.  This amounts to saying that a string instrument is the only physical entity in the universe, the only machine, that mysteriously improves with age.  There's no law of entropy in their world.  None at all.

15.*     They have created a modern equivalent to Dutch "Tulipmania" or "Tulipomania" of the early 1600's (See wiki-pedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulip_mania).  In that almost unimaginable circumstance, people entered into a speculative buying spree focused on a new commodity, tulips.  Eventually, people actually paid the incredible modern equivalent of $44,000 per handful of tulip bulbs.  Then, in 1637, the whole investment structure collapsed --- and brought down the Dutch economy with it.

16.*     The modern counterpart to all this, or so I've suggested, is obsessed not with flowers but fiddles.  Some of the dealers who operate this way (take Jacques Francais of New York or Reuning & Son  of Boston) even advertise fake instruments as originals.  Take, for instance, a cello purportedly made by the great Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu.  I say "purportedly" for good reason.  For, regarding this master maker, the Hills wrote (I quote their The Violin‑Makers of the GUARNERI FAMILY):

.  .  .  the master's life was a comparatively brief and unproductive one.  We [Hills] have no definite reasons for believing that he [i.e., del Gesu] ever, turned his attention to the making of either viola or violoncello.  We have made minute inquiry during many years, and nothing so far resulted to point to any efforts of his in that direction.  On divers occasions both violoncellos and violas have been submitted to us, instruments put forward with definite pretensions, but in no case could they stand serious scrutiny.

17.*     A lot of things can't --- especially in the world created by rare old instrument dealers.  Take the late Jacques Francais, whose name you've seen on my early list, above.  He got the Chicago Symphony to come into possession of a fake viola, labeled Montagnana.  It was an instrument which he had sold and certified as genuine.  Yet there simply is no record, no record at all, of Montagnana ever having made violas. (See RIN:130)

18.*     Now, if you will, I ask you to consider the facsimile of a memo from Charles Beare.  As you know, it is one of two documents in the opening of these remarks --- and it is worth scrolling back to reread it  (See RIN:071).  Yes, Beare was a former President of the International Society.  However, as you can tell from his appraisal of the "Sainton," he was unable to tell the difference between (1) a John Lott violin (a violin by one of his own English makers and valued at approximately $60,000) and (2) a violin made by the great Italian maker, Guarneri del Gesu.  The latter would sell for approximately $3,500,000.  Now not being able to distinguish between an English and an Italian violin is one thing.  Not knowing whether or not you're really holding a Great Cremonese fiddle is another.  Even so, to use Beare's own words (See: The Strad of April, 2005): "You can recognize one [a Guarneri del Gesu instrument] as soon as it comes into the room." To the consternation of the instrument's purchaser, Beare's misjudgment carried a price tag of about $3,440.000.  Yet Beare is the man The Strad was touting as the world's greatest violin expert.

19.*     At the risk of redundancy, permit me to remind us of the larger picture.  Historically, there have been two distinct venues for merchandising violins‑--linked to two groups of violin dealers. See Fleecing Procedures.

20.*     The foremost --- always violin dealers and makers --- list and listed themselves as members of antique dealers' associations, since they dealt primarily with antique instruments.  They were and are masters of real expertise in discerning those aspects of an instrument which determine its monetary value.  Their interest is and was primarily the restoration, preservation, and certification of an instrument's provenance.  The tone or sound of the instrument was up to the subjective discretion, the preference, of a prospective buyer.

21.*     Yet my second group is constituted by different people --‑ people who promote sales in a radically different way.  This is a matter worth fuller exploration.

The False Premise

22.*     The newer, scientologized branch of the violin business intentionally promotes a fictional premise.  Paraphrasing comments and claims found in a range of sources, I would characterize that fiction as follows:

23.*     The real basis for the price of instruments is, in fact, their tonal quality.  And this is linked to a hierarchy of makers.  Those makers whose instruments --- the finest ones they crafted --- produce the finest tone are at the top of the hierarchy.  This is the one true ranking system, a scale of worth, and it determines the monetary value of each and every instrument in the world.  Stradivari and Guarneri are given the highest position.  The tonal quality of other makers' violins earns those makers a specific place on the scale.  Their rank obviously falls below the very highest level, but the range is great.  And some makers will be nearer to the angels than others, while some will sadly be so near the bottom as to be easily dismissed.  The single basis for this true hierarchy of worth is tonal quality, tonal beauty.  This, need we add, is unquestionably true --- self-evidently so.

24.*     Yet this is hokum and science fiction.  Let me respond to it.  Let me unequivocally assert that NO Stradivari or Guarneri violins exist which are truly original (See RIN:016) --- which are as they were when they were finished and left their makers' shops for the first time.  Every violin created by these esteemed makers has been, in some way, modified and physically altered --- often dramatically.  Therefore, no one can possibly know how any one of these instruments originally sounded, what its tone was like, when it was an unaltered, new violinGreat artists play them for the status they provide, as an emblem of their prominence.  "You, Mr./Ms . . . deserve an instrument that matches your artistic status, the height of your achievements within the world of music." (See: RIN:041)

25.*     All of this reminds me of a statement (check the October 2003 issue of Strings) made by the well known string teacher, Professor Jamie Laredo of the Curtis Institute: "A great player can make a cigar box sound great." Also, it again calls to mind an undisputed principle and physical law --- that of entropy. (See: http://www.answers.com/entropy&r=67 "Inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society.")

26.*     This principle assures us of a simple fact.  Because of entropy, the inevitable decay of all matter, the violins of Stradivari and Guarneri had to sound their best when they were new instruments.  Remember, these makers crafted fine and fine sounding new instruments.  This is what promoted their fame.  Today, their violins are worn, atrophied, three hundred year old, usually much-remodeled (often, disastrously so) antiques. (See RIN:041).

 27.*    So what then prompts our new breed of dealers' hyper-merchandising of old violins, and the nearly unbelievable inflation of their prices?  The claim is the elusive "secret" of Stradivari! (See RIN:026).

28.*     Today, we have people calling themselves students of acoustics, yes, physicists of acoustics.  Their method of analyzing the so-called elusive way of Stradivarius's sound production is like analyzing the unique sound of an Harley-Davidson motorcycle and trying to connect this (as an explanation) in a round-about-way, to conclude upon and find out the mechanical construction of its cycles engine.

29.*    Their method of reasoning is their claim of understanding the mechanical workings of a violin, according to von Helmholtz, the great physicist.  Hermann von Helmholtz's incomplete understanding of the apparent action of the stimulated string let to the fact that only few makers recognize that the violin’s body is acting as a bellows, a pneumatic device, amplifying the sound of the strings.  Von Helmholtz understood only the visible motions of the strings, not the longitudel ones, generated by the continuous shortening and lengthening through the sideways movement of the stimulated strings.  This oversight has been rectified by the groundbreaking work of violinmaker Hans Roedig, his explaining the "Roedig Effect" in detail.(See: RIN:036)

30.*     Aside from analyzing the various premises, upon which these violin mythologies are based, “following the money” is an other avenue of seeing the monetary angle of the violin-racket.

Follow the Money!

31.*     Buying a violin, in contrast to other instruments, is a perfect example of a "blind" purchase. (See Chapter 1: How to Buy a Violin) Purchasers lack the special knowledge and skills needed to evaluate the instrument they want to acquire.  For that reason, they rely upon the guidance of someone who has what they themselves lack.  This is why it is so important that, as in past generations, prominent dealers in fine antique violins were mostly violin makers.  They had professional expertise, a hard-won competence, and the public trust --- and in large measure, that public trust derived from an understanding that they honored the ethical norms of their profession.  Indeed, their status as professionals was confirmed by other professionals recognizing them as professionals; from outside their professional community, the larger community confirmed their status by according them the same recognition.

32.*     However, in the late 1800's, a new type of seller entered the violin business in force: the String Teacher.  By promoting the faddish but contradictory idea that old violins sound better than new ones, as well as the falsehood that high‑priced violins must always be better than the low-priced, they got what they wanted.  The market took off.  Establishing a most profitable re-cycling business!  And their legacy to us?  A highly profitable hierarchy --- not of connoisseurs, persons knowledgeable about the instruments and bows they purchased, but of ordinary collectors.  Collectors became part of a classical pyramid scheme.  Sellers of this new breed, such as the now defunct String Department of Lyon & Healy, Chicago, were the promoters of this great violin hoax. (See: RIN:037 )

 33.*    Unlike other symphonic musicians, playing new and vastly less costly brass or woodwinds, string players "needed" rare old and antique instruments.  The propagandized reason we already know: Old violins are better than new ones.  And we add, because of the "lost secret of Stradivari," new violins are tonally inferior (See: RIN:026).

 34.*    Old and antique violins now became the status symbols, and string teachers and dealers thus created a new desire.  Every aspiring string player had to have an antique instrument.  The mythology which drove and seemingly legitimated the rightness of this desire veiled some important facts, which is why "blind" purchases are blind.  And there is no question that some or many teachers and students --- I've not omitted the dealers by accident --- genuinely believed in the mythology I describe.  They were often "true believers" who were convinced a falsehood was true.  But neither the teacher nor the student could verify the authenticity or the physical condition of the blind purchase.  Remember, the pricey hierarchy claimed the supposed sound of an instrument as its ground and justification.  And it set this sound in contrast to the supposed sound of a Stradivari or Guarneri --- although nobody could possibly know how these instruments sounded when new, with all of their essential original parts intact and unaltered.  In any case, the consequence is clear.  The teacher now, seemingly quite naturally, became the arbiter of the subjective aspect of sound.  Moreover, teachers also pretended --- or, in some cases, probably really believed themselves --- to be qualified to appraise the objective aspects of an instrument's value (for example, authenticity and physical condition).

35.*     Whatever any one teacher's understanding of this may have been, there must have been a range of responses to the mythology and its allied scheme --- from unblinking duplicity to sincere belief.  But the important truth runs as follows.  The buying public never knew that string teachers and others (whether true believers or not) were part of a dealer initiated scam. (See Chapter 10. Methods of Selling Instruments).  Dealers and teachers, together, were ripping off music students.  Teachers were secretly steering their students to cooperating string instrument sellers to make their purchase(s).  When the student returned to the teacher with the contemplated instrument and/or bow, the teacher OK'd the purchase.  In turn, these very teachers made up to a 50% net profit on the sale of the instrument.  The student trusted the teacher and, ipso facto, the teacher became the covert salesperson. 

36.*     Then comes an interesting twist.  Those teachers who were also what I've called "true believers" --- these folks now turned around and plowed their net profits (kickbacks) back into the dealership.  That is, the dealer now gave them what they believed to be a "better" violin for their own use.  And the word "better" here means one that cost more, a fiddle that ranked higher on the monetary hierarchy.  Of course, the teacher now had a stake in upping the price he paid, or agreed to pay, for his violin --- and a reason for drawing his students into the same way of thinking, since his kickbacks were lodged against his or her own purchase.  So such teachers continued to inspire their students to upgrade, to move up from their present instruments to those that were priced higher.  Those, obviously enough, would be those "better sounding" antiques.  This upward spiral drove prices up and up (and they continue to rise, even now).  Teachers' investments grew in proportion to the sales they initiated and OK'd.  With every OK the dealer offered the teacher .  .  .  and around and around we go.

37.*    This is the underlying reason for the high-priced market in antique violins, violas, cellos, and basses.  Almost everyone is involved.  From members of Julliard's prominent string faculty to your local violin teacher, an estimated 95 % of "professional music teachers" are on the take. (See RIN:027).

38.;*     But one can witness the involvement of others as well --- for instance, former Presidents of the International Society of Violin and Bow Makers.  Take the already mentioned Jacques Francais.  He sold a fake viola, which he had certified as a Dominic Montagnana to a donor.  Then, through a special set of arrangements, that viola came into the possession of the Chicago Symphony. (See RIN:130)  And a Boston violin dealer, Christopher Ruining, a member of the American Federation of Violin & Bow Makers, did a remarkable one.  Claiming the testimony of the Hills of London, whom I mentioned earlier, he offered a fake Joseph del Gesu Guarneri cello for millions of dollars.

39.*    Or we can swing back to the pedagogical side.  Take the situation described by the late Dorothy DeLay, honored as one of the world's most prominent violin teachers.

40.*     In The Instrumentalist (43:12 [July, 1989]) she reported that:
                       …there is much more than natural aptitude that has to go into the long training of a concert violinist.  Solid family support must be there...  I teach some children whose mothers bring them here to study for years and years while the fathers are working hard to earn a living back in Korea or China or Japan.  The cost of a fine concert violin runs high into six figures, and many families carry two, and sometimes three, mortgages (emphasis added).

41.*     A good friend of mine --- let me call him "Ray" --- approached me with a question which had puzzled him.  He could not find a logical answer to it.  He related that a very prominent Suzuki teacher and orchestra director, teaching aspiring youngsters in Northwest Chicago, possessed a Gagliano violin.  At that time, it was valued at $60,000.  To Ray's surprise, as he cast the story, a violin dealer she worked with came to her, took the Gagliano, and gave her a violin bearing the name of J. B. Vuillaume of Paris.  The value of the new French violin was roughly $90,000However, afterwards, she heard that the dealer had sold the Gagliano violin for $200,000.  Such generosity!  So Ray was understandably confused.  His basic question was: How could the dealer take possession of the Gagliano violin without the teacher's agreement?  And why was she given an allegedly higher priced violin ($90,000 is considerably more than $60,00, but very considerably less than $200,000).  Clearly, she in no way profited from the sale of "her" Gagliano.  Why?  How could the dealer simply take it from her?  Then sell it and give her not a penny of the enormous profit? (See RIN:127)

     The answer I gave was simple: The teacher had no title to the Gagliano violin!

42.*    I went on to help Ray see the stealthy operation of the violin business.  The scheme/scam works as follows.  The dealer approaches a string teacher with an offer to acquire a higher priced violin, viola, cello, or bow.  (Remember, the teacher believes in the myth that more money means a better fiddle.)  He outlines the way that the teacher can take possession of the instrument and/or bow ‑-- and at the same time secure a potentially substantial retirement income.  The teacher won't have to pay a penny up front.  But for every student the teacher sends to the dealer ‑-- if the teacher OK's the student's purchase of the higher priced instrument or bow the dealer is pushing ‑-- the dealer will pass on to the teacher as much as 50% of the price that the student or his parents put out.  The money passed on will not, however, be directly passed on.  Rather, that amount will be lodged against the teacher's indebtedness as "purchaser" of his or her own higher priced instrument.  Of course, the dealer knows --- especially since the instrument's monetary value will continue to rise and rise --- that the kickbacks, which inflate the selling price of every antique instrument, will always be chasing the value of the "better" violin, viola, etc.  An almost perfect Ponzi Game! (See Definition: Ponzi Scheme at WikiPedia)

43.*     The instrument and title will likely remain in possession of the dealer.  And the teacher will probably never get title (there goes the retirement plan!).  Remember Black Tuesday of October 29, 1929?  The Stock Market Crash!!!

44.*     The practice I've described has created what one can legitimately call a "feeding frenzy," and a greedy spiraling of prices which has eliminated the real connoisseur --- the person with true expertise.  That elimination has created a void, a void quickly filled by high-powered "professionals." ( See: "Segelman Scandal" or the "Axelrod Debacle".)  Over the years, these so‑called professionals have refined the process of milking students and their teachers simultaneously.  As my opening quotation from a letter by Hans Weisshaar indicated, this is indeed the only way that he --- he and many others --- can sell violins.  Such a seller rarely care about or know about what they are selling -much to the ultimate chagrin of the buyer.  And I grant that the string player may be a fine performer, and indeed a first-rate teacher when it comes to helping students become accomplished musicians themselves.  But the teacher's expertise resides largely in his or her skills as a performer.  The teacher has no idea of how to appraise the monetary value of an instrument offered for sale.

45.*     But both the teacher and the dealer have a good estimate of the size of the pocket book or resources of the student buyer.  How much does it cost?  How much you got?  This is not an ethical business practice, and certainly not ethical conduct for an instrument dealer.  Yet it is a practice that has created a market which, I would suggest, is on the verge of crashing when the bubble blessedly bursts. (See: Has the Violin Business Become a Criminal Racket and a Snare?)

46.*     Yes, selling fake and often questionably authentic but high priced instruments, represented as genuine, will probably continue for some time.  Dealers and teachers have what both take to be a rather cozy arrangement.  In a sense, they have one another over the proverbial barrel --- each depending on the other.  Yet I remain convinced that the bubble will burst.  But when?  I think sooner rather than later, but that's as precise as I can get.  In the meanwhile, I urge you not to let yourself be taken for a sucker.  "Beauty of sound is in the ear of the listener." It is not a product of any violin's price or antiquity.  I urge my readers, for their own sakes, to check the underlying premise of the claim that antique violins sound better than new ones:

And don't neglect to follow the money trail.

See: http://www.fritz-reuter.com/reports/

Fritz Reuter