How The Dealer Prices A Stringed Instrument, Part 4, Age
We have been discussing the basic factors that go into pricing of instruments. As we stated in our previous articles, there are five basic priorities and requirements that are important to the buyer and five different ones for the seller. This post we will continue our discussion of the third most important factor that goes into pricing from the sellers view.
Used violin are not like used cars. Used violin are like vintage wine, they get better with age. However, these have their limits of time. Let's look at the pros and cons.
New: With new instruments, one question that often arises is whether the sound will change. Although the sound of a new violin may not be mature, a new violin in time will usually become a more responsive, resonant version of itself. This critical break in time can take anywhere from several months to a few years. Just do not presume it will become a great instrument in the future. If you like it now and it is new, the likelihood of it's sound opening up with playing is good. Another pro is that new instruments are normally in better condition. A new violin is also more preferable to an older violin that's had many repairs. All in all a good new violin will improve with age.
Old: Violin wood is primarily priced and sold on two basis. One is figure and the other is age. Age guarantees a certain state of dryness. When wood is old it is thought to become more dimensionally stable (less warpage). This is true in that it takes about five years for the volatile hydrocarbons in the wood to evaporate out. With age the wood hardens and becomes more resonant; it also vibrates differently from a flexible one, resulting in a higher and more complete overtone series. This means a well-made instrument will improve with age as it stiffens, but it should sound good to begin with. As said before a bad-sounding instrument will not necessarily get better and could get worse. Look for clarity,projection, response, and dynamic range. Clearly all things being equal, an older instrument in mint condition will sound better than a new one and is hard to beat.
By the way, since the sound of an older instrument is more in its prime they tend to be more expensive.There is a wide range of quality in new instruments, just as with old ones, and there is much overlap between new and old instruments. All in all, the condition of an old violin must be weighed with the advantages of the structurally perfect condition of a new violin.