In the modern marketplace, violins range from fifty dollars for an extremely cheap model to in excess of sixteen million for a Stradivarius!
It must be said that in the case of the fifty dollar violin, its only value would be found in the case that houses it. You would find it cheaply made, of vastly inferior quality ply wood or machine-made, pressed timbers, with a very poor, tinny sound quality. The required setup would be haphazard if done at all. The bow would be of poorest quality and the strings barely able to resonate a note. In short, it would cost you more to buy a second, decent violin after realising that your first attempt caused only frustration for the learner and the teacher.
Unless you know that it has been verified by someone accredited in the industry it is not worth the risk. A second opinion, one that string teachers alongside us would recommend, is that you look to a very reasonably priced, new or second-hand instrument form a specialist string store.
A second-hand violin outfit from Animato Strings can be bought at a very reasonable price. This includes new rosin, a second hand case and a second hand bow. There is the option of upgrading to a new bow for much less that the cost of buying a new bow. You would receive an instrument that has been professionally setup by a craftsman with the quality assurance that guarantees satisfaction. The instrument would allow the student to progress and develop proper technique, rather than block and frustrate them. There is the old saying "a poor craftsman blames his tools", but in this instance, the musician-craftsman must have the right tools to be able to attend to the job, namely, practicing the instrument.
If students aim for advancing their skills to an intermediate, advanced or professional level, the price for an adequate instrument will increase accordingly. Many teachers suggest to continue to grade along the AMEB path (Australian Music Examination Board).
The following list relates the AMEB grades to the label of recommended instrument, available from Animato Strings.
Up to AMEB 2
Arco / Capriccio
6-8 and up
Amore & Marcello Series
On the topic of investments
Prices for antique instruments are largely influenced by the investment class turning violins, violas and cellos into items of huge financial speculation whereas outside the investment industry, the tonal quality is the only determiner of value.
Some string instruments have vast appreciations per annum. The most famous name in violin craftsmen, Antonio Stradivari, has on average from 1980 to 2011 increased in value on auction at a rate of 15.4%. In the last fifty years, the prices for some of his item have increased an incredulous 26,000 %. This is evidenced by the sale of the "Lady Blunt" Stradivari for 15.8 million dollars. This is somewhat of an anomalous example, as it has retained much of the original varnish work and has not needed a replacement neck which is commonly needed for instruments of this age. This is because unlike many instruments it has seldom been played. It may seem seem somewhat bizarre to non-musicians, and incredibly frustrating to those that are. However it is precisely because of this it commands such a vast price, as it is a near unmarred view of Stradivarius's technique and skill. The history of the instrument makes it so valuable, it is nearly priceless, thus it is incredibly unlikely to be played again. It is worth noting that the previous owner, The Nippon Foundation of Japan, chose to auction it and donate the proceeds to charity in the wake of the tsunami affecting Japan at the time. It is a great credit to them that the instrument is back in the public domain and that the proceeds went to a genuinely good cause.
Other examples of investment speculation on violins would be the "Vieuxtemps" Guarneri. Named after its most famous owner, Henri Vieuxemps, it was built in 1741 and retains the robust sound its maker was famed for. At point of purchase it exceeded the previous record set by the "Lady Blunt" mentioned earlier, becoming the most expensive violin in the world. The new owner graciously donated its lifetime use, a practice becoming more common, to American concert violinist Anne Akiko Meyers. Obviously this has become a mark of incredible recognition in the musical community, and a fiercely contested honor. Violin maker, Sam Zymuntowicz, noted that "musicans are like jockeys now. They get to ride the thoroughbreds that are owned by people who can afford to buy them".