Archive for category Instruments

You Bought Your Fiddle on eBay?

My main instrument is a 1924 John Reek. I know virtually nothing about Mr. Reek, apart from his Michigan residence and that he made at least eight violins. (Mine has a “#8” penned into the label.)

I purchased my instrument on a lark. Sometime around the turn of the century I developed a mild eBay addiction. One evening I found an interesting violin from an estate sale with bids starting around $90. It claimed to have a sycamore back and good sound, so I got caught up in an eBay bidding frenzy. Ultimately I won the auction with a bid of $300.

Frankly, I expected the violin to be a conversation piece. But the instrument arrived sounding better than the instrument I was currently playing. So at the advice of my teacher, I took my newly acquired fiddle to the violin shop of John Waddle in Saint Paul, MN. For anyone that knows John, you can imagine his lack of enthusiasm when I mentioned the violin’s origins. After a long, reproachful pause, he agreed to look at it. John noted the violin’s peg box was designed wrong, the top had repaired cracks, it needed a new bridge and a new sound post. He also noted the back was made of elmwood; not sycamore.

We replaced the bridge and the sound post right away, which made a huge improvement. Half a dozen years later, we completed the balance of the repairs. Modifications to the instrument totaled $1000., for a $1300. total instrument cost. Would I do it again? Absolutely not. Do I regret it? Not for a minute. I have a lovely instrument with an interesting story. I plan to pass the instrument on to wee-man someday and get a hand made violin of my own.

I would advise new violin players to avoid buying instruments on eBay, though. It’s really important to hear how an instrument sounds before purchasing it. Anyone who knows as little as I did back then would be better served getting advice from a reputable teacher or local violin shop. Chances are they offer a rental program which offers little risk and options to buy.




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