So your violin has played its swan song (for you, anyway) and you’re ready to move on.
Most of us have enough experience buying violins; but what do you do when you’re ready to sell?
Whether you started playing and burnt out early, inherited a family member’s Italian vintage violin, or something in between, there are numerous resources to help you sell your instrument.
How and where to sell your violin depends on a few factors, including how much your violin is worth, how much you want to make on it, whether or not you want to sell quickly, and how involved in the process you prefer to be.
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Quick & Easy
If time is of the essence, there are a couple of options that will yield the fastest sales.
Your Local Dealers and Shops
Arguably the fastest and easiest way to sell any level of violin is via your local strings shop.
For starters, most buyers prefer to try out a violin before purchasing it. By working with your local dealer, you benefit from their reputation and established client base.
Additionally, you aren’t likely to be responsible for cleaning or setting up your violin. Their luthier will evaluate the condition of the violin, propose repairs, clean, and string it before the dealer will even agree to put it on their shelves.
Furthermore, cash may be King, but if you’re interested in buying a new violin, you may be able to negotiate some kind of trade-in or credit.
The drawback to this method is that you stand to lose a little upon sale. They’re doing all the work to get the sale and will necessarily take a portion of the proceeds.
Dealers and shops work primarily on a consignment basis. For convenience, instrument set-up, display, promotion, and sale, you can expect to be charged around a 20% commission. You might also be able to sell directly to them, but expect to receive about half of your violin’s value.
As you might imagine, auction houses tend to specialize in fine violins. If your instrument was made by a reputable luthier or in a notable workshop, an auction house like Tarisio could be a good fit.
Tarisio is perhaps the most respected of these types of firms, and they specialize in instruments that are worth several thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars. (Yes, the occasional Stradivarius has crossed their threshold and sold for a bundle.)
Should they accept your instrument into their catalog, you can again be sure that their luthiers will repair it, set it up for sale, photograph it and promote it. With auctions happening every few months, you can enjoy a degree of confidence that your violin will sell sooner rather than later.
Keep in mind, however, that you will necessarily lose some profit in the transaction. As with the local shops, Tarisio et al are doing a great deal of work to sell your instrument and charge a commission of about 20%.
In addition, you have little control over how much your violin ultimately sells for. A firm like Tarisio is well-respected in the field of auctioneering and certainly isn’t likely to mishandle your sale. But it is worth keeping in mind that you may not get the bids you had hoped for.
More Time, More Profit
If you’ve got a bit more time to play the field, you may benefit from taking a more DIY approach to selling your violin. To be sure, there is no shortage of online platforms on which to sell goods, and you should be able to keep more of the money from your sale …
This is where you go if 1) you thought you wanted to play violin, 2) bought a beginner violin, and 3) promptly quit. (No shame – it happens all the time.) You won’t find many instruments on OfferUp worth more than a few hundred dollars.
Keep in mind that you will want to at least clean the instrument before sale. (More on this later.) And depending on whether or not your buyer is close enough to pick it up, you may elect to offer shipping, which will also be entirely your responsibility.
A final word of caution: platforms like this are rife with scammers, ghosters, and generally demanding individuals. Stay vigilant out there.
Facebook Marketplace & eBay
Instantly recognizable and widely used, both Facebook Marketplace and eBay are excellent resources for selling instruments that are worth up to $1,000, maybe $2,000 or so.
Facebook, in particular, is exceptionally good at matching you with local buyers which can save you from the hassle of shipping. As with OfferUp, be on the lookout for the scammers, and be ready to haggle.
As for eBay, be mindful of their terms, policies, and fees, and be ready to clean and ship the instrument once it sells.
Online Music Retail Communities
Online retailers that cater to musicians, such as Sweetwater and Reverb, offer excellent alternatives to the noise and frustration one might encounter on the more garage-sale type sites mentioned above.
Both offer active second-hand communities where musicians can buy, sell, and swap gear. Not only are they ideal for instruments that are worth a bit more, but you are also much more likely to encounter serious buyers.
Sweetwater features a healthy catalog of instruments in the $5,000 range. Certainly, you can take cash for your sale minus approximately 7% in fees, or you can keep the entire amount of your sale in Sweetwater credit.
The sweet spot at Reverb seems to be instruments in the $3,000 range and less. They take about 10% in fees from your sale.
As with other online resources, be prepared to sell and ship by yourself!
A Clean Violin Sells Faster!
If you’ve decided to sell your violin yourself, do yourself (and your buyer) a favor and spiff her up a bit, eh? It’s easier than you think and will go a long way in helping you sell faster!
All you need is a few microfiber or other soft cloths, some mild soap, and some violin polish/cleaner.
Begin by loosening the strings a bit. Wipe a dry microfiber around each string until the rosin residue is gone. Then wipe the fingerboard clean as well.
Using a different microfiber, still dry, wipe the body of the violin until the rosin residue and any other buildup is gone.
If you are comfortable removing your chinrest, it will benefit from a good cleaning. This part of the violin tends to get super dirty with sweat, residue, and heaven knows what else. Using a damp rag with a mild soap, wipe the chinrest until it is clean. Let air dry before reapplying.
Finally, if you’re feeling extra ambitious or if the violin is extra dirty, use a clean, dry microfiber to apply a specialized violin cleaner/polish like this one from Hill & Sons. Apply to the cloth, not the violins, and always wipe in the direction of the wood grain. This step is 100% worth it as your photos will POP!
Ultimately, knowing how and where to sell a violin depends on several factors. Engage your local violin shops or an auction house (for fine violins) to sell quickly for heavier commissions. The vast realm of online platforms offer lower fees if you’ve got the patience to find the right buyer. GLWS!