A Little Bit about Instrument Labels
There has been much written about
violin fraud and fictitious labels being placed
inside instruments. The label that appears inside an
instrument may have little to do with its actual
It only takes moments to place a label in violin from the
outside. If fact, there are many books (written to aid in the identification process) with actual
reproductions of labels inside that many
unscrupulous violin dealers have copied and inserted
inside instruments. The true appraiser will only look
at the label after they have determined the most likely
origins of the instrument.
Is Your Grandpa's Violin Authentic?
The Cremonese masters who created our modern violin design are the most imitated makers. For example, during the 19th century, hundreds of thousands of instruments were made in the design of these great makers (the Amatis, Stradivarius, Guarnerius, Maggini, etc.). The 19th century makers would insert labels into the instruments as a way to distinguish the different models of they were distributing. The customers who purchased the instruments during that time knew the instrument they were purchasing was not an original, but was modeled after a great maker and was, therefore, labeled with his name.
Today, as more people are beginning to unearth these instruments after being passed down through generations, the original understanding of the instrument's origin is often lost and many people, after reading the inside label, are misled into thinking they have an authentic Amati or Strad.
A Little More About Labels
In 1891 the McKinley Tariff Act
required that items that were imported in to the
United States be marked with the country of origin.
In 1914 this act was again revised to require the words "Made in" also be used.
Once again in 1921 the act was revised to require
that the country of origin name be in English. So a
violin that is labeled "Bavaria" would most likely have been made
between 1891 and 1914. "Made in Italia"
might be before 1921.
A violin labeled "Made in
Japan" was probably made after 1921. Prior to
1921, instruments most likely have been labeled "Made
in Nippon." After WWII, during the US
occupation of Japan, items made for export were
marked "Made in Occupied Japan" or perhaps
Violins labeled "Made in
Germany" are most likely manufactured between
1921 and WWII. After the split of Germany until its
reunification in the 1990's, labels were
marked "Made in West Germany" or
"Made in East Germany."
So, if your
"attic" violin says that it is an Antonio
Stradivari 1707, but it also says "Made in
Germany," the violin is NOT an authentic
Stradivari, but a factory-made copy. In this instance, you don't need
an appraiser to tell you your instrument is not authentic, but you still may wish
to seek out a professional opinion to find out the
actual value of the instrument.