How to Value and Buy A Cello
Tim, the following is a message that I sent to xxxxx. I would
also like to know what your thoughts are on the subject and if there are
plans for a future article in the TUTTI CELLI.
I have recently begun looking into the prices of cellos. I am not adverse to
acquiring a new, contemporary instrument; however, finding an instrument that
is well constructed with exceptional tone quality, requires a considerable
investment. I am an adult player with an instrument that I aquired
aproximately 10 years ago. The origin of this instrument per the dealer was
the area known as Bohemia. At the time I purchased this instrument, it had
been badly treated; (e.g., 2 cracks on the table; 1 on the left C rib, and
another on the lower bout near the endpin), but it possessed the tone quality
and color that I found quite pleasing.
At that time, I was quite naive in what to look for or what troubles I would
encounter (It was my original intention to have the instrument restored). I
soon was made aware by other instrument makers over time that the investment
required to restore my instrument would not be worth the effort or expense.
One observation I have made is that instrument prices are set arbitrarily by
makers as well as dealers, but how does one determine if they are paying a
fair price? Should a cello student employ the assistance of their cello
teachers when looking at instruments, or is there some other tried and true
Any assistance you can provide in this area would be EXTREMELY helpful. I
live in Northern California, so there are many makers, dealers, etc. from
which to contact, but the prices as I have mentioned are quite staggering in
my opinion. For example, if one is looking in the $10,000 - $15,000 range,
what kind of quality in craftsmanship and tone production should be expected.
Then there is the factor of factory produced, shop, and master level quality.
It gets pretty complicated.
If you tell me, I'll forget;
If you show me, I'll remember;
If you let me do it, I'll understand.
Instrument values are dependent on many factors: the reputation of the
maker, when it was made, the quality of the workmanship, the condition, the
appearance, its sound, the market demand, etc. Unfortunately for us, the
buyers, there is an acceptable range at which an instrument can be
appraised. The appraisals on my cello have differed by as much as 30%.
There is usually a range within which the seller can sell an instrument
without getting into trouble. Naturally, he or she will appraise it on the
high side of the range when selling, and appraise it low when buying it for
This reminds me of the recent re-financing of my house. The house was
appraised at a certain amount. When the loan officer saw the amount, he
instructed the appraiser to raise the appraisal so that I would be eligible
for a certain type of loan. So how much is my house really worth? Beats
As with a house, when you shop around for cellos in a certain price range,
you will get a good feel for what a cello in this range should sound like.
Sometimes you may get lucky. You could get a cello with a $20,000 sound,
but, because it has a couple of repaired cracks, its value is "only"
Re-sale is something you need to consider, though, when buying a cello. An
instrument with some damage will be harder to unload than a healthy
instrument, as you have found out.
I would absolutely recommend that you bring along your teacher or some
other good cellist when you find a cello that interests you. You need
someone who can objectively listen to each instrument as you play, and who
can play each instrument as you listen. Don't assume the dealer is on your
side. He is in business to make money for himself, and for the person for
whom he may be selling the instrument.
Don't forget that dealers will often let you take an instrument home for a
few days. Take home a few so that you can compare them. I don't know if a
dealer will let you take more than one home, probably not. But there are
several dealers in your area.
Never buy an instrument without comparing it with others at the same time.
Take notes. Compare all ranges of the cello. Some may have a more full
sound in the low range. Some will seize up as you go into thumb position
in the high range. Some will sound big under your ear as you play, but
then sound weak to someone sitting a few feet away.
In the $10,000-$15,000 range, I wouldn't even consider a factory-made
instrument. Do they even exist at this price range?So many factors, so many unknowns, and so much money! One more thing ...
don't forget to buy one you like. :)