Why is a fiddle on eBay to begin with? Someone doesn’t want it! Generally good violins in good shape are wanted by the owner. We suspect a substantial number of
the violins on eBay are being dumped because they don’t work well enough. If this is just a setup problem, then it can be easily fixed. If it is more, then you may end up with more money in the violin than it is worth. Consider some other important reasons purchases on Ebay should be avoided:
Fraud. Ebay is also inhabited by a certain number of crooks. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Unfortunately some of these ethically challenged
individuals are violin dealers of one kind or another.
The beginner violin. Its only $100!!! Usually these violins have heavy front and back plates, have painted or dyed fingerboards and fittings, and have absolutely no setup.
They squeek and are very hard to play, if they are playable at all. If playable at best, the limitations of these types of violins will be very discouraging to a beginning student in learning a string instrument. We DO NOT RECOMMEND buying an instrument without guidance from someone with more experience- such as your orchestra director.
The pretty new violin with special features. For example, statements that “it’s the wood.” Well, to some extent a pretty violin may indeed sound nice. But again, consider the setup needs- strings, bridge work etc., For either beginner violin or the pretty violin, the buyer can expect to spend from $45 to $150 to get basic setup work
done on the violin. A reputable shop will have violin rentals available with the setup already made. So, in reality, you may end up spending more on your Ebay “find” then on a quality made, adjusted string instrument.
Older violins may be a good deal. Or they may not. They are very difficult to judge. One may get a bargain, but need to spend $300 on repairs. Or one may end up
with a piece of junk painted pretty. Damage and setup problems are very difficult to see on pictures and are rarely described well.
Availability of repair. Another factor is whether you’ll be able to get your eBay prize restored. Many shops are very busy. Will they really be willing to set aside a loyal
customer’s work to fix up a cheap German trade fiddle needing a fingerboard and setup? Is it really fair to ask them to do so? Setting up junk, low-end Chinese trade
fiddles is even less rewarding. How to tell someone their $80 violin needs $100 in minimal setup before it will work?
Violins aren’t expensive from shops. I find that people think violin shops are too expensive. Some are if they have lots of overhead. Some aren’t. Regardless, violin
dealers must support their customers. They must sell at a competitive and fair price AND back up the products they sell. They have to keep a repair capability in hand, which is a non-trivial matter. Auction buyers don’t get this support.
Final caveats. If you are going to buy via eBay anyway, look at the images carefully and ask lots of questions (especially of your orchestra director before buying!)
Make sure you know who the seller is. And read this. Be very careful about auctions offering no return. Expect that some work will be required. But one can expect violins
bought at private sale to require some work as well.
Good deals exist on eBay, but we urge rank beginners to stay away until they gain sufficient knowledge to buy intelligently.