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Advice from an Expert Violin Appraiser: How to Identify an Original Violin Label

Violin Label

An original label in a violin by Peter Guarneri of Venice 1734, showing the paper's "laid lines."

How can you tell if the label in your violin is original? This is an important question in the evaluation of a violin from the 18th or 19th century. The recognition of an original label is an essential part of authenticating an antique violin, and the presence of an original label will naturally enhance a violin’s value.

In addition to my day-to-day work with fine instruments, the experience of working in an auction house for twelve years has enabled me to observe thousands of antiques. I’ve been able to learn from experts in other departments about furniture, decorative arts, rare books, and other material from the Classical era. I’ve gained first-hand knowledge of wood carving styles, varnish varieties and aging tendencies, as well as important characteristics of rare books and manuscripts. I find myself drawing on all of this knowledge in a violin appraisal.

Laid Paper Violin Labels (pre-1850)

Labels on classical instruments from before around 1850 were mostly made of laid paper. Handmade in a laborious process, laid paper uses linen fibers taken from recycled rags. The rags were sorted according to color, then broken down into fibers and set into a water bath. The wet fibers were then put into a wire sieve which allowed the water to drain out and the fibers to dry. The imprint of the wire sieve formed lines called “chains” or “laid lines” on the surface of the paper. This resulting grid of intersecting lines is especially visible when dust settles on the labels placed between the high ribs.
The printing was also done by hand with lead type, set with pressure onto the paper. Because laid paper has a certain natural resistance to water, little ink would run on the paper surface, and the printing typically possesses a crisp, clean outline.

Wove Paper Violin Labels (post-1850)

A paper label that dates after around 1850 is typically made of wood pulp that has been mashed into a sheet by machines. This “wove” paper will not exhibit laid lines or chains, and the type figures typically appear less sharp, with a fuzzy outline. To control the ink from running, the paper was sized with a coating of alum to make it more water resistant. Because the sizing was acidic, it made the labels less stable than those made of laid paper. These labels are also more prone to curling and browning.

Three Questions a Violin Appraiser will Ask

Pietro Guarneri violin

The label above appears on this Italian Violin by Pietro Guarneri, Venice, 1734, Auctioned for $165,900

1. What color is the label?

An original antique violin label will change color as it ages. The reaction of the paper against the wood, along with any other atmospheric changes, causes the paper to darken. Both the wood and the label should be a similar shade of brown.

2. What do the edges of the label look like?

The edges of the label itself should blend in cleanly to the wood surface. If there is any curling at the edges exposing lighter-colored wood underneath, it probably means the surface was treated to look old after a false label had been inserted.

3. Has the label been removed at any point?

An original label may be removed for repair, regraduation of the back, or even for transfer to another instrument. This is incredibly common, so it is an extremely rare and wonderful occurrence when I find an instrument with an original and undisturbed label!

Are you wondering what your antique violin is worth? It’s free to set up an appointment with an appraiser or to send pictures and a description of your instrument using Skinner’s auction evaluation form.

143 thoughts on “Advice from an Expert Violin Appraiser: How to Identify an Original Violin Label

  1. HI David. I have a Mattias Dahl Violin Id like to consign. Its in great shape and a very nice strad copy. is there any interest in this violin?

  2. I have this old strad copy with a nice label that says 1713 with a circle and AS inside. On the heel on the back is a emblem like a music stand or two letters mixed like BD. I don`t know. Would like for someone to tell me who the maker might be. I think the violin dates to about 1870`s—-Thanks, Jack

  3. Violin purchased approx 1899 for my Grandmother, born 1882. White label stating “Giovan Paolo Maggini, Brescia 1674, made in Germany”. Reassembled in the 70’s by craftsman that said there was an identical mate that sold for 50,000. Can you give me any information? Thank you

  4. My violin’s label reads: Ch.J.B.Collin-Mezin 1929? Luthier
    Grand Prix – Exposition Universelle 1900
    Made in France

    Handwritten signature of Collin Mezin written directly on violin.

    Thank You,
    Margo Cole

  5. The violin is an early 20th century Bohemian instrument bearing an Antonius Stradivarius label. It is in good condition.
    The bow is a modern German bow bearing the stamp of Josef Richter. It is in excellent condition.

  6. Hi David, thanks for the article. I have an old family violin but there is no actual label. Only a barely legible handwritten signature, date, city and country directly on the wood. 1809, John Potts (I think) London England.

    Does this nullify its authenticity? Thanks so much for your time.

  7. I have an old violin that was my grandfather’s who played in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the 1890’s. I am 82 years old and I played it for many years but have not played it for 60 years. The label inside says “Antonius Stradiuarius, Cremonenfis Faciebat Anno 1718.” a circular embellishment on this label that includes a cross above the initials “A” and “S”. The last two digits of the date are inked in by hand.

  8. Hi David
    I am a retired music teacher. I have a Collin-Mezin 1950, #497. I will be selling the violin and am looking for some good direction. I have had it since 1958.

  9. This old violin possibly made about 1910 from one of the prolific german makers back then.
    It seems well made
    Nice 2-piece back
    minor marks and wear
    Well preserved for age
    original tailpiece
    Has chinrest
    New bridge, ‘aubert’, and thomastic strings
    Label reads ‘Josef Muller…..’ as shown
    Good responsive sound, student instrument.A GOOD GERMAN VIOLIN IN IMMEDIATE PLAYING CONDITION
    Has case and bow v/reasonable reserve
    CLearance of instruments & accessories

  10. Can you tell me where to find a copy of the label. It was an old violin with a paper tag inside reading, “ANTOINIO STRATAVARIOUS AND SON”. ALSO, A “CROSS IN A CIRCLE”, AND THEN “1776” AND THE 76 WAS A LITTLE COCKED AND HIGHER JUST A BIT.

  11. I got a used violin for my daughter to play with. I am now interested in selling and I think I see them on Ebay for a third of the value. I do not have all of the labels etc.I see discussed here. It says SUZUKI VIOLIN CO.,LTD NAGOYA JAPAN, A SYMBOL FOLLOWED BY NO. 2 THEN 1969. She loved playing with it so it was worth something to us, but is it worthless?

  12. I have read most of the preceding posts, wow, a lot of people dont get the label or a verbal identification are not good enough for an appraisal. Pictures and filling out this companies forms are. Even with pictures it may be difficult to identify the make or maker of a violin. There is also sound of the instrument. I am just learning about all of this myself.


    • I have a violin that I believe is a copy of a Strad. The case is wooden & the violin & case are in good shape. How can I find out what my violin is worth? It was first owned in 1871. I would really appreciate a reply. Thanks.

  14. I have o Ild Violin with a label as you discribed as wove paper withe the name of Francois Guillmont Elix-la-Chapele . I have sent in the form for apprasial with three photos. I do have more photos is there any thing else I should look for and take photos if I can outside and in? Thank you for you kind help. Yes it was apprased years ago for my father and it states it is not a copy but an original due to wood samples. Label sample or paper. adheasives used. Dad had to send it out and bonded it for delivery the same as it was sent back to us. Can you tell me of the maker Thank you

  15. I have a violin labelled Jo: Baptista Ceruti Cremonensis Fecit Cremonae An 1808 GCB. Can you help me determine whether it is authentic?

  16. Hi,
    I have a violin that may be made by Charles Collin-Mezin, Jr.. I live in Southeast Connecticut. I would like to have the violin appraised. Is there somewhere close to my area, that is recommended for an appraisal of this violin?
    Thank you kindly,

  17. I have an old violin with two repair lables, one dated 1915 and one 1950. There’s a name in black ink that look’s like Levd,Level or levet. Would that be a brand name? Thank you

  18. I bought an old moth eaten wool bag of stuff at an estate auction many years ago.In this old bag was a violin and bow. the bow reads L.Wenzel {carved in the wood}. The violin is stamped on the back in black Paganini.Curious to know its history and value.

  19. I have a violin that my parents purchased from my “very old” music teacher at the time….it is not full size as I used it up to 8th grade.
    Inside on a faded paper label is says “Meister Hopp”
    Can you direct me as to how to find out more about it?

  20. I have a family heirloom violin that states Antonio Stradivari FACIEBAT on the inside. How should I go about checking the authenticity of this violin?

  21. Hi my name is Shane I’m from vermont I just picked up an old violin from an antique shop for $15 bucks I grew up around old time fiddlers so at that price I had to have it the tag says Antonius Stradiuarius cremonensis faciebad (not faciebat but faciebad) anno 1721 made in Bohemia there is a circle with a cross and the letters AS. It’s pretty plan Jane came in an alligator skin looking case pretty beat and a Bausch bow. Didn’t know if there is any way to get it dated I’m sure it’s not worth much just would like to know the year ?????

  22. I have two antique violins that several people are interested in purchasing. I would like to know their value, and if they are original. Where are you located? Can I bring the violins to you? Or send you a photograph of them. Can you send me a phone no. where I can contact you?

    Thank you

  23. I have a violin that I would like to know the value of as I am considering selling it.
    The label on the inside is Nicolaus Bergonzi; anno 17? The label is torn at this juncture and the rest of the year is missing.

  24. I purchased an violin recently that is marked inside
    Hand Made by
    Chas. E Roat Music Co
    Year 1898 No 627
    It is a beautiful violin with a very rich sound

    There is info about Charles E Roat but nothing about the Violin…
    Is it something to pursue?

  25. Just a quick question. I’ve had this violin since about the mid 90s, when I started playing. It states that it was made in 1962 by a Harold Li Sinclair in Alaska, and also states “Pattern taken from a genuine Stradivarius.” It’s really quite a nice, unique instrument. I couldn’t find any information about this person, so I was wondering if you -or anyone else- might have any knowledge about him.

    Thank you!

  26. I found a violin in my grandmothers basement. I remember playing on it when I was young. The label says something along the line of P. A. or maybe D. A. Johnson 8-20 Aurora Il, 1925. Can you give me any information about it?

  27. I got a old violin which carries the label of CH. J.B. COLLIN-MEZIN LUTHIER GRAND PRIX – EXPOSITION UNIVERSELLE P A R I S Modèle Exceptionnel 1945 N° 186 with the handwritten signature. It also carries the label of ARTISANS , LUTHERIE ARTISTIQUE FRANCAISE. I am very keen to know whether it’s authentic. Could you please give me some tips and opinion how to identify its authenticity.

    Your help will be greatly appreciated.


    Kind regards,

  28. Hello, Someone is selling us a violin for our 15yo old son. The label is obviously a fake stradi because it has both the letter u and v beside. But anyway all I ask is, is it worth to pay the 950NZD price? We are no violin experts. Thanks… Please tell us us what you think. Thanks…

  29. I’m looking for any information that you could give me regarding my grandfathers violin. The label inside has clean cut edges and is browned with age. On the label I can barely make out the last name of Smith after the words Made By and possibly the year 1929. It has a splitback and a single perfoling on the front and back. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

  30. Hi,
    I bought my daughter a violin for her birthday. It sounds amazing! Everyone who plays it is in aw of it. It is only a copy of a Strad made in Germany for mass production, or so we thought. I heard some of these instruments were actually violins removed from countries Germany invaded and re-stamped. Really never thought too much more about it until she dropped it and off popped the finger board. Underneath the finger board are initials written on both the bridge and the under side of the finger board I can’t tell exactly what letters they are as the pencil is faded and the letters are hand written and a little messy. Does this mean anything?

  31. I have a violin which my grandfather played. The back is made in two pieces which form a V shape in perfectly matched “tiger-striped” wood. The tag is flat, same color as the inside, but has some deterioration from age. I can make out the words ” Alexandr_ Gagliano fecit Nepoli 17__”.. Could this be an authentic violin?

  32. Hello, I found an old violin in my aunt’s home after her death. It is not in playable shape: coming loose on the sides, pieces missing, scratched. I brought it back to my studio with the idea of making a “collage’ on canvas”. But I looked inside while dusting it. The label is the same color as the wood inside, all sides of the label are flat. It says: Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis Faciebat Anno 17 . I imagine it would be a copy, but IF it were an authentic Stradivarius, is it worth anything in the sad shape it’s in? Thanks,Linda

  33. Good morning, I have this Stradivarius Violin and this is the information that has inside.

    Kaciebar Anno 1738

    I would like to have more information about the. I have photos

    Thank you.
    (787) 397-9553


  35. I have a violin that my father obtained in the 1960s when someone pawned it to him. The label inside appears to blend in to the wood. The name is Antoniu Stradiuari (last letters may appear to be faded). The back of the head where the tuning keys are is stamped Concert Violin in black. Obvious a copy but some copies can be worth a few thousand, most have no value. Any ideas by this description.

  36. I am in Australia with a violin a violin antique dealer told me years ago was the best he had seen for many years and was made by a Frenchman not sure in France or London with a stamp/etching for the London Symphony Orchestra. When recontacted him years later was retired & would show to another “man” if I would sent it interstate for him to see. Didn’t like to do that but now interested in selling.

  37. Hi David i have an original antonius stradivarius fiddle i was needing to know if you could tell me how much it is worth! it has been in the family for years thank you!

  38. Hi David, I have a Valentinus de Zorzi violin with a barely legible signature reading Valentinus de Zorzi Centensi Venetum fecit Florentia 1885 on the label. It needs restringing. Would it have any value? Sincerely Klaus Hoppe

  39. My Dad has since passed but about 40 or more years ago he bought a used violin. Since it has no outer markings, I was curious to see if anything was written on the inside. It does but it’s very difficult to see and read. This is the best I could get and I’m hoping you might know what it means or what language it’s written in. Thank you.

    1o:bap. rogerius bon: nicolal amati de cremo
    na. alumnus brixiae fecit anno domini 1683

  40. i just recently found a violin and bow and case. in my mothers attic. it is marked a ANTONIUS STRADIUARIUS? CERMONESIS FACIEBAT ANNO 17 VERY OLD LOOKING AND WAS wondering if it is worth anything? its in a hard case lined with a purpleish felt or cordaroy still material. any info of this would be greatly appreciated. thanks Phillip

  41. Is there any information available on a French maker named J.Olry, Amiens, France (1825 – 1860)? He seems to be quite obscure and there is conflicting descriptions of his violins ranging from good to not so good. His name doesn’t appear in many violin dictionaries. Wurlitzer had one listed in its catolog in the late 1920s and the value was given at $350. I would like to know more about this maker. And, of all the auction reports I have read, I only saw his name once. The reason, I want to prove Jay C. Freeman was wrong in his appraisal of a violin with a “sotto la Disciplina” label.

  42. My grandfather has a very old violin,Italian Violin, Pietro Guarneri, Venice, 1713
    He wants to sell it,But we are just wonder to know for how much money should we sell it ?
    Do you think $200,000
    is going to be fair?

  43. I have a violin which I have owned since 1963 and which has no label, but the letters ATS stamped in the back just below the button. There is a circle around the A and S, and the T is much taller, with a line across it which makes it look like a cross. Any ideas as to the make of this violin? It is sweet to play.

  44. hi…i have a violin which inside reads antonius cremonenus faciebat anno 1722 with a circle which inside reads A S with a cross….my grandmother who died in the 50s had it for decades…wanting to sell but dont know if its worth anything…its in fair to good case hope you can help me…thks so much barry

  45. have violin with label inside says josef guarnerios fecit cremonae anna 1724 ihs cross above the h can you help me with this thank you i am from ohio thany you


  47. I have a appraisal from Mattie Fair from Muskogee OK. dated November 27, 1972. in her appraisal she says it is a 16th Century Violin Antonius Stradivarius Label in it? Also says it was made in Germany. I have tried too research this but to know avail. The appraisal has more than just that. If you could help me with this that would be very appreciated.

  48. hi,i have a violine,inside it is wrotte guarneri del gesu cremonae anno 1740.this violine my futher has bought before 40 years in italy from a old-man(road-violinist).
    how to know I,,,that is original guarneri or any copy.
    can u help me about this

  49. I have a Joseph Guarnerius fecit cross IhS
    Cremonae Anno 176 (4 or 1)
    The paper blends in with the wood I’m 70 and have had numerous violins…This one has the dark cherry one back piece wood. It sounds exactly like M.Kamio’s violin that she is playing Meditation of Thias.

    This violin has FOUR repair names up to the right of the label. I’m tempted to take the top off the violin so I can read it more clearly.

    This violin is beautiful and plays beautiful. I’m just trying to find out the history of it back to it’s origin. I don’t care if it is worth anything or not worth anything. If I have to do that then I can I guess. Thank you if this goes any further than this post. God Bless

  50. I have an old violin with the words Antonius, Stradivarius Cremonensis faciebat anne 1721 modele dapres inside along with a pencil no. 50. Could you tell me the value of this?

  51. Hi
    I have a violin with the name Francios Guillmon stamped into the wood also the name Elix-la-Chapelle the violin is complete but has been dropped on the but end and has extensive damage but looks to be repairable…cracks along the top can. would love you opinion on its worth and repair cost…
    Thank You

  52. Hello my name is Joe Taylor and I am a inventor that has done many patent searches, and I would like to say that trying to search out whether my girlfriend family’s heirloom of a 1719 Antunius Stradiuarius Cremonenfis Faciebat Anno about just as hard if not harder than doing a patent search. Contact me with what photos you would like for me to send you for your professional opinion of what they possess. Thanks, Joe

  53. HI I WAS GIVEN FOR MY B. DAY YEARS AGO A ; Antonio Stradivarius Cremonenfis violin w/ case. inside it has 2 lables 1- has the name and the year 1721 and a seal that has a small cross on top and a letter a s inside a doble circle. 2- there is a other lable that say ” made in france” can you tell me if this is worth anything please call me at; 386-916-4388 after 6pm thank you so much.
    ana rivera

  54. I have I violin with a label that says “Antonis Stradivarius Germonelis Faciebat Anno 17 Made in Germany” and there’s a logo on the label with AS initials on it. How can I know if it’s a fake or a real one?

  55. hi.
    i have just recieved a violin from my dad. on the label it says.
    A LA VILLE DE CREMONE with small line. then it says NICOLAS-BERTOLINI.i am curious of its age and value.

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