My Instrument FAQ

How old is my brass or woodwind instrument?

The following website contains serial numbers for many brass and woodwind instrument makers:

The following book contains basic information about most known makers of brass and woodwind instruments:

  • William Waterhouse, editor, The New Langwill Index: A Dictionary of Wind-Instrument Makers and Inventors (London: Tony Bingham, 1994).

How old is my piano?

Consult the following website for serial numbers of several modern piano makers.

The following source contains serial numbers for most known makers of pianos:

How much is my instrument worth?

The National Music Museum, as a matter of legal and ethical policy, does not appraise musical instruments. If you wish to obtain a formal, written appraisal of your instrument, for which you will most likely be charged a fee, consult the following websites:

Do I own a Strad? (or Amati, Stainer, da Salò, Guarneri, etc.)

The mere presence of a label inside a violin does not prove that the violin was made by that particular maker. For example, hundreds of thousands of mass-produced violins made in Germany, France, central, and eastern Europe, as early as the mid-19th century and even to the present day, have been provided with copies of labels bearing the names of famous 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century makers such as Stradivari, Vuillaume, Amati, Bergonzi, Guarneri, Gasparo da Salò, Stainer, and others.

Music shops and mail order houses have sold these violins with no intent to deceive the buyer as to their origin; however, they do indeed capitalize upon the notoriety of the makers whose patterns and labels they imitate. These violins turn up in attics and closets worldwide, often providing their owners with a brief period of hopeful anticipation. Their similarity to authentic instruments by the master luthiers is minimal to the trained eye. Although some of these violins may be good, serviceable instruments, most are inferior, mass-produced items. Their sentimental value usually far outweighs their monetary value.

The authentication of a violin can only be determined by a careful examination of many factors including the design, model, craftsmanship, wood, and varnish. Although it is not too difficult to separate mass-produced violins from fine hand-made instruments, only a well-trained violin appraiser may be able to attribute the violin's manufacture to a specific maker or place of manufacture.

The National Music Museum, as a matter of legal and ethical policy, does not appraise instruments. If you wish to obtain a formal, written authentication and appraisal of your violin, for which you will most likely be charged a fee, contact a member of The American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers or another violin appraiser in your area.

The short descriptions of imported, factory-made violins, seen above, are all taken from catalogs of the 1920s-1930s.

Click here to access the first of two pages of advertisements for factory-made violins from catalogs of the 1920s and 1930s (includes ads for Stradivari, Guarneri, and Bergonzi models).

Click here to access a second page of advertisements (includes Stradivari, Amati, Guarneri, Stainer, and Klotz models). 

For additional historical information, consult the following sources:

Articles about various well-known violin-makers in The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, 3 vols., edited by Stanley Sadie (London and New York: Macmillan Press, 1984).

William Hill & Sons, Antonio Stradivari: His Life and Work (1644-1737) (London: William E. Hill and Sons, 1902), reprinted by Dover Publications, New York, 1963.

William Hill & Sons, The Violin-Makers of the Guarneri Family (1626-1762) (London: William E. Hill and Sons, 1931), reprinted by Dover Publications, New York, 1989.

Thomas James Wenberg, The Violin Makers of the United States (Mt. Hood, Oregon: Mt. Hood Publishing Co., 1986).