Tips for selling a bow or instrument by a living maker

Q: I have a fine violin bow from a maker who is still alive, but I need to sell it. How do I decide how much to ask for my bow? What options and strategies for selling my bow can help me get the most return on my investment? And, finally, will rehairing the bow before the sale make it more valuable? —Eugene Hohn

Bowmaker Yung Chin responds:
A: If a client has a bow made by a living maker, one should always start with the maker. I always suggest you should first ask the maker if he or she would like to sell the bow or to take the bow back in trade. Ask what the maker currently charges for a bow, and have him assess the condition of it. It is of utmost importance that a bow is in its best condition before trying to sell it. Are the camber, straightness, and the alignment of the frog and head correct?

If the bow is in good condition, the price of the bow should be what the living maker currently receives for his or her work. There is not a standard way to value the depreciation of a bow, but the depreciation amount will be dependent on how much the bow is worn, where is it worn, and if those areas can be repaired. Most makers I know are more than willing to put their bows back in top condition for their respective client.

If the maker is not interested in a trade or taking the bow back, you are free to do as you like, including selling it through word-of-mouth or an auction house, or consigning it at a shop. I’d recommend against using general online sale sites like Craigslist or eBay, since they almost never have a bow of value and prices fetched are extremely low.

Certainly relying on word of mouth is a viable option in determining how to sell your bow, as there are many shops that can help with the process. Additionally, ask your colleagues which routes they have previously taken to sell instruments or bows to get a sense of which methods they feel comfortable with.

Selling your bow through a dealer is a convenient option, with each shop taking a commission on the sale that can be anywhere from ten to 25 percent of the selling price. Auction houses are another way to offer your bow.

However you decide to sell your bow, the most important thing is that you make sure you understand the terms and get this information in writing. The rehair of a bow does not figure into the bow’s price, but a proper rehair can help in the sale of the bow. The bow hair is the connection between the bow and instrument, so how much hair is on the bow, its evenness, and its tension are all important aspects that can help maximize how a bow plays. A proper rehair can enhance the speed that a bow is sold and an improper repair can lead to having your bow sitting unsold for a very long time.


Yung Chin is a bow maker and dealer in New York City and is one of the most respected and sought-after bow experts around. Yung is also the president of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers. afvbm.org

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