His book, “The Fulton Collection – A Guided Tour,” would make a great Christmas gift for fans of fine instruments and players.
Private collector of Cremonese instruments, David Fulton grew up playing the violin from a young age. His love of the violin grew while serving as concertmaster of the University of Chicago Orchestra and later as a violinist in the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. Throughout his career, he acquired a collection of impressive materials documented in his latest book, “The Fulton Collection – Guided Tour.”
Packed with musical anecdotes, historical background, insight into the craft of fine instrument making, and biography, this book tells the story of how Fulton went from tech entrepreneur to architect. one of the finest stringed instrument collections of the modern era.
Readers are transported into the world of Fulton’s films, arranged in chronological order based on the date he discovered each rare instrument.
Violin Station had the opportunity to ask David’s advice on selling, buying and investing in an instrument.
If you had to give the best piece of advice when selling an instrument, what would it be?
I think it depends on how you use it to do your job. For example, if you happen to be a concert singer, then you should have one of the great violins, you really do. It’s not a quality judgement, it’s just that if you’re going to be a concert singer, you have to have a “legitimate” sound. It’s the sound produced by large bowls.
That said, I know concert musicians nearing the end of their concert careers who want to sell their beloved Strad or del Gesù, to buy a smaller instrument to play in the future, then use the money they earn to pay for a comfortable retirement.
If you are a collector, once you are satisfied with your collection, then I believe you should dispose of it over time… while you have the wisdom and energy to do so.
If you are an orchestra player with a good violin, I think when you are ready to stop playing in an orchestra it is time to sell your instrument and/or downsize.
What would be your advice on buying a quality device?
It depends on your financial situation, but I think a quality tool makes a big difference. I can find the best instrument you can afford.
One thing people overlook, I might add, is the big bow. If you had to choose between a large bow and a large tool, a large bow can be a good financial compromise.
“A good bow can make a big difference to an ordinary violin.”
Are you sure you will get the best price for it?
You have to be able to take advantage of that. You also have to think about what is happening in the world and the state of the market.
For example, our last major collection sale was completed on January 6, 2020. Then COVID hit. At that time, there was nowhere to go, and it was no longer possible to sell a very good violin.
Since there are few buyers of fine instruments and most of them are international, I think the global situation can be a very important factor.
For someone who wants to invest in a device, what would you advise to pay attention to?
I think that while violins are not a bad investment, they are a fraudulent investment.
First, you have to deal with violin sellers. Have you ever heard the term “book stroking”? That comes from the 1800s when violin dealers were a byword for fake deals. Some dealers are completely honest and trustworthy, some are in between, and some are scammers.
Now, you have to understand the market. With the kind of equipment I was collecting, at any given time, there weren’t more than five or six parties in the world willing and able to buy it. It is a very small market. They are great violins not liquid investment and modest profits.
Another point to be made is that rare materials can be depressed in price for a long time. For example, a 1714 General Kyd Strad, which I owned and was once a Perlman violin, was purchased in 1927 for $50,000. It never arrived. at that price level again until the 1950s. Of course, the Great Depression kicked in, but my point is that you can’t safely assume that violin prices are always going up.
Another point to consider is that violins are easily damaged. If you’ve ever had the experience of holding the top of a Strad (open for maintenance) in your hand, it feels as useless as a potato chip.
“The violin needs loving care.”