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Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions About the NMM

Questions for the Staff



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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).
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How old is my piano?

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

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

  • Pierce Piano Atlas (Long Beach, California: Bob Pierce).
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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:

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I have a violin labeled Stradivari (or Amati, Stainer, da Salo, Guarneri, etc). Is it real?

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).

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What is a ukelin (violin-uke)?

A patent (#1,579,780) for the ukelin was filed in 1923 and awarded to Paul F. Richter in 1926. He assigned the patent to the Phonoharp Company which later merged with Oscar Schmidt International, Inc., of New Jersey. Ukelins were sold by various subsidiaries of Oscar Schmidt, including the International Music Corporation and the Manufacturers' Advertising Company of New Jersey. Ukelins were mass-produced by the Oscar Schmidt Co. until production was finally stopped in 1964. Instruments similar to the ukelin were also sold by the Marxochime Colony of New Troy, Michigan, from about 1927 to 1972. These related instruments bore trade-names such as Violin-Uke (click here for a large image of a violin-uke), Hawaiian Art Uke, Pianolin, Sol-o-lin, Pianoette, and others.

The purpose of the ukelin and its many derivative types was to combine into one compact instrument attributes of both the bowed violin and the plucked Hawaiian ukulele. Following numerically-coded music prepared specifically for these instruments the 16 melody strings were to be played with a short violin-like bow held in the right hand while the 4 groups of 4-string bass accompaniment chords were strummed by the left hand.

The ukelin and its derivative types were usually sold for $35-$40 on time-purchase plans by door-to-door salesmen, as well as through mail-order companies such as Sears. Although the instruments were billed as easy-to-play, many purchasers were frustrated in their attempts to master them. Decades later, ukelins, violin-ukes, and many similar types are being rediscovered in numerous household closets, attics, and offered for sale in antique shops and flea markets.

Click on any of the following topics to view a few pages from a ukelin instruction manual. Please note that these are large images and may take some time to download. If you wish to print any of them, be sure to set your paper direction to a landscape orientation.

Excerpts from a Ukelin Instruction Manual
Directions for Playing
Different Bass Effects [rhythms]
How to Number Your Own Piano Music
To Tune the Ukelin
Numerically Coded Music for "Carnival of Venice"

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 appraisers list in this FAQ.

Bob Buzas has also created a ukelin information website.

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What is a Marxophone?

The Marxophone was produced by the Marxochime Colony of New Troy, Michigan, which was in business from about 1927 to 1972. Henry Charles Marx (1875-1947), founder of the company, oversaw the production of many types of guitar-zithers with names such as the Marxophone, Marx piano harp, Marxolins, violin-uke, pianolin, violin-guitar, Hawaii-phone, and others. Related instruments made by other manufacturers included the mandolin-guitar and the mandolin-harp. Marx instruments were sold on time-purchase plans by door-to-door salesmen as well as through mail-order companies such as Sears.

The Marxophone has four sets of chord strings to be strummed by the left hand, and fifteen double courses of melody strings which are struck by metal hammers activated by the right hand. Numerically coded music prepared specifically for the Marxophone indicates when and in what order melody and chord strings are to be played. The advantage of using numerically coded music is that one does not have to know how to read standard musical notation in order to play the instrument.

Although the instruments were billed as easy-to-play, many purchasers were frustrated in their attempts to master them. Decades later, marxophones and many other related instruments are being rediscovered in numerous household closets, attics, and offered for sale in antique shops and flea markets.

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 appraisers list in this FAQ.

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Where can I learn about vintage saxophones?

Saxophone researcher, collector, and performer Paul Cohen has contributed many articles about vintage saxophones to various issues of the Saxophone Journal. For further information write to Dorn Publications, Inc., P.O. Box 206, Medfield, MA 02052.

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Where can I find saxophone serial numbers?

Serial numbers for most saxophone manufacturers can be found in the German publication Saxophone by Gunter Dullat (Nauheim b. Gr.-Gerau: Gunter Dullat, 1994).

The Music Trader Website maintains serial number lists for most brass and woodwind manufacturers.

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Most recent update: April 3, 2014

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