It’s a catchy title, but it also happens to be true. I have found a bow by Joseph Henry with a battered old English violin where the violin sold for £2,000, the bow £33,000. And although that level of difference is unusual, the occasions where a bow can be worth as much or more than the instrument it comes with are gratifyingly frequent.
As a specialist it is a wonderful part of the valuation process. Often clients will have turned up having researched in some depth their violins while neglecting the bow sleeping away in the case lid. Then, like a magician with a bit of huffing and pretending to myself that I have a good poker face, I ask whether they have an idea what the bow is worth.
I have spent a fifteen minute appointment drooling over a gold-and tortoiseshell Pierre Cuniot cello bow which the owners had previously been told was a fake. It wasn't. Cuniot is a rare and delicious maker and, in the end, the bow made a massive world record.
Bows can be worth an absolute fortune. The great makers made few enough and every year a few more get dropped and broken. They make a world of a difference to the player’s experience and aesthetically they are a joy. The most valuable bow I have ever sold - although by no means the most valuable out there - went for over £100,000. I see no sign of their coming down in value.
So the message from this is - check your bows. Please. You don’t have to sell through us (although it would be wonderful if you did) but for heaven’s sake be aware of what you have in your case. There is at least one auction house that frequently doesn’t mention bows on their receipts. If that happens, stop them instantly and ask yourself why they neglected to mention it.
In part, this is the problem: the vast majority of bows aren’t worth much. More often than not, we recommend that we sell the instrument with the bow. However, you really should nudge me if I haven’t spotted the shiny bow winking away at me from the back of the dusty case.
The most efficient way of finding out what your instrument is worth is to send us a few photographs through the Amati online valuation service. We should get your valuation to you within three weeks. If you want it within three days, we do have an express valuation service, which costs £20.