Joseph Bassot Hurdy Gurdy, ca. 1780
Appraised Value: $4,000 - $6,000
IMAGE: 1 of 1
Appraisal Video: (2:21)
Vice President & Department Head, Musical Instruments
GUEST: Well, it's my father's. He bought it here in St. Paul, Minnesota. It's a hurdy-gurdy.
APPRAISER: Yep. This is quite an amazing piece to find in a place such as Minnesota. I think it's far from its home. It's most definitely French work, and it's actually signed by the maker and that looks like Baysot. It's in great condition actually. I like to think of it as the first mechanical instrument to ever come along. The origins of it are very old and not really sure where it came from, though there is a lot of mythology that places it coming from the east through India, and we don't really see it in Europe until come the 11th or 12th century. It's a six-stringed instrument with the strings that sort of pass through. It's tuned at the top, and if we slowly take this off, this is a wheel that is actually rosined. The instrument is played by cranking that wheel, and as it turns, the rosin on the wheel activates and aggravates the strings and you get a sound just like a violin. But with a wheel, it's continually playing.
GUEST: Okay, mm-hmm.
APPRAISER: These here, these are called the tangents and this is the tangent box, and you can see it's a wood mechanism for actually playing the strings. The earliest known forms of this in Europe, they were much bigger and actually so big that it would take you and I to play it, where I'd sit here and crank and you would play the tangent. And it's not until into the 15th century where we see them in this form.
APPRAISER: I would place the date at somewhere around 1718, um, in Mirecourt. The inlay-- I think it's actually whalebone and ivory, and that black whalebone we know here in the United States as baleen. Where did you find it again?
GUEST: It's something my dad brought home.
GUEST: It's just something he came across one day, and he likes unique instruments, musical instruments, and this is definitely... (chuckles) ...a good find.
APPRAISER: I'll say. My dad from New Jersey never brought anything home like this. (both laugh) Do you know what he paid?
GUEST: It wasn't much.
APPRAISER (chuckling): It wasn't much, well... I think it's quite a valuable piece. One in this condition I would put at probably around between $4,000 and $6,000.
APPRAISER: It's a great thing.
This website is produced for PBS Online by WGBH Boston. ©1997-2015 WGBH Educational Foundation.
ANTIQUES ROADSHOW is a trademark of the BBC and is produced for PBS by WGBH under license from BBC Worldwide.
WGBH and PBS are not responsible for the content of websites linked to or from ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Online.
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.