Treffle Gervais Viola, ca. 1890
Appraised Value: $10,000 - $15,000 (2012)
IMAGE: 1 of 1
Appraisal Video: (3:06)
Vintage Instruments, Inc.
APPRAISER: This is a Boston-made viola. And I know when you came to me, you said it was a violin.
GUEST: I told you it was a violin, and that's what I believed it was all my life.
APPRAISER: Now, what is actually the difference between a viola and a violin? Well, viola's bigger, and in this case this is about 16.25 inches long in body.
APPRAISER: And a violin is about 14 inches long, so it's quite a big difference. First, why don't you tell me how you got it.
GUEST: My grandfather played this instrument, and it was made by his father. I always thought it was a violin because I thought my grandfather played the violin. That's what they always talked about in the family.
APPRAISER: Are there more instruments around in your family by this maker?
GUEST: In my family, yes. I'm one of ten children. My mother inherited 50 violins and her sister inherited 50, so they split them evenly, and what happened to the rest of them over the years, I don't know.
APPRAISER: This maker is named Treffle Gervais. Or "Ger-vay." "Ger-vay." And he was born in Canada...
GUEST: I looked him up, 1863?
APPRAISER: Yes, sir. He then worked in Boston for three major violin makers or violin houses. He worked for Elias Howe, for Orin Weeman, and worked for a guy named Jerome Bonaparte Squier, all of them very famous violin houses, Squier the most famous maker there at the time, in the 1880s. Then he went off on his own. And I have only ever seen violins by this maker. And when I looked at the label, the viola is not only labeled "Treffle Gervais, maker, Boston," but it also says "No. 1 Viola."
APPRAISER: He's a relatively rare maker; I've never seen one of his violas before. And construction wise, it's just... it's beautiful. Typical maple back and sides, very pretty piece of maple. Maple ribs, spruce top, maple neck, maple head, ebony fingerboard. Beautiful wood selection, beautiful oil varnish. So you can see this nice, dark red varnish on top of this rather vibrant-looking yellow ground.
APPRAISER: And the part that's wiped off, that's just from normal wear and tear. Like you can see this area here and this area here just from...
GUEST: From his hand.
APPRAISER: Yeah, there's the hand mark from many years of use, like that. And we don't know when this one was made, but I'm going to guess it's made about 1890. And the condition is superb. I think that a violin by this maker might not be worth quite $10,000. I think less. But a viola, a solid $10,000, and perhaps in a local violin shop, as much as $15,000, because I think that a local Boston shop would be able to capitalize on the local maker.
APPRAISER: That being said, I've never seen one for sale. I'd also give it an insurance value of $15,000.
GUEST: Very nice.
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