Even though my new cello is just a kid’s model and not worth too much, it’s fun to play violin sleuth and try to solve the mystery of exactly where it came from. Could it really be the little cello Stradivari made for his daughter? Just kidding… every violin dealer tells stories of people finding Strads in the attic and hoping to strike it rich. There are probably tens of thousands of instruments with Strad labels – the makers didn’t always intend to deceive – they were just making “replicas” of Stradivari’s instruments. But my little mystery cello has no label, so it’s not exactly a fake.
Actually, it had a label at one time. Studying the cello more carefully at home, I saw that someone had scraped the label from the inside. Had the seller feared she wouldn’t get as much if it said “Made in China” inside? There was a crumpled strip of paper stuck in the bottom of the cello. I shook it out and it proved to be the edge of the missing label. The only printing was a double line border. On Google, I found a picture of an Eastman Strings label with the same border, and Reuning sells Eastman 1/8 cellos, so that’s a possibility.
I emailed some photos to Reuning & Son, not after an appraisal or anything, just asking what it might be. Chris Reuning replied “This would appear to be a modern handmade Chinese cello. We very well may have sold it.” When I removed the endpin, I could see another small label with some Chinese characters glued next to the top block. So the mystery is solved that far, and not farther. Imagine the challenges of identifying a 200 year old instrument!