“For example, there is one of the most beautiful violins by Sebastian Klotz.” Pierre Franck is the owner of La Petite Boutique des Violons on rue de Rome in Paris. A few square meters that contain treasures that are sometimes more than a century old, like this signed instrument Klotz, German violin maker of the 18th century. But in an industry where theft and traffic are on the rise, you need to know how to keep an eye out for used instruments in transit. Especially since these instruments can be worth millions of euros for the rarest.
So when a customer walks through the door of his shop with a case that matches the curves of the double bass or violin it contains to put it up for sale, Pierre Franck quickly knows if it has been stolen. “If you see an instrument arriving, explains this former professional musician, to avoid suspicion, It must have come from an attic with the historical box, historical strings and bow that came with it. And let’s feel that it’s actually something that’s been dormant for 100 or 150 years. Or the owner has to tell me: ‘Listen, I’ve been playing this instrument myself for 40 years’. And that’s easy to verify: all they have to do is play it. Or finally: “It was my mother’s”. In this case, the era of the box, the rosin or the archers, everything has to be right.”
If in doubt, Pierre Franck uses Anipo, an online instrument identification platform, to check whether the violin already has an owner. Anipo was founded five years ago by soprano Cyrille Gerstenhaber. “We all love our instrument and generally don’t want to play a stolen instrument at all because we imagine what it would do to us if ours were stolen from us. If we can identify an instrument anywhere in the world, we’ve won. We can’t resell them, so let’s stop stealing them.” Every year, the calls for help from musicians on social networks after the theft of their instrument increase.
In order to identify stolen instruments, in the absence of serial numbers, we mostly rely on photos, for example the grain of the wood, the varnish or the shape of its curves: “So we just returned two stolen Martin collector’s guitars to their owners and we were super happy about that!”welcomed Cyril Gerstenhaber.
The Anipo platform has also launched a sort of “blablacar” of instruments to connect traveling musicians and avoid using the services of transport companies. It also offers anti-theft labels to attach to the case to deter would-be thieves.