- It’s cheaper – online dealers can charge less as their overheads are far
lower than those of a shop.
- There’s more choice – there’s a massive number of instruments worldwide to
browse through and choose from!
- It’s convenient – especially if you don’t happen to live in a large city with
a well-stocked shop.
- You can’t play or handle the instrument, and have to rely on photos, measurements,
and a seller’s description.
- You can’t look your seller in the eye, and thereby get a general sense of
whether their pricing is likely to be fair.
- You can’t compare the sound of different instruments in quick succession.
Of course these lists aren’t exhaustive, but I’ve deliberately missed out
a few things which are non-issues, for instance safety concerns about money (standard
consumer protection applies to all fixed-price items sold online, but the best
protection is to pay through PayPal, with the dealer issuing a PayPal invoice),
or safety concerns about posting violins – just make sure the violin is professionally
packed and fully insured in transit.
Professional packaging means that the violin should be sent with no string
tension, preferably with the soundpost down, immobilized within a hard case which
is then heavily padded within a double-walled cardboard box. Insurance is only
available through couriers, since mail services such as parcelforce don’t insure
antiques against breakage, only loss.