I just wanted to acknowledge your post and tell you, as someone who has evaluated many violins over the last 30 years, it is always bittersweet to hear a story like yours. Violins our grandfathers played, violins found in the attics, perhaps long forgotten until you found it, carry such deep sentimental value. I have had many people bring me a violin they were certain was an original Stradivarius only to be disappointed when I tell them how unlikely that is. In your case, a brief google search will reveal that lots of people have found the Giovan Paolo Maggini violins in their attics. If this was an original, it would be worth a fortune, but the only way to tell for sure is to have it evaluated by a professional. Most likely it is a copy of this Italian maker. Copies of his violins started cropping up in the 1800s, which would still make your violin a vintage antique! There are a couple things to look for in hinting at a violin’s value. Can you post any pictures of it? I’d like to look at the purfling. That is the black or neutral colored, decorative inlay around the edge of the violin. If it is painted on, or not even there, your violin is a cheap imitation. If it is neatly inlayed wood, that’s a sign of value and authenticity. Another detail is in the scroll. If you look at the part of the scroll that curls toward the peg box, you see in the middle a crease that either continues painstakingly all the way into the peg box, or ends bluntly as if the maker didn’t bother to continue the crease to it’s artistic end. Of course the former would indicate higher value of the violin, but it wouldn’t effect the tone of the instrument either way. What about the corners in the violin’s curves. On each side the body curves in. At the end of that curve, look at the edges of that corner. If they are sharp and distinct, that indicates good value. If they look like not much care was taken to define these angles, it is a sign of a less quality. Look inside the violin for notches or blemishes in the wood. These also indicate lesser quality. Finally, the back of the violin should have a tiger stripe sort of flaring pattern. If it is dull and has no striation, it is not a valuable violin.
All that said, you can still improve the tone of your violin in many ways. A Giovan Paolo in good playing condition can be worth about $450.00. So trying to improve its chances of producing a good sound, if it passes all these tests of quality I’ve just mentioned, is worth a try. Usually violins you find in the attic have a bow and case that are beaten up and falling apart. Quite often, the bow hair is thinned and breaking from dust mites and bugs that love to eat bow hair. The first thing to do is get a decent violin bow in your price range. You can get an excellent quality bow at Superior Violins. <— Click there to browse around, lol. I want to show you a good mid-priced bow they have. Their J. LaSalle Carbon Fiber violin bow is virtually unbreakable because it’s made of carbon fiber, sort of like fiberglass, which some parts of your car is made with! These bows are really well balanced and right now available at a steep discount. Best of all they are really beautiful! You can’t really tell from the photo but the bow is entirely black! It won’t warp, even if you play outside.
The next really important thing is to get a good set of strings. Most of these attic violins have been sitting for decades. It’s a given that strings have to be replaced first. For the best chance of a warm, full and rich tone I always recommend Thomastik Dominants. These strings have a durable, purlon (synthetic) core and are wound with aluminum on the lower strings. Not only do I recommend these strings to all my students, intermediate and up, but I use them myself also. Lots of symphony players use that brand. I recommend buying two sets, so you’ll have spares when you need them.
So, new bow, new strings, and make sure you clean off all the old rosin and use a nice rosin. If you are considering a violin upgrade, I also have great news in that regard! Depending on your price range, I can advise you on any of the violins at Superior Violins, because today I received five of their brand name violins to evaluate! I’m so excited! I haven’t opened them all up yet, but I did open two cases and found the Eliza Damiano Violin in a gorgeous case! I’ll be posting more detailed reviews of everything I received soon, but if you have any questions, please feel free to message me directly!