When you're first starting out, it may seem like you have a long list of things to buy. It can be hard to figure out exactly what are the best things for a beginning violinist to get. There are some things that are obviously required (like a violin), but something that some learners overlook is a music stand.
Think of it this way: You have enough things that you're going to be thinking of while playing (posture, where do the arms go, what string is the note on, etc); you don't need to be craning your neck to try to see your music as well!
There are several kinds of music stands and I'll briefly discuss each. When I was learning viola (and then violin), my family didn't have a lot of money. When I teach, I usually tell students about the less expensive stands first.
Folding music stands are where everyone starts. They have several advantages and disadvantages:
A piece of advice: If you can, get a bag to go with the stand. If you take that stand a lot of places, you'll thank yourself. The bag will prevent the stand from damaging other items (including you and those around you!).
Another piece of advice: There are many times where you can order something cheap and get away with it. I advise you to pay a little more with a stand. It'll last longer and will be able to hold heavier music without folding up like a wimpy lawn chair.
This picture (to the left) shows a clever crochet loop (although string works too) to help hold your pencil as you practice. (Photo credit to Tim Regan)
Typically, folding music stands come in two parts. There's the part that "stands" on the floor. Usually there's something that you tighten to allow the three legs support the rest of the stand. Then there's the part that supports the music itself. Usually this fits into or onto the part with the legs.
I recommend the Hamilton Chrome Folding Stand. It's a great starting stand for less than $20. I own a couple and they have lasted nicely.
These are your regular music stands that you're likely to see used in orchestra rehearsals and performances. They're painted matte black and they do not fold. Again, there are a few pros and cons. If you're sure you're going to be continuing with music (not necessarily violin, just music in general), get one of these if you can.
If you get one of these used, be sure to see if it's written on! I got one for teaching lessons and realized after using it for a week that it had all kinds of things written on it from the school that had owned it before.
If the stand came from a school, the clutch on it may not hold. This means it might dump the music on the floor because the top of the stand can no longer stay in place. This typically only happens after these hardy stands have been abused a lot. I recommend buying one new to avoid this problem.
If you want stability and the ability to play from larger music books, get a regular music stand like the Manhasset shown below. If you played (or play!) in orchestra in school, it's very likely you'll use one of these. These are very well known and respected stands. I've owned one for almost two decades. If you're just starting out in violin and you know you want to keep going, I strongly recommend getting one of these. They typically run around $40.
I do not recommend getting these at all. The height of a table is not right for most people playing a violin sitting or standing. Typically, using one of these results in frustration and a crick in the neck (or worse).
Most of these stands are wood and may be meant for something other than playing violin. You just need to look at them and figure out if it would fill your needs. Many of these stands wouldn't hold music at the right angle or are not adjustable. This can be very frustrating.
Some examples of these that I've seen and/or found:
With any of these stands, always pay special attention to if you have to twist your body or crane your neck to see the music on the stand. If you have to lean forward, twist your neck a lot, or put extra strain on your playing posture, don't get the stand! I strongly suggest simply buying a quality folding stand or standard stand instead.