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Top 10 Most Expensive Violins of All Time

Top 10 Most Expensive Violins of All Time

A violin’s soft and tremulous sound can pull at your heartstrings and bring you tears. But while these stringed instruments can produce beautiful sounds, they’re often quite costly. In fact, some of the most expensive violins have sold for millions!

The Messiah-Salabue is the most expensive violin of all time, a Stradivari-made instrument valued at $20 million. Though it’s not the oldest Stradivarius instrument, The Messiah-Salabue violin is an antique that dates back to 1716. The primary reason it’s so valuable is its like-new condition.

If you’re an accomplished violinist or someone who enjoys collecting valuable instruments, you’ll likely want to consider investing in a high-priced violin like the ones featured in this ranking.

Here Are the Top 10 Most Expensive Violins of All Time:

  1. The Messiah-Salabue – $20 million
  2. Vieuxtemps Guarneri – $16 million
  3. The Lady Blunt – $15.9 million
  4. The Wizard of Oz Violin – $15.34 million
  5. The Kochanski – $10 million
  6. The Mary Portman – $10 million
  7. La Pucelle – $6 million
  8. The Molitor – $3.6 million
  9. The Hammer – $3.5 million
  10. The Solomon – $2.7 million

10. The Solomon – $2.7 Million

photo source: Christie’s

The Solomon is a gorgeous Stradivarius violin dating back to 1729, and it features a splendid tiger-striped back that extends upward to a hand-carved scroll. This exceptional instrument sold for $2.7 million in 2007. Considering its age and origin, it’s likely to become more valuable with each passing decade.

If you’re familiar with violins, you’re likely unsurprised by this model’s jaw-dropping auction price. After all, it’s a Stradivarius!

Why It’s Expensive

This violin’s value partially stems from the fact that it was created by Antonio Stradivari, an Italian craftsman responsible for creating some of the most prized violins of the last several centuries.

But it’s also crucial to note that this violin once belonged to Seymour Solomon, one of the founding members of the Bach Society. This group helped create some of the first modern recordings (on LPs) of classical music, namely Bach’s compositions.

Because this violin’s owners are notable, it has the potential to outsell other antique Stradivarius instruments.

9. The Hammer – $3.5 Million

photo source: Christie’s

Known as The Hammer, this $3.5 million violin is another Stradivarius masterpiece. Like The Solomon, this violin was created by Antonio Stradivari and features a hand-carved body and a stripey back that extends to the scroll.

But unlike The Solomon, The Hammer lacks a modern black chinrest and tailpiece. Instead, it features more classic (and period-accurate) wooden elements.

For perspective, The Hammer is pricier than the most expensive piano, despite its much smaller size!

Why It’s Expensive

Apart from the fact that this violin is a Stradivarius that’s older than the United States (it was made in 1707), the primary reason it’s so expensive is that it once belonged to Christian Hammer.

Hammer was a Swedish collector who worked for the Swedish Royal Family, making him both wealthy and well-connected. As such, items from his collection tend to be one-of-a-kind pieces worth millions, just like the violin that bears his name.

8. The Molitor – $3.6 Million

photo source: The Strad

The Molitor originated during the early period of Stradivari’s career. It was created in 1697, and its first recorded owner is a French socialite named Madame Juliette Récamier, who lived during the latter part of the 18th century.

That said, it may have once belonged to French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte!

Either way, its exquisite quality, historical significance, and ties to famed violin-maker Antonio Stradivari make it well worth its $3.6 million price. As of 2010, The Molitor has been under the loving care of Anne Akiko Meyers, an American violinist whose music has featured on the Billboard charts.

Why It’s Expensive

It’s not too challenging to understand why this violin sold for millions. Not only is a Stradivarius, a quality that inherently makes it one of the most sought-after and historically significant instruments in the world, but it might have belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte!

While it’s impossible to confirm this rumor, this violin’s other qualities (including its unique sound) make it a must-have for professional violinists, including its most recent owner, Anne Akiko Meyers.

7. La Pucelle – $6 Million

photo source: Classic FM

During his lifetime, Antonio Stradivari created more than a thousand musical instruments, though he primarily focused on creating unique, hand-carved violins. One of these distinct stringed instruments, La Pucelle, sold for $6 million to collector David L. Fulton.

Like other antique violins, La Pucelle features a concave, hand-carved chinrest and an ornate wooden tailpiece. These components are rare today, as plain black plastic is the preferred material when creating modern violins.

This price makes the La Pucelle violin slightly more affordable than the world’s most expensive guitar!

Why It’s Expensive

Only about half of the 1,000+ instruments created by Antonio Stradivari survive today, so each one is a rare treasure. But the La Pucelle is one of the most valuable of these historically significant gems, as it is in excellent condition and features nearly all of its original elements.

6. Mary Portman – $10 Million

photo source: Violin Music School

Many of the priciest violins are iconic enough to earn unique names, and many of these names are derived from the original owners of these violins. That’s undoubtedly the case with the Mary Portman violin, a Guarneri instrument dating back to 1735.

Like Stradivarius instruments, Guarneri violins were (and still are) a precious commodity throughout the 18th century. In fact, Giuseppe Guarneri was the primary rival of Antonio Stradivari, and both were Italian artisans.

In terms of style, the Mary Portman is very similar to The Solomon Stradivarius. Both are made of well-oiled hardwood and feature beautiful stripe patterns along their backs.

But this violin is almost four times more valuable, with an estimated value of $10 million!

Why It’s Expensive

This violin is valuable because of its age, condition, and exceptional sound quality. Despite its value, the Mary Portman is occasionally lent to talented violinists due to its complex and unique sound.

5. The Kochanski – $10 Million

photo source: Tarisio

The Mary Portman isn’t the only Guarneri violin to sell for big bucks. Another of these stringed instruments, created only a year after the aforementioned model, also earned a $10 million price tag!

This violin, called The Kochanski, was sold in 2009 to an unnamed Russian collector. Despite its wear and tear, it remains one of the priciest Guarneri violins in the world, in no small part due to its stellar craftsmanship and historical significance.

Why It’s Expensive

The Kochanski’s higher-than-average price is the result of its reputation and origins. It’s named after Paul Kochanski, a famous violinist who performed countless compositions using the violin.

Coupled with the violin’s remarkable origins (being made by Giuseppe Guarneri), it’s no wonder it managed to fetch millions when it went to auction.

4. The Wizard of Oz Violin – $15.34 Million

photo source: The Strad

The vibrant orchestral soundtrack of the 1939 classic, The Wizard of Oz, is one of the most easily recognizable pieces of modern instrumentation. But many of the instruments used to create this soundtrack are long gone.

But the 1714 Stradivarius violin played throughout this soundtrack isn’t! This antique violin (sometimes called the “da Vinci, ex-Seidel”) sold for $15.34 million in 2022.

Why It’s Expensive

Not only is this violin one of the few antique Stradivarius violins still around today, but it was also used to create the soundtrack for one of the most notable and groundbreaking pieces of cinema—The Wizard of Oz.

Though it’s technically not film paraphernalia, it is a historically significant item for several reasons, which makes it inherently valuable to collectors.

3. Lady Blunt – $15.9 Million

photo source: Wikipedia

There’s nothing plain or common about the Lady Blunt violin. From its intricately carved wooden pegs to its stripey back, it’s a stunning instrument built by gifted hands.

But this Stradivarius violin isn’t only aesthetically pleasing. It’s also extremely expensive. The Lady Blunt sold for $15.9 million in 2011.

For the price of this exquisite violin, you could afford to spend half a year (or more) lounging about in some of the most expensive Las Vegas hotel rooms!

Why It’s Expensive

The primary reason the Lady Blunt is so expensive is its condition. Even though it was created more than three centuries ago, it looks brand new, thanks to generations of dedicated care and maintenance.

The fact that this violin is one of the few remaining Stradivari instruments also adds to its value. But Lady Blunt isn’t the most expensive Stradivarius.

2. Vieuxtemps Guarneri – $16 Million

photo source: Jim Tuttle/NPR

The Vieuxtemps Guarneri (sometimes called the Vieuxtemps’ Guarneri ‘del Gesù) is the most expensive Guarneri violin, selling for a whopping $16 million in 2014.

Despite near-constant usage, this antique violin remains in exceptional condition. Notably, this violin is the property of Anne Akiko Meyers, the American violinist who owns The Molitor Stradivarius!

Why It’s Expensive

The Vieuxtemps Guarneri was created in 1741, so it’s not the oldest antique violin in the world. But its value stems from its quality, craftsmanship, and fantastic condition. As you might imagine, this violin also produces an almost unbeatable level of sound quality, making it a dream come true for professional violinists.

1. The Messiah-Salabue – $20 Million

photo source: Ashmolean Museum

The most expensive violin of all time is the Messiah-Salabue, sometimes called the Messiah Stradivarius. This violin is valued at $20 million, though it’s not for sale.

Its last sale dates back to 1855!

The Messiah-Salabue is a Stradivarius instrument, meaning that it was handcrafted by one of the most beloved violin-makers of the last 500 years, Antonio Stradivari. But its origin isn’t nearly as impressive as its condition.

From the moment this violin was created, it was treated like a priceless valuable. It was likely never played; instead, it was passed from collection to collection, eventually getting donated to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

That’s where it sits today, inside a temperature-controlled glass case that keeps it in near-perfect, like-new condition.

Why It’s Expensive

There are three reasons why the Messiah-Salabue violin is so valuable:

  • Age
  • Condition
  • Origin

This violin is more than 300 years old, making it one of the oldest surviving wood violins. Despite its age, it remains in like-new condition, something that’s exceptionally rare among antique violins.

But this is no random violin created by a little-known craftsperson. It happens to be a Stradivarius violin created by the iconic violin-maker Antonio Stradivari. This final factor makes it almost priceless in terms of historical significance and quality.

Why Are Some Violins So Expensive?

The average beginner-level violin only costs about $150—intermediate-level options aren’t much pricier. So, how is it that some violins sell for millions?

There are a few reasons why you might see a violin priced well over the $1 million benchmark. Some of the most common of these include:

  • Historical significance
  • Age and condition
  • Sound quality

If you’re eager to add a virtually priceless violin to your musical instrument collection, you’ll want to keep these factors in mind while browsing upcoming auctions. Let’s briefly discuss how each one impacts a violin’s value.

Historical Significance

Almost any item can be historically significant, especially if it’s an antique. For example, a liquid laundry detergent bottle can transform from a common household object into a museum-worthy piece if it’s old enough!

Several of the costliest violins in the world are collectibles due to their age, but this alone isn’t what makes them historically significant. Many of these violins are Stradivarius instruments.

A Stradivarius instrument is a musical instrument created by Italian violin-maker Antonio Stradivari and his descendants. These instruments have been prized for centuries due to their exquisite quality and design, and they were once exclusively available to royalty, wealthy merchants, and world-class violinists.

The term “Stradivarius violin” is still synonymous with unbeatable quality. Any violin capable of boasting this title is bound to sell for incredible prices due to its rarity and historical significance.

Age and Condition

Besides historical significance, age and condition are the most significant factors impacting a violin’s value. The older a violin is, and the better its condition, the greater the price.

Maintaining a violin, especially over several hundred years, is quite a feat. After all, most violins (especially those made during the 18th and 19th centuries) are made of wood. This material might make violins beautifully resonant, but it’s prone to rot and decay.

As such, finding a high-quality antique violin in excellent condition is rare. And as the law of supply and demand states, the rarer an item is, the more valuable it can become!

Sound Quality

Another reason why a violin might sell for top-dollar prices is sound quality. After all, discerning musicians looking to play only the most beautiful music are typically willing to spend more on instruments that can produce clearer, more resonant sounds.

Consequently, violins handcrafted from high-quality ebony hardwood and outfitted with precisely carved bridges can sell for thousands of dollars more than those made of cheap plastic or metal alloy.

Because it’s almost impossible to judge a violin’s sound while shopping online, several of the priciest violins sold online feature short audio clips showcasing the instrument’s capabilities. If you’re in the market for a valuable violin, keep an eye out for this feature.

What’s the Most Expensive Violin?

The most expensive violin is the Messiah-Salabue, a $20 million Stradivarius created in the early 18th century. Apart from this instrument’s age, its most impressive quality is its condition.

Unlike other Stradivarius instruments from the period, the Messiah-Salabue violin is virtually brand-new in terms of its condition. It was likely never played, which is why it remains in tip-top shape.

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