Illustrated picture. Photo: Mixi's
Illustrated picture. Photo: Mixi's

Hundreds of unique musical instruments have been made since the Stone Age, but some are so extremely rare that collectors spend chunks of money to own them and preserve important musical historical moments, while many consider these rare instruments and the stories behind them priceless.

Music is an unfailing way to express one's emotions and feelings and it happens to be a form of art that is universally loved. Music can be a way to relax or a way to muster the energy for exercise. With all the different genres, there's something in music for everybody.

Some brilliant musicians have made this planet a better place to live in with their exceptional music. While it is their skill and innate talent that distinguishes them from the rest, their instruments also contribute to their excellence.

The List of 11 Most expensive Musical Instruments of All Time

1. MacDonald Stradivarius Viola

2. Duport Stradivarius Cello

3. Vieuxtemps Violin

4. Lady Blunt Stradivarius Violin

5. The Paganini Stradivarius Cello

6. Guarneri del Gesù Violin

7. Hammer Stradivarius Violin – $3.54 million

8. Reach Out To Asia Fender Stratocaster

9. John Lennon’s Steinway Z Piano

10. The Lady of Tennant Stradivarius Violin

11. Eric Clapton’s Stratocaster: Blackie

Which are the Most expensive Musical Instruments of All Time?

1. MacDonald Stradivarius Viola - $45 million

Photo: CNBC
Photo: CNBC

Violas are slightly different to violins in terms of size and the sound produced. Apart from that, both of them are identical. The MacDonald Stradivarius Viola holds the current title of being the most expensive musical instrument of all time.

It has a price tag of a whopping $45 million. However, this price tag is too much for even the richest among us as it is still up for sale. If sold, the Macdonald would have been the most expensive instrument to be sold, a record which would be impossible to break for a few decades at least.

MacDonald Stradivarius Viola was crafted by one of the most famous craftsmen in history, Antonio Stradivari, in 1719. This period is regarded as the golden period of Antonio Stradivari, as some of his best creations come from this time.

It was named after the 3rd Baron Macdonald, Godfrey Bosville, who acquired it in the 1820s. And as of now, it one of the only two Strad violas that are still in private hands.

2. Duport Stradivarius Cello – $20 Million

Photo: Việt Thương Music
Photo: Việt Thương Music

The Duport Stradivarius Cello is a cello built by Luthier Antonio Stradivari. It is named after its owner, Jean-Louis Duport. It has a dent that is still visible from Napoleon Bonaparte's rough handling while straddling the cello with his boots.

The Duport Stradivarius Cello is one of the most valuable Stradivari cellos. It was sold to Nippon Music Foundation for $20 US million.

3. Vieuxtemps Violin - $16 million

Photo: The Strad
Photo: The Strad

The Vieuxtemps Violin is the most expensive violin to be sold until date. It was designed by an eminent Italian violin maker of the eighteenth century around 1741. This man was Giuseppe Guarneri, and the Vieuxtemps violin is considered as his finest creation by several historians and violinists.

Henri Vieuxtemps was a proficient Belgian violinist, and he’s the person after whom this state of the art violin is named. Throughout the years, the Vieuxtemps Violin has been in the hands of some of the most celebrated violinists. Some of these include Sir Isaac Wolfson, Ian Stoutzker, Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman. It is in mint condition even after being used for more than two centuries due to brilliant preservation and maintenance.

The Vieuxtemps Violin made headlines in 2012 when it was reported to be sold for an undisclosed amount to an unnamed client. The buyer later granted lifetime use of the violin to American violinist Anne Akiko Meyers. Then in 2013, the economist reported that the amount was more than $16 million.

4. Lady Blunt Stradivarius Violin - $15.9 million

Photo: Stradivarius
Photo: Stradivarius

One of the two best-preserved Stradivari-build violins in existence, the Lady Blunt was auctioned for charitable relief after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The online sale raised $15.9 million, nearly 5 times the amount of the previous Stradivarius record holder. It’s said to be the best-preserved Stradivari offered for sale in the past century.

5. The Paganini Stradivarius Cello - $6 million

Photo: Ventured
Photo: Ventured

The Paganini Stradivarius Cello is another masterpiece from the house of Stradivarius. They are the most famous historical family when it comes to crafting the best stringed instruments. It is named after a renowned violinist and Cellist who went by the name of Niccolò Paganini.

The Greenhouse family was its most recent owner until very recently they decided to sell it to a worthy musician. They sold it to an undisclosed buyer who was a “patroness of the arts from Montreal” who in turn lent it to a young talented musician called Stéphane Tétreault. Rumour has it that the deal was worth more than $6 million.

6. Guarneri del Gesù Violin - $3.9 million

Photo: Luxury and Fine Living
Photo: Luxury and Fine Living

Made by the grandson of Stradivari’s apprentice, a “del Gesu” violin has a price tag that matches that of a Stradivarius. Giuseppe Guarnieri is also a legendary luthier who created sought after string instruments.

In 2007, one “Guarneri del Gesu” violin was sold for a price of $3.9 million. And in 2011, another of his violin was marketed for a price of $18 million but was sold at an undisclosed price. As such, the title for the most expensive, between Stradivari and Guarneri, is still an ongoing debate.

7. Hammer Stradivarius Violin – $3.54 million

Photo: Classic FM
Photo: Classic FM

Before you make any assumptions, the name Hammer has nothing to do with its shape or the quality of sound. This Stradivarius violin was named after Christian Hammer, who was a nineteenth-century collector from Sweden.

In 1911, it was brought to the United States by a violinist named Bernard Sinsheimer. It stayed in the US for nearly 80 years until a Japanese oil company bought it in an estate sale. They loaned it to Kyoko Takezawa, a renowned violinist who played it for 12 years.

The Hammer violin made headlines all over the world when it was sold to an undisclosed bidder at an auction for $3.54 million.

8. Reach Out To Asia Fender Stratocaster - $2.7 million

Photo: Deccan Chronicle
Photo: Deccan Chronicle

Reach Out To Asia Fender Stratocaster is the most expensive guitar to be ever sold at a humongous price of $2.7 million. It was sold in an auction in Qatar in 2004 and the proceeds from the sale went to a charity for the victims of the 2004 tsunami of South Asia.

The guitar is shining silvery-white and nothing short of spectacular. It features the signature of some of the most prominent rockstars that have ever lived on this planet. Brian May, David Gilmour, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Toni Iommi, and Eric Clapton are only a few of the legendary names that have signed this guitar.

9. John Lennon’s Steinway Z Piano - $2.1 million

Photo: World Piano News
Photo: World Piano News

We’ve all heard the hit John Lennon song “Imagine” and how the subtle piano sounds that make us feel nostalgic every time we hear it. That is precisely the reason that this Model Z from Steinway & Sons is the most expensive piano ever sold.

After the death of John Lennon, the piano was bought by a private British collector who loaned it to the Beatles Story Museum in Liverpool. It was up for auction once again in 2000, where several notable artists including the Gallagher brothers from Oasis also bid for it.

However, in the end, it was sold to a certain George Micheal for nearly $2.1 million. Later, he revealed that he bought it so that it would be in front of the people where they could see it and decided to hand it over to the Beatles Story museum.

10. The Lady of Tennant Stradivarius Violin - $2 million

Photo: WondersList
Photo: WondersList

The Lady of Tennant-Lafont Stradivarius is yet another entry from the Stradivarius family. This was conceived in 1699 by Antonio Stradivari himself. Sometimes, this violin is sometimes also known as the Lady of Tennant-Lafont Stradivarius, after Charles Philippe Lafont, who was a renowned French violinist and one of its owners.

After many years, it was bought by a Scottish businessman Sir Charles Clow Tennant who gifted to his wife who was an amateur violinist. In 2005, it was sold in a Christie’s auction in New York for a little over $2 million. Since then, the Lady of Tennant has been loaned to two violinists, Yang Liu and Yossif Ivanov.

11. Eric Clapton’s Stratocaster: Blackie - $959,500

Photo: Bloomberg.com
Photo: Bloomberg.com

Perhaps the only musical instrument known by its first name, Eric Clapton constructed Blackie using a ’56 Stratocaster body, a ’57 neck, and pickups from another instrument. His custom guitar can be heard on dozens of Clapton hits, as it was his favorite both in the studio and on stage. Clapton sold Blackie at Christie’s in 2004 for $959,500 to raise funds for his Crossroads rehab center.

Stradivarius: Fascinating Facts

Stradivarius Decorated

Although many of Stradivari's instruments are plain, if I dare venture to write such a thing, some were decorated. Only eleven decorated instruments remain in existence, four of which are in the Spanish Royal Palace collection and designed by Stradivari specifically as a quintet but the tenor viola has been lost. The cello is the only one still in existence that bears decoration. There is more about this cello later in the article.

The Smithsonion archives five of the rare decorated instruments, another is at the Ashmolean Museum, and the twelfth is privately owned.

We know from a priest called Father Arsi who liked to drop in at the Stradivari workshop that it wasn't unusual for him to enhance his creations. From one of his letters, we know Stradivari painted figures, flowers, and fruit and used ebony and ivory inlay.

The 'Hellier' has finely worked filial decoration to the ribs and on the side of the scroll and in place of the usual plain inked purfling - the defining black line around a violin's perimeter - it is embellished with a continuous ivory string of dots alternating with lozenges sandwiched between two thin wood bands both on the front and back. The 'Ole Bull,' named after a Norwegian violinist and composer, is ornamented in the same manner.

Stradivari's Golden Period

Although all Stravarius violins are all fine, some are finer than others. During 1700 to the early 1720s Stradivari produced his most refined instruments. They became longer, and the body flattened. The varnish he applied was also rethought. Previously he had coated his instruments with a yellow varnish similar to those of whom is presumed to have been his master, Nicolo Amati, but changed it to a red-orange preparation.

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