The Most Expensive Musical Instruments of All Time

Start saving your pennies now, we’re counting down the most expensive musical instruments ever sold! While many would consider these ultra-rare instruments and the stories behind them priceless, they have been sold to collectors looking to preserve important moments in musical history.

Do you think you know what the most expensive musical instrument of all time is? Read below to find out!

10. Gasparo Bertolotti da Salò Viola


One of the earliest violin makers, only about 80 instruments made by Gasparo are still in existence today. The son and nephew of accomplished Italian musicians, Gasparo developed the art of string making during the 16th century, and took on pupils to continue the tradition. Gasparo’s viola sold at auction for $542,500 in April 2010.

9. OM-45 Deluxe Acoustic Guitar from C.F. Martin and Company

C.F. Martin started producing guitars in America in the mid 1800s, and today makes more than 50,000 instruments per year. However, from 1929 to 1930 Martin starting producing their OM (Orchestra Model) line, which is regarded by many as the most beautiful guitar ever made.  The OM-45 Deluxe was Roy Rogers‘ guitar of choice, and was auctioned for $554,500 in 2009 (although you can get your hands on a modern, albeit rare, replica at a steal for less than $80,000).

8. Eric Clapton’s Fender Stratocaster

BLACKIE

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.

7. The Lady of Tennant Stradivarius

Stradivari is perhaps the best-known name in string instruments, and very rare, very expensive violins specifically. Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari crafted instruments from 1680 through the 1730s. The Lady of Tennant-Lafont Stradivarius was made in 1699, the year before what is considered Stradivari’s ‘golden era.’ Prior to selling at Christie’s for a record-breaking $2.03 million in April of 2005, and subsequently being loaned to numerous modern violin luminaries, The Lady Tennant was gifted to a Scottish millionaire’s wife who was an amateur violinist.

6. John Lennon’s Steinway Z Piano

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In addition to the iconic white grand Steinway, John Lennon and Yoko Ono had a 1970 Steinway Model Z upright on which he composed and recorded “Imagine” in 1971. George Michael purchased the well-worn instrument, which is said to have cigarette burn marks, at auction in October of 2000 for $2.1 million. Michael sent the piano on tour to sites of violent tragedies, echoing the sentiment of “Imagine’s” lyrics.

5. Hammer Stradivarius Violin

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Named after Christian Hammer, a 19th-century Swedish collector and the violin’s first owner, the Hammer Stadivarius was crafted during Stradivarius’ aforementioned ‘golden era’ in 1707. The Hammer also shattered the Lady Tennant Strad’s record when it sold to an anonymous bidder in 2006 for a jaw-dropping $3.54 million after 5 minutes of bidding.

4. Lady Blunt Stradivarius Violin

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 the be the best-preserved Strad offered for sale in the past century.

3. Vieuxtemps Violin

At more than 275 years old, the Vieuxtemps Guarneri violin is is pristine condition, without cracks and having never been repaired or patched. The instrument, crafted by renowned Italian artisan Guiseppe Guarneri in 1741, has been used by Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman. The Vieuxtemps’ current anonymous owner, who purchased the violin in 2012 for $16 million, has provided lifetime use to top-selling classical violinst Anne Akiko Meyers.

2. Duport Stradivarius Cello

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The 1711 Stradivari-crafted cello is named after it’s one-time owner, 19th century cellist Jean-Louis Duport. The instrument was purchased by the Nippon Music Foundation (prolific Strad collectors) in 2008 for a cool $20 million, despite its visible dent, rumored to be caused by Nepoleon Bonaparte’s boots when Duport allowed Bonaparte to handle the infamous cello.

1. MacDonald Stradivarius Viola

One of only 10 Stradivarius violas intact today, the MacDonald (named after one of its 19th century owners) was played by celebrated Amadeus Quartet co-founder Peter Schidlof until his death in 1987. The prized viola was put up for auction with a stupefying minimum bid of $45 million in 2014, but failed to secure a buyer. So, for those in the market, this one-of-a-kind musical treasure is still available!

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