Start saving your pennies now, because we’re counting down the most expensive musical instruments ever sold! While many would consider these ultra-rare instruments and the stories behind them to be priceless, they have been sold to collectors looking to preserve important moments in musical history. So, do you think you know what the most expensive musical instrument of all time is?
10. Gasparo Bertolotti da Salò Viola
As 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, but these instruments are very rare and very expensive. Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari crafted instruments from 1680 through the 1730s. The Lady of Tennant-Lafont Stradivarius was a violin 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
In addition to the iconic white grand Steinway, John Lennon and Yoko Ono had a 1970 Steinway Model Z upright piano 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 the words in “Imagine.”
5. Hammer Stradivarius Violin
Named after Christian Hammer, a 19th-century Swedish collector and the violin’s first owner, the Hammer Stradivarius 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 to be the best-preserved Stradivari offered for sale in the past century.
3. Vieuxtemps Violin
At more than 275 years old, the Vieuxtemps Guarneri violin is in 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 violinist Anne Akiko Meyers.
2. Duport Stradivarius Cello
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 Stradivarius collectors) in 2008 for a cool $20 million, despite its visible dent, rumored to be caused by Napoleon 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. Today, there still is no confirmed buyer, so for those in the market, this one-of-a-kind musical treasure is still available!
There you have it. Did you guess the most expensive instrument? We’re curious to see what the future holds for that MacDonald Stradivarius, that’s for sure! #staymusical