A couple of weeks ago the violin made from Winston Churchill’s cigar box went to auction with a reserve price of only £500. It managed to sell for 13 times the reserve price even though it has no strings and has the words ‘Made in Havana – Cuba’ carved into the back!
This isn’t the only instrument to defy expectations and sell for an unheard of amount of money, here’s our list of the most expensive instruments of their kind ever sold at auction.
The Vieuxtemps Guarneri Violin
Sold for $16 million
This Guarneri del Gesù instrument is now the most expensive violin in the world, selling for an estimated $16million (£10.5million). Its new owner anonymously donated the historic instrument to violinist Anne Akiko Meyers on loan for the rest of her life.
The violin is said to be in perfect condition, with no patching work at all. It gained its name after being owned by the Belgian 19th century violinist Henri Vieuxtemps and was later used by Yehudi Menuhin and Pinchas Zukerman, among others.
The Paganini Stradivarius Cello
Sold for >$6 million
Even if you don't play a string instrument, you've probably heard of Antonio Stradivari, the famous Italian luthier. This beautifully preserved Stradivarius cello was once owned by Nicolò Paganini and most recently by Bernard Greenhouse. After his death the Greenhouse family decided to sell it, hoping it would go to a deserving musician. The purchaser was a “patroness of the arts from Montreal” who lent the cello to Stéphane Tétreault, a young musician with a budding career.
The Heintzman Crystal Piano
Sold for $3.2 million
This extraordinary instrument was introduced to the world during the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, performed by our global ambassador Lang Lang, to a global audience of almost a billion people.
Designed by Canadian piano manufacturer Heintzman Pianos, this exquisitely-crafted instrument retired early after its only performance and was sold at auction to an anonymous bidder.
The Reach Out to Asia Fender Stratocaster
Sold for $2.7 million
To help raise money for the relief efforts for the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, a signed Fender Strat was auctioned off - and it wasn’t signed by just anybody!
This epic instrument features the signatures of music legends including Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Bryan Adams, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Brian May, Jimmy Page, David Gilmour, Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend, Mark Knopfler, Ray Davies, Liam Gallagher, Ronnie Wood, Tony Iommi, Angus and Malcolm Young, Sting, Ritchie Blackmore and Def Leppard.
Charlie Parker's Grafton Alto Saxophone
Sold for £93,500
The Grafton Saxophone was an acrylic plastic alto saxophone, designed by Hector Sommaruga in the late 1940s. Commercial production of the sax commenced in 1950 with a selling price of only £55 - half the cost of a conventional brass saxophone at that time.
The most notable player of the Grafton was Charlie Parker. The stories say that a sales representative for Grafton asked Parker to use one for a recorded gig in Toronto in 1953. Parker can be heard playing the Grafton on the gig’s CD, titled Jazz at Massey Hall, with Bud Powell, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus and Max Roach.
Parker’s saxophone was later sold at Christie's auction house in London in September 1994 for £93,500 (an estimated £168,000 in today’s money). The buyer was the American Jazz Museum, located in Parker's home town of Kansas City, Missouri, where the legendary saxophone is still displayed.