What is the most expensive musical instrument of all time? - Updated 2023

An antique violin
An antique violin( Source : lovetoknow )

What is the most expensive musical instrument of all time? Most Expensive Musical Instrument of all time are 1. MacDonald Stradivarius Viola 2. The Vieuxtemps Guarneri Violin.

We often hear that music has the power of different elements, from enjoyment and melody to the illustrious aspect of healing and therapy.

Whenever we hear any melody or song, the first thing we tend to listen to or focus on is its sound and theme. 

Along with the words of the song, the music used in it can determine the flow of the song and decide people's fondness. And the things that produce such incredible sound are the musical instruments and devices.

Various musical instruments are famous worldwide, such as guitar, violin, keyboard, piano, drums, flute, etc.

Besides the widely popular devices, we can also find various other tools in different places of the world based on the tradition and culture of that particular place. 

While some of the instruments are discovered everywhere, there are a few exclusive ones that are only affordable by super-rich people, and only a few pieces exist.

Their rareness and the history behind those pieces make them valuable and are priced pretty high compared to the normal ones. It might be unbelievable to hear, but there are a few instruments that cost millions of dollars to acquire.

In this article, we have listed the ten most expensive musical instruments of all time with their brief history.

1. MacDonald Stradivarius Viola

MacDonald Stradivarius Viola has a a valuation of $45 million in 2014.

Picture of the rare MacDonald Stradivarius Viola
Picture of the rare MacDonald Stradivarius Viola( Source : luxuo )

It made the headlines in 2014 when the Fine Arts company, Sotheby's, tried to auction the one and only MacDonald Stradivarius Viola for a minimum price of $45 million. Although the auction failed to attract bids, it set the record as the most expensive musical device.

An Italian man by the name of Antonio Stradivari applied the finishing touches on the instrument after he was trusted with the task by a nobleman who lived nearby in 1701, as reported by Kmfa. He used the Latinised version of his name and gave it to the instrument to mark his work.

Recognized as one of the best instrument makers of all time, Antonio made around 1100 devices during his career, out of which only around 650 are said to exist. Even to this exclusivity, he made only 15 Violas, and the Stradivarius is one of the eleven true violas.

Even though it might fail to attract any buyer for some time, its valuation seems somewhat understandable given its history and importance.

2. Duport Stradivarius Cello

Duport Stradivarius Cello is the second most expensive musical instrument ever sold. The Cello sales price was $20 million in 2008.

Duport Stradivarius Cello made by Stradivari
Duport Stradivarius Cello made by Stradivari( Source : feinviolins )

It holds the record for the most expensive musical device ever sold, at 20 million dollars, when the Nippon Music Foundation bought it in 2008. Around 14 years later, it is pretty certain that the device costs more than the last valuation.

As the name suggests, it was made by none other than Antonio Stradivari in 1711 and is named after its first owner, Jean-Louis Duport. This piece is one of the only 63 cellos made by Stradivari that currently exists and shares a history with then emperor Napolean Bonaparte.

The owner was with the cello in Paris when he ran into Napolean, who then asked, "How the devil do you hold this thing, Monsieur Duport?" as said by the legend, reports Youth Orchestras of Fresno. It also bears a dent supposedly made by Bonaparte.

3. The Vieuxtemps Guarneri Violin

The Vieuxtemps Violin, made by Giuseppe Guarneri,was sold for $16 million in 2012.

Picture of Vieuxtemps Violin
Picture of Vieuxtemps Violin( Source : petkoviolins )

It was made around 1741 and is one of the last devices built by the legendary luthier Guarneri. The violin holds the record for the most expensive violin ever sold and is named after its 19th-century owner Henri Vieuxtemps. Wikipedia reports that the piece is in excellent condition even to this date, without any patches or dents.

J&A Beares Ltd sold the tool, in collaboration with Paolo Alberghini and Julie Reed Yeboah, to an undisclosed buyer for an undisclosed fee.

But a 2013 article published by The Economist opened up the transaction price to $16 million. Around ten years after the sale, it is probably worth more than the last trade price.

4. Lady Blunt Stradivarius Violin

The fourth name on the list is the Lady Blunt Stradivarius Violin which was auctioned for $15.9 million in 2011.

Picture of the Lady Blunt Stradivarius Violin
Picture of the Lady Blunt Stradivarius Violin( Source : facebook )

It is the third device made by Antonio Stradivari in this list and is one of the only two best-preserved violins made by the legendary luthier. This violin is named after one of its first known owners, Lady Anne Blunt.

The Lady Blunt Stradivarius Violin was sold for a reported $15.9 million in an online auction in 2011 for the charitable cause of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. While its current owner is not identified, the instrument costs more than the last raised fund.

Surviving throughout the years, this tool maintains almost original condition and is rarely played since it is mainly kept for collection purposes.

5. Hammer Stradivarius Violin

The Hammer Stradivarius Violin is the fifth name on the list, which was sold for $3.54 million in 2006.

Hammer Stradivarius Violin
Hammer Stradivarius Violin( Source : pinterest )

While the tool was valued between $1.5 to $2.5 million, an undisclosed buyer made the highest bid in the room when he offered more than $3.5 million for the antique piece. Now, the violin is probably worth more than double its trading price.

Digging its history, the violin was made by the legendary luthier Antonio Stradivari and is named after Christian Hammer, the first recorded owner of this particular device. Before the last recorded sale, it was owned by a Japanese oil company in an estate sale. It was played by Kyoko Takezawa for twelve years on a loan deal, as reported by Wikipedia.

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6. John Lennon's Steinway Z Piano

John Lennon's Steinway Z Piano takes the sixth spot as it was sold for $2.1 million in 2002, as reported by India Today.

Steinway Z Piano model
Steinway Z Piano model( Source : pianoz )

This antique piece is valued between $8 to $12 million, per Houston Piano Company. It is named after the late English singer John Lennon who purchased the piano for 1000 pounds, equivalent to around $1190 in 1970 from Steinway & Sons.

Lennon made his unforgettable song Imagine using this piano. A Private British collector bought the device in 1992 before George Michael eventually bought it in 2002 for the mentioned price. This set the record for the highest price for a piano back in the day.

7. The Lady of Tennant Stradivarius

The Lady of Tennant Stradivarius is the next instrument on the list sold for a record $2.03 million in 2005.

The Lady of Tennant Stradivarius
The Lady of Tennant Stradivarius( Source : ingleshayday )

Antonio Stradivari made this antique violin in 1699, just one year before his believed golden era began. Still preserved in its original form and quality, it is named after two of its previous owners.

The first recognized owner of the instrument was a 19th-century violinist, Charles Phillippe Lafont. After his death, Sir Charles Clow Tennant bought it from the dealer W.E. Hill & Sons and presented it to his wife, Marguerite Agaranthe Miles Tennant.

The full name of the instrument is The Lady of Tennant-Lafont Stradivarius, after the before mentioned owners. The Lady Tenant sold it for $2,032,000 in 2005 in a New York auction but is currently valued at way more than the last trading price.

8. Eric Clapton's Fender Stratocaster Blackie

Eric Clapton's Fender Stratocaster, Blackie, makes a list in the number 8 position after it was sold for a record $959,500 in 2004.

Eric Clapton's Fender Stratocaster
Eric Clapton's Fender Stratocaster ( Source : stars-music )

It is Eric Clapton's favorite Fender Stratocaster, and he gave it the nickname Blackie. Made in the 70s, the late English guitarist played the Blackie for the first time in 1973 and kept using it for concerts and studio records till 1985.

Eventually, the guitar was auctioned in 2004 at Christie's auction to support the Crossroads center, as reported by Wikipedia. The Crossroads Centre is a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center founded by Clapton. In the auction, the instrument sold for more than $959k.

At present, the device is probably valued at more than the last transaction price.

9. OM-45 Deluxe Acoustic Guitar

Making it in the ninth spot is the OM-45 Deluxe Acoustic Guitar which was sold at $554,500 in 2009.

OM-45 Deluxe Acoustic Guitar
OM-45 Deluxe Acoustic Guitar( Source : scribd )

This musical instrument is made by C.F. Martin & Co., one of the oldest guitar manufacturers in the United States. The OM-45 Deluxe model was created in 1930 and is considered the company's most beautiful, valuable, and collective piece.

It made the headlines when a buyer bought it for almost $555K in 2009, thus making it one of the most expensive musical instruments of all time.

The transaction value was more than double the auctioneers had initially expected to raise from the sale.

10. Gasparo Bertolotti da Salo Viola

Making it at the end of the top 10 list is the Gasparo Bertolotti da Salo Viola, with an auction price of $542,500.

Gasparo Bertolotti da Salo Viola
Gasparo Bertolotti da Salo Viola( Source : youtube )

As it was sold in 2010, the instrument is probably valued more than the last transaction price. It was made by Gasparo Bertolotti in the 16th century, thus making it one of the oldest tools. There are only about 80 instruments made by Gasparo in current existence, and the mentioned viola is one of them.

Although the details about the buyer are pretty vague, the viola was auctioned for $542,500 in April 2010.

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