It is estimated that there are a total of 550 Stradivari violins in the world left from the Master’s original production of over 1,000, alongside 150 Guarneri del Gesu violins that this preeminent Cremonese luthier produced during his career; hence the extraordinary prices that these instruments demand. In total, it is estimated that there are currently around 10,000 Italian instruments of “superior quality” throughout the world. We must also consider that the end of what is generally considered the golden period of instrument-making ended by the late 1700’s.
Recent prominent acquisitions in the instrument market include investors from Russia, Europe, Taiwan and the United States. There is no doubt that China is adding to this market, thanks in large part to emerging Chinese talents alongside Chinese economic might. We find a present similarity in the instrument market to the 1980’s when the Japanese began acquiring collectable instruments, which then caused a dramatic price increase.
The supply of great instruments is decreasing as demand is rising. Each year, some of the best instruments in the world are acquired by institutions that will preserve and hold them for generations. If we add the fact that every year some instruments are stolen or suffer irreparable damage, the conclusion is that we are dealing with a rare and irreplaceable product whose scarcity and functionality makes it a unique and unparalleled investment in the short, medium and long term. Another positive feature of this market is that prospective investors are not at the mercy of institutions offering dubious forecasts of financial gain. Specialists in our market offer appraisal, evaluation, repair and specialized sales of great instruments and are made available to the interested buyer as optimal intermediaries.
Beyond purely financial gain, the advantages of owning a great instrument are not quantifiable in material terms. Ultimately, the consistency and stability of this market are closely linked not only to collectors but also to the musicians who perform on these instruments and serve as their ambassadors to the world. The high value of great instruments have made them less and less approachable for purchase by even the most successful performers. We see both a tangible and more esoteric benefit to the investor; by giving a valuable “tool” to a world-class musician with an international profile, instruments increase in value. Tours and commercial recordings provide a unique historical and artistic merit, inevitably resulting in a higher market value. Such assignments are not only carried out by private buyers; many orchestras also invest in great instruments in order to allow their use by first-desk players, increasing their value and notoriety as well.