Want to buy Mussolini's fiddle? It's for sale
It was made 400 years ago by the Amati family. What makes it unusual, however, is one of its former owners: Benito Mussolini. "That the violin is attached to a famous — or in this case infamous — person does make it worth more, but it is impossible to say by how much," Alfredo Halegua, who owns it, told the Financial Times. "I am selling it because of my age," says the 79-year-old. "I wish to pass it on, to someone who can use it."
The global market for high-end violins is worth around $4 billion. "It's not like gold, which can always be mined for more," says Stewart Pollens, who runs Violin Advisor. Despite the recession, interest in fiddles — the word used by dealers — is gaining popularity among investors looking for new ways of making profits in a difficult economy.
But why is one violin worth more than another? Age and condition are important, but the name of the maker is critical. The golden age of violin-making ran from 1600 to 1750, and instruments made by the Italian masters Stradivari, Amati and del Gesù are thought to be the finest in the world.
"To a musician, what makes a violin valuable is what it's like to play," says Laurie Niles of Violinist.com, a website for fiddle fans. "At the same time, it almost seems as if you can wake up old ghosts; you can feel that what you're playing has been played on the instrument before."