Two violins grab auction headlines

Violins are a hot item in the auction world at the moment. Two of the instruments – one played by the bandleader on the Titanic as the ship sank into the frigid depths of the Atlantic, and a Stradivarius that was stolen from a coffee shop in London in 2010 – have been making waves in auction news lately.

A winning bid of titanic proportions
One of the most famous anecdotes about the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 is the story of Wallace Hartley and his band.

Soon after the supposedly unsinkable ship struck an iceberg on April 15, 1912, Hartley was told to gather his band and play on as passengers made their way onto the lifeboats. Taking their charge seriously, the group struck up a set of tunes intended to soothe the understandably frightened seafarers. Most notably, they played the 19th century Christian hymn, "Nearer, My God, to Thee." It's a scene that was further etched into the public's memory when it was dramatized in the 1997 epic blockbuster "Titanic."

For decades, the violin Hartley used to strum the chords of that classic swan song was thought to be lost, having sunk to the bottom of the great ocean along with its owner and the 1,500 other victims of the tragedy. But now, more than a century after the disaster, the violin has been recovered after it apparently made its way through several different hands in the intervening years

Not surprisingly, this remarkable collector's item recently fetched the highest price ever paid for any of the antiques and collectibles associated with the Titanic at an antiques auction in Great Britain. Selling for approximately $1.8 million, Hartley's violin, which was proven authentic "beyond a reasonable doubt," according to The Telegraph, is now assured of its place in history.

A steal, even at a price of more than $2 million
When internationally renowned violinist Min-Jin Kim sat down at a London coffee shop in November 2010 toting the 1696 Stradivarius violin she had been playing since her teens, little did she expect it would soon fall prey to opportunistic thieves. But that's just what happened, as it was swiped by two men who, not having the slightest idea what they had stolen, tried to sell the cherished instrument for about $100.

Kim's Stradivarius was recovered earlier this year, ending a long and exhaustive search that stretched across Europe and beyond. Now, it is set to go up for auction in December, and may be sold for more than $2 million, according to the The Guardian.

Stradivarius violins, made in Cremona, Italy, in the late-17th and early-18th centuries by the man whose name they bear, are the most valuable versions of the instrument in the world, prized for their beauty, craftsmanship and sound. With its added bit of colorful history, Kim's former model is expected to receive even more ferocious bidding than other examples of Stradivarius' work.

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