Pawn Shop Buys Violin For $50, Later Finds Out It’s A Rare 1759 Instrument Worth $250,000

Aleksandar GrozdanovskiShutterstock

The employees at one Massachusetts pawn shop just got a crash course in classic violins.

This week, the LBC Boutique and Loan in Somerville gave one seller $50 for a violin he was selling. But upon further inspection, it turned out to be worth just a little bit more than that, the Associated Press reported.

After the instrument was studied, it was found to be one from famed violin-maker Ferdinando Gagliano, made in 1759 and worth $250,000. Even just the violin bows were worth close to $18,000, the store manager told the news agency.

While it may seem that the person who sold the violin may have missed out on a fortune, police said the instrument had actually been stolen along with several other items at an earlier burglary, the Boston Globe reported. It has since been returned to its owner, and police are investigating the burglary. The person who sold the violin did not have a criminal record, the Associated Press reported.

This is not the first time someone has stumbled into a fortune by accident. More than a decade ago, antiques expert Rick Norsigian came across a set of glass negatives at a garage sale showing Yosemite National Park. The man haggled to get the $75 asking price down to $45, and later learned that he had a goldmine.

As the Independent noted, Norsigian hired an investigator who determined that the negatives actually belonged to famed photographic artist Ansel Adams and were worth an estimated $200 million.

The story had another strange twist, the newspaper noted.

“Despite the claims of the various paid ‘experts’ Mr. Norsigian and his attorney had hired to investigate the images, the art world was deeply skeptical as to whether the photographs really were the work of Adams,” the report noted “Several independent investigators claimed they were instead likely to be the work of Earl Brooks, a resident of 1920s Fresno who later became a moderately well-known portrait photographer in Delaware.”

That led to the estate of Ansel Adams suing the man to dispute the man’s assertion that the photographs belonged to the artist. Norsigian countersued for defamation, and the two sides ended up settling their dispute out of court. Norsigian could continue to sell the negatives, but would not claim they were the work of Adams.

As the Associated Press noted, the Massachusetts pawn store has instituted a new policy to prevent stolen violins being shopped around again. Anyone trying to sell one of the string instruments now has to play it to prove that they own it.