Saturday, 1 August 2009

Lost: The $800,000 Stradivarius

Lost: Have you ever sat your coffee on top of your car, intending to grab it before you get behind the wheel, only to forget about it? Then you go driving off and it falls onto the road somewhere while you stare confused at your empty cup holder?

What would you say is the worst possible scenario for something like that? Other than, say, leaving your newborn infant up there?

That brings me to the story of The Duke of Alcantara, which is not a person but a 267-year-old Stradivarius violin (when an instrument is valued at $800,000, they tend to give it a pimp name). The violin was donated to UCLA at some point in its long lifespan, and wound up in the hands of David Margetts, the second violinist for the UCLA string quartet. He borrowed the violin on August 2, 1967 from the university for a rehearsal in Hollywood.

An $800,000 loaner? Yeah, UCLA apparently trusted the shit out of David Margetts.

They shouldn't have. He was on his way home and stopped to get groceries, leaving his car unlocked. When he got back, he was minus one violin and was in some serious shit with UCLA. Surely some thieves had stolen it, recognizing it for its rarity and extraordinary value! They were probably selling it to sophisticated international criminals that very moment!

Found: Fast forward 27 years to 1994. A violin dealer repairing a (you guessed it) violin, realized that, holy shit, he was working on a Stradivarius two and a half centuries old and worth more than he made in a decade.

He looked up the particular violin and found out it had been missing from UCLA all this time. The violin was now owned by an amateur violinist by the name of Teresa Salvato, who had gotten it in her divorce settlement.

Wondering how the musical equivalent of that guy who always "totally has to show you a song he wrote" at parties ended up with an $800,000 violin, UCLA did a little asking around and found out the violin was given to Teresa's husband by his aunt... who found the Stradivarius on the side of a freeway one evening in 1967.

So what I was saying earlier, about the cup of coffee? Yeah, it appears that's what David did with the violin.

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