An old violin, thought to be heard on the Oscar-winning score of The Wizard of Oz, might just become the most expensive Stradivarius ever sold at auction. The rare violin formerly owned by Toscha Seidel, "widely considered one of the greatest violinists of the 20th century," will hit the auction block next month and is expected to fetch between $16 million and $20 million, per Variety. If it does, it will set a record for fine-instrument auction house Tarisio. Its record price for a Stradivarius is $16 million, set in 2011, and that violin had condition issues and couldn't be played, per Bloomberg. This one can.
Though other rare violins have sold for up to $20 million in private sales, this is "the first Stradivarius from the so-called golden age of violin making to be auctioned in decades," per the New York Times. One of about 600 violins crafted by Antonio Stradivari known to be in existence, it's considered to be among his "finest creations," per Smithsonian. Dubbed the "da Vinci" Stradivarius—a nickname given to it by an auction house in the 1920s—it was made in 1714. The Russian-American Seidel, who gave violin lessons to Albert Einstein, purchased it for $25,000 (more than $400,000 in today's dollars) in 1924, saying he wouldn't part with it "for a million dollars," according to the Times' archives.
He went on to play in scores for films including The Adventures of Robin Hood and Anthony Adverse. He was also "the concertmaster for the Paramount Studio Orchestra and played the violin solos for MGM's The Wizard of Oz," per the Times. The instrument, which Seidel had until his death in 1962, "has a luscious, deep and powerful sound and is something that really carries you," Tarisio's director, Carlos Tome, tells Bloomberg. It last sold at auction in 1974 for 34,000 pounds (more than $3 million in today's dollars). The current owner, Japanese restaurant chain magnate Tokuji Munetsugu, hasn't given his reason for parting with it, per the Times. It will be sold June 9. (Read more Stradivarius violin stories.)