Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) was one of the greatest violin makers who ever lived. He made about 2,000 instruments of which roughly 600 still exist. In his lifetime, he sold instruments to royalty and the rich, and few Strads today are not well documented. Because of his fame, his designs were widely copied and many have little or no value, just like an inexpensive print of the Mona Lisa or any other great work of art.
Since the 1850s, instrument factories all over the world have produced millions and millions of cheap copies with labels that read something like “Antonius Stradiuarius, Cremonenfis Faciebat Anno 1721″. The chance that you have a genuine Stradivari, while not impossible, is very, very remote. The same holds true for other great masters of violin making such as Giuseppe Guarneri, J.B. Guadagnini, Nicolo Amati, Jacob Stainer, and others. While photographs may be of interest, an instrument must be in our hands for us to give an opinion as to an instrument's authenticity.
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