Stolen 24 years ago, rare violin returned
The instrument showed up on eBay, but police said the sellers were unaware it had been stolen and agreed to give it back.
By NICK WERNER
MUNCIE -- A Muncie musician has been reunited with his rare Italian violin 24 years after it was stolen from his car.
The violinist, a member of the Muncie Symphony Orchestra, discovered his 1948 Gaetano Gadda for sale on eBay recently after searching for it on the auction Web site on a whim, Muncie Police Detective Nathan Sloan said.
The listing said the violin was still in Muncie and that the starting bid was $46,000.
That the musician was looking for his instrument after all these years shows how attached violinists can become with their instruments, Sloan said.
"He was much more interested in getting the violin back for its instrumental value than for its monetary value," Sloan said.
The violinist requested The Star Press withhold his name out of concern that publicity might make him a target for theft again.
While the violinist is counting his good fortune, eBay seller Leslie Paul Bell, a local tool and die maker, and his father, a retired used car salesman, are agonizing over their loss.
Bell's father, police learned, bought the violin from a stranger in 1988 for $200, not knowing it had been stolen four years earlier.
"We were the second victim," Bell said. "That's one way of putting it."
It wasn't until about 10 years ago that Bell's father, a sort of collector of instruments and a violinist himself, learned of the violin's value from a book, Bell said.
His father then spent a few thousand dollars insuring the instrument, repairing it and having it appraised at Christie's in New York, a fine arts auction house.
"Dad needs the money," Bell said. "That would have been a nice little nest egg for them to fall back on."
In 1984, someone stole the Gaetano Gadda, along with a second violin and valuable bow, from the violinist's car as it was parked outside the former Carriage House Restaurant in Muncie following a community ensemble concert at High Street United Methodist Church.
The second violin and bow have not been recovered, Sloan said.
The Gaetano Gadda, according to Sloan, was a gift from the musician's sister after he had earned a master's degree in 1983 at the age of 33.
The sister bought the violin from a specialty shop in Missouri for $12,000, Sloan said.
Police used old photos to confirm the violin's identity before returning it to the original owner Thursday.