10/23/2013 02:46 pm ET Updated Oct 24, 2013

This Famous Stolen Violin Could Fetch $3.2 Million At Auction

A violin that thieves tried to offload for £100 ($160) may end up selling for £2 million ($3.2 million), reports the Guardian.

The 317-year-old instrument spurred a three-year police hunt that spanned international borders, ending with its recovery from a property in central England this year. Reports highlighted the guilt felt by the violin's owner, the British prodigy Min-Jin Kym, who was eating at a London train station cafe when the violin was snatched from her.

minjin kym
(AP Photo/British Transport Police)

One of about 600 surviving violins made by Antonin Stradivari, the so-called "ex-Kym" dates before the famous luthier's golden period, from 1710-20. Speaking to the Guardian, Jason Price, director of the Tarisio auction house, where the violin is now held, framed its age as a market advantage. Before 1700, Stradivari experimented with body lengths and proportions:

"This 1696 violin is, however, of normal proportions and is more or less the model Stradivari settled upon to use for the rest of his career. Interestingly, instruments from this pre-1700 period probably have more of Stradivari himself in them. In the later periods Stradivari was in his 70s and, although he was active and working, it is clear he had a very productive workshop, with his sons and others assisting in the output."

Price also praises the "sensational maple" wood used on the instrument's back. A blog post on the Tarisio site suggests that this is the same "magnificently flamed maple" used to build the Archinto, one of only two playable Stradivarius violas in existence.

The ex-Kym goes up for auction in December. Some portion of the proceeds are reportedly earmarked for the police officers who found it.

UPDATE: Readers have rightly pointed out that this story leaves a question unanswered: why was the violin not returned to its original owner, Min-Jin Kym? According to the Guardian report, the violin is no longer the property of Kym, who went on to purchase a 1705 Stradivarius after the theft. The auction house director Jason Price added that he's not at liberty to identify the present owner.

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