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String Instruments

Stringed instruments include any musical instrument that uses the vibration of strings to produce sound. The strings are either plucked or bowed to produce the vibration. The earliest stringed instruments have been found in archaeological sites in Mesopotamia dating back more than 3,000 years. Stringed instruments include violins, guitars, banjos, mandolins, lutes, and numerous other instruments.

The design of antique string instruments changed frequently until the Renaissance when instrument designs became more standardized. The introduction of metal-wrapped strings improved the volume and flexibility of most instruments. In the 1800s, mass production increased the availability and affordability of stringed instruments. Electric amplification changed the style and type of performances for many instruments.

Collectors usually focus on one category of vintage stringed instruments. Some collect guitars, others violins, and so on. Knowledge of the particular instrument is of much help to collectors, as many stringed instruments, particularly violins, have been reproduced or faked. Collectors should carefully inspect a stringed instrument in person prior to purchasing, as cracks in the wood can significantly reduce the value of a vintage stringed instrument.


Quick Facts

  • The National Music Museum on the campus of the University of South Dakota in Vermillion houses the world's largest collection of vintage musical instruments with more than 15,000 pieces. The collection includes large sections of bowed and plucked stringed instruments
  • The electrification of stringed instruments has changed the design of these instruments to adapt to electronics. Many electric guitars now have solid bodies and electric violins have several different shapes
  • In 2012, part of the bridge of a lyre believed to be 2,300 years old was found in a cave in Scotland, making it the oldest stringed instrument artifact in Europe

Recommended Items at Auction

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String instrument, origin unclear
Nov 05, 10:00 AM CET
String instrument, origin unclear
by Historia Auktionshaus
Est: €0- €0
€602 Bids
Lyra-Adler Germany circa 1900
Oct 28, 5:00 PM CEST
Lyra-Adler Germany circa 1900
by Duran Arte Y Subastas
Est: €0- €0
€2250 Bids
Lute-like stringed instrument, c.
Nov 05, 10:00 AM CET
Lute-like stringed instrument, c.
by Historia Auktionshaus
Est: €0- €0
€500 Bids
Sitar/long-necked lute, India/Per
Nov 05, 10:00 AM CET
Sitar/long-necked lute, India/Per
by Historia Auktionshaus
Est: €0- €0
€1200 Bids
Hurdy-gurdy, probably France, c.
Nov 05, 10:00 AM CET
Hurdy-gurdy, probably France, c.
by Historia Auktionshaus
Est: €0- €0
€5000 Bids
Weymann & Sons Bowl Back Inlaid Mandolute
Oct 30, 11:30 AM EDT
Weymann & Sons Bowl Back Inlaid Mandolute
by Joshua Kodner
Est: $100- $200
$250 Bids
Zither in a box, 19th/20th centur
Nov 05, 10:00 AM CET
Zither in a box, 19th/20th centur
by Historia Auktionshaus
Est: €0- €0
€800 Bids
Tanbou Merengwen, Ethnic Stringed Instrument
Oct 30, 10:00 AM MST
Tanbou Merengwen, Ethnic Stringed Instrument
by EJ'S Auction & Appraisal
Est: $0- $0
$100 Bids

Sellers Who Sell String Instruments


Historia Auktionshaus

Historia Auktionshaus

Duran Arte Y Subastas

Duran Arte Y Subastas

EJ'S Auction & Appraisal

EJ'S Auction & Appraisal

Joshua Kodner

Joshua Kodner