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I saw a show recently about a lady who found a cello outside with someone's trash. She opened the case and saw a large crack down the front of the instrument. She saw the trash truck coming down the street and decided to take it home. She liked to recycle unwanted things into useful items and she thought her woodworking husband could turn it into a dvd rack.
Day after day her husband kept forgetting to take the cello with him to his workshop, much to the annoyance of the wife. The cello sat untouched in their home. A couple of weeks went by. Then the lady saw a news report about someone in the area who's Stradavarius cello was stolen from his front porch.
Fortunately, the cello had not yet been turned into a dvd rack. Can you imagine! The couple contacted a lawyer to help them return the instrument to its rightful owner.The instrument was successfully repaired. Apparently someone on a bicycle had stolen the cello from the porch, but had a hard time balancing the instrument and dropped it, causing the crack, then just dumped it.
Although it has been missing for four years maybe it will still turn up-- especially if she can get pictures of it out over the internet. I've heard of bikes being stolen and gone for years and eventually making it back home. They generally have the advantage of having serial numbers though.
I keep a file of photos of my fiddle and a description of any unique markings such as cracks or dings. I also have a tag on my case, with my contact information, saying that I will pay a reward for the return of the fiddle no questions asked.
This is sad. I had a teacher in college that had his instrument stolen. The knucklehead that took it presented it at a violin shop 300 miles away for sale. It happened to be the only violin shop for 400 miles. They got the instrument and the thief.
I feel for the person who lost this violin. I frequent pawn shops, flea markets, yard sales and Craigslist in the Nothern Virginia area. I will keep a watchful eye. It will surface.