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A Historic 316-Year-Old Violin Becomes an NFT

Once owned by the Catherine the Great, the 1708 Stradivarius violin has been transformed into an NFT as collateral to back a loan


Galaxy Digital Holdings LP has provided a multimillion-dollar loan to Yat Siu, co-founder of Animoca Brands, using a combination of a tokenized 1708 Stradivarius violin and its non-fungible token (NFT) digital equivalent.

The 1708 “Empress Caterina” Stradivarius violin is named for and was owned by the Russian Empress Catherine the Great. According to Tarisio, the Golden Period violin was sold via auction by Tarisio in New York in 2023 — Siu purchased it for over $9 million. 

As documented by Tarisio, the 1708 “Empress Caterina” was first acquired by the Russian ambassador to Venice for Empress Elisabeth Petrovna, who ruled the Russian Empire from 1741 to 1762 — after her death, the violin was inherited by her successor, Catherine the Great. The violin landed in New York in 1951 after passing through London and Paris. 

Galaxy Digital has created an NFT version for the physical instrument through GK8, its cybersecurity subsidiary for safeguarding digital assets; Siu will reclaim ownership of the violin after completing the loan repayment. This is the first time a historic and high-value instrument has been used in blending physical and digital assets for investment.

The physical violin will be stored with a Hong Kong-based custodian until Galaxy Digital and Siu authorizes its release, reports NFT News Today.

“I was thinking about how we can create something special like [the tokenization of physical items] to have broader access,” Siu said in NFT Calendar. “It was also a good way — although it wasn’t required — to get additional liquidity.”

“As a technologist with a background in classical music, this is a very special moment for me,” Siu added in NFT News Today. “The 1708 Empress Caterina Stradivarius violin is the first instrument of such storied origin and illustrious provenance to undergo tokenization. I am thrilled to help trailblaze this new economic model for unique assets while at the same time preserving and sharing not just a very rare and precious instrument, but also a piece of history.”

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