» more from Alternative Investing

8. Violin—Giovanni Battista Ceruti

Sold for: $158,500

Giovanni Battista Ceruti quit the textile industry to teach himself how to make violins at the age of 40, definitely late in the game for 1796. Ceruti’s age, however, was the least of his problems, since he was working at a time when his native Italy was constantly engulfed in wars and political turmoil, which made it a challenge to find the appropriate materials for his instruments. As a result, he was forced to use cheap wood for his violins, but on every other score they were exquisitely crafted and constructed.

On April 3, 2009, one of Ceruti’s violins sold for $158,500, the world auction record for an instrument of his. Its vintage and authenticity was determined by a February 2009 tree-ring analysis that dated the wood to 1794.

» More on entertainment investing

Photo credit: Christie's