Classified ad helps recovery of Stradivarius violin
May 17, 1954: Insurance adjuster Robert L. Reynolds holds the $50,000 Stradivarius violin stolen in 1949 and recovered undamaged.
Reynolds had placed this classified ad in the May 5, 1954, Los Angeles Times, which led to the violin’s recovery.
On June 27, 1949, Hollywood concert violinist Elliott Fisher stopped at a restaurant and hid the Stradivarius in his car. The car was stolen. When the vehicle was recovered, the violin was gone.
An article in the May 18, 1954, Los Angeles Times reported:
Mysterious negotiations culminated yesterday in a recovery of a Stradivarius violin reported stolen five years ago from a Hollywood concert violinist, who was paid $50,000 for his loss by an insurance company.
The recovery was announced by Robert L. Reynolds, insurance adjuster, who had kept the file on the case open for five years and handled the negotiations leading to return of the valuable instrument undamaged…
(In 1949) A reward of $3500 was offered and a circular describing the instrument was sent out. And then Reynolds started getting tips.
“About every six months I would get a phone call from a man, asking if the insurance company was still interested in getting it back and would pay a reward. I made appointments to meet the man at cocktail bars in Hollenbeck Heights, but he never showed up.”
Reynolds was close-mouthed about the negotiations which finally led to the recovery, declaring that they were conducted in strictest confidence. He emphasized, however, that the man who turned over the violin over to him is not the thief.
“The man I dealt with is a local musician,” he said. “He got if from a musician in Oakland. It apparently passed through a good many hands.
“So many musicians know each other. Word leaked out that it was intact and could be recovered. The information came to me through musical circles.
“The violin has been hidden away for five years. The bow that was with it was never used. It had just been restrung with brand-new horsehair the day it was taken.”
Reynolds said the instrument was examined by a violin expert, Hans Weisshaar … who had been familiar with it. Weisshaar reported there was no question about it being the same one and said it is in perfect condition.
More details came from other sources…
It was learned that a local musician, a young clarinetist, received information from a neighbor, also a musician, that the latter knew where the violin was and that it could be recovered on payment of a reward.
This information was given to Reynolds, who inserted the following advertisement in The Times last May 5:
“Violin: 1714 Strad. $7000 reward for recovery undamaged, or for information leading to its recovery. No questions, Reynolds. MA-93131.”
At 9 p.m. last Saturday, the clarinetist met a plane at the airport. The violin, concealed in a suitcase, was delivered to him, apparently by the Oakland man who had kept it in his custody for five years.
The clarinetist took the violin to a dance hall, where it was picked up by an expert violinist accompanied by Weisshaar, who verified that it was genuine. Then it was turned over the Reynolds.
Reynolds said the insurance company will settle the matter of paying a reward. He notified police that the violin had been recovered. Police said the case will be marked closed, since the three-year statue of limitations has expired.
Reynolds added that he hopes Fisher will take the violin back and refund the money that had been paid him by the insurance company.
When notified by The Times that the Stradivarius had been recovered, Fisher expressed complete surprise. He said he would like to have it back, of course, but the $50,000 price tag presents a problem…
The violin was made in 1714 by Antonio Stradivari for a British general named Kydd, and thus known as the Kydd Stradivarius.
A follow-up article in the Feb. 12, 1957, Los Angeles Times reported that Ellis Raderman of Oakland and Lee J. Osep of Los Angeles were ordered held for arraignment. The Times article reported “The two were charged with conspiring to commit extortion from the National Fire Insurance Co. Hartford, Ct., on May 4, 1954, and with attempting to extort $25,000 from the same company.”
All three photos, including the image of the classified ad, were published in various editions of the May 18, 1954, Los Angeles Times. There is no word if Fisher got the Kydd Stradivarius back. The Feb. 12, 1957, Los Angeles Times article reported that “civil lawsuits have been filed in Federal and State courts concerning damages growing out of the theft.”
May 17, 1954: Violinist Eliott Fisher holds the Stradivarius violin he reported stolen five years earlier. The violin was recovered by insurance adjuster Robert L. Reynolds, right. Credit: Don Cormier/Los Angeles Times
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