I have been discussing violins with my neighbor, violinist Alex Kerr (who is both classy and world-class).
Once made, a violin matures over the course of hundreds of years. It comes to produce sounds of unparalleled high quality: voice, sweetness, juice, subtlety. When played by an expert, the best violins produce experiences that approach a kind of transcendence for the player. For an eloquent expression of this transcendence, read these remarks of Thomas J. Beczkiewicz, founder of the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis. While we on the outside can detect the quality of sound, we cannot explain it, and we certainly cannot trace it to anything observable or measurable about the instrument. The instrument is, somehow, special.
The best violins have a known history: Who made them, who played them, for how long, and how they were transferred from one owner to another. As each generation of great violinists ages, speculation goes on about which members of the upcoming generation will inherit the great instruments. Once a great violinist has his hand on one, he does not easily give it up, as the instrument he owns becomes a part of his reputation vis a vis other violinists.
Violins become named for previous owners, such as the Strad ex-Gingold. While many violins sound about the same to an untrained ear, experts can detect minor differences in quality along many dimensions. Some violins are considered to be best in every respect; even though the quality difference between 'great' and 'best' may not be big, especially in terms of impact on the general audience, the price differences are huge. Since 1850, the price of fine violins has appreciated at 3.5% per year in real terms, better than US Treasury bonds.Given the high prices for the best instruments, fine violinists often enter into loan-to-play arrangements with groups of well-heeled investors.
Let me now describe violins in the terms game players apply to special items. Violins are magic items...
Violins are magic items. They can only be equipped by mages specced in music. Violins made by Grand Master Instrument Makers can only be equipped by top-level music mages. Relative to PvE violins, Grand Master crafteds enhance several stats of music power by a small percentage. Also, these items are generally buffed a tiny bit with each expansion pack. These differences make them extremely valuable. Elite music mages, especially those engaged in PvP, will pay almost any price to have a Grand Master crafted violin. Most of these violins are bind on equip. Because violins are so expensive, though, the designers have made some violins bind-to-guild, which allows mages to share violins in their guild bank.
One of the excitements of gaming is the ability to participate in the production and allocation of the most exciting and wonderful things in the world.