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Editor's Query: Tell us about a time when something precious was lost and then found

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

The day before I was scheduled to start law school, in August 1990, I found that thieves had broken into my car in New Haven, Conn., and stolen everything I had packed for the trip to Washington -- including my violin.

I was a proficient violinist and had even considered pursuing a professional music career. For more than 10 years, this violin had traveled with me to at least six countries as I played in competitions, concerts and festivals. It was my first professional-grade instrument -- one of my closest companions -- and now it was gone.

I missed the start of school to file a report with the local police. But the authorities held out little hope for recovery. For a year, I drove back to New Haven from Washington on weekends to search the pawnshops and flea markets, without success.

With help from my grandmother, I bought another, higher-quality, violin, but it didn't feel as comfortable in my hands, and it took me several years to accept it as a replacement.

I never forgot my loss, and in 2007, while working on a project in California, I started using my slack time to scan violin auction listings on eBay out of curiosity.

One September night, I saw some photographs posted by a pawnshop in Fair Haven, Conn., and I felt a sudden punch in the gut: The pictures were blurry, but I knew this was my violin. I bid on the auction and watched the price rise to more than $1,000 in the final minutes -- but I won.

When the package arrived, I started shaking as I unwrapped it. But as I pulled out one of my old bows, I knew my search was over. There was my long-lost violin, its case still holding a few handwritten notes. It had spent the last 17 years in suspended animation in the back room of the pawnshop. Now, I again play it almost every day.

--Conrad Jacoby

Dunn Loring


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