I never played a Strad although I did play the violin for ten years. I owned a Paul Bailly, now sold. Paul was an apprentice in Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume's shop in Paris. Vuillaume had fine Italian violins because he knew an Italian peddler named Tarisio who brought violins to him every year. Tarisio would go around to all the churches in Italy and trade shiny new violins for their old Guarneris and Strads.
One year Tarisio did now show up in Paris. Vuillaume realized that this meant that he had died. He immediately closed his shop and went to Italy, where he was able to buy all of the violins from Tarisio's estate.
French violins are generally considered to be better than English violins because the French had Italian violins they could copy while the British just had plans, or, at least that is what I read somewhere.
Along the lines of this thread, I knew a violin dealer who traveled with two Guarneris in a double violin case that was handcuffed to his wrist. The violins were worth millions then, much more now. He said he sweated bullets the whole time he had them in his possession.
One of my fellow violin students was driving to a car dealership to buy a brand new BMW, for perhaps $30k back then. On his way. he turned around and went to a violin dealer where he spent the $30k on a fine Italian violin he had had his eye on. I'm sure the BMW is in a junkyard now, and the fine Italian violin is worth multiples of what he paid for it.
Once I was visiting my luthier to drop off a bow for a re-hair and said I asked him about his playing. He said, I don't play! I guess he thought along the lines of Manuel Velazquez's father who told Manuel to either study the guitar or make them, but not both, because a man cannot ride two horses at once.
I have to say that I agree with a guitar builder friend of mine who says that violins are crude instruments when compared to guitars. Building a fine guitar is much more challenging in terms of tolerances and worksmanship. Violins are poorly made, in my opinion, how much money they trade for at auction does not make up for that fact.