NEWARK, N.J. — The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra can buy rare Stradivarius and Guarneri del Gesu violins and other instruments valued at $50 million for half-price — as long as it raises the money by June 30.

Herbert Axelrod, a well-known collector and philanthropist, and his wife, Evelyn Miller Axelrod, have offered to outfit the 15-person first violin section from their collection of 43 rare string instruments. The collection includes 17th century Stradivarius and Guarneri del Gesu violins, which can cost as much as $6 million each.

The couple also would like to sell the orchestra a Stradivarius cello for use by the principal cellist, and some lesser-valued antiques — in the $250,000 to $1 million price range — for use by the orchestra's second violin section.

If the sale goes through, the orchestra would be the only ensemble in the country with that large an inventory of Strads and Guarneris.

"Our musicians are drooling over this," Dr. Victor Parsonnet, longtime chairman of the orchestra's board, said in the Wall Street Journal.

But he admits the pressure is on to raise the money.

"We can't lose on this, we have to do this," Parsonnet told The Star-Ledger of Newark. "But there's no way we have $25 million lying around in our pocket."

Axelrod, who lives in Deal, already has contributed $1 million to the orchestra's endowment fund. The founder of Neptune-based TFH Publications and Axelrod Realty in Allenhurst, he holds several patents relating to pet care and has written books on tropical fish.

He's eager to sell his prize musical collection so that his wife of 46 years won't have to after his death.

"I'm 75, and a couple friends of mine went through horrible experiences when a lawyer has to get rid of violins and the wife knows nothing," he said. "I don't want my wife in that position."

The Axelrods hope the orchestra can find one or more investors who would buy the instruments and grant it exclusive use for 10 years, giving the orchestra enough time to raise the money to buy the instruments outright — for the same $25 million price — in 2012.

"I go to concerts once or twice a week. I want the pleasure of going to a concert and hearing my fiddles, and I'd rather enjoy the experience while I'm alive," Axelrod said.

He also hopes the instruments will help the orchestra attract a high-profile successor to music director Zdenek Macal, who's leaving in May to become the chief conductor of the Czech Philharmonic.