Let’s face it – guitars are cool collectables. I mean, who doesn’t want a beautiful guitar in their living room? Undoubtedly, the guitar remains one of the most sought-after instruments in existence and has a certain degree of ‘coolness’ associated with it. However, some guitars have that extra special touch – they’re almost magical devices!
The golden era of rock music, i.e. the late ’60s to the early ’80s – resulted in an exclusive group of guitarists that can be considered as legends. Their guitars serve as vivid reminders of their almost superhuman talent and mastery. Nowadays, their instruments are so highly regarded that many people are willing to pay the earth to own one of these mythical guitars.
Here at Alphabeatic, we’re delving deep into the expensive guitar list, to reveal the top 10 most expensive guitars ever sold at auction.
#10) Jerry Garcia’s Custom Doug Irwin “Tiger”
Price Tag: $957,500
This custom Doug Irwin guitar was the Grateful Dead‘s guitarist’s main axe between 1979 and 1989 – the band’s most famous period. Deadheads know this guitar like the back of their hand. They understand its significance since it was the one their idol Jerry Garcia used when he last played in public. Aesthetic-wise, its most striking feature is undoubtedly the tiger artwork behind the concave bridge. The Tiger was given a proper send-off in 2002 when it was sold for a whopping $957,000!
#9) Eric Clapton’s “Blackie”
Price Tag: $959,000
Blackie is widely known as being a hybrid since it was carefully crafted using the different parts of three separate guitars. Think of it as a ‘superguitar’. This ‘superguitar’ belonged to Eric Clapton – founder of the super group ‘Cream’, a successful solo artist and a three-time Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee.
Blackie has an interesting origin story. After purchasing six guitars and giving one each to fellow guitarists Pete Townshend, George Harrison and Steve Winwood, Clapton came up with the idea to create his very own signature guitar by cobbling together the best parts of the remaining three guitars. The famous Blackie appeared in thousands of shows and elevated Clapton’s sound. Clapton stopped using Blackie in 1985 – and decided to auction it as a way to raise funds for Crossroads, his recovery centre. It was an excellent fundraiser idea since it sold for $959K! This Frankenstein-like guitar also shows how Clapton wasn’t just an excellent guitarist, but also an exceptional luthier.
#8) Bob Dylan’s “Newport Folk Festival” 1964 Fender Stratocaster
Price Tag: $965,000
This guitar marked Bob Dylan’s transition to electric instruments. He first played this guitar at the Newport Folk Festival – an act that was seen as almost blasphemous at the time. Folk purists were shocked that someone was tainting their genre by using an electric guitar! It’s one of the most revolutionary guitars in history since it challenged the status quo and expanded the horizons of the folk genre.
Almost 50 years after the festival, the instrument was sold for nearly 1 million U.S. dollars. The pre-sale estimate was between $300,000 and $500,000. However, all expectations were exceeded when an absentee buyer agreed to pay a cool $965,000 for Dylan’s sunburst-finish strat.
#7) Keith Richards’ 1959 Les Paul Standard
Price Tag: $1 Million
This 1959 Les Paul made its debut during The Rolling Stones’ very first performance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Since that very show, its owner has been going from strength to strength and Richards is still rocking his heart out on stage at the age of 75. Respect!
This iconic axe is considered to be the “holy grail” of solid-body electric guitars. It was Richards’ guitar of choice during the Stones’ early years, and it was also used by his equally legendary cohorts Jimmy Page (who played it during his mid-60s recording sessions) and Eric Clapton (who used this baby to perform at the Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival in 1966).
Richards eventually sold this guitar to his future bandmate Mick Taylor. The guitar found its way back to Richards when Mick Taylor succeeded Brian Jones as the Stones’ second guitarist. Consequently, it was stolen in 1971, but miraculously, resurfaced in the hands of Cosmo Verrico, the guitarist of the group Heavy Metal Kids. After a couple of other owners, this 1959 Les Paul was eventually auctioned off in 2003 and was sold for $1 million. Not bad considering this guitar’s rich history!
#6) 1958 Gibson Korina Explorer
Price Tag: $1.1 million
This particular guitar is one of the 19 explorers that were crafted by Gibson in 1958.
It was initially designed as a concept model back in 1957. With only a handful in existence, it’s safe to say that these unique guitars do not come to market very often. Other Korina Explorer owners include Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick, Slash and Kirk Hammett from Metallica. Undoubtedly, a rare guitar like this one is a status symbol. It was sold by Denmark Street Guitars for the sum of $1.1 million.
According to the statement released by the store, it’s considered to be the highest amount ever for a non-artist-affiliated axe.
“I have been aware of a set of matching Korina guitars for the last 10 plus years, owned by a leading collector based in the U.S. whom I have known since I was 16,” stated Justin Harrison, a Denmark Street Guitars representative.
“He always mentioned that he had the guitar but wanted $1 million-plus for it. After 4 to 5 days of going back and forth, I finalised the sale of this at $1.1 million.”
#5) Most Expensive Acoustic Guitar: Bob Marley’s Washburn 22-Series Hawk
Price Tag: $1.2- $2 million
Bob Marley owned only 7 guitars throughout his lifetime. One of these was the 22-Series Washburn, which also happens to be one of the most expensive guitars in the world.
After Marley gifted this guitar to his guitar tech Gary Clausen, the Jamaican government decided to purchase it as a national treasure. No one knows the exact details of the transaction. Rumour has it that the final price was somewhere between $1.2 and $2 million.
#4) Jerry Garcia’s Custom Doug Irwin “Wolf”
Price Tag: $1.9 Million
Another one from Jerry Garcia. Like Tiger, Wolf is known for its distinctive artwork. While it was initially sold at the same auction as Tiger, it was re-sold in 2017 at a fundraiser for Southern Poverty Law Centre, fetching approximately $2 million.
Wolf is a custom-made guitar, built by Doug Irwin. It made its debut at a private party for the Hell’s Angels, back in 1973. Initially, it featured a peacock logo. However, Garcia decided to place a wolf sticker on top of it – a design which was eventually incorporated into the guitar itself.
#3 Jimi Hendrix’s 1968 Fender Stratocaster – Peter Green/Gary Moore’s 1959 Les Paul
Price Tag: $2 Million
These two guitars were both sold for the incredible price of $2 million.
The 1968 Jimi Hendrix Strat is as much of a straightforward Fender model as you can get. It’s a right-handed model with an Olympic-white finish. Its status, however, is another story altogether.
Owned by the legendary Jimi Hendrix – considered by many to be the best guitarist that has ever graced this earth – it was used in a multitude of recordings, and is widely known for its appearance at the mythical Woodstock Festival in 1969. The live rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at this same festival elevated the Strat’s popularity to the guitar-universe staple that it is today.
$2 million is pretty steep for us lowly plebs…however, it seemed to be a reasonable price for Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who purchased this guitar back in 1998.
The other guitar with the same monetary value was owned by Fleetwood Mac’s founder Peter Green. It was later used by Gary Moore – the North Irishman who’s known for his signature tunes “Still Got The Blues” and “Parisienne Walkways”.
This guitar seemed to have been destined to be owned by great guitarists. Its new master? Kirk Hammett – Metallica’s guitarist. He purchased this 1959 Les Paul from Richard Henry Guitars for $2,000,000! Not bad for a guitar with this much history. This makes it the most expensive Les Paul ever sold.
#2 Most Expensive Electric Guitar: Fender “Reach Out To Asia” Stratocaster
Price Tag: $2.7 Million
It cost Fender between $15K and $25K to craft this creature, but it was all for a good cause, which happened to be Bryan Adams’ Reach Out To Asia Project. Adams’ organisation sought to help those impacted by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. The guitar was signed by top acts such as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page and David Gilmour, to name but a few.
And the most expensive guitar?
Drum Roll, please!
#1 Most Expensive Guitar in the World: David Gilmour’s “Black Strat”
Price Tag: $3.9 million
Gilmour’s iconic black Stratocaster was purchased by Indianapolis Colts Owner Jim Irsay, for a whopping $3.9 million, during a David Gilmour auction in New York in June (2019). This makes it the most expensive guitar ever sold! Overall, Gilmour raked $21.4 million from this auction. He decided to donate the proceeds to Client Earth – an environmental law charity that fights in favour of climate action.
The “Black Strat” is present in many of Gilmour’s most famous works with Pink Floyd, including the albums The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals and The Wall.
Bonus: John Lennon’s 1964 “British” Rose-Morris Rickenbacker
Price Tag: $910,000
We couldn’t help but include an item that used to hold the number 10 spot before Gilmour’s Strat smashed all the records.
This guitar’s previous owner is none other than the legendary John Lennon.
This 1964 Rickenbacker was part of a vast collection that took three full days to auction. Pretty amazing, right? Surprisingly enough, this guitar wasn’t sold by Yoko, but by his ex-bandmate Ringo Starr and his wife Barbara Bach.
Besides this particular piece, there were more than 800 personal items up for grabs, including rare L.P.s, jewellery and other instruments. This particular electric guitar was sold for almost 1 million dollars. The bidder must have been a major Beatles fan!
So there you have it! A guitar seems to be a worthy investment, so make sure that you take good care of yours. You never know – you might end up making millions if you become the next David Gilmour.