Notable Guitar Sales
The guitar has become an icon of the role of popular music in American culture. One direct consequence is the rise in the value of iconic instruments. In this example, ‘iconic’ means: owned and played by someone special. An example would be the white Fender Stratocaster used by Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock to play “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Iconic might also mean that a particular instrument has a special place in history. An example of this would be Scotty Moore’s Gibson ES-295 that was used in the original Sun Studio sessions with Elvis Presley, or Bill Black’s stand-up bass used in the same sessions and now owned by Sir Paul McCartney.
In simple terms, a new white Fender American Standard Stratocaster with a maple neck/fretboard is readily available at a local music store or on-ine for about the same price: $1,100. A pre-owned version (a few years old) is simply considered ‘used’ and is worth something less than the ‘new’ price ($450 to about $750). At a certain age (more than 10 years), it may begin to rise in value as a ‘Vintage’ instrument. On the other hand, it may not. Few instruments actually get more valuable. A few more tend to hold their used value better than others. In short, it starts to get complicated….
One thing is clear: The white Fender Stratocaster used by Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock to play “The Star-Spangled Banner” will sell at auction for considerably more than a used white Fender Stratocaster. The instruments played by some of the Guitar Gods of the 1950s, ‘60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s have fetched quite large sums at auction and by private sales.
The following list of instruments is notable in the amount they were sold for. The list is a work-in-progress and mostly reflects auction sales. The dollar amounts are the total cost of the instruments after the auction. They are the sum of the high-bid plus the Buyer’s Premium and any related auction house fees. In the case of Doug Irwin’s Wolf, it also includes a matching amount donated as part of the bid to the seller’s selected charity. Where instruments were sold privately, the sum hasn’t been verified. These amounts reflect and understanding of the guitar community as to what was paid (not much better than a restated rumor).
Please note the dates of the auctions. They mostly fall within a fairly short period. If you have any other (or better) information than what is shown here, please contact us and let us know.
Kurt Cobain’s 1959 Martin D-18E
- $6,010,000 6/20/2020
Cobain’s customized 1959 Martin D-18E from MTV Unplugged sold for a record sum, surpassing the $3.95 million David Gilmour’s black Fender Stratocaster “Blackie” raised in 2019. It was purchased by Rode Microphones CEO Peter Freedman. Included with the sale was the guitar’s original hard-shell case, with a flyer for the band Poison taped to the front. Inside the case was a set of Martin Strings, a few picks, and a “stash bag” adorned with a small silver fork, spoon and knife.
- Serial Number: 166854 (No. 7 of 302)
- Body Style: Dreadnought
- Wood Composition: Mahogany Back and Sides, Adirondack Spruce Top, One-Piece Mahogany Neck
- Design Elements: Two DeArmond Pickups, Three Control Knobs, Pickup Selector Switch, Tortoiseshell Pickguard
David Gilmour’s ‘Black Strat’
- $3,975,000 6/20/2019
Gilmour sold the majority of his guitar auction at an auction at Christie’s in New York to raise money for his charity of choice, ClientEarth, which fights climate change. The auction raised a total of $21,490,750, and set several records for guitar sales. Indianopolis Colts owner Jim Irsay purchased the Black Strat, which appears on nearly all of Pink Floyd’s recordings from 1970 to 1983, for $3,975,000. It is the most expensive guitar ever sold at auction. Glimour’s “Red Strat,” his primary instrument from 1988 to 2005, sold for $615,000.
1973 Doug Irwin ‘Wolf’
- $789,500 5/8/2002
- $3,200,000 5/31/2017
Originally bought for $1,500 by Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead from Luthier Doug Irwin, the iconic instrument was auctioned to raise money for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The winning bid of over $1.9 million was placed by Brian Halligan, CEO of the software company ‘HubSpot’ and an avid Deadhead. Halligan’s bid was then matched with a $1.6 million donation, raising a total of $3.2 million for the SPLC. The guitar was Garcia’s primary instrument between 1973 and 1979. Jerry Garcia died in 1995 and left both ‘Wolf’ and ‘Tiger’ in his will to Doug Irwin. Nevertheless, Irwin had to sue the Grateful Dead for the instruments. It took until November of 2001 for the lawsuit to be settled. Once ownership was fully established, Irwin then put both up for auction in 2002 with various other bits of Grateful Dead memorabilia at Studio 54 in Manhattan. ‘Wolf’ set a new record as the most expensive electric guitar in in the world (at that time) when it was anonymously bought by philanthropist, musician and filmmaker Daniel Pritzker. He served as caretaker for the next 15 years.
John Lennon’s Gibson J-160E
- Sold for $2,902,000, including the Buyer’s Premium 10/9/15
John Lennon purchased this guitar in 1962 at Rushworth’s Music House in Liverpool for £161. He used it to write many of the Beatles’ earliest hits, including “She Loves You,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Please, Please, Me” and “All My Loving.” It can be seen in the 1963 videos for “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “This Boy.” It is the second most valuable guitar ever sold, behind David Gilmour’s Black Strat.
2000s Fender Stratocaster “Reach Out To Asia”
- $2,700,000 11/16/2005
The guitar was sold at an auction coordinated by Bryan Adams, in Doha, Qatar. It was initially purchased by the Qatar royal family for $1,000,000 and then immediately donated back to the Reach out to Asia Program. Their auction’ fetched $2,700,000; ultimately generating $3,700,000 for the cause. The white Stratocaster was signed by Paul McCartney, Sting, Ritchie Blackmore, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, Brian May, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Mark Knopfler, Ray Davis, Jeff Beck, Pete Townsend, Liam Gallagher, Tony Iommi, Angus & Malcolm Young, Def Leppard, and Bryan Adams.
Duane Allman 1957 Gibson Les Paul Gold Top
- $1,250,000 in July, 2019
The 1957 Gibson Les Paul Gold Top was owned by Duane Allman and used on the first two Allman Brothers albums Allman Brothers Band and Idlewild South. It was also the guitar used by Allman for the Derek & the Dominos recording sessions with Eric Clapton. It came to be known as the “Layla” guitar because he recorded “Layla” with it before trading it for a cherry burst Les Paul seven days later. It is said that he threw in $200 and a Marshall amp to close the cherry burst Les Paul deal. It holds the record for the most money earned for the sale of a refinished guitar.
Washburn 22 Series Hawk
The guitar belonged to Bob Marley and is supposed to have been sold for the price listed but the details of the sale have not been confirmed.
1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard
- $1,000,000+/- 2006
This guitar belonged to Keith Richards. The transaction was a private sale so the number is not confirmed. Purchased and used by Richards before he was famous, the guitar was played during the Rolling Stones’ US tours in 1964. It was also played on their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. It was used to record such hits as “Time is on My Side,” “Get Off My Cloud”, “The Last Time,” “Let’s Spend the Night Together” and “Satisfaction.” It was also played by Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Paul Kossoff, Joe Walsh, Billy Gibbons, Mark Knopfler, Ace Frehley and Mike Bloomfield. The guitar was reportedly stolen in 1971, either during the recording of Exile on Main St. or taken from London’s Marquee Club after a gig there. It surfaced three years later in the possession of Cosmo Verrico (Heavy Metal Kids), and later by Bernie Marsden (Whitesnake) who sold it to a UK collector in 2004. In 2006, it was said to have been sold to a Swedish collector for more than $1,000,000.
Kurt Cobain’s 1960’s Mosrite Gospel Guitar
- Sold for $100,000 4/17/04
An ultra-rare Mark IV style Mosrite Gospel model owned by the Nirvana frontman. It was modified with a strap button added to the treble side horn, and the original metal string guide flipped to allow it to be strung left handed. It was purchased for $150 in 1990 in San Francisco, and became one of Cobain’s favorite instruments. He painted the dots of the fret board dots with Wite-Out so they would be easier to see in the dark.
1964 Fender Stratocaster
- $385,917 4/1/2015
Jimi Hendrix gave this guitar to his brother Leon in 1968 in Seattle to help him start a band. Leon cared for the instrument for nearly 50 years and finally put it up for auction in 2015.
1960s Fender Stratocaster “Blackie”
- $959,500 6/24/2004
Eric Clapton’s main instrument for an extended period from the early 1970s through the mid-80s. The instrument was used on numerous albums including ’61 Ocean Boulevard, Slowhand, No Reason To Cry and Just One Night. The story goes that the instrument was assembled from parts gathered from six used Stratocasters bought by Clapton from the Sho-Bud Guitar Shop in Nashville, TN for $100 each. The leftovers were given to George Harrison, Pete Townshend, and Stevie Winwood. The profits from the auction were used to support Clapton’s Crossroads Rehabilitation Centre. The guitar fetched the highest bid value of the time.
1979 Doug Irwin ‘Tiger’
- $957,500 5/8/2002
One of several Doug Irwin guitars used by Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. This version was heavily used between 1979 and 1989. It is said to be the last guitar he played publicly.
1964 Gibson ES-335 TDC
- $847,500 6/24/2004
It was originally purchased in 1964 by Eric Clapton and played with the Yardbirds, Cream, Blind Faith, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and during his solo career in the 1990s. The guitar is said to have been present at nearly every Clapton recording session between 1979 and 2004.
1939 C.F. Martin 000-42
- $791,500 6/24/2004
Eric Clapton used this guitar on the MTV Unplugged sessions that resulted in a major boost to his career by reaching an altogether new audience. The instrument appears on the cover of the album Eric Clapton Unplugged. The guitar was then used as the basis for a successful run of Eric Clapton signature guitars by the Martin Guitar Company. This was said to be Clapton’s main stage acoustic between 1993 & 1998.
1962 Rickenbacker 425
- $657,000 5/17/2014
This guitar was bought by George Harrison of the Beatles in September 1963 from Red Fenton’s Music Store in Mount Vernon, IL. It was played by Harrison or John Lennon for the Beatles’ live performances of “Twist And Shout”,” I’ll Get You” and” She Loves You” on the British TV show, ‘Ready Steady Go!’. It was used to record “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “This Boy.” The guitar was modified by Harrison to gain an additional pickup and then refinished in black. The instrument has been displayed in the John Lennon Museum (Japan), Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Phoenix Musical Instrument Museum and the Grammy Museum’s ‘Beatles Exhibition’ (New York). In the early 1970s, Harrison gave the guitar to recording engineer George Peckham, who had become a good friend.
1965 Fender Stratocaster “Lenny”
- $623,500 6/24/2004
Given to Stevie Ray Vaughan in 1980 by his wife Lenora as a 26th birthday present. The story goes that Vaughan saw “Lenny” in an Austin, Texas pawn shop, but didn’t have the $350 to buy it at the time. His wife (who the guitar is named for) convinced some of Vaughan’s friends to contribute $50 each to make it possible to buy the guitar. It was presented to him on October 3rd, 1980, at Steamboat Springs, a nightclub where he frequently played. He replaced the neck with a mid-1950s shape maple neck (given to him by Billy Gibbons) and then added his signature and the trademark SRV initials. Mickey Mantle autographed the back of the body on April 10th, 1985, when Vaughan played the National Anthem at the Astros season opener at the Houston Astrodome.
1950s Rex Acoustic
- $615,200 7/28/2006
Paul McCartney appears to have borrowed this guitar from his school friend Ian James who spent some time with Sir Paul showing him a few chords. At some point, McCartney returned the instrument to James, who auctioned it to fund his retirement. Some say that this was the instrument used by McCartney to convince John Lennon to let him join Lennon’s band The Quarry Men in 1957. Andy Babiuk’s book Beatles Gear notes that McCartney’s guitar of that time was a Zenith Model 17 that he had received in-trade for a trumpet. Either way, this instrument was well received. The guitar was bought by Craig Jackson, the owner of the Collectible car auction houseBarrett-Jackson.
1958 Gibson Explorer
- $611,000 10/15/2006
Originally listed in the 1958 Gibson catalog for $247.50, the forward-looking design was a commercial flop. Less than 50 were made due to an utter lack of public interest in the design. It was offered at the same price as the Les Paul Standard. It was reissued in the 1970s to slightly better sales. In 1976 a 17-year-old David Howell Evans wandered into Manny’s Music store in NYC looking to buy a Les Paul or a Rickenbacker, and settled instead on a Gibson Explorer. He paid $450. Evans (The Edge) went on to tour with his band U2 and the popularity of the Gibson Explorer took off. The new interest in the design sparked interest in the original release. Only 38 of the original series are known to exist. Collectors of the design include Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick (who owns Explorers), Gary Moore, Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters), Allen Collins (Lynyrd Skynyrd), Brendon Small (Dethklok) and his alter-ego Skwisgaar Skwigelf, James Hatfield (Metallica) and Matthias Jabs (Scorpions).
Duane Allman 1961/62 Gibson SG
- $591,000 July, 2019
This 1961/62 Gibson SG belonged to Duane Allman and is the instrument played on the l. ive recording of “Statesboro Blues” from the Allman Brothers Band’s At Fillmore East. The SG was part of the “Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock and Roll” exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2019.
1964 Gibson SG
- $567,500 12/17/2004
This is one of the guitars used by George Harrison and John Lennon of The Beatles between 1966 and 1969. The SG had a translucent cherry red finish and a Maestro Vibrola tailpiece. Harrison used it when recording and touring for the album Revolver on “Paperback Writer” and “Rain”. It was played by John Lennon on the White Album sessions in 1969. The instrument was given to Pete Ham of Badfinger by Harrison in 1969 and has been on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH.
1965 Fender Stratocaster – burned
- $560,000 9/4/2008
This is the guitar that Jimi Hendrix set ablaze with lighter fluid – on stage at London’s Finsbury Astoria on March 31st, 1967. The instrument was purchased by collector Daniel Boucher. The book Jimi Hendrix Gear by Michael Heatley and Harry Shapiro noted some possible inconsistencies between the guitar in videos and images and the actual guitar purchased, implying that there was a chance that it might not be the original.
1930 Martin OM-45 Deluxe
- $554,500 4/3/2009
This is the guitar owned and played by actor Roy Rogers in hudnred films and hundreds of recording sessions between 1933 and his death in 1998. It was also frequently seen and heard on The Roy Rogers Show which ran for nine years on radio before becoming a television hit between 1951 and 1957. The 1930 guitar, one of 50 made that year, was purchased in San Francisco for $225. Leonard Franklin Slye (Roy Rogers) then bought it used in 1933 for $30 from a pawn shop.
1963 Gretsch PX6120DC Chet Atkins
- $530,000 3/2015
(as this was a private sale, the amount is unconfirmed)
This guitar was used by John Lennon for the Beatles Paperback Writer recording sessions. John Lennon gave the 6120 to his cousin, David Birch, in 1967. In November of 2014, Birch took it to auction. Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, is said to have negotiated the purchase after the guitar failed to meet its $600,000 auction reserve. Irsay is rumored to be the owner of 175+ guitars, including ‘Black Beauty’, Les Paul’s 1954 custom black guitar, Jerry Garcia’s ‘Tiger’ and Bob Dylan’s Newport Fender Stratocaster.
Jerry Garcia’s Alligator
- Sold for $524,075, including the Buyer’s Premium 12/10/19
Jerry Garcia’s main guitar from 1971 to 1973 is one of the few guitars the Grateful Dead guitarist named. Its believed to have been gifted to him by Graham Nash in 1970, to thank him for playing on his album Songs For Beginners. The guitar can be heard on Europe 72, Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty.
1956 Fender Stratocaster “Brownie”
- $497,500 6/24/1999
Eric Clapton bought the guitar used from London’s ‘Sound City’ music store on May 7th, 1967 for $400 while touring with Cream. It was extensively used up through Derek and the Dominos. After 1971, ‘Brownie’ was basically the backup for ‘Blackie’. It is believed to be the instrument used to record Layla.
1966 Fender Mustang Red
- $490,000 4/27/2007
Jimi Hendrix used this guitar on his 1966 album Axis: Bold as Love, the second studio album of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. It was also used on his 1967 album Electric Ladyland for “All Along The Watchtower.”
1963 Maton Mastersound MS500
- $485,000 5/15/2015
George Harrison of the Beatles played the Australian guitar during the summer of 1963 while his Gretsch Country Gentleman was being repaired. The guitar was borrowed from Barratts Music Store in Manchester, England. He supposedly liked it so much that he held on to it for July and August of 1963 while Beatlemania was just beginning to take-off in England.
1996 Fender Stratocaster Gold Leaf
- $455,500 6/24/2004
Eric Clapton wanted a guitar that could hang in a museum, so Fender made him a custom Stratocaster plated with 23 carat gold leaf. It was ordered near Fender’s 50th anniversary. The guitar was crafted by Fenders’ Master Builders Mark Kendrick and John Luis Campo. The instrument was used by Clapton in 1997 during his Far-Eastern tour and at the European Legends jazz concerts as well as the 1997 Music For Montserrat concert in the Royal Albert Hall. Clapton also played the guitar with B.B. King on “Rock Me Baby” for the 1997 album Deuces Wild.
1968 Fender Rosewood Telecaster: ‘Let It Be’
- $434,750 9/13/2003
Fender presented this Telecaster to George Harrison of the Beatles in December of 1968. It was used by Harrison during the Beatles’ last live performance of January 30th, 1969 on top of the Apple building in London. It later appeared in the 1970 Beatles movie Let It Be and on the Abbey Road album. Harrison gave the guitar to Delaney Bramlett, who had taught Harrison to play slide guitar. Two years after Harrisons’ death in 2003, Bramlett offered the guitar at auction. It was purchased on behalf of Olivia Harrison by actor Ed Begley and, in a poetic twist, found its way home.
1966 Custom Vox Kensington
- $418,000 5/18/2013
Custom-built in 1966 and presented to the Beatles in 1967 while they were working on the Magical Mystery Tour album, this guitar was played by both John Lennon and George Harrison. Lennon used it while recording the video of Hello, Goodbye. Lennon then gave the guitar to his pal “Magic Alex” Mardas, who the Beatles had hired to design the Apple Studio in Savile Row, as a 25th birthday present. “Magic Alex” was one of Lennon’s good friends between 1966 to 1969. Lennon even stood in as best man at Mardas’ wedding in May of 1968. Mardas put the guitar up for auction in 2004 where it sold for $210,347. It went to auction again in 2013.
1963 Martin D-28
- $396,500 2017
Bought by Bob Dylan in the late ’60s and played for about ten years. Dylan used the guitar at the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh and during his 1975-76 Rolling Thunder Revue Tour. The guitar was sold by Dylan to his guitar tech Larry Cragg in 1977 for around $500. Cragg nicknamed the guitar ‘Bob’ and stored it carefully until he sold it at auction in 2017.
1964 Fender Stratocaster
- $385,917 4/1/2015
Jimi Hendrix gave this guitar to his brother Leon in 1968 in Seattle to help him start a band. Leon cared for the instrument for nearly 50 years and finally put it up for auction in 2015.
1949 Fender Broadcaster Prototype
- $375,000 1994
(as this was a private sale, the date and amount are unconfirmed)
This guitar was said to be Leo Fender’s first prototype for the Fender Telecaster, the world’s first commercial solid-body, single-cutaway electric guitar. In 1949, Leo Fender developed a prototype of a solid body electric guitar. A two-pickup version was named: ‘Broadcaster’ and a one-pickup version called: ‘Esquire’. The Gretsch company had a drum set at the time called: ‘Broadkaster’ and forced Fender to abandon the name. For a short time, guitars were built by Fender without a name on the headstock until ‘Telecaster’ was settled upon.
1930 Martin OM-45 Deluxe
- $366,000 4/3/2014
According to Martin Guitar Company records, only 14 of these guitars were made, and fewer than 10 are known to still exist. It is regarded by some as one of the most collectible and valuable guitars that Martin ever built.
Kurt Cobain’s Fender Mustang
- Sold for $340,000 10/19
Cobain’s left-handed Fender Mustang guitar was sold concurrently with his famous green sweater from MTV Unplugged, which fetched $334,000. It was custom made by Fender’s Japanese instrument builder Scott Zimmerman, and customized by Cobain’s guitar tech, who added a black Seymour Duncan JB pickup and a Gotoh Tune-o-Matic bridge.
1958 Hofner Senator
- $338,823 7/1/2009
This guitar was said to have been given by John Lennon of the Beatles to Mel Evans, a long-time Beatles Roadie. Evans widow, Lil, put it up for auction in 1984. She provided a letter from George Harrison calling it “One of the first guitars of John’s going back to Liverpool”. There are, however, no known photos of John Lennon playing this instrument and he never mentioned owning a Senator.
1954 Gibson Les Paul Custom “Black Beauty”
- $343,750 2/19/2015
Once owned by Les Paul, some regard this guitar as one of the most significant electric guitars ever made. The guitar was purchased by Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay. Les Paul used it on his Listerine sponsored shows and began modifying it immediately.
1968 Fender Stratocaster “Woodstock Strat”
- $325,000 4/25/1990
(Rumored to have been bought by the Experience Music Project in 2008 for $2,000,000 – funded by philanthropist Paul Allen of Microsoft)
This was the guitar used by Jimi Hendrix on-stage at Woodstock in August of 1969 for his rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner. The Stratocaster had been in the possession Mitch Mitchell (the drummer of the Jimi Hendrix Experience) since Jimi’s death in 1970. It is said to have been in its case without being opened until 1990. The guitar can be seen on display at the EMP museum in Seattle, WA.
2004 Fender Stratocaster
- $321,100 6/24/2004
Master Built: Crash Concept Model
In 2004, this guitar was the most recent addition to Eric Clapton’s collection of Signature Stratocaster Custom guitars and his 3rd painted by graffiti artist ‘Crash.’ Clapton played the Strat for the ‘One Generation 4 Another’ Albert Hall concert of March 15th, 2004.
1964 Vox V251 Guitar Organ Prototype
- $305,000 6/24/2014
A prototype phantom guitar combined with a Vox Continental organ that could be played as either a guitar, an organ – or both. It was an early version of a synthesizer. Promotional instruments were given to both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones with hope of endorsements. It didn’t happen. The Beatles gave their prototype to Mal Evans. Evans brought it to auction.
1975 Travis Bean Custom
- $300,000 5/8/2007
Perhaps the best-known of Jerry Garcia’s 3 Travis Bean guitars. Garcia played this TB1000 at many of the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia Band’s shows: Golden Gate Park Show in September of 1975 and the Orpheum Theater Shows in May and July of 1976 as well as the recording of the Steal Your Face and the Terrapin Station albums.
1975 Gibson Les Paul
- $298,000 5/27/2007
U2’s The Edge bought this Les Paul in New York in 1982 and used it for recording and on stage for more than 20 years. He donated the guitar for the ‘Icons Of Music’ auction for the ‘Music Rising Benefit’, which he co-founded, to help musicians of the Gulf Coast region regain their livelihood after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The guitar was used to record U2’s classic New Year’s Day as well as the Achtung Baby album. He used it extensively on stage.
B.B. King’s “Lucille”
- Sold for $280,000 10/7/19
B.B. King received this Gibson ES-345 prototype 1 for 80 limited edition guitar for his 80th birhday, and it served as his main stage guitar until his death nine years later. King named many guitars “Lucille” over the years, but this was the last. BB’s intitials are featured on the headstock, pickgaurd and pickup covers.
1966 Fender Stratocaster
- $288,493 11/27/2012
This is the 1966 Fender Stratocaster used by Hendrix at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival where he famously set a guitar on fire. Fortunately, this guitar was switched for another for the sacrificial burning. The black and white Stratocaster was given to Hendrix’ record company: Anim Limited, where it was acquired by James ‘Tappy’ Wright, a manager of the company. ‘Tappy’ was the one to bring it to auction.
1949 Bigsby Solid Body
- $266,000 4/21/2012
To many, the Bigsby Solid Body predates Leo Fender’s ‘Broadcaster’ by several years. As they knew each other in California, Leo probably was aware of what Paul Bigsby (1899-1968) was up to. Bigsby crafted 23 electric guitars (that we are aware of) and most are accounted for. This is number 4. Most of the earliest models were built by special order and while numbers 1, 2, 3 and 5 have verifiable owner documentation, this one doesn’t. He designed one of the of the first successful vibrato tailpieces – ‘whammy bars’ – that still carry his name.
1949 Martin D–28 with a Bigsby neck
- $264,000 4/2/2007
Merle Travis purchased a Paul Bigsby Birdseye Maple Solid Body Electric Guitar (number 3) from Bigsby in ’49 and was so delighted by the guitar neck that he hired Bigsby to replace the Martin neck on his D-28. The resulting guitar was used by Merle Travis throughout his career. This was the instrument used to compose such hits as: Sixteen Tons, and Dark as a Dungeon. Since Travis had one, it created a sizable demand from other performers like: Hank Thompson, Lefty Frizell and Zeke Clements.
1977 Juan Alvarez Classical
- $253,900 6/24/2004
This was the guitar was used by Eric Clapton to play Signe and Tears in Heaven on MTV’s 1992 ‘Unplugged’. It was also used for the heart-felt and poignant interview with Sue Lawley (BBC) for the first public performance of Tears in Heaven. There are 2 black felt-tip inscriptions on the guitar: “For Giorgio and everyone at ‘El Gadir’ – my love, Eric C. 96” referring to fashion designer Giorgio Armani on his home Italian island of Pantelleria. Clapton gave the guitar to Armani who then donated the guitar to the 2004 Crossroads charity auction at Christies. The 2nd inscription reads: “no more tears in heaven.”.
1969 Eric Anthony Zemaitis 12-string
- $253,900 6/24/2004
The instrument was named: “Ivan the Terrible” by Eric Clapton and used on the 1969 Blind Faith album. He then loaned it to George Harrison to record My Sweet Lord. Dave Mason (Traffic) also borrowed it. Mason was seen playing Ivan on stage with Clapton at the Lyceum in London on June 14th, 1970 for the Dr. Spock Concert. Clapton custom ordered the guitar from Zemaitis in the mid ‘60s. It was Clapton who requested the size, the silver inlays, the heart shape sound hole and the four-leaf clover on the headstock. The guitar is not fully original. In Clapton’s own words, “I was involved in a very, very, stormy relationship at the time (Alice Ormsby-Gore). During one of our big rows, I took the guitar and I demolished it. I took it by the neck and I banged it against the wall until there was nothing left. Then about 5 years later I still had the neck, I took it back to Tony and (said to him) “I’ve got to tell you a terrible story, forgive me … I can’t bear to be without it,” and I apologized and made all the excuses I could think of … he was shocked … but he understood. So, he built another body onto the neck. So, this is Mark 2 – the 1st one was destroyed, but the neck is original.”.
1957 Gallotone Champion Acoustic
- $244,384 9/14/1999
Understood to be John Lennon’s 1st guitar: originally purchased by mail-order for £10 after his mother loaned him 5 pounds and 10 shillings. Lennon played it with his first band: ‘The Black Jacks,’ who later became: ‘The Quarry Men.’ This was the guitar Lennon was playing when the Quarry Men performed at the St. Peter’s Parish Fete in Woolton, Liverpool on July 6th, 1957. As the story goes: Paul McCartney appeared with his Rex guitar and showed Lennon a few chords he didn’t know. The rest is history. The guitar was auctioned with a small brass plaque that Lennon’s Aunt Mimi had mounted on the headstock. It had the advice she once gave to Lennon: “Remember, you’ll never earn your living by it.”. The 3/4 size Gallotone guitar was broken by Lennon sometime in 1958 and left with his Aunt Mimi. On her death, and after repairs, it was given to a local disabled boy and subsequently, when he died, it was passed on to a disabled girl. The provenance was not lost and the guitar was auctioned to secure her future. In the process of authenticating the guitar prior to auction, Sotheby’s called on Rod Davis, one of the original Quarry Men. He remembered that when the band played the gig where Lennon & McCartney met, “John took the skin off the edge of his index finger while playing”. When Davis changed one of the strings on Lennon’s guitar, he noticed a spot of blood inside. Davis advised Sotheby’s to look inside for the spot: it was still there.
1976 Travis Bean Inc. TB500 electric guitar
- $243,200 12/6/2013
Authenticated by Steve Parish, the Grateful Dead’s guitar tech and equipment manager from 1969 to 1995, who represented this as the 3rd most played by Garcia, behind ‘Tiger’ and ‘Wolf’. It was Garcia’s primary guitar beginning in 1976 through most of 1977 and occasionally used after. Gerry Garcia owned two Travis Bean TB500s: Numbers 11 and 12. This is number 12. This guitar was first seen in public on December 13th, 1976 at the Cow Palace in Daly City, CA. It was played by Garcia at more than 90 shows. This instrument was used to record Terrapin Station (along with his TB1000). Some of the unique design features that appealed to Garcia included its aluminum neck, three single-coil pickups and an onboard effects loop. This guitar was the 1st to use the onboard effects loop, which was later incorporated into all of Garcia’s guitars.
1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard
- $237,000 5/3/2009
In 1958, Gibson produced the Les Paul Standard model, which kept most of the features of the Goldtop, with a few significant changes: The new finish was a cherry-red version of the traditional Gibson sunburst finish. It was not wildly popular in 1959 & 1960, so Gibson redesigned it in 1961 to feature a double cutaway body – ultimately becoming the Gibson SG. Around 1,700 of the Les Paul Standard model were made in the 1st, run. These are now in demand. This particular instrument had no special provenance. None-the-less, the pre-auction estimate of $225,000 to $250,000 proved accurate. Production was resumed in 1968 due to popular demand.
1951 Fender ‘No-Caster’
- $225,000 6/8/2012
This guitar was presented to Les Paul by Leo Fender, who autographed the back of the headstock. ‘No-Caster’ refers to the left-over run of original Fender Broadcasters in 1951 that had their name decals removed from the headstocks following a trademark dispute with Gretsch. Gretsch had a drum set called the ‘Broadkaster’ and had registered the name. Leo Fender simply removed the ‘Broadcaster’ decals and shipped off the few remaining models. By 1952, the model had a new name: the Telecaster.
2005 Gretsch Irish Falcon
- $225,000 4/27/2007
- $176,000 12/2011
This was the guitar used by Bono of U2s for the 2005 ‘Vertigo Tour.’ A series of Gretsch guitars went into production that year as a collaboration between Gretsch and Bono – who chose the color ‘Evergreen’ and designed the gold pickguard that bears the inscription “The Goal Is Soul”.
2000 Fender Stratocaster Custom
- $220,300 6/24/2004
Eric Clapton used this instrument in the studio and as a back-up stage guitar during the Reptile tour of 2001. It was played on stage several times, one of which was for the song Layla in the last concert of the first leg of the US Tour at Madison Square Garden on June 23rd, 2001. The Fender Custom Shop Strat was painted by Roy Brizio of Roy Brizio Street Rods in 2000 and (according to Clapton): “is the same color as Roy Brizio’s hot rod that we were driving for Riding With The King.” The 1932 Ford model B Roadster loaned to Clapton has since been repainted black but originally used the same DuPont Chromalusion “Flip Flop paint” which changes color depending on the view angle.
1941 C.F. Martin D-45
- $219,225 11/6/2011
The Martin D-45 was manufactured in limited quantities from 1933 to 1942, then again after 1968. The first series of D-45s was made with sides and backs of Brazilian rosewood and, according to Martin’s records, only 91 were made.
1963 Hofner Violin Bass
- $204,800 12/6/2013
Paul McCartney is identified by the Hofner violin bass guitars that he has been playing since purchasing his 1st in 1961 in Hamburg. This particular guitar was custom built for McCartney in 1964, and is 1 of 3 he has owned. The 1st was lost, the 2nd is a 1963 model that he still plays, and this is the 3rd.
1982 Fender Telecaster
- $200,000 4/27/2007
Bob Dylan used this guitar in live performances and LPs from the late 1980s through to 1992. Money raised from this auction benefitted ‘Music Rising’.
1923 Gibson F-5 Mandolin
- $200,000 12/2008
The F-5 unmodified mandolin in excellent condition matching the specifications of the mandolin used by Bill Monroe (VPG).
1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard Left-handed
- $194,500 10/27/2012
Les Paul Standard in very good condition from the most desirable year.
1970 Fender Stratocaster
- $187,500 6/24/2010
Jimi Hendrix bought this sunburst Fender Stratocaster from Manny’s Musical Instruments in New York on July 14th, 1970, while recording in his new Electric Lady Studios. He was working on a new album, later released posthumously: The Cry of Love. Hendrix died only 2 months after buying the guitar. The instrument had been restrung as a lefty and was used by Hendrix at the opening party for Electric Lady Studios in August, 1970.
1969-70 Gibson Les Paul Recording Model Prototype
- $187,500 6/8/2012
The headstock on this instrument is stamped: ‘001’ and ‘Original Gibson Prototype’. The Gibson Les Paul Recording model was given to Les Paul who immediately started to make modifications. It now has a customized Bigsby tailpiece known as the ‘Paulverizer’. This guitar and ‘Paulverizer’ are shown on pages 291 and 293 of Les Paul’s autobiography.
1996 Fender Stratocaster Master Built Production Sample
- $186,700 6/24/2004
This was one of Eric Clapton’s main stage guitars between 1998 & 1999. It was used on the Pilgrim World Tour in 1998 and as the main guitar during the Japanese leg of the tour in Nov. – Dec. 1999. This guitar was also seen at a number of high-profile events including two at the White House in 1998 and 1999 as well as the ‘Crossroads Benefit Concert’ at Madison Square Garden and Sheryl Crow’s ‘Central Park In Blue’ concert in 1999.
1966 Martin Style 000-28 Conversion
- $186,700 6/24/2004
Eric Clapton called this guitar ‘The Longworth’ honoring Mike Longworth, a Luthier and historian for C.F. Martin and Company. It was bought in Nashville, TN in November, 1970 while he was on Tour with the Dominos. In the spring of 1974 he used the guitar for recording sessions at Criteria Studios in Miami, which resulted in the 461 Ocean Boulevard album. Clapton continued to make regular stage appearances until November, 1995.
1972 Custom by Doug Irwin: ‘The Eagle’
- $186,000 5/8/2007
This is the first guitar that luthier Doug Irwin made for Jerry Garcia in San Francisco. It began a long-standing relationship resulting in Garcia leaving his guitars to Irwin in his will. Around 1970, Garcia walked into a shop where Irwin was working and was instantly attracted to the quality of his work. He bought this guitar on the spot. Known as ‘The Eagle’ due to the eagle inlayed in the headstock. Garcia is said to have been the last person to play this guitar.
1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard
- $182,500 4/3/2009
Very desirable Les Paul in very good condition.
1959 Gibson Flying V
- $182,500 4/3/2009
According to Gibson records, there were 98 Flying Vs built between 1958 & 1959. There was not much interest for the radical design and steep price tag at the time, so production was cancelled. The price was $247.50; the same as a Les Paul Standard. Blues-rock guitarist Lonnie Mack began to use the Gibson Flying V, as then Blues legend Albert King began performing with one. According to Gibson, actor Steven Seagal now owns King’s original Flying V along with 2 others. Other high-profile owners include Dave Davies of the Kinks’ and Jimi Hendrix who owned 3.
1942 Martin D-18
- $180,000 10/5/1995
This was Elvis Presley’s and widely used between 1954 & 1956, including in his ‘Sun Sessions’ recordings produced by Sam Phillips and his first major concerts. This is the guitar Elvis used to record most of his early hits, including That’s All Right and Blue Moon of Kentucky. It is the only known ‘Elvis’ guitar not owned by Graceland. The guitar was sold in 1956 to Elvis’ neighbor who owned it for 35 years until the auction.
Graham Nash Martin D-45
- Sold for $162,500, including the Buyer’s Premium
50 years after the second public appearance of the group Crosby, Stills & Nash at the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival in 1969, this Martin D-45 guitar owned and played by Graham Nash was sold at Heritage Auctions on July 20 and 21, 2019. Graham had originally paid for the guitar using advance money received from their first recording contract with Atlantic Records.
Jerry Garcia’s Martin D-28
- Sold for $175,000 12/10/19
Acquired by the same Grateful Dead super fan who bought Alligator, Jerry Garcia’s Martin D-28 (circa 1941, serial no. 84862) came into his possession in 1970. He can be seen playing it throughout the 2003 tour documentary Festival Express. It has an Adirondack spruce top, Brazilian rosewood back and side, and herringbone binding. The guitar’s Grover tuners, bridge pins, saddle and nut are all replacements.
1958 Gibson Les Paul Standard
- $175,000 12/2008
Unmodified and excellent condition only; PAF Humbucking pickups (VPG).
1958 Gibson Explorer
- $153,277 5/13/2003
It is not clear how many of these exist, but the number is very small. The original Gibson Explorer, a sibling of the Flying V, remains a radical guitars design for its time. It is said that the design was inspired by the tail fins of 1950’s Cadillacs and Chryslers.
1940 Epiphone Zephyr
- $144,000 6/9/2012
Referred to by Les Paul as one of his ‘Klunkers’, this was one of the many guitars that Les Paul broke apart and reassembled with his many experiments. This was a blonde natural electric trap door model arch top with two chicken head knobs, one volume and one a toggle switch, and a ‘barn door’ opening in the back with one of Paul’s aluminum support systems. This early version was leading the inventor toward the first solid body guitar. This is 1 of 3 early experimental models featured on pages 120 and 121 in his autobiography.
1947 Martin D-18
- $134,500 12/3/2009
Country & Western great Hank Williams used this guitar for the last six years of his tragically short life. It was used to record all of the 35 singles which reached Top 10 on the Billboard Country & Western Best Sellers chart including 11 No. 1 singles and 5 ‘million sellers’. It is assumed that this was the instrument used to write such hits as Your Cheatin’ Heart and Jambalaya.
1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard Sunburst
- $134,500 4/20/2013
Another good example of the approximately 1,700 Gibson Les Paul Standards created between 1958 and 1960.
Gibson ES-295 Gold Archtop
- $131,250 4/27/2007
Belonging to The Edge; this ES-295 was used to record U2’s Desire. It was also used on the Joshua Tree album and subsequent U2 tours up to the Vertigo tour. He can also be seen playing this instrument on live numbers like The Electric Co. and God’s Country. The Edge is quoted as saying: “This guitar, a 1958 Gibson ES 295, is the model made famous by Elvis Presley’s guitarist Scotty Moore. It’s a piece of high 50s Americana. Like a classic Corvette or Cadillac of the period, with all gold finish and fittings. It is a real cult object. I found mine in the USA back in the 80s and it’s been a prized possession ever since. It has ‘P90’ pickups, the forerunner of the ‘Gibson humbucker,’ so in the studio I always turned to it for that authentic early rock and roll sound.”
1960 Harmony Stratotone
- $130,824 7/1/2009
This was the 1st real guitar owned by Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones. He purchased it in 1962 and used this guitar almost exclusively until the autumn of 1963 when the Stones signed with Decca Records. According to Andy Babiuk & Greg Prevost’s research, this guitar was used by Brian Jones on the “… unreleased, but widely available Glyn Johns produced IBC Studio recordings which included the tracks Road Runner, Diddley Daddy, I Want To Be Loved, Honey What’s Wrong and Bright Lights, Big City as well as the Stones first single Come On/I Want To Be Loved.
1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard
- $127,000 10/16/2005
Another good specimen Gibson Les Paul Standard.
1966 Hofner Bass
- $125,000 5/17/2014
A left-handed Hofner bass with mother of pearl pickguard, rented by Paul McCartney from Harris Hire in Beckenham, England, on numerous occasions between 1997 and 2013, including a segment on May 22nd, 2012, for Ronnie Wood’s Somethin’ Else show.
1990 D’Aquisto Avant Garde
- $125,000 12/2008
5 or 6 of these were made as Blonde (natural finish). Unmodified and excellent condition only (VPG).
1954 Fender Stratocaster
- $105,000 12/2008
Unmodified and excellent condition only; sunburst all-original (VPG).
Roger McGuinn’s 1966 Rickenbacker Model 370-12 ‘BYRD’ Guitar
- Sold for $99,000 4/17/2004
Roger McGuinn helped define the Folk Rock sound with his use of the Rickenbacker 12-string guitar. This version was one of three that McGuinn played regularly, and is featured on his most famous recordings.
Customization includes an additional mini switch controlling a Vox Treble Booster, which McGuinn wired into the instrument. The Treble Booster circuit has been removed and the tuners have been changed from the original Klusons to a set of gold Grovers. There is an arrow on the back of the guitar pointing to one of the two output jacks.
1951 Fender Broadcaster
- $75,000 12/2008
Unmodified and excellent condition only; blonde with black pickguard (VPG).
1953 Gibson Les Paul Gold Top
- $60,000 12/2008
Unmodified and excellent condition only; stud tailpiece (VPG).
Jerry Garcia’s Gilchrist L5
- Sold for $35,075, including the Buyer’s Premium 12/10/19
Jerry Garcia favored this guitar when playing and recording with mandolin virtuoso David Grisman. It was built in 1980. Serial number 8099, tobacco finish, Schecter tuners, 16 inch body, 24.9 inch scale.