ProGuitarShop

10 Most Expensive Guitars Ever (So Far!)

January 15, 2014

10. Brownie Strat, Eric Clapton, $450,000

It’s the “Layla” guitar. Enough said. This ’56 Strat was with Clapton during Cream (briefly) and Derek & the Dominoes and now resides at Paul Allen’s Experience Music Project in Seattle, WA.

 

9. Gold Leaf Strat, Eric Clapton, $455,000

Another Clapton guitar on the list (it won’t be the last, or even second to last!) – this gold leaf Strat was built for Clapton by Fender master builder Mark Kendrick, purportedly because Clapton wanted a guitar he could “hang in a museum.” EC used it on the Legends tour in ’97 and again in 2001 on the One More Car, One More rider tour, after which it was sold to Christie’s Auction House.

 

 

8. Gibson SG, George Harrison and John Lennon, $570,000

This guitar was used by both Beatles between 1966 and 1969, making appearances on Revolver and the White album.

 

7. Fender Strat, Stevie Ray Vaughan $623,500

SRV’s Strat “Lenny” was named after his wife, who bought him this circa ’65 composite Strat for his birthday in 1980. After SRV died tragically in a helicopter crash in 1990, Vaughan’s brother Jimmy donated the guitar, which was auctioned off and sold to Guitar Center.

 

 

6. 1939 CF Martin, Eric Clapton, $791,500

Clapton’s career experienced a resurgence in ’92 after the release of the hit acoustic ballad, “Tears in Heaven.” Clapton even performed an all-acoustic set on MTV Unplugged using this guitar, which he later auctioned off to raise money for his Crossroads Rehabilitation Center.

 

 

5. 1964 Gibson ES-335, Eric Clapton $847,500

Clapton used this guitar during his time with the Yardbirds, Cream, Blind Faith, and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. It was auctioned off at Christie’s in 2004 and at the time was the 3rd highest price paid for a guitar at time of sale.

 

 

4. Blackie Strat, Eric Clapton, $959,000

Blackie is probably Clapton’s most iconic guitar. As the story goes, Clapton bought six Strats in a guitar shop in Texas. He gave three away (to Harrison, Townshend, and Winwood) and parted the other three out to build Blackie, a guitar he used faithfully for 15 years. Like many of his iconic guitars, Clapton auctioned this instrument off to raise money for the Crossroads Rehab Center.

 

3. Washburn, Bob Marley, valued at 1.2 million

Somewhat infamously, Bob Marley didn’t own very many guitars. Though an exact number is not officially known, this Washburn became a somewhat infamous instrument. Supposedly one of the first Washburn guitars ever made, Marley rarely played this Washburn and gave it to his guitar tech, Gary Carlsen. The guitar has been classified by the Jamaican government as a national treasure. 

 

 

2. 1968 Fender Strat, Jimi Hendrix  $2,000,000

Hopefully no explanation is needed when we say that this guitar was one that Hendrix played at Woodstock (um, for example, on the “Star Spangled Banner”) and Paul Allen paid $2m for it to be housed at Experience Music Project in Seattle, Hendrix’s hometown.

 

1. Reach Out to Asia Strat. $2,700,000

In 2004, tragedy struck in the form of a fiercely destructive tsunami, affecting several nations in the Indian Ocean. To help raise money for relief efforts, a signed Fender Strat was auctioned off—and it wasn’t signed by just anybody. This guitar features the signatures of sheer legends: Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood, Brian May, David Gilmour, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Mark Knopfler, Pete Townshend, Tony Iommi, Angus Young, Malcolm Young, Sting, Ritchie Blackmore, the members of Def Leppard, Bryan Adams, Liam Gallagher, and Paul McCartney. The guitar raised ALMOST $3m for Reach Out to Asia, a charity formed to help victims of the tsunami.

 

Comments

  1. Aaron B. says:

    Jimi’s strat at the EMP is amazing in person! I stared at it for like an hour haha :)

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 1:00 pm
  2. Adam says:

    Cool list, but aren’t you forgetting a few?  For instance Jerry Garcia’s guitars and Dylan’s Newport Folk Festival Strat… .

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 1:04 pm
  3. benj says:

    How could you miss Bob Dylan’s Strat from Newport selling for $965,000? For shame!

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 1:06 pm
  4. Fletch says:

    Guitars in museums are silenced voices. This is a tragedy. Every serious musician knows why Stradavari violins still exist: they are played. Any instrument that sits unplayed is decaying.

    I went to EMP shortly after it opened and saw Brownie and many other instruments, all dying. It is a graveyard that need not exist.

    You may disagree, that is your prerogative. Instruments are made to be played, period. They are not meant to sit and collect dust, silent and alone.

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 1:07 pm
  5. John Balch says:

    What about Mark Twain’s 1835 2.5-17 Martin guitar ?
    http://www.guitarsite.com/news/acoustic_guitar/Mark-Twains-1835-Martin-Guitar-Valued-Over-15-million/

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 1:09 pm
  6. John says:

    Gary Moore sold his Peter Green Les Paul for over a million British pounds

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 1:11 pm
  7. Naturalist says:

    I find it interesting that guitars of the stars command extremely high prices.  I have never bought a brand and model of a guitar because someone famous played the same one.  I could never fathom paying more than retail for a guitar.  I would never the pay these exorbitant prices no matter how wealthy I was.

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 1:12 pm
  8. CBJ says:

    I think it would be more interesting to see a list of the most expensive guitars NOT ever owned by anyone famous.
    I’m thinking that the prototype Gibson Moderne should fetch a tidy sum.

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 1:27 pm
  9. mjp says:

    I can’t believe you put that Washburn in the list. Washburn *may* have given it to Marley, but there is nothing written about Marley ever actually playing it, and there are no pictures - anywhere - of Bob playing it, holding it, or even in the same room with it.

    The Jamaican government does not consider the Washburn a “national treasure.” A JA government official sent the owner a letter saying that if it *was* Bob’s guitar, it *would be* a national treasure. Not that it was his guitar or that they were classifying it as anything.

    Bob mainly played the (modified) Gibson Les Paul Special that you see in just about every picture of him. Peter Tosh played a Special too. The two P90s are perfect for reggae. Marley also owned a few no-name acoustics, and an Ovation Adamas that Ziggy now owns. When the Wailers toured England in the early 70s they played rented instruments; Marley a Strat and Tosh a Les Paul Standard.

    The guy who owns the Washburn has been trying to sell it for years. No one will buy it because, well, would you?

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 1:36 pm
  10. Jeremy Finkelstein says:

    Cool, but it’s not an accurate list. Jerry Garcia’s Tiger and Wolf guitars are missing.
    Wikipedia says Tiger was bought for over $950,000 by Jim Irsay.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger_(guitar)

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 1:44 pm
  11. steve says:

    Gibson SG, George Harrison and John Lennon - without a doubt that’s the one I’d most like to have.

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 1:57 pm
  12. REM says:

    Interesting article, great pictures. I can understand why the strat Jimi Hendrix played at Woodstock sold for 2 million, got no problem with that. My question is why does a 1962 fender strat cost $35,000.00 that has no pedigree like Leslie West once owned it?

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 2:16 pm
  13. puddin' head says:

    For the same reason that a book or piece of furniture owned by Thomas Jefferson or Winston Churchill would command extremely high prices, Naturalist.  You or I won’t (and can’t) pay such prices for them, but someone else can and will.  It is obviously a shame when they aren’t being played by someone, though.  But if I DID own, say,  the Hendrix Woodstock strat and someone stole it, I would probably drink myself to death!

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 2:17 pm
  14. puddin' head says:

    Good point, REM.  The “Vintage” market is absolutely ridiculous!

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 2:20 pm
  15. Richard Silletto says:

    I Was just going to say “What about Dylan’s Newport Strat?” but someone beat me to it. I remember seeing Brownie at EXP when it first opened. I had to wait for a tourist lady in stretch pants to move along before I could get up to the window. All I could think was what did that beautiful tone machine do to deserve spending the rest of its life imprisoned behind glass never to sing again? They’re made to be played.

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 2:29 pm
  16. Frank Hammer says:

    For charity or historical preservation, fine, but today’s player prices are criminal. I mean it, as in “Storm the Bastille!(Guitar Center)” criminal. The finer guitars these days are destined for collectors in Japan, or wall display cabinets of upscale Man-caves. I really wish more crooks would hold up gas stations for a fill up, and jack up my neighborhood GC while they’re at it!!

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 2:39 pm
  17. joe says:

    Garcia’s Tiger and Wolf, both Doug Irwin one-off creations, sold for $957,000 and $789,000 respectively.

    Typical Jerry, he willed that after he was done with them, they should go back to their creator. Then Irwin got sick, and needed cash. I’d have a hard time parting with those works of art, for any price.

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 2:42 pm
  18. philpm says:

    On the Marley Washburn, can you at least edit it to say “Supposedly one of the first Washburn electricguitars ever made”?  Washburn has been making guitars for over 120 years.

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 2:44 pm
  19. Aaron says:

    I thought Clapton bought his strats in Nashville, not Texas. Am I wrong?

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 2:55 pm
  20. Edwin says:

    Either someone at PGS is adverse to Jerry Garcia or has failed miserably in some very basic research. JG’s Tiger sold for $957,000 in 2002. One of the first mega fetches for a famous instrument.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger_(guitar)

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 3:34 pm
  21. craigwonderfingers says:

    I think you need to publish an erratum section.  This list is not correct.

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 3:46 pm
  22. Jim Boot says:

    This article is rubbish. It should have been called the ten biggest prices paid for souvenirs from rock artists. I actually thought you were going to provide us with some information on the various “Stradivarius” of guitars. So what, somebody paid $250,000 for a guitar played by Buddy Holly, wow, it is not an expensive guitar, it is an expensive memorial to Buddy Holly. Same for all the sales above.

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 4:06 pm
  23. Michelle Rose says:

    I have to agree with Fletch: guitars are meant to be played. This kind of reminds me of the mid-Eighties when a few wealthy Japanese businessmen bought a lot of the vintage Les Pauls and Strats and then PERMANENTLY MOUNTED THEM so they could never be played again. By their cultural ethic, they were displaying reverence for the instrument; by our cultural ethic, they destroyed a beautiful instrument designed to be played and shared.

    Hanging Jimi’s white Strat in a museum is pretty creepy, really. It’s the ultimate geekboy middle finger: “I can’t play as good as you, but I can buy your guitar and then keep anyone from ever playing it.”

    Money can’t buy everything, Paul. It sure as hell ain’t gonna buy you talent.

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 6:01 pm
  24. matt says:

    “Guitars in museums are silenced voices. This is a tragedy. Every serious musician knows why Stradavari violins still exist: they are played. Any instrument that sits unplayed is decaying.”

    Fletch, I’m sorry to tell ya, but you’re very wrong on this. There is an ongoing debate among those interested and studying Organology, but I could sum it up in this question: how exactly phisical events like stress from string tension, variable temperatures, sweat and so on could be considered benefits on an ancient piece of wood?

    Would you sit on a 300 years old chair? Plus, in order to sustain nowadays string tensions supposedly ancient violins are adjusted, often modified thus losing their REAL historic authenticity. And why this benefit is appliable just on Violins, and not on - let’s say - wooden flutes? Oh they used to do that too. Then they saw how breath crooked orribly the wooden tube and they stopped doing that.

    It’s a business. It’s a big adevrtising for the concert they will be played in; and it helps raising the market value of the ancient instrument, which usually is owned by some fund or bank as an important investment.

    Would you sit on a 300 years old chair?

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 6:08 pm
  25. wat says:

    Somebody has a hardon for clapton.

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 6:16 pm
  26. Nelly says:

    I would LOVE to see a list of the most expensive guitars which are not related or played by any famous person.. It would be very interesting to see which instruments are the most expensive because they deserve to be.

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 6:30 pm
  27. Michelle Rose says:

    Matt, a guitar isn’t a chair. Your analogy isn’t precise because furniture is not identical to a musical instrument. It’s true that SOME antique instruments have to be repaired or modified in some way, usually as a result of neglect, not usage.

    ALL instruments invariably need some type of maintenance, repair, or modification because wear from handling (or moisture-laden breath or whatever) inevitably occurs. Don’t tell me that you’ve never modded your axe? Never had it in a shop for a bridge refit or refretting? C’mon, you know as well as I that even some three hundred year old chairs are still pretty sturdy and comfortable, like Early American or Quaker. No, I wouldn’t sit down on a 17th Century French fauteuil (armchair), but I’ll darn sure flop into an old Quaker rocker and play my quarter-century-old Strat and feel downright comfortable.

    And, not to put too fine a point on it, but most vintage orchestral stringed instruments are pretty much in constant use by members of any given Symphony. We all know that it’s an honor to play a vintage Strad in some prestigious orchestra, just as it would be an honor to play Jimi’s white Strat.

    Maybe THAT’S what Paul Allen should do: for an extra $100, you get ten minutes of playtime on Jimi’s most famous axe. Now, THAT would be worth skipping a few meals!

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 8:00 pm
  28. Bob says:

    I DO hope you research your other copy better than you researched this article. You guy se really seemed to be on top of your game for a good long while. What’s going on?

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 10:46 pm
  29. Ron Mercer says:

    We all know that it was chance and only chance that these guitars came to their famous owners. these players made music that affected all of us guitar nerds and the “normals” as well. For these tools to be silenced is like Picasso’s unused brush or a planer of a master furniture builder sitting abandoned. These guitars affected us because of the sounds these players made, the love and sadness and caring and heartbreak and yes even hate that they all communicated through these vessels. To see them valued so highly is an indication of the cultural importance but to see these beasts that once so mightily roared reduced to polite tourist wall hangings is heartwrenching. Made all the more so by the early passing of some of their masters. It is our responsibility as players to make our instruments live at every possible opportunity, before their voices are forever silenced.

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 11:04 pm
  30. Mr G says:

    Hmmm - I seem to recall reading about an Explorer that went for $600k - as Im sure there are some Pauls out there that went for more than Brownie….

    posted on January 15, 2014 at 11:59 pm
  31. Frank P. says:

    I totally agree with Fletch. A museum is not a place for a guitar to be hanging…

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 12:44 am
  32. Danno says:

    According to Gibson, the Greenie/Moore LP sold in ‘06 for $2 mil, I think it was at the Dallas show.
    http://www2.gibson.com/News-Lifestyle/Features/en-us/peter-green-1024-2011.aspx
    And Page’s #1 & #2 LP’s have each been speculated at twice that.

    I respect trying to represent other notables, however disputed, by adding Marley. Couldn’t that have been accomplished that by condensing Cool Hand’s contributions, who we all know holds regular auctions and fundraisers for Crossroads, and added other interesting entries?

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 12:45 am
  33. PlusEleven says:

    While this does not address the entire argument that instruments are meant to be played (and I agree), it seems that some of you don’t know that Kenny Wayne took the Woodstock Strat out on the Experience Hendrix tour last year. Also, great quote from someone (Phil Harris? Bernie Marsden?) while discussing the Gary Moore 1959 Les Paul. Gary changed a few things on it. When asked about it he said, “I bought it to play it, not collect it.” RIP Gary, RIP.

    Finally, I went to the EMP a few years ago during the Nirvana exhibit. Just a coincidence. I took one picture the whole time I was there. It was the Woodstock Strat. I didn’t see Brownie. Not sure if it was there at the time. I also saw Paul Allen play there at the 70th birthday bash for Jimi. He’s no slouch! He was on stage with some amazing players and he did better than most of us would have in that situation.

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 12:47 am
  34. Ezio says:

    Rory Gallagher’s 1961 Fender Stratocaster - Priceless.  Great article.  Thank You.

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 1:30 am
  35. mattyboy says:

    folks..who gives a shit about your oppinions?..did anybody who left a comment buy a pedal from pgs? probably not..but you have no problem questioning andy about jerry garcias crap guitars..jerry garcia was an asshole who used to kick his puppy when he did drugs.  i agree that guitars are ment to be played not kept behind glass in guitar center…which by the way is owened by mitt romney..a loser in every way..i wouldnt buy a pack of strings from them…
    go practice…buy lots of pedals from pgs…and dont cut andy apart when he tells you somthing.andy is giving you gold and you wanna tell him you know better….and never ever ever never question rebecca dirks…she is god…....now go buy an overpriced delay that you dont know how to use and shut your pie holes

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 1:55 am
  36. brett ponder says:

    these guitars are more about the peaple that owned them than instrument,s them selves I SAY TTHIS IS BS show the real instruments without a famous person attached to the guitars.

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 2:02 am
  37. Will says:

    Sorry, I don’t get this whole “guitars are meant to be played” sentiment.  It’s like saying canvas is meant to be painted, so let’s paint over classics.  Most of those guitars are only worth their value because of their historical relevance, not because they sound so much better than any other guitar.  So just like a art masterpiece, you aren’t paying for the piece of canvas, you are paying for the history of who painted it and when it was painted.  Similarly, guns are meant to be shot, but I don’t want the Burr/Hamilton gun used anymore because I want them around for the sake of historicity.  In the same way, I am totally ok with Jimi’s strat being kept locked up so my grandkids can see the very frets that Jimi played on and the tuners that he turned, not a mockup because somebody thought guitars were meant to be played.  Hell, I’d love to see the harpsichord that Mozart played, but unfortunately we don’t have that anymore, but luckily we do have his viola which is only played very rarely to ensure we have it for hundreds years more.
    Sure, a $5000 Les Paul up on the wall is kinda goofy, but you are paying for who built it, decorations, and exclusivity, not a better sounding guitar.  I get saying those should be in someone’s hands rather than on a wall, but I don’t want someone’s hands on Jimi’s guitar.  It will be deteriorated and need to have too much replaced in a short amount of time.  I want it around for a few hundred years too.

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 2:03 am
  38. robert smith says:

    So, yes the list is incomplete at best:
    The Peter Green burst was sold, although the exact price hasn’t been revealed it was definitely north of 1.2 million.
    The two Garcia Guitars should have made the list.
    There are many guitars that are “worth” more: if Billy Gibbons ever sells Pearly Gates the price will be north of $5m (that’s what the standing offer for it from a collector is reported to be), both of Pages will be at least several million, the Beano Burst, when it comes out of hiding will be in that ballpark, and the list goes on…

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 2:13 am
  39. Paul says:

    I would imagine that the Sabionari is worth more that some of the guitars on that list.

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 2:28 am
  40. Clap-tone says:

    Danno wrote: “Couldn’t that have been accomplished that by condensing Cool Hand’s contributions, who we all know holds regular auctions and fundraisers for Crossroads”

    Clapton’s nickname was Slow Hand.  Cool Hand [Luke] = Paul Newman.

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 2:47 am
  41. Jay says:

    Harrison’s Rosewood Tele should be on there. Proof positive that collectors are rarely musicians, nor are they concerned about the true cultural value of an instrument.

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 3:34 am
  42. crackerfunk says:

    I play and love guitars, but before I’d pay more than a gouple grand for one to play, I would rather try and find all the cash I could to convince Jeff Beck to come off one of his hand built hot rods. And I would drive it. And, I can’t tell the difference between a Ford or a Chevy, but I know he put his soul into those machines unloike those factory guitars in this list.

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 3:36 am
  43. Silverface says:

    Yes, as anyone with even a casual knowledge of the vintage guitar/collector’s market would know, this list is incorrect.  With so many obvious, well-publicized instruments missing it’s amazing the writer blew it so badly, and that no one apparently reviewed it for accuracy.  Even the guitar on the list are, in some cases, missing important details - like the model number of Clapton’s Martin (the title for that one reads like it’s an “Eric Clapton” model - which it isn’t but would still be incomplete).

    ” It’s true that SOME antique instruments have to be repaired or modified in some way, usually as a result of neglect, not usage.”

    That statement is incorrect.  Vintage violins - examples would be those from the Stradivari, Guarineir and Amati “families”: 

    “Significant changes occurred in the construction of the violin in the 18th century, particularly in the length and angle of the neck, as well as a heavier bass bar. The majority of old instruments have undergone these modifications, and hence are in a significantly different state than when they left the hands of their makers, doubtless with differences in sound and response.”

    ” As far is known , not a single Stradivarius violin has come down to us in completely original condition ,an ironic endorsement of excellence.”

    (both quotes from Richard Perras. “Violin changes by 1800”)

    The “screw counters” who freak out about one phillips head screw holding down the pickguard of a ‘50 Broadcaster (and reduce its value by $1000) have to backpedal when confronted with Clapton’s Blackie, which, although it may have all Fender parts on it (whoops - except the frets aren’t, and was the switch replaced?  I don’t recall) is a “Partscaster”.

    Countless vintage instruments played by professionals have been modified in some way, and there are three distinct camps of serious collectors:  Those who want only 100% original vintage instruments (and are the most likely to tore them in vaults or display cases and not play them, including those who set prices on 100% original ‘58/‘59/‘60 :sunburst Les Pauls strictly by the amount of flame the maple top displays); those who collect celebrity-owned/played instruments and may or may not play them or loan them out to be played; and those who hunt for vintage instruments that also play well and have good tone, who are usually willing to overlook “maintenance” changes (refrets, changed pots/switches, neck resets, new nuts etc.) or common, relatively minor mods (machine head changes, probably the most common mod, or Varitone removal on ES345’s, with original parts kept in the case, up to things like the addition of phase (on Teles) switches or cap toggles (on P=Basses) - these people are looking for classic instruments to be played regularly, and if they can save $10,000 on the “book” price of a Les Paul because the machines heads were changed - or even 50% of the price of a 50’s Strat because of a refinish job - they’re happy campers.

    And the rest of us look for “players” - instruments with original necks, bodies and hopefully pickups, and acoustics that haven’t ben oversprayed with polyester…

    At least the lists’ errors sparked a good discussion!

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 4:39 am
  44. Kirk Larsen says:

    You should have mentioned that Pete Hamm owned that SG after George Harrison and used it on most of the Badfinger recordings.

    The Peter Green/Gary Moore Les Paul should be there too. It was sold for 2 million in 2006

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 5:37 am
  45. Peter Andreev says:

    I really do love these articles but PGS, take the extra time needed to fully research what you’re writing about…or title articles like this as “some of” the most expensive guitars ever sold. The Bob Marley Washburn is a joke, I have no idea why you included it. I think most people speculate Marley never even owned it. There are a bunch of other guitars that should be present, many listed in the comments above. But overall, I must say I look forward to these articles so keep making them!

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 5:51 am
  46. Me says:

    I believe Cowtown Guitars in Las Vegas (Jesse from Cowtown is the appraiser used on Pawn Stars) still has a 1963 Strat owned by Jimi Hendrix for sale, if anyone is interested in getting their name on this list….

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 5:57 am
  47. baswim says:

    spending that amount of money for just a guitar is totally insane !!

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 6:47 am
  48. Keith says:

    @Will - I think you nailed my thoughts on it pretty well.  Once a guitar is a piece of history by having been used by a famous player on some legendary recording or at some legendary concert, it should be preserved as Paul Allan has done so people (like many who have posted here) can go see it.  As for the instrument decaying, hardly.  It’s being preserved.  I do prefer such legendary instruments be shared for all to see in a museum rather than in Jim Irsay’s private collection in his office, but it’s Jim’s money, so whatever.  As for the instruments having ‘magic qualities’, I learned a long time ago before I could play very well that others could pick up my ‘crappy’ guitar and make it sing.  So.. I learned my lesson and practiced.  Look at Van Halen’s famous old guitar ‘Frankenstein’.. would be worth a MINT if auctioned, but guess what.. it’s just an assembly of decent guitar parts that became an awesome ‘players guitar’ purely because of the talent of EVH.  But it’s still a pile of shxx in terms of what that guitar actually is, but since HE played it (quite well) it’s worth a mint.  So.. Pfftt.  If people want to spend a fortune, that’s cool.  Do appreciate it when guys like Paul Allan share their toys with all of us though.

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 7:06 am
  49. JJ says:

    These lists and the discussions that follow just perpetuate the idea of certain guitars as some kind of holy object to worship and obsess about. In reality, the vast majority of these people who care and debate this stuff never create anything memorable themselves worth talking about. I think it needs to be said again, that making great music is about so much more than the tools used to create it. Long live Hound Dog Taylor!!!

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 7:39 am
  50. Dan says:

    Whoever says money can’t buy happiness doesn’t know where to shop.

    Buy me a vintage Strat or vintage Gibson and see how happy I’ll get.

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 7:48 am
  51. carlo marchiori says:

    what about the ZAPPA/HENDRIX STRAT ?

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 9:34 am
  52. TJ says:

        All this money spent on Solid Body Electric Guitar’s is just Ridiculous, Obscene and Idiotic..

        Yes there is historic value and early Fenders are special due to the wood Leo used to build them with but no Solid Body electric is worth more than $150-200,000 including it’s historic value even if Jimi, Clapton Lennon Dylan and Harrison all played it and then gave it to Bob Marley who gave it to SRV..!

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 10:28 am
  53. Dan says:

    Is the original piece of paper that has Lennon and McCartney’s “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” lyrics only worth the value of the paper and ink?

    The value of anything is whatever someone is willing to pay for it.

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 10:54 am
  54. John says:

    The other interesting fact about the Peter Green Les Paul was that the neck had been snapped off and repaired,same as Paul Kossof who had his guitar in the trunk of his car when someone ran into him.I saw a great interview with Ian Hunter talking to the guy who bought Mick Ronsons Les Paul from the Hard Rock inSydney.He said to Mick,a guitar was just like a pencil to a writer,he had no great attachment to any guitar,.To me it would be like buying the paint brushes that Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa with,or the boxing gloves that Ali used in the Rumble in the Jungle

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 12:43 pm
  55. CBJ says:

    Socialism and price fixing meets the world of vintage guitars.

    Really?
    A board of ‘experts’ are going to determine what the value of vintage guitars will be and only ‘hand picked’ and approved guitarists will be able to buy them (with government subsidies of course)?

    Seriously, if someone is willing to pay the money then that is what it is worth.

    I used to be able to pick up a Melody Maker for $400.00 or so. The market has now determined that the price is now over a grand. So? That is how the market works.
    Some guy has a guitar and tags it at $400,000.00 and someone buys it then guess what? THAT’S WHAT ITS WORTH. It’s not that hard people.

    As to determining that a guitar exists to be played?
    IT IS AN INANIMATE OBJECT!
    If I bought it and then put it through a wood chipper so I could make an art project then it has fulfilled what I paid for.

    Really, it seems that many of you need to learn how to interact with actual and real people.

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 1:31 pm
  56. Mike says:

    great article guys. forwarded it to several people.

    i have to say that it is rare that i actually want to read articles i hear about via promotional email.

    cheers.

    posted on January 16, 2014 at 1:59 pm
  57. Gord G. says:

    What about BB King’s guitars he wore out a lot of ladies playing them?

    posted on January 17, 2014 at 2:08 am
  58. Tarik says:

    I agree it’s a great article, and those guitars are valueable in meaning of musical history, especially in genesis of blues, rock’n'roll and some jazz, and evolution of it trough years… In economic meaning, the money of selling instruments owned by a famous person, especially on auctions, should be used to help people who are in any kind of trouble (illness, hunger, war and victims of natural disasters), and spend in any good deed… But, in realistic way, those instruments are worn out and the value is more historical instead of economical or for playing purpose. Playing those instruments means that You need to get back the quality by replacing some worna out parts - automaticly, it’s not the same instrument anymore, and it’s value crashes. For me, the songs and effort of those artists are more valuable than instruments (only exception is for example, that You receive an instrument as a gift, directly from an artist or You catch iz on concert). As a player, I prefer to buy a new one or make one towards my player skills and needs. I don’t believe that owning of Clapton’s guitar for example is going to make me a good player, or even a better person.

    posted on January 17, 2014 at 4:19 am
  59. elvis costanza says:

    Interesting list.
    I thought it was so cool that for many years, Buddy Holly’s iconic sunburst Strat was kept in his room at his parent’s home in Lubbock.
    His room was kept just the way it was when he left home and his parents would allow fans to come in and actually play the guitar.
    Needless to say, this absolutely HORRIFIED the collectors and fetishists.

    posted on January 17, 2014 at 4:46 am
  60. dana gaynor says:

    What a friggin waste of money!

    posted on January 17, 2014 at 4:47 am
  61. Midnightminstrel says:

    Is it just me, or does it seem like the majority of guitars in this list once belonged to Eric Clapton or what?....did he get a whacking big Tax demand or something? LOL.

    posted on January 17, 2014 at 8:02 am
  62. Michelle Rose says:

    Nice rebuttal, Silverface. You raise some excellent points and I’m in agreement: constant play DOES indeed create wear ‘n tear. (I should know this; I spent almost $600 on mods and new parts for my Rick 4001 after only a year of roadwork. Five hours a night, five nights a week takes its toll on any axe)

    But my central argument remains unchanged: the guitars are meant to be PLAYED, not hung in a museum or mounted on a wall. Elvis Costanza’s above comment made me smile. Yes, I would imagine that fetishists (which describes most collectors and is therefore a pretty accurate description of anyone who attempts to freeze an instrument in time) were horrified that Holly’s parents actually let someone else play HIS guitar. Gee, is it possible that someone else might make these guitars sing as they were intended? Or is it fair to say that only the original owner (which seems to be Eric Clapton in most cases) could actually push that instrument past its performance envelope?

    Hmm, I dunno, but I still think it would be a cool idea to let others take a shot at playing Jimi’s white Strat. Perhaps Paul Allen ought to let Slowhand himself noodle on it for a while. If nothing else, it would be really good PR.

    posted on January 17, 2014 at 11:30 am
  63. cbj says:

    ITS A HUNK OF WOOD PEOPLE.
    It has no feelings.
    It can’t think.
    It has no destiny.
    It is a step away from being book ends.

    You people really need to make connections with actual humans.

    posted on January 17, 2014 at 1:59 pm
  64. Jay says:

    @CBJ

    Yep.

    posted on January 17, 2014 at 2:04 pm
  65. Squirrel Burger says:

    A Ferrari is just a hunk of metal.  And yet…

    posted on January 17, 2014 at 2:07 pm
  66. Dan says:

    And the Mona Lisa is just a piece of painted canvas.

    Scrape off the paint and you could make a sail for a little boat.

    posted on January 17, 2014 at 2:16 pm
  67. cbj says:

    @Dan
    “And the Mona Lisa is just a piece of painted canvas.”

    Poor analogy,
    The Mona Lisa would be the song, the guitar would be the brushes.
    If the guitar is the Mona Lisa than it would be perfectly OK to hang the guitar on the wall and never touch it again.

    @Squirrel Burger

    “A Ferrari is just a hunk of metal.  And yet…”
    Sure is and some are even driven, some are crashed, and some are in a museum. They are just cars and guitars NOT living, not feeling, not animate.
    It’s called anthropomorphism and is unhealthy.

    Frankly, any guitarist should be able to walk into any music store and find gear capable of replicating their sound. The idea of ‘magic voodoo spirit juju’ equipment is the sign of a weak person who needs a crutch.

    posted on January 17, 2014 at 3:31 pm
  68. Jay says:

    @CBJ

    Well said!

    I gotta add, tho, that certain woods do have unique qualities and it varies from instrument to instrument and with the age of the item of course. Same can be said for pups. There is some dark magic there too, or if you prefer, hidden mysteries that can’t always be replicated; that indeed might never be replicated despite the best efforts of people far more talented than any of us here…

    Also, there is enough natural evidence to suggest that there may be some degree of potential quantum entanglement occurring through human interaction with objects. So, in that sense anyway, I have to part company with you as I myself feel that a guitar (or any physical object) can potentially carry that energy. Some call it mojo.

    That said, I don’t think mojo has shit to do with the value of the guitars in question except in a few cases. This all comes down to some nerds having too much money and too much time.

    To be fair, we all want a piece of the artists we love most. If this weren’t true there would be no such thing as record sales or record art. There would be no leverage for marketing at all.

    posted on January 17, 2014 at 4:19 pm
  69. squirrel burger says:

    @CBJ Any idiot college freshmen knows what anthropomorphism means.  You are feigning objectivity concerning a post about topics that are inherently subjective. Your Little Bo Peep philosophy is totally useless in explaining why people value certain objects over others and your criticism is just your shallow (and quite subjective) opinion.

    posted on January 17, 2014 at 5:44 pm
  70. Jay says:

    @squirrel burger

    “Any idiot college freshmen knows what anthropomorphism means”

    Really? I had to look it up! ;)

    posted on January 18, 2014 at 4:17 am
  71. cbj says:

    @Jay,

    I sell high end audio electronics.
    I have seen any number of ‘mojo’ devices that claim any number of fantastigorical sonic capabilities. From cable trestles to Shun Mook Mpingo disks to green markers vs black markers.
    No one has really done better than a coin toss in double blind testing.
    That is to say that the only magic is what YOU bring to the event.

    @squirrel burger,

    Had you been paying the least bit of attention you would have noted in my prior statement that I am a free marketer. That the person who buys the item determines the value.
    I repost it here.
    “Seriously, if someone is willing to pay the money then that is what it is worth.”

    posted on January 18, 2014 at 10:05 am
  72. Michelle Rose says:

    Hoo! Some folks here obviously feel strongly about this particular subject! Good thing this isn’t political, else the flamethrowers would come out and PGS would probably lock down this thread.

    Hokay, so it’s a chunk of wood with no feelings. Yup, I think we all knew that.

    Next, it’s worth whatever the market will bear, cuz this is a free-market, laissez faire capitalist world and everything is for sale, including your mortal bod and your immortal soul. (Just ask Keith Richards) Yup, I think we got that too.

    Next, there’s something else beyond the mere market value and physical contents of the instrument, especially in the hands of the right player. That’s for sale too, even if it’s not particularly susceptible to analysis. Okay, I’ll accept that, even if others won’t.

    (“Do you believe in magic/in a young girl’s heart?” Only if I’m playing WoW.)

    Last, it doesn’t matter if someone with a lot of disposable income buys an vintage instrument with the intention of never letting it be played again, because this is a capitalist world, after all (See above) and the buyer gets to do with it whatever he damn well pleases, including setting it on fire.

    Well, I kinda have a problem with that, but it’s not a problem I can solve, so I’ll learn to live with it. Unless I become a zillionaire international superstar, I guess I’ll have to.

    BTW: anthropomorphism means “assigning human characteristics to anything other than a human being” and, no, I didn’t have to look it up, maybe because I’m a college junior. I should tell my music instructor about this. He would be most amused. Hey, I’ll bet I could write a paper on this and really punch up my GPA!

    Thanks, you guys!

    posted on January 18, 2014 at 12:25 pm
  73. squirrel burger says:

    @cbj and others:

    My sincere apologies.  Last night I was guilty of that most despicable of transgressions, PWI (posting while intoxicated).  I’m normally not that clueless OR that rude, I swear. 

    Long Island Teas can be a dangerous thing!

    Back to playing my Total Tone Series Strat.  Plenty of mojo there, not inherent in the guitar but with how I have bonded with that very nice guitar.

    Cheers!

    posted on January 18, 2014 at 1:02 pm
  74. Jay says:

    Nah… You made a lot of sense. I totally understand what you were saying. Hey, its a hunk of wood and metal.

    Listen… Guys like Jason Lollar have -LITERALLY- vaporized pickups in order to isolate their EXACT constituents in their EXACT ratios… and by his own admission he still can’t always totally nail it.

    The theory of quantum entanglement suggests that all things are inter-connected and that the energy of attention / intention / emotion may intensify these connections. So I figure, why don’t guitars count? All that love and devotion and focus over years and years… I for one say it adds something we can’t measure. Yet.

    posted on January 18, 2014 at 1:11 pm
  75. cbj says:

    Jay,
    The theory of hokeypokey says ya gotta put your left arm in. . .

    Right, and the humidity of the air in the room changes the weight of the loudspeaker and the natural occurrence of electronic ‘drift’ comes into play.
    The theory of nothingness dictates that NOTHING is what connects us, that there is more space in between the atoms and molecules than there is mass so we can never really touch anything . . . we only ‘perceive’ to touch. . . blah, blah, blah I’ve read the books, done the ‘chemical enhancements’ and gotten the t-shirts to the metaphysical enlightenment festival.

    I knew this one ‘religious’ guy who wouldn’t even play a guitar that wasn’t his own. Nor would he allow anyone to play his. He was afraid that ‘devil music’ would get into it.
    See, the idea that ‘good’ mojo can posses a guitar must by all logic dictate that ‘bad mojo’ can enter it as well. Are you willing to accept a world of demonic musical instruments? But why stop there? How about super mojo clock radios? Or magic coffee cups? And my personal favorite the satan’s spawn stapler.

    posted on January 18, 2014 at 4:32 pm
  76. Jay says:

    @CBJ

    Nah. That’s just plain crazy.

    posted on January 18, 2014 at 5:16 pm
  77. cbj says:

    @Jay,

    It’s simple, if ‘good’ exists than ‘bad’ must as well.
    If an inanimate object can posses ‘good vibes’ then it must be possible for an inanimate object to posses ‘bad vibes’.
    If you are going to accept the one than you must (using logic and reason) accept the other.
    That being said, if a guitar can posses ‘mojo’ (good or bad) than so can a frying pan, dish towel or toaster.

    All of that aside, the common mistake is that when one finds an object (anything from pen to guitar to baseball bat to car) that one has an innate connection with they can only define it as destiny, fate, kismet etc. and yet when they find a pair of shoes that fit it’s just dumb luck.

    It has been an interesting conversation . . .Thanks.

    posted on January 19, 2014 at 3:00 am
  78. craigwonderfingers says:

    Ah, consistency!!  The hobgoblin of small minds.

    posted on January 19, 2014 at 3:06 am
  79. CLayt says:

    jerry garcia’s custom “tiger” guitar (it is definitely the most stunning artistically made instrument on the list too) was sold to the owner of the colts for something like 900k

    posted on January 19, 2014 at 5:05 am
  80. Joshj says:

    @Naturalist…....If you were a billionaire, and money was not an issue. You would have a different opinion. I would love to own David Gilmours red strat….but, im not gonna save for it. The only way i would buy it is if i had the cash for it. And lots more cash on top of that. The people who bought these are very wealthy and can afford to pay for awsome, yet pointless things. And yeah I said gilmurs RED strat, I wouldnt piss on the black one(jk, im just sick of people forgetting about the heavenly tones he got from the red, all they focus on is the black….fender should make a custom shop version of the red as well). And @ Fletch…your dumb. The point of having these guitars in museums is so that for years new generations can see them in person, and theyll live forever. Not die. Why should some asshole like you get Jimis guitar and keep it to youreslf? NO, the whole world deserves to admire them. And furthermore the previsous owners deserve more then to have there instruments raped by some dickhead named “fletch”. ONly they get to do that. So if your wondering why these iconic guitars should be kept behind glass for all to see? the same reason the declaration of independence isnt sent from school to school to be handled by millions of kids, We owe it and its authors/musicians more respect than that…..

    posted on January 25, 2014 at 3:00 am

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