Guitars are some of the most sought after instruments on the market, and we have gathered a list of the top 10 most expensive guitars ever sold!
With prolific names like Blackie, Tiger and "the holy grail of guitars" and legendary players like Hendrix, Clapton and Richards behind these guitars, these expensive guitars are the crème de la crème of guitars. They are not only amazing when they play guitars, they are true pieces of music history. As such they have, as you can imagine, achieved reasonable prices.
1. Fender "Reach Out To Asia" Guitar
Price -$ 2.7 Million
Let's move forward. The Fender "Reach Out to Asia" Stratocaster, whose production Fender is said to cost between $15,000 and $25,000, was the result of the Reach Out to Asia project, designed by Canadian rocker Bryan Adams. Adams organized the project to raise funds for the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. And he raised funds.
The guitar, signed by 19 artists, including heavyweights like Clapton, Page, Gilmour and Iommi, was sold at auction for an astonishing $2.7 million, making it the most expensive guitar ever sold. But it is not without competition for the top spot, as you can see in this list.
2. John Lennon's 1962 Gibson J-160E Guitar
Price: $2.4 million
The only acoustic guitar that made it onto the list of the most expensive guitars in the world had to be something important and boy, is it!
John Lennon's Gibson J-160 E, bought by John Lennon in 1962, was one of two almost identical acoustic guitars bought in London in 1962 by John Lennon and George Harrison.
It was used to compose Beatles songs like "I Saw Her Standing There" and "She Loves You" together with Paul McCartney.
After the Beatles played a gig in 1963, the guitar somehow managed to disappear and was thought to have been lost, but reappeared a few years later.
From its initial purchase of £161 in 1962, the acoustic guitar was auctioned off to an anonymous bidder in 2014 for a staggering $2.41 million.
3. 1973 Doug Irwin Custom Guitar
Price - $1,900,000
The "Eagle" was Jerry Garcia's first custom guitar, and Garcia was so impressed that he asked master luthier Doug Irwin to build another one, but with Stratocaster pickups. The result was the "Wolf", which was delivered to Garcia in 1973 and played for six years. It cost him 1,500 dollars, a princely sum for a guitar at the time. At the exact same time he commissioned another guitar from Irwin, giving Irwin a completely free hand in building it. It took six years to finish this second guitar, which became known as the "Tiger" - see below in this listing. Garcia's Wolf guitar did suffer some damage during a European tour in 1976 and was returned to Irwin for repair. At that time Irwin replaced the wolf sticker Garcia had put on the guitar with wooden inlays. Garcia bequeathed both Wolf and Tiger to Doug Irwin when he died in 1995.
After Irwin sorted a lawsuit against the Grateful Dead in November 2001 , Irwin offered them for sale on May 8, 2002 at a Guernsey auction of Grateful Dead memorabilia at Studio 54 in Manhattan. The standing room-only crowd cheered every bid, and Wolf sold for $798,500, far surpassing the then world record of $497,500 set by Eric Clapton's Fender Stratocaster "Brownie" in 1999. Some worthwhile reading on this topic includes Guitar Player's How Jerry Garcia revolutionized the custom guitar industry, an article that goes over the Wolf by Doug Irwin and a wonderful link to Jerry Garcia's Guitars in detail. In 2017, Daniel Pritzker, who bought the guitar in 2002, auctioned Wolf along with Guernseys, and Wolf returned to the top of the pack (albeit in third place at the time and not at the top of the charts as before), with the proceeds of $1.9 million going to charity.
4. Jerry Garcia's "Wolf" guitar
Price - $1,900,000
Jerry Garcia's first of two guitars on the list of most expensive guitars, built by Doug Irwin, Wolf - named after his distinctive work of art - was originally sold at the same auction as another of his guitars, Tiger, which sold for $789,500 - less than the Tiger guitar (we'll discuss this below). But in 2017 it was auctioned again, this time for a whopping $1.9 million. I would say it was an investment that paid off very well, but the latter auction was actually done to raise money for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is a pretty solid thing in our eyes.
5. Bob Marley's Washburn 22 Falcon Guitar
Price - $1,200,000
Reggae legend Bob Marley surprisingly only owned seven guitars. Just think about that. I had seven guitars when I was 21. Sure, they weren't all high quality - especially compared to the others on the list - but still. Anyway, one of the seven guitars he owned was the Washburn with 22 frets and double cutaway that you see here.
Marley gave this guitar (and what a gift) to his guitar technician Gary Clausen, although its current whereabouts are secret. There are rumors that the Jamaican government, which understandably declared the instrument a national treasure, bought it for about 1.2-2 million dollars.
6. 1958 Custom Gibson Korina Guitar
Price: $1.1 million
This value of the 1958 Gibson Korina Explorers can be attributed to the fact that it was played by three of the world's best guitarists.
Slash, Kirk Hammett and Rick Neilson have all played this guitar at some point in their career, which is quite unique, to say the least.
Only about ten of these guitars were ever made, making it very exclusive. So when you combine how rare and unusual shape of this guitar with its playing history, it is really easy to understand why it was able to fetch $1.1 million at auction.
The 1958 Gibson Korina Explorer is the sixth most expensive guitar in the world.
7. Keith Richards 1959 Les Paul
Price: $1 million
Keith Richards 1959 Les Paul is the seventh most expensive guitar in the world.
Standard 1959 Les Paul's are worth more than six figures without the help of a famous name, and to this day there are not so many who still knock.
However, this was played by Keith Richards during the Rolling Stones' debut appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, which was a defining moment in rock
Many famous bands and artists owe part of their success to their place on the Ed Sullivan Show, and collectors and investors of memorabilia know how events like these items, such as Keith Richards' 1959 Les Paul, greatly enhance their value.
With this thought in mind, the guitar was sold at auction in 2003 for a cool $1 million.
8. Bob Dylan's "Newport Folk Festival" 1964 Fender Stratocaster
Since this is the first electric guitar that Bob Dylan played at a live performance, it goes without saying that this guitar has great historical value.
It shows a time where his fans actually booed him on stage because they were not impressed by his guitar.
They were used to be acoustic versions of his songs, and they let him know when he entered the Newport Folk Festival in 1965.
This performance and Dylan's choice of a guitar marked his transition to the use of more electronic instruments.
Because of the owner of the guitar and the history behind it, the 1964 Fender Stratocaster was auctioned off for an impressive $965,000.
9. Eric Clapton's "Blackie"
Next up is "Blackie", Eric Clapton's famous mashup of parts from three different guitars.
It is said that Eric Clapton decided to buy six guitars and gave one each to Pete Townsend, George Harrison and Steve Winwood.
Clapton then assembled parts from the remaining three guitars to create "Blackie".
It became his most famous guitar, with which he recorded in the studio with, and which he played in countless live performances.
After a good run, Clapton "Blackie" retired in 1985 and sold it at auction for $959,000 in 2004.
10. Jerry Garcia's Custom "Tiger" Guitar
Jerry Garcia was the lead guitarist of the Grateful Dead. He played his custom-made Doug Irwin guitar for an entire decade, from 1979 to 1989.
The name "Tiger" comes from the specially painted tiger head that Jerry had commissioned on the body of the guitar.
The custom Doug Irwin was the lucky last guitar Jerry ever played in public; this is one of the reasons why it made so much money at auctions.
Jerry Garcia's custom Doug Irwin "Tiger" was auctioned in 2002 by Guernsey's auction house for $957,500 to Jim Irsay.
So what do we think about all this? Well, it seems there are actually two classes of collectibles. The first is guitars that are respected because of their estimated vintage or come from a particularly significant or good vintage ('58 and '59 Les Pauls for example). These guitars fetch a high price, but it is not quite enough to make it on this list. Then there is the second class, guitars owned by players who have reshaped the history of music - instruments that have now become there own pieces of history themselves. The latter class of these are the guitars that fill this list, and I assume that this trend would continue if you looked up the next ten or fifty most expensive guitars ever sold.
I think the most interesting thing about the whole thing for me is that although these guitars cost more money than the average citizen Joe may have ever seen in his life, for the ultra-rich it's not too big an investment, all in all. I mean, a Bugatti Chiron costs 3 million - would you rather have this or the Woodstock Strat from Hendrix? Personally, I would take the Strat.
You want to dig deeper? There are many lists that compare the most expensive guitars ever sold, some are a bit outdated, but there is more information if you are looking for it. And hey, if you start saving our pennies now, maybe in a few centuries you'll have one of the guitars on this list!
We really hope you enjoyed the list of the 10 most expensive guitars in the world.
As with most memorabilia or collectibles, as with most memorabilia or collectibles, previous owners, significant dates and events and unique custom-made items seem to play a massive role in the valuation of such items.
With guitars, it certainly has more to do with who played, played and recorded with them than anything else.
You buy a part of history and someone's story, which, depending on its importance, is probably almost priceless!