With Kurt Cobain’s Martin D-18E he used on Nirvana’s “Unplugged” performance in 1993 shattering the record for highest amount paid for a guitar at auction, a staggering 6 MILLION dollars, I thought you’d like to see the next 10 biggest selling axes in rock history:
2. David Gilmour’s black Fender Stratocaster – $3.9 million
When David Gilmour put his massive guitar collection up for auction in 2019, all eyes were on this beauty, the guitar that shaped Gimour’s sound and was played on most of Pink Floyds classic songs. The auction, through Christie’s lasted 8 hours and attracted bidders from 66 countries around the world. In all, his collection fetched over $21 million, with proceeds going to the environmental charity Client Earth, but that black Strat was the star of the auction, being scooped up by Indianapolis Colts owner (and huge Pink Floyd fan) Jim Irsay for just under $4 million. Irsay also won two other Gilmour guitars at the auction. This is one of two guitars owned by Gilmour to make the top 10 list.
3. John Lennon’s Gibson J-160E – $2.9 million
John bought the guitar on September 10, 1962, and used it one day later at The Beatles’ second recording session at Abbey Road Studios. Beatles roadie Mal Evans accidentally left the guitar behind at a 1963 London gig, and it resurfaced four years later in, of all places, a San Diego music store. The buyer at the time, John McCaw, had no idea it once belonged to Lennon, and was shocked when its provenance was confirmed. When McCaw sold the guitar at auction in 2015, he split the proceeds with Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, who donated her cut to charity. Like David Gilmour, this is one of two Lennon pieces in the top 10.
4. “Reach Out To Asia” signed guitar – $2.7 million
Back in 2005, Bryan Adams organized an auction to benefit victims of a 2004 earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia, Thailand and India. He put up a white Fender Stratocaster to auction off, similar to the one seen above, played by Pete Townshend. This one, though, was signed by no less than Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, David Gilmour, Angus and Malcolm Young, Ronnie Wood, Ray Davies, just to name a few! It was won by a private buyer, who was no doubt thrilled to have all of those autographs on one guitar.
5. 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard – $2 million
Fleetwood Mac founding member Peter Green bought this classic guitar, nicknamed “Greeny,” second-hand in 1967, right before he joined John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Apparently, Green tweaked the Les Paul a bit, to get it to sound more like Eric Clapton’s guitar, and it gave the Standard a really unique sound. Thin Lizzy’s Gary Moore bought the guitar from Green and, later, when Moore ran into some financial troubles, he put it up for auction where it was bought by a guy named Phil Winfield for $2,000,000. The Les Paul was then owned by several collectors when, at the suggestion of Jimmy Page of all people, Kirk Hammett of Metallica bought it and still owns it today. According to Hammett, he paid “less than $2 million” for it.
6. Jimi Hendrix’s 1968 Blonde/White Fender Stratocaster – $2 million
The guitar that became iconic when Hendrix performed “The Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock in 1969 ended up in the possession of Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell. In 1990, he sold it at Sotheby’s auction house to a private collector for $325,000, at the time the highest price paid for a guitar. There are cigarette burns on the neck from where Hendrix would jam butts in there while playing and let them burn, and stains from some of Jimi’s colorful stage shirts are on the back of the Strat. The Museum Of Pop Culture bought the guitar in 2008 for $2,000,000 where it is currently on display.
7. Jerry Garcia’s 1973 custom Doug Irwin guitar “The Wolf” – $1.9 million
The Wolf was the second guitar Garcia commissioned legendary luthier Irwin to build for him. In all, Irwin made 5 guitars for Captain Trips, but this one was put up for auction by billionaire philanthropist Daniel Pritzker and sold for $1,900,000 at auction. Pritzker donated that large chunk to charity.
8. David Gilmour’s white 1954 Fender Stratocaster #0001 – $1.8 million
At that same Christie’s auction we mentioned above, one of the first Strats ever made (the very first had a serial number of #0100) was used on the solo for “Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)” and, after a four minute bidding war between two collectors, went for just over $1,800,000 when the gavel fell.
9. Duane Allman’s 1957 Goldtop Gibson Les Paul – $1.25 million
This was the guitar Duane owned when The Allman Brothers Band first formed in 1969, and was the one he used to pay on “Whipping Post,” “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed” and “Revival” among others. The most likely reason it went for such a large sum was because Allman also used it on “Layla” by Derek And The Dominoes. Right after the “Layla” sessions, Allman traded it in for a Cherry Sunburst Les Paul after seeing Eric Clapton play one during those sessions.
10. John Lennon’s 1964 “British” Rickenbacker 325 – $1.1 million
During The Beatles’ 1964 Christmas shows in the U.K., Lennon’s 1958 Ricky 325 was damaged, and the UK distributor of Rickenbacker, Rose-Morris, gave him a replacement production model 325, which he used for the remainder of the Christmas performances. After that, Lennon mainly used the guitar when making home demos of songs later recorded by The Beatles. In 1968, Ringo Starr temporarily quit the band and, when he returned, Lennon gave him the 325 as a gift, saying he thought it would help Ringo in his quest to write more songs. Ringo kept it until 2015 when he auctioned it, and several other items from his collection, for charity.