The Most Expensive Rock Guitars Ever Sold
It’s no secret that many guitar-playing legends were born after picking up their first guitar. These musicians learned how to make unique chords and rhythmic sounds. The most loved guitarists are revered by millions.
Consequently, most highly-valued guitars were owned by music icons, and the famous guitars on this list fetched top dollar at their auctions.
Keep reading to see how much collectors shelled out for some of the world’s most sought-after guitars. We’ve got a particular Fender Stratocaster valued at over $2 million, the fate of Jimi Hendrix’s red Fender Mustang, and lots more!
Bob Dylan Went Electric and Blew People’s Minds
Bob Dylan became famous during the thriving early 1960s folk music scene. Folk musicians and fans appreciated the authentic sound of a strummed acoustic guitar. Most folk musicians shunned electric guitars. Yet, Dylan was open to trying new things, including playing electric guitars. His new electrified sound debuted at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.
While playing his 1964 Fender Stratocaster, the audience boos, and cheers. You can see this historic performance in documentaries featuring Dylan. Incredibly, Dylan left this guitar on a plane piloted by Victor Quinto. After its re-discovery, it sold for an impressive $965,000. He used the mad scientist method to create a new guitar. Keep reading.
Eric Clapton Created This “Frankenstein” Guitar in the Early ’70s
Every guitar player has a favorite guitar or two, including Eric Clapton. His absolute favorite was a guitar he created from the parts of other guitars. Clapton named his creation Blackie. Because of his fame, this guitar is among the most expensive ever sold.
“I feel that guitar has become a part of me…” Clapton said about Blackie in a 1985 interview. Like a mad scientist, Clapton assembled it from scratch. This black and white guitar uses parts from three vintage Fender Stratocasters. Clapton played Blackie while jamming with musical greats. Notes from Blackie mingled with guitar notes from Carlos Santana and Muddy Waters. The famous hybrid sold for $959,000.
Dedicated Deadheads Recognize This Classic Guitar
Fans loved following the Grateful Dead around the country back in the day. Countless fans witnessed Jerry Garcia playing his guitar Tiger with his band. He played this custom-made Doug Irwin guitar quite often. In fact, this unique guitar is the last one Garcia played in public. That poignant fact makes it more special for guitar collectors.
This stunning guitar has cool curves and angles. Like the Wolf, there’s a white tiger inlay on the bottom. Because of Garcia’s huge popularity with music fans, this guitar was highly valued. Collectors eagerly placed their bids, and the winner paid $957,500 for Tiger.
The Wolf That Kept The Grateful Dead Trucking Along
The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia was a legend in his own time. He inspired millions of diehard Deadheads. Garcia often entertained fans while playing his beloved Wolf guitar, custom-made by Doug Irwin. Created in 1973, the Wolf is nicknamed after a sticker. Garcia placed a fun wolf sticker on the bottom section of its body. Garcia plays this guitar in the famous concert film The Grateful Dead Movie.
Irwin regained ownership of Wolf after Garcia’s death. Wolf was one of two Garcia guitars he sold at auction. Originally sold for $789,500, software executive Brian Halligan bought Wolf for $1.9 million.
Kurt Cobain’s ‘MTV Unplugged’ Guitar Sale Shattered Five World Records
In a sale that set five world records, the guitar used by Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain during the band’s iconic MTV “Unplugged in New York” concert was purchased for $6,010,000 in June of 2020. The guitar is a 1959 Martin D-18E which was featured in the November 1993 performance, filmed just five months before Cobain’s tragic death at age 27.
It was the seventh of just 302 built by Martin and was customized by Cobain. The purchaser, Australian businessman Peter Freedman, says he will display the guitar in a worldwide exhibition tour. This guitar has been the subject of much controversy, as Kurt’s daughter Frances Bean Cobain supposedly gave it to her now ex-husband as part of the couple’s divorce settlement.
This Beauty Helped Clapton Say Goodbye
Eric Clapton owned many guitars in his early career. The Red 1964 Gibson ES-335 TDC was one of the standouts. Purchased in 1964, this guitar was played during his early band days. Clapton’s skill as a guitarist helped make the Yardbirds and Cream household names. Clapton let his Yardbird bandmate, Chris Dreja, play this Gibson during many performances.
Clapton favored Les Paul Gibsons but played his ES-335 for Cream’s farewell tour. You can hear its sound on songs from the band’s Goodbye album. A collector jumped at the chance to own this beauty. This piece of Clapton history sold for $847,500.
Two Beatles Played This Sleek Black and White Guitar
The Beatles earned their status as one of the greatest rock bands of all time. The Fab Four were also extremely talented musicians. Guitarists John, Paul, and George owned numerous guitars that they sometimes shared. George Harrison purchased a Rickenbacker guitar for his own use. This guitar is now known as the Lennon and Harrison 1962 Rickenbacker 425. He made the purchase while visiting his sister Louise in America. At that time, George was able to walk around Vernon, Illinois unrecognized.
Lennon was observed playing this Rickenbacker at a backstage show in 1963. Selling price: $657,000. This next guitar was a gift from the heart. Keep reading.
This Guitar Was a Sweet Birthday Gift
Blues and rock legend Stevie Ray Vaughan was strapped for cash. Vaughan couldn’t afford to purchase a cool Stratocaster guitar he wanted. The pawn shop was asking $350 for the brown guitar. Vaughan was forced to walk away disappointed. Luckily, he was married to a wonderful woman named Lenny.
She convinced some of Vaughan’s friends to chip in $50 each for a birthday gift. Lenny bought her husband’s dream guitar and surprised him at a nightclub performance. He named it after her and added his custom SRV signature. The collector who paid $623,500 for Lenny also got a bonus signature. On Lenny’s back is an authentic Mickey Mantle signature.
This Guitar Helped Inspire the Birth of The Beatles
It’s hard to imagine now, but Paul McCartney was once a guitar beginner. His first guitar was a Rex acoustic model. His friend Ian taught him a few chords and he practiced often. As a young teen, McCartney wanted to join a band. First, he had to get good enough at this guitar-playing thing.
McCartney auditioned for John Lennon’s band The Quarrymen using his trusty Rex. The guitar lessons paid off because he was good enough to make the cut. The rest is rock n’ roll history. McCartney’s Rex starter guitar was snapped up by a collector for $615,203.
One Of The Most Expensive Guitars Ever Sold Helped People in Need
In 2004, the Reach Out to Asia telethon raised money for World Vision. The funds were slated to help victims of the Indian Ocean earthquake.
A white Fender Stratocaster was signed by numerous musical greats. Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Page, and Sting are included. Bryan Adams signed and helped arrange the auction. First, the royal family of Qatar bought it for a cool $1 million. To increase the guitar’s charity value, the Royals donated it back. During the second sale, this guitar sold for a whopping $2.7 million. Its total value was $3.7 million.
This Rejected Guitar Is Now a Hot Collector’s Item
Guitar makers have such high hopes for each new guitar model. In 1958, Gibson released the snazzy new Explorer model. The company probably expected it to be a big hit. Instead, it turned out to be a big ol’ flop. Fortunately, the company only produced 38 originals, so its losses were minimal.
In an unexpected twist, this guitar has become a hot collector’s item. Rockers such as Dave Grohl and James Hetfield are admirers. This new interest has skyrocketed the value of this once unwanted guitar. One of these rare guitars was auctioned in 2006. The final auction price was $611,000. Another guitar was shared by Lennon and Harrison. Keep reading.
George and John Strummed Its Polished Cherry Body
This guitar’s gorgeous translucent cherry wood finish immediately stands out. The 1964 Gibson SG has baroque appeal. The design harkens back to the early days of rock music. George Harrison and John Lennon shared their affection for it.
You’ll hear the sweet sounds of this guitar whenever you listen to popular Beatles tunes. George plays it on Revolver album songs such as “Paperback Writer.” This 22-fret guitar has a wrap-around whammy bar. It also features six tuners and Mother-of-Pearl inlays. Having one Beatle play this guitar is worth the $567,500 auction price. John Lennon playing it on White Album sessions adds historical value.
Burning This Guitar Made It (and Hendrix) Famous
Fans who came to see Jimi Hendrix perform live at Finsbury Astoria were lucky. The London crowd was in for a special live entertainment treat. It was the last day of March in 1967. Hendrix was about to do something that would wow the crowd.
As his band jammed to their song “Fire,” Hendrix laid his guitar down on stage. In a flash, the 1965 Fender Stratocaster was on fire. This is the first time he did this mesmerizing stunt. Fortunately, his press officer saved the guitar’s charred remains. Years later, his nephew got a tidy sum of $560,000 for it. Guess how much one singing cowboy’s guitar sold for? Keep reading.
This Rare Guitar Was Loved by a Singing Cowboy
There was a time when singing cowboys were all the rage. For 1930s movie fans, the affable actor/singer Roy Rogers was their ultimate favorite. Dubbed “The King of Cowboys,” Rogers enjoyed huge success. Rogers entertained fans in movies, on the radio and on television. Fans saw Rogers as a clean-cut hero who always saved the day. He often sang about his escapades while strumming his Martin OM-45 guitar.
Owning a Roy Rogers acoustic guitar is a big deal. That’s why his deluxe model guitar sold for a rip-roaring $554,500. Not too shabby for a guitar originally purchased at a pawn shop for $30.
Top Musician Finds a Great Workhorse Guitar
Eric Clapton has owned numerous fine guitars over his decades-long career. One guitar holds a special place in his heart. He named this Fender Stratocaster Brownie, and he played it on famous hits. Brownie served Clapton’s musical abilities well as a backup guitar for Blackie. It’s Brownie’s beautiful notes you hear on the beloved hit song, Layla. That highly-regarded masterpiece features Clapton and Duane Allman, another great rock guitarist.
A collector bought the original Brownie for $497,500. Fender produced 100 replicas of this guitar, and they went for $15,000 each. Then there’s Jimi’s boldest guitar. Keep reading.
Bold Red Guitar for Two Bold Albums
The 1960s were a time of musical experimentation and innovation. Jimi Hendrix epitomizes the free-spirited musical creativity of that era. Hendrix owned many guitars, but only a few survive at top value. The rare status attached to these gems helps them fetch high auction prices. His 1966 Red Fender Mustang stands out among other guitars for its bold appearance.
The guitar’s red body has a splash of white on the front. The neck is made of light and dark woods. You can hear this guitar on his Axis: Bold as Love and Electric Ladyland albums. The new owner paid $490,000 for it.
Upstart Musician Borrowed This Guitar Before Things Got Crazy
Before Beatlemania hit, The Beatles were simply another hard-working band. George Harrison and the other lads landed a four concert gig. Harrison’s guitar was being repaired and he needed a backup. Money being tight, he popped into Barratts Music Store looking for options. He decided to borrow a 1963 Maton Mastersound MS500.
Harrison played this guitar during the band’s Jersey Islands concert dates. He liked this guitar enough to keep it a couple of months. He returned it to the store. While Harrison never owned this guitar, it has lots of sentimental value. It sold for a hefty $485,000. Should this guitar be in a museum? Keep reading.
So Beautiful It Belongs in a Museum
Guitar makers jump at the chance to create custom guitars for rock stars. Eric Clapton told Fender he wanted a custom guitar. He asked them to design one that would look great in a museum. Clapton’s request happened to coincide with Fender’s 50th anniversary. The guitar maker was more than happy to take on this challenge.
Guitar crafters John Luis Campo and Mark Kendrick co-created the Gold Leaf Fender Stratocaster. This stunning guitar has a body covered in 23-karat yellow gold plating. Clapton played this guitar at the 1997 Music for Montserrat concert. He also played it during other 1997 concert dates. A collector bought this one-of-a-kind Fender for $455,500.
This Guitar Sounds Great on the Ground or Rooftop
Fender chose a holiday month to present George Harrison with a gift. In December of 1968, Harrison received a handsome Fender Rosewood Telecaster. Master guitar maker Philip Kubicki spent hours sanding its body to perfection. The subtle finish gives it a distinguished look.
Fender flew this guitar to England and a courier hand-delivered it. Harrison used it for Get Back and Abbey Road recording sessions. Fans of the Let It Be movie may recognize this guitar. The Beatles filmed a one-time only rooftop concert at their Apple Studios headquarters. Harrison plays this guitar during the group’s last live concert for fans. A collector paid $434,750 to own it.
This Historical Guitar Has a Touch of Magic
Amazingly, there’s a third top-selling Lennon and Harrison guitar. In 1967, guitar maker Vox Kensington gave the Beatles a custom-made guitar. The upper body has a distinctive scroll design. The curvaceous lower body includes a fretboard made of rosewood. The single f-hole is also a nice touch.
At the time, the Beatles were composing and recording Magical Mystery Tour. Harrison used this guitar for practice. Lennon liked it enough to play it on the “Hello Goodbye” track. Lennon gifted the guitar to “Magic Alex” Mardas on his 25th birthday. Madras sold it for $210,347. It doubled in value, selling again for a cool $418,000.
Guitar Hero Gifts His Brother This Fine-Looking Fender
Leon Hendrix is five years younger than his famous brother, Jimi. Leon watched his brother’s rise to fame, witnessing the fruits of pure talent. Lots of young guys in 1968 dreamed of being a famous rock guitarist. Leon too had intentions of starting his own band. He asked big brother Jimi if he could spare a guitar. Jimi obliged by giving him a 1964 Fender Stratocaster.
Leon didn’t get around to starting a band until middle-age. Almost 50 years passed before he decided to sell his gift. The $385,917 final sale amount was considered low. Unfortunately, there wasn’t definitive proof that Jimi played it. Regardless, this Fender represents timeless brotherly love.
Kurt Cobain’s Fender Jaguar
Though Cobain’s unplugged acoustic 1959 Martin D-18E sold for more than $6 million in 2020, the artist was best known for his Fender Jag-Stang. This guitar, which Cobain designed himself by cutting together Polaroid photos, was a combination of the brand’s renowned Mustang and Jaguar.
After Cobain’s passing, the baby blue model was given to R.E.M.’s Peter Buck. He played it in the video for the band’s single “What’s the Frequency Kenneth?”