Most Expensive Guitars Ever Sold: The Top 10


Just about every guitar player out there has done it at one time or another: you go into your local guitar store (or, these days, your favorite online store), and you check out what’s available. You see a model that you’ve always wanted, and for a fleeting minute, you can picture yourself walking out the door with it (or, again in this digital age, clicking on ‘add to cart’)…

…and then you look at the price tag, stop dead in your tracks, and go back to looking at guitars that are more within your budget. It can be amazing how much a good guitar can cost these days, right?

Here’s the deal, though—that Martin D-45 or Gretsch White Falcon you’ve been dreaming of doesn’t even scratch the surface when it comes to expensive guitars. Many highly prized guitars have been sold for much, much more than what you may be seeing in the ‘high end’ section of your favorite guitar shop.

These kinds of guitars are typically one-of-a-kind instruments that have been personally owned and/or played by the most iconic guitar players to have ever lived, with most having been sold in an auction setting.

It makes you wonder—how much would someone pay for a trophy guitar like that? You may be shocked, because it’s often a lot more than you’d think. Let’s take a look at the current list of the top 10 most expensive guitars that have ever been sold.

10. 1958 Gibson Korina Explorer ($1,100,000)

Photo of a Gibson explorer on the floor.
Photo courtesy of Eleanore Jane

This fine Gibson specimen is unique from others on our list due to it not being associated with or played by any particular artist. Its value comes from the sheer rarity, as only 19 of these prized models were ever produced. 

A few guitarists are known to own similar models in their own personal collections, with Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick), Kirk Hammett, and Slash being among the most notable.

9. Duane Allman’s 1957 Gibson Les Paul ($1,250,000)

Photo of Duane Allman's 1957 Les Paul.
Photo courtesy of Gotta Have Rock & Roll

That’s right—the most expensive Les Paul ever sold is actually a Gold Top, not a Sunburst. This guitar was used by Duane for the first two Allman Brothers records, as well as for the Derek & the Dominos album, making it a worthy entry on this list. 

At one point, the guitar was the victim of a bad refinish. Thankfully, it was restored by Tom Murphy to its original state. A former owner, Scot Lamar, frequently loaned this guitar out to the likes of Derek Trucks, Kirk Hammett, and Billy Gibbons.

8. David Gilmour’s 1954 Fender Stratocaster ($1,815,000)

Photo of David Gilmour's 1954 Stratocaster.

When David Gilmour decided to auction off part of his guitar collection to benefit a personal charity interest, he may not have known how much he would be able to raise. The auction was a massive success, raising millions of dollars. 

The second highest selling guitar of the auction was Gilmour’s 1954 Fender Stratocaster, selling for a staggering $1,815,000. Unlike many of the guitars on this list, this guitar would be collectible even without the Gilmour connection for one special reason—it is serial number #0001. Though it’s not the first strat made (that’s number #0100 for some reason), it is still one of the first pre-production strats ever made.

It was also owned by country star Rex Gallion, and then guitar pickup innovator Seymour Duncan, before Gilmour got the guitar. On top of that, Gilmour used it to record the iconic “Another Brick in the Wall” rhythm parts. Between the serial numbers and Gilmour’s use of the guitar, it’s no surprise that it’s on this list.

7. Jerry Garcia’s “Wolf,” Made by Doug Irwin ($1,900,000)

Photo of Jerry Garcia's custom built guitar, Wolf.
Photo courtesy of Gear Patrol

The late, great Jerry Garcia from The Grateful Dead was known for playing a good number of custom instruments, with nearly all of them given unique one-word nicknames such as Alligator, Tiger, Rosebud, and Lightning Bolt. Following in that tradition is ‘Wolf,’ which was produced as one of several ‘one-of-a-kind’ works of art by luthier Doug Irwin.

‘Wolf’ was last played by its namesake owner in 1993 (before Garcia’s untimely death from a heart attack in 1995), but Garcia played the guitar heavily in the 70s. From there, the rights to the instrument reverted back to Irwin, who then sold it at auction in 2002 for $700,000. It last was sold for $1.9 million at a charity auction in 2017.

Since then, its new owner has lent the guitar to be used onstage by artists playing the Grateful Dead’s music. Most notably, John Mayer played the guitar with Dead and Company in 2019.

6. Jimi Hendrix’s 1968 Fender Stratocaster ($2,000,000)

Photograph of Jimi Hendrix on stage with his 1968 stratocaster.

Jimi Hendrix was known for being primarily a Strat player, and this 1968 specimen (nicknamed ‘Izabella’) may be among the most noteworthy.

On the morning of August 18, 1969, Hendrix used Izabella for his jaw-dropping performance at Woodstock. This is the guitar that he used to create his legendary version of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ which, incidentally, was part of a much longer medley of tunes that was over a half-hour in length.

This iconic guitar attained its iconic price when Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen (known to be quite a guitar player on his own merit) bought it for a cool $2 million back in 1998.

Honorable Mention: Bob Marley’s Washburn Wing-Series Hawk ($1,200,000-$2,000,000)

Photo of a Washburn Wing-Series Hawk sitting outside.
Photo courtesy of MADMALKO, not Marley’s actual guitar

This guitar isn’t officially on the list because the sale price cannot be confirmed, but its speculated sale price of somewhere between $1,200,000-$2,000,000 make it deserving of an entry.

Bob Marley famously owned few guitars (supposedly only seven), and this guitar was one of them. He was never seen using the guitar, but it still became an iconic instrument attributed to him. He gave the guitar to his guitar tech, Gary Karlson, in 1979. 

After Marley’s untimely death in 1981, the Jamaican government declared the guitar a national treasure. It was supposedly sold at a charity auction for around $1,200,000-$2,000,000.

5. John Lennon’s 1962 Gibson J-160E Acoustic-Electric ($2,400,000)

Photo of the Beatles on stage.

One of the two acoustic guitars on our countdown, the Gibson J-160E that John Lennon played is very often seen in older performance pictures of the Beatles. He also used it extensively in the studio, particularly on such early Beatles classics as ‘Love Me Do’ and ‘P.S. I Love You’.

It was lost on a Beatles tour in 1963, where it ended up getting sold for the un-Beatle-y sum of $175 in 1969 to an ‘average Joe,’ where it languished until around 2014. Then, due to some clever detective work by its then-owner, he discovered what he really had on his hands.

Once the guitar’s true identity was established, it was sold at auction in 2015 for the very Beatle-y sum of $2.4 million. Not too bad for a $175 investment!

4. “Reach Out To Asia” Fender Stratocaster ($2,700,000)

Photo of the "Reach Out to Asia" stratocaster in black and white.
Photo courtesy of Finances Online

Unlike all of the other choices on our list, this particular Strat wasn’t ever really owned (or played) by any one specific artist. It was conceived as a charity offering by Bryan Adams for the benefit of those impacted by a major tsunami in the Indian Ocean during 2004.

This pricey instrument has the unique distinction of being autographed by 19 artists, ranging from Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, and Jimmy Page to the members of Def Leppard. 

Good company to be in, indeed, and the ultimate price of $2.7 million is definitely worthy of its noble cause.

3. David Gilmour’s famous ‘Black Strat’ ($3,975,000)

Photo of David Gilmour using the Black Strat on-stage.
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

Another guitar sold during the Gilmour charity auction, it was purchased by Pink Floyd mega fan Jim Irsay (owner of the Indianapolis Colts) for just shy of $4 million. This was the highest selling guitar of the sale, and it’s not hard to see why—it’s the “Black Strat.” There are few guitars as iconic as this one.

Irsay is a long-time guitar aficionado who often used to get into bidding wars with the late Paul Allen, all in the name of owning some priceless pieces of music history.

2. Kurt Cobain’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” Fender Mustang ($4,500,000)

Photo of Kurt Cobain's blue Mustang in a dark room.
Photo courtesy of Rob Pinney

This guitar was only sold this year, but it comes in at the second most expensive guitar ever sold. To no surprise, the Fender Mustang that Kurt Cobain played in the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video smashed the estimated sale price of $800,000 and sold for a whopping $4.5 million.

Though Cobain rarely played the guitar live, it is one of his most iconic instruments, and arguably one of the most important instruments of the 90s. The “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video catapulted Nirvana into the mainstream, pushed the Seattle scene into the spotlight, and changed the face of music in the 90s. 

Unsurprisingly, this guitar was also purchased by Jim Isray, who added it to his collection of historic rock memorabilia

1. Kurt Cobain’s 1959 Martin D18E ($6,000,000)

Photo of Kurt Cobain on-stage during MTV Unplugged.
Photo courtesy of Frank Micelotta

Topping our list of the most expensive guitars ever sold is yet another acoustic, but not just another acoustic—Kurt Cobain’s 1959 Martin D18E.

Sure, it was the seventh out of only 302 D18E’s ever built, but that’s honestly besides the point. This was the guitar that the grunge icon used during Nirvana’s 1993 performance on MTV’s Unplugged, which is highly regarded as one of the best of the entire series. It showed Nirvana was more than just a typical grunge band, as it displayed that the band could be just as ferocious and dynamic in an acoustic setting as they could be during their energetic live concerts.

It was purchased at auction by Peter Freedman, the Australian founder of Rode Microphones (way back in 2020), for his own personal collection. This guitar is by far the most expensive guitar ever sold, though we can’t help but wonder if this list would be different had David Geffen bought Kurt Leadbelly’s guitar.


With prices such as the ones we looked at, it’s hard to keep in mind that many of these expensive guitars are truly not much different from the same model that you could buy yourself—and often for a price that is less than 1% of what these are going for! It just goes to show that the respect and admiration given to certain artists can make all the difference in the world.

Now, if only the ability to play like these artists was included in the price, then we may have a list of absolute bargains here…

35 Responses

  1. I’d like to mention a few things, first to Bobby, Brendan, and ed kociela, the Monterrey strat isn’t owned by Billy Gibbons. Here’s the only known piece of it: https://qph.fs.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-842044e12a8ed3609cd1d4578b9e0df4

    The guitar Dweezil owns is a completely different guitar, but that one wasn’t burned at the Miami Pop Festival. There’s only 2 known occasions when Jimi burned a guitar, once at the Astoria, once at Monterrey. Narrows it down some doesn’t it?

    Secondly the Relief for Asia strat didn’t cost fender 15 to 25 thousand to produce, that’s a basic Mexican Standard stratocaster. You could buy one of those for like 500 bucks in 2005.

  2. On June 20, 2019, David Gimour’s guitars will be auctioned at Christie’s including:
    The Black Strat
    Fender Stratocaster #0001
    The Red Stratocaster
    and over 100 more.
    I hope the Black Strat goes to the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame and not in some collector’s closet.

  3. Fascinating, feel the passion these old works of art bring about. I love it! Each and every one of them has a distinct personality. Personally, I’ve never sold one because it would be like selling a family member, given a couple away and loaned a couple for safe keeping but never sold one. This sight reminds me of the TYA song, Once There was a Time. Keep on Truckin’

      1. It will always be Peter Green’s Les Paul. Who the hell is Gary Moore anway – wasn’t he some old fart on the 60’s TV show To Tell the Truth?

        1. He was arguably the best guitarist who ever lived… Moore put peter green to shame. It would be like putting Clapton beside SRV. Moore had more talent in his little finger than all of Green, so i guess your musical ignorance has its issues.

          1. Sorry, Moore was good but to disrespect Peter Green like that is unforgiveable. Grren was an outstanding guiatrist until his encounter with drugs. On another note, SRV was outstanding in his limited style of playing. Clapton has shown he is far more versatile. Learn your music and gutarists.

          2. And Clapton in his early years would still be better.. Clapton is a great guitarist and Hendrix wss a very good one with a great show

        2. Your KIDDING RIGHT??? think Thin Lizzy Gary Moore was a monster guitarist, with a ton of feel and soul.

  4. What about Paul McCartney’s violin bass he played on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964? It’s signed by all four Beatles two of which are dead. It stands proudly in the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas. Priceless.

    1. The signatures are probably faked, it’s a right-handed bass so McCartney never played it and he’s is only known to have purchased two. The original one he used live up until “Let It Be” (has “Bassman” sticker on it) where it was unbelievably stolen from Abbey Road Studios. The one he uses now was originally his backup and was used sparingly until the first one was clipped. It is possible that the Beatles did sign this, one at a time after the breakup, but I doubt it…

  5. What about the Stratocaster that Jimi Hendrix set on fire at the Monterey pop festival. I think it’s owned by Billy Gibbons now. It’s gotta be worth a couple million bucks.

    1. Actually Dwezzle Zap pa owns the body. The rest of it no longer exists. I just watched a YouTube video about it.

      1. true…as a rock critic, i had the opportunity to interview frank zappa at his home and that guitar was there…

  6. And what about the Peter Green 1959 Burst that belonged to Gary Moore and then to Kirk Hammett ? I heard that Richard Henry (UK) sold it to Hammett for nearly $2million … (?)

    1. Why do you bother to ask shit about an article/video you’ve obviously neither read nor watched? Just read or at least look at the list son.

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