Most Expensive Guitars Ever Sold: The Top 10

Most Expensive Guitars Ever Sold: The Top 10

Editors Note: This article was last updated in March 2021. New guitars sell all the time so we do our best to keep things fairly current by revising our most expensive guitars list every year or so.

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 choice), and you are checking 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. And then you 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 – with 99% of those you see, the tip of the iceberg hasn’t even been scratched. Many highly prized guitars have been sold for much, much more than what you may be seeing in the ‘high end’ section.

To be fair, 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 can make you wonder – how much would someone pay for a trophy guitar like that? You may be a bit surprised…it’s often a lot more than you may think. Let’s take a look at a current list of the top 10 most expensive guitars that have ever been sold; it’s an interesting look, as some may be obvious while others may be a bit of surprise.

10. Eric Clapton’s ‘Blackie’ Stratocaster ($959,000)

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davesguitar.com

Eric Clapton has long been associated with playing a Stratocaster, and the backstory behind ‘Blackie’ is a bit unique.  It’s actually a ‘Partscaster,’ believe it or not!  He took what he felt were the best parts out of three other 1950’s-era Strats that Clapton had in his possession, and ‘Blackie’ was born.

This guitar was Clapton’s #1 both live and in the studio for several years before he retired it in 1985.  Clapton’s long-standing passion is his Crossroads addiction recovery center, and he felt that was a worthy reason to let ‘Blackie’ go at auction to raise funds for its continued operations.

9. Bob Dylan’s 1964 Fender Stratocaster ($965,000)

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Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Back in the day (the 1960s, that is), Bob Dylan was known as an acoustic folk poet who represented his generation’s voice.  So it came as a bit of a shock to many when he performed with a full electric band at the 1965 Newport Jazz Festival.  

While the performance didn’t necessarily mark the end of Dylan’s influence, it did signal that he was a true artist that was willing to branch out into new and uncharted territory.  The sheer significance of the event is a primary reason why the 1964 Fender Strat he used sold at auction for close to $1.0 million,

8. Keith Richards’ 1959 Gibson Les Paul ($1,000,000)

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wackerman.blogspot.com

1959 Gibson Les Pauls are often known as one of the ‘holy grails’ of all guitars. Yes, they can command a hefty price tag, but Keef’s ‘59 certainly is up there on the list.

One notable aspect of this guitar is that it was his instrument of choice for the inaugural appearance of The Rolling Stones on The Ed Sullivan Show. It is also a bit unique because it is equipped with a Bigsby tailpiece, which is pretty uncommon for a Les Paul in general.

Keef wasn’t the sole owner, however. At one time, he passed it on to Mick Taylor (the Stone’s replacement guitarist after Brian Jones’ untimely death), and it passed through several hands over the years (including being stolen).

7. 1958 Gibson Korina Explorer ($1,100,000)

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ultimate-guitar.com

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.

6. Jerry Garcia’s ‘Wolf’ ($1,900,000)

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Tim Mosenfelder

The late, great Jerry Garcia from The Grateful Dead was known for playing a good number of exotic instruments, with many of them given unique one-word nicknames. 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). 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.

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

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onemillionpoundblog.com

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 fantastic 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.

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

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newatlas.com

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!

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

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financesonline.com

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.

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

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guitarworld.com

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 rousing success by all accounts when Pink Floyd mega fan Jim Irsay (owner of the Indianapolis Colts) had the winning bid coming in just shy of $4 million.

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 relatively priceless pieces of music history.

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

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forbes.com

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 that series had ever produced. 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.

Conclusion

With prices such as the ones we looked at, it’s sometimes hard to keep in mind the fact 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…

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30 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
            Mart

  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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