HAMER’s JEM-Styled Prototype For STEVE VAI Is Going Up For Auction (Again)

A prototype of Steve Vai’s classic Ibanez JEM “Monkey Grip Guitar” is going up for auction over at Julien’s Auctions. The prototype in question is a Hamer prototype of the iconic signature guitar made for Vai around 1985-1986, though clearly the whole idea wasn’t quite there yet.


The guitar in question is accompanied by a Letter of Authenticity signed by Vai and a photograph of Vai holding the guitar. The body of the guitar has a Virgin Merchandising sticker and a sticker with a skull with the words “DD Ghosts Vision”, and comes with an Ibanez hardshell leather case with pink fabric lining.

Perhaps more interesting is that this very same guitar went up for auction earlier this year. The starting bid for the guitar the first time was $20,000 and was expected to go for somewhere between $40,000 and $60,000. Now the guitar is expected to go for somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000, and has a starting bid of $2,500. So not exactly the high-roller status from before, but still expensive.

On creating his own signature guitar with some interesting physical features, Vai offered the following in a 2022 interview with Guitarist:

“I was fortunate working for Frank Zappa because one of the things I learned from him is if you want something, just do it. So Frank was molesting his guitars with electronics and putting things in them, like frequency modulators and parametric EQs, and I’m changing the necks, changing the pickups.

“I thought, ‘Well, that’s what you do. You find what you want.’ I loved Strats because they had a whammy bar, but I didn’t like the way they sounded. They weren’t rock ‘n’ roll enough to me. I loved Les Pauls because Jimmy Page played a Les Paul and they had a better sound for me, but they weren’t sexy to me. They felt awkward and none of them you could really comfortably play in the high register. I don’t know why they give you the frets when they don’t give you the access to them.

“I knew that I wanted to have something that was not necessarily one of those. Edward [Van Halen] came out with a humbucker on a Strat-style guitar, that was perhaps the first SuperStrat. That was fantastic because now we can get a really good, big fat sound with a whammy bar. But there were things about that guitar that were very limiting to me. So very innocently I decided, ‘What do I want? I could have anything made.'”

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