If you play a musical instrument, then you’ll know just how expensive it can be to get going. A decent drum set will cost you a few hundred dollars at least, while a good guitar could run into the thousands.
Yet add a famous name to these objects then the price can rocket to obscene levels. Owning a piano played by John Lennon, or a guitar that’s been touched with the god-like hands of Jimi Hendrix is something sacred to music fans, and music fans with lots of money often part with tonnes of cash to get that privilege.
Jerry Garcia’s ‘The Wolf’ – $1.9 million
Jerry Garcia’s favourite guitar-maker, Doug Irwin, has a thing for animals. His beautiful ‘Tiger’ model was a huge hit with musicians for its unique design — so much so that it ended up in the New York Metropolitan Museum — and his follow-up ‘Wolf’ attracted yet more interest when it went up for sale — to the extent that somebody paid almost 2 million dollars for it.
The Wolf, derived from the wolf artwork on the guitar’s body, was part of a fundraiser for a poverty law centre based in Southern USA, and all of the guitar’s proceeds went towards this worthy cause.
Garcia would probably be proud to see his friend’s guitars raise so much money, but not surprised. The two had a formidable partnership which saw Irwin supply five custom guitars for the Grateful Dead legend.
Jimi Hendrix’s Fender Stratocaster – $2 million
While a beautiful guitar, Jimi Hendrix’s favourite Stratocaster is actually nothing special when it comes to playability and design. What really gives it that x-factor, though, is where Hendrix played it.
Woodstock 1969 is one of the most famous music events of all time, and this 1968 guitar took centre stage, shaking with energy and power in the hands of one of the true rock gods. Just this one simple fact persuaded Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen to part with two million dollars in 1998, who then placed it at the Experience Music Project in Hendrix’s hometown of Seattle.
While such a high price tag goes against the whole ethos of Woodstock, at least rock fans can now make a pilgrimage to the north-western US city to see the guitar in real life – something that Hendrix would probably have loved.
John Lennon’s Steinway Z piano – $2.1 million
Auctions are the traditional way of paying big bucks, and never was this truer than with the sale of John Lennon’s Steinway Z piano in October 2000. Then, even with bidding restricted to millionaires in attendance or perhaps a few others on a crackling phone line with a delay, the precious object still fetched $2.1 million.
Yet just think how much it could raise in today’s market. Cryptocurrency has altered the online marketplace: you can buy airline tickets, deposit funds into a crypto-friendly casino, and even donate to charity with it – and it’s possible that bidders will be able to use it in the near future to get their favourite instruments or anything else for that matter. What’s more, they won’t have to travel to the auction site to get it – with virtual auctions streamed live.
With the number of Bitcoin millionaires around today just a click of a mouse away, that price could be much higher if it ever goes on sale again.
John Lennon’s acoustic Gibson J-160 – $2.4 million
Often when a valuable object gets lost then reappears, its value soars through the roof thanks to the rush of interest in it. This is what happened with John Lennon’s 1962 acoustic Gibson which disappeared back in the 60s but was found some time later, and verified as the real thing by experts.
Lennon used the guitar to co-compose early Beatles classics such as She Loves You and I Saw Her Standing There, which makes it a sacred object for the millions of Beatles fans around the world. A particularly wealthy fan decided to splash almost two-and-a-half million dollars on this one, making it the second-most expensive guitar in history, and the ultimate thing to show off to visitors.
Various Artists’ Fender Stratocaster – $2.7 million
When a devastating tsunami hit South-East Asia in 2004, an estimated 230,000 people lost their lives across 14 countries. ‘Reach out to Asia’ was a charity created to help the millions of people affected by the disaster, and it included an auction for the most expensive guitar in history: a Fender Stratocaster signed by some of the biggest rock legends around.
Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, and Paul McCartney were just some of the signatures inscribed over the guitar’s body, and this star quality helped it raise an incredible $2.7 million at the auction.
The sale helped provide invaluable relief for the region, while, on a less significant level, the buyer now has one of the most unique instruments in history.