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The world’s most expensive guitars

Posted by mandyf on March 8, 2012

Collecting guitars is a great hobby for any musician or lover of music. While most collectors are somewhat limited in their choices when it comes to this hobby, for those that have the means there are some extraordinary guitars out there if you have the ability to purchase them. Some may require simply wiping out your savings account to acquire, others may require a series of signature loans, a mortgage, and the requirement of naming your next child Jimi Hendrix, even if it’s a girl. Maybe that is a bit extreme, but the first portion of that statement is not all that far fetched in some cases.

When deciding what the world’s most expensive collectible guitars are some ground rules need to be set to keep the playing field level. Guitars have sold for some astronomical prices at auction, even spilling over $2 million, but they are going to be excluded based on one reason; it wasn’t the guitars that held the actual value, it was the signatures on the guitars that did. In order to qualify for this list, the value must be based on the guitar itself with allowable spikes for historical significance. Guitars that were built encrusted with jewels etc for no purpose but to attempt to lay claim the Guinness Book record for this honor have likewise been excluded. Only guitars actually built to be played have been considered. With that said, let’s take a look at the top ten most valuable collectible guitars in the world.

Just barely cracking the top ten at $220,300 is an iridescent purple/blue finish 2000 Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster. Clapton played this on stage during 2001, but is is unknown if he also used it during any recording sessions then or after.

A 1988 black Eric Clapton signature model 1988 Fender Custom Shop Stratocaster used by Clapton himself as his main stage guitar from 1990-1993 fetched a price of $231,500, good enough to make the list at number nine.

In a tie for seventh place are two really extraordinary guitars which brought in winning bids at auction of $253,900 each. The first is a twelve string 1969 Anthony C. Zemaitis guitar which was co-designed by Eric Clapton. During its day it was known as “Ivan the Terrible.” Sharing the spot is a Juan Alvarez classical guitar circa 1977 which was owned by Giorgio Armani and given to Eric Clapton for use when filming his video for the single “Tears in Heaven.”

Rounding out the bottom half of the list at $321, 100 is the 2004 Master Built Concept Model Fender Stratocaster which was made for the Private collection of Eric Clapton. This guitar was painted by the artist Crash, and played very briefly by Clapton in March of 2004 before his now famous Crossroads Guitar Festival.

Creeping into the top five is the 1996 Fender Stratocaster 50th Anniversary Issue Master Built guitar. This is the Eric Clapton Signature Model of the series which features 23k gold leaf finish and detailing. It was Clapton’s primary guitar during 1997 and raked in a somewhat surprising winning bid of $455,500.

The fourth highest Price fetched for a guitar is $623,500 for a circa 1965 Fender Composite Stratocaster known as “Lenny” to it’s former owner Stevie Ray Vaughn. This was the one guitar he considered his mainstay and was used extensively throughout his career bot on stage and in the studio. It is the second highest price ever paid for a Fender Stratocaster and is the only guitar ever released by the Vaughn estate for sale via auction or through a private sale.

At number three is the C.F. Martin & Company style 000-42 acoustic guitar circa 1939. This was the primary instrument used by Eric Clapton when his MTV unplugged special was recorded. It’s final sale price came in at a cool $791,500.

Just missing the top spot on the list at number two is the 1964 Gibson ES0335 TDC with a highest recorded sale price of $847,500.This was a cherry red Gibson used by Eric Clapton primarily during 1964, but sporadically after that. This is the highest price ever paid for a Gibson guitar.

Finally the highest recorded price known for a guitar goes to the 156/1957 Fender Stratocaster “Blackie” owned and played by the legendary Eric Clapton which brought in a top bid of $959,500. This is the single guitar most associated to Clapton throughout his career and was nearly the only guitar he used in the studio or on stage from 1970-1985.

If you have noticed one thing about this list it is that nearly everything is associated to Eric Clapton. There is a reason which is quite logical, Clapton is one of the few guitarist of such notoriety that has sold his guitars, for the benefit of the Crossroads Rehabilitation Center of course. Most guitarists like Jimmy Page, B.B. King, or Eddie Van Halen could bring in some prices for certain guitars that would surpass at least a few of these, but to this point the have not done so. It is believed should B.B. King ever allow for it within the guidelines of his state disposal his beloved Lucille could top the million dollar barrier as many prominent guitarist would line up to place a bid on it. For the sake of comparison to this list, Kurt Cobain’s guitar only sold for $100,000 in December of 2008.

There you have it, the ten most expensive collectible guitars in the world, which meet the criteria set forth. Certainly some will feel that autographed guitars or those with hundreds of precious gems bejewling them belong, but if they were never made with the intent of being played and sounding good, they just don’t make the grade.


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