The Most Expensive Guitars: Luxury and Memorabilia

May 12, 2024
min read

Guitars come in all shapes and sizes, and their prices vary drastically. Often, you can purchase a pre-loved guitar for twenty bucks, but when history and a famous guitar player’s name come attached to the same guitar- it is sold for millions at auctions.

Today, we bring you an article containing some of the most iconic guitars played by the most iconic guitarists, auctioned, and sold, categorized under the term “most expensive guitars.”

Although some guitars are generally just expensive, considering that the materials, craftsmanship, model, and the involved brand’s name in its production are valued by the consumers. But this is not the case for the guitars we will list below. They have not gained their title for being the most expensive guitars from their construction but from other factors.

For example: the primary reasons for these guitars’ high prices are- who played this guitar, what concerts the guitarist played at with that particular model, and most importantly, which all-time favorite music albums were recorded with these strings?

You’d be surprised to learn about the unbelievably extraordinary prices guitar admirers have paid for a piece of bona fide rock’ n’ roll. The prices have gone as high as five million bucks, and much to your astonishment, people have risen from their seats at auctions and have determinedly bargained their way through until they secured their eyed purchase!

David Gilmour holding his famous Black Fender Strat

David Gilmour’s Black Fender Strat

Selling price: $3,975,000

In fact, we will begin our list of the most expensive guitars with one of the world record-breaking and world record-setting guitars sold recently at a climate change charity at a skyrocketing rate of almost four million dollars- the 1969 Fender Stratocaster.

David Gilmour originally owned this masterpiece- the lead guitarist for Pink Floyd and the guitar is responsible for making a mark on culture and music in general as it has been used to record the legendary albums Wish You Were Here, Dark Side of the Moon, and the wall.

These albums have served as a critical transitionary factor towards modern music and thus shall always be treasured by the music industry. Until another guitar comes, this guitar will remain the sole guardian of the title of the “most expensive guitar ever sold.”

When David Gilmour’s black Strat was sold, it made headlines, and journalists gasped at the remarkably high price that the buyer paid for a mere guitar; however, as guitarists, we are sure to have purchased this industry’s artifact, but only if we had the money.

Eric Clapton’s holding his Fender Stratocaster “Blackie”

Eric Clapton’s Fender Stratocaster “Blackie”

Selling price: $959,000

Back in 2004, in New York, when blackie was sold, it set the world record for the highest guitar auction price. But now it barely falls among the most expensive guitars sold, considering the other famed guitars that have made it to the list.

However, returning to Eric Clapton’s custom-made Fender Stratocaster assembled out of three distinct guitars with unique features like a 1957 guitar neck, a 1956 guitar’s body, and another unnamed guitar’s pickups- it still is one of the best customized electric guitars.

This exquisitely formulated, custom-made guitar was purchased by the Guitar Center, which has held it on display at its various stores. Per the latest updates, blackie was last seen at a popup at the Crossroads Festival.

Clapton exclusively played blackie from 1974 to 1985, where he only used personalized- work of art- guitar for every solo and every event that he played, explaining why the guitar’s neck is excessively worn out while its low E string quite literally hangs by a thread.

Kurt Cobain 1993 Fender Mustang “Sky Stang 1”

Kurt Cobain 1993 Fender Mustang “Sky Stang 1”

Selling price: $1,587,500

Although the Sky Stang 1 is not regarded as the most esteemed Kurt Cobain guitar, it has still been sold for quite a noteworthy price at an auction in 2023. This Fender Mustang was a custom-designed guitar for the Nirvana’s leader and top songwriter. It was manufactured in Japan because US factories did not produce any left necks back then.

Regardless, the 1993 Mustang was the guitarist’s primary instrument, his go-to guitar that accompanied him throughout all his shows and even at the final show on the Utero tour. Even after his death in 1994, the Kurt Cobain legendary guitar was handed down as a legacy to his brother before it was auctioned a year ago and purchased by a Japanese businessman, Mitsuru Sato, ensuring that thirty years later, the guitar returned to where it had originated from.

Jerry Garcia’s “Wolf”

Jerry Garcia’s “Wolf”

Selling price: $1,900,000

Until now, the three guitars that have made it to our most expensive guitars list have been extraordinary creations by Fender. However, one exception of a guitar that comes without a prestigious brand name is that of Jerry Garcia’s “Wolf.”

Wolf was a guitar created specifically for the Grateful Dead frontman by Luthier Doug Irvin in the 1970s. Speaking unbiasedly, the guitar has all the right reasons to make it to the most expensive guitars list, even without a renowned brand’s name.

Created out of the laminated purple heart (stiff, indigenous South American wood) and Maplewood, the guitar features an unusual look with an innovative, ingenious plate system mounting pickups that allows an immediate swapping from SSS to HHS configuration. Not only this, but the most outstanding characteristic of this guitar, which surely is one of the many reasons for its widespread popularity, is the drawing of a caricature of a wolf on it.

closeup shots of Jerry Garcia's wolf guitar

Whether this wolf represents or embodies Jerry Garcia’s spirit or is just a mere representation, whatever it be, the guitar was nonetheless sold for $1.9 million at a civil rights charity event in 2017, where the collected funds were given to Southern Poverty Law Center.

Eddie Van Halen’s Hot For Teacher Kramer 

Eddie Van Halen’s Hot For Teacher Kramer 

Selling price: $3,932,000

Guitars used by Eddie Van Halen have become almost as inspirational guitar designs as the man himself. Though there have been no shortages of Eddie’s popular gear’s auction for most expensive guitars but when the news broke that the guitar used and featured in the video Hot For Teacher was going up on an auction, the turmoil that arose was unanticipated for.

No one ever assumed that the bona fide Eddia Hot For Teacher guitar would make it for sale. Unsurprisingly, this new entry into the open market attracted thousands of potential buyers, making sure that the price tag that followed was high.

eric von halen playing his guitar on stageTherefore, owing to the history and the prominent mark that the iconic guitar had made for itself, specifically in 1983 and 1984, the Hot For Teacher Kramer guitar was sold at almost four million dollars ($3,932,000) in New York in early 2023, setting a world record for most expensive guitars.

Bob Dylan’s 1964 Fender Stratocaster

Bob Dylan’s 1964 Fender Stratocaster

Selling price: $965,000 

With quite an unfortunate yet brief history, Bob Dylan’s Newport Strat, 1964 Fender, a fine specimen, was sold for almost a million dollars in an auction in 2013, where it has been alleged to steal “Blackie’s crown” as the most expensive guitars.

In 1965, after Dylan had played with his Fender at the Newport Folk Festival, he reported leaving the guitar behind on a private plane. Later, the pilot picked it up and kept the guitar safe, keeping it in his family for almost fifty years, ensuring that the original case and strap remained in perfect condition.

Even the cataloged photos displayed at the auction demonstrated that the guitar had been preserved in excellent condition, and the three-tone sunburst was spot-free of any fading or dings.

Bob Dylan's guitar case

Fast forwarding to 2013, the 1965 Fender Stratocaster was bought by an enthusiastic guitar collector and the Indianapolis Colts owner- Jim Irsay, as part of his “Jim Irsay guitar collection,” which is often regarded by people as a pop culture traveling museum touring throughout the States, containing world’s most expensive guitars.

Eric Clapton's "The Fool"- Gibson SG

Eric Clapton’s “The Fool”- Gibson SG

Selling price: $1,270,000.

The man, Eric Clapton, and his possessed guitars are definitely a highlight of the most expensive guitars auctions, considering that previously it was Clapton’s Fender, and now it’s his Gibson SG, which was sold at a recent auction in 2023 for $1,270,000.

As far as the cultural, historical, and musical significance goes, Eric Clapton Gibson SG has been the main face of the Cream era. The Fool has been named after the Dutch art collective who engraved the striking artwork on the guitar’s body, giving it a distinctive edge over all conventional guitars.

close up of the paint on "The Fool" guitar

The Fool, with its wild aesthetics, is regarded as an enduring symbol of the music’s psychedelic era and has been the main instrument used by Eric Clapton to piece together Sunshine of Your Love, I Feel Free, and the white room.

Only last year, Jim Irsay, the renowned iconic guitar collector, purchased the Fool to add to his collection, making the instrument one of the most expensive guitars sold out of Clapton’s stack.

Fender Custom Shop Limited Edition Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster | Fender® Custom Shop

Jimi Hendrix’s Stratocaster (Electric Guitar Pioneer)

Selling price: $2,000,000

Jimi Hendrix is famous for pioneering new explosive possibilities of the electric guitar, improvising his style of combining feedback, fuzz, and distortion to create innovative musical forms. Therefore, his work relating to guitars and music is admired, and still, the influence that it has had cannot be overstated.

Coming to his Fender Stratocaster 1968, which he used to play at the Woodstock Festival in 1969, was auctioned in 2000 and purchased by Microsoft’s co-founder, Paul Allen. Allen has had a passion for collecting guitars, and what better guitar one should add to their collection if it’s not that of Jimi Hendrix?

However, later in 2018, the owner donated one of the most expensive guitars to the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, where it is still housed, in case you want to go have a look at it.

Jimi Hendrix Amazing Exhibit at Museum of Pop Culture (MOPOP) - Musiclipse

If you are still appalled by the two million dollars that were spent to purchase the Stratocaster, don’t be, because an influential guitarist and his treasured guitar surely equates to the monetary worth of the instrument.

Gary Moore's and Peter Green's Gibson Les Paul

Gary Moore’s and Peter Green’s Gibson Les Paul

Selling price: $2,000,000

The 1959 Gibson Les Paul guitar is already priced at $350,000, and those knowledgeable about guitars would be aware that this high price is justified by the noteworthy features of the guitar: its flawless balance of woods used, construction, and a subtle touch of vintage.

Nevertheless, when such a remarkable piece of creation is already an expensive guitar and desired but simultaneously involves history, the price is bound to skyrocket. Thus, the $2,000,000. Still, this is not all; the legendary Metallica guitarist- Kirk Hammet- has purchased the Gibson Les Paul, particularly the 1959 edition, from a music store.

He willingly and gladly paid for the demanded amount because the original guitar’s previous owners have been no other than Gary Moore and Peter Green- the guitar gods!

Reach Out To Asia Stratocaster 

Reach Out To Asia Stratocaster 

Selling price: $2,700,000

It does not necessarily have to be the case that the most expensive guitar has to be produced by a well-recognized brand or used by an influential artist. Rather, the contrary could work too, and one such exemplary, historical example of this is the reach-out to Asia Stratocaster.

This is the only guitar on our most expensive guitars list that has never been associated with an artist or a brand and yet has been sold for a whopping high price of $2,700,00. The primary reason behind the elevated selling price of the guitar is that perhaps it was not played or used by an artist; it was signed by several during the relief efforts of the 2004 tsunami to raise money at a charity auction for the affected Asian countries.

Eric Clapton, Ronnie Wood, Keith Richards, David Gilmour, Mick Jagger, Jeff Beck, Malcolm Young, Jimmy Page, Bryan Adams, Paul McCartney, Ritchie Blackmore, Angus Young, and members of Def Leppard- all these artists ruling the industry for the past 50 years signed over this guitar.

Bob Marley's Washburn Hawk- One of the only seven guitars

Bob Marley’s Washburn Hawk- One of the only seven guitars

Selling price: $1,200,000

The heroic Jamaican singer and guitarist- Bob Marley has been rumored to have owned only seven guitars throughout his career, and out of these seven, his most treasured and one of the most expensive guitars was the Washburn Hawk.

Marley used this guitar to record several of his popular songs, and he has been reported to be seen playing it at almost all of his concerts. Although, at one point, Marley had given his cherished Washburn Hawk to his personal guitar technician, but it was later spotted at an auction and purchased by the Jamaican government for $1,200,000 to be placed in a museum.

Kurt Cobain Smells Like Teen Spirit Fender Mustang

Kurt Cobain Smells Like Teen Spirit Fender Mustang

Selling price: $4,550,000

Once again, with his guitar, Kurt Cobain set the world record for one of the most expensive guitars ever sold.

Before the sale of Kurt Cobain’s Smells, the renowned guitar that played the lead starring role in the music video of Teen Spirit. Initially, the guitar’s purchasing cost was announced to be around $800,000.

However, considering the high desirability of this particular piece of Cobain and the uncountable number of people who wanted to get their hands over the guitar, it does not come as a shock that the deal closed at an auction rate of $4,550,000.

Teen Spirit music video guitar playing

This is the lucky charm guitar of Nirvana that set the band’s popularity up a notch, and it is evident by the fact that the Teen Spirit music video in which one of the most expensive guitars was featured has now been viewed billions of times on YouTube.

Even though Cobain once smashed his lake placid blue beauty in a mixer, ending up breaking its neck joint, still the guitar was patched up and used in action at the Hollywood Rock Festival in 1993, and as witnessed by the auction rate- it really did not make a difference to the purchaser whether if the guitar has been broken before or not!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)

Which is one of the most expensive guitars of David Glimour?

The title holder of one of the most expensive guitars of David Gilmour’s is his Fender black Strat, which was sold for $3,975,000. Aside from Gilmour’s electric guitars, even his acoustic guitar, particularly- Martin D-35 has also made it to the list of most expensive guitars being sold for $1,095,000.

What most expensive guitars sold for 2.7 million?

Reach Out To Asia Stratocaster was sold for 2.7 million. Considering that this particular piece has never been used by a guitarist or featured in any of their music videos or live performances, the guitar was sold at an exceptionally high price only because it had the signatures of the most influential artists.

What guitar did Kurt Cobain in Nirvana use?

Although Kurt Cobain used a lot of guitars, one all-time famous guitar was the Fender Mustang Sky Stang 1, which was specifically tailor-made for him in Japan because, at that time, the company’s US factories did not produce left necks.

Why is the Wolf guitar the most expensive guitars?

Although the Wolf guitar has been produced locally and without any affiliation with a brand, it is still the most expensive guitars because of its innovative features, sleek design, high-quality materials used in its construction, and the caricature of a wolf on it that provides it with a distinct aesthetic.


One evident thing from our list of the most expensive guitars is- the history. Context, the biography of the instrument, and the popular guitarist’s name affiliated with the instrument have been the most significant decisive factors in the guitar’s worth.

Although we have often seen two recurrent brand names, such as Fender and Gibson, the brand name does not always account for these guitars’ widespread popularity and inflated auction prices because exceptions also exist, such as the Wolf, and reach out to Asia Stratocaster.

Still, these exceptions only arise once every blue moon, and at the end of the day, it is simply who played the guitar and where they played it are the two aspects that will seal the deal at an auction!

About the Author

Preston has been a professional guitar instructor since 2010 and is the founder of SLC Guitar and the Guitar GPS Method. His holistic method helps players learn quickly and understand what they are doing musically, while his gamified learning platform make practice fun and effective. 

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