Guitars can be very affordable instruments, but high-end guitars are generally very expensive and out of reach for most people. When those high-end guitars are used by internationally famous, well-recognized, and wonderfully talented guitar players, they become incredibly valuable collector’s items.
The prices that some of these famous guitars have been sold for are shockingly high and prove that guitar heroes will forever hold a significant place in the musical world. Let’s identify some of the most expensive guitars that have ever been sold.
1. Kurt Cobain’s 1959 Martin D18E- $6,000,000
This is the most expensive guitar ever sold by a large margin. In 2020, this Martin D18E was sold for $6,000,000 to the owner of Røde Microphones. The guitar is in his private collection.
Although the guitar’s value seems astronomical, only around 300 of these models were ever built, which makes it incredibly rare. Furthermore, knowing that Kurt Cobain of Nirvana played this guitar only adds to the value.
This was Cobain’s go-to acoustic guitar, he used it in the iconic Live In New York performance, and some say that it was the last guitar that he ever played.
2. Kurt Cobain’s Fender Mustang – $4,500,000
The second most expensive guitar ever sold was also owned by the Nirvana frontman. This Fender Mustang would be nothing special in the hands of any other guitarist, and even though Cobain barely used this instrument during live performances, this was the guitar that he used in the music video for Smells Like Teen Spirit.
The use of this guitar in the music video of one of the most beloved rock songs ever written only adds to its fame, along with the fact that it was actually owned and used by Cobain, rather than just being a prop for the video.
This guitar sold for $4,500,000 in 2021, which was significantly more than its $800,000 projected value.
3. David Gilmour’s “Black Strat” Fender Stratocaster – $3,975,000
The “Black Strat” is a Fender Stratocaster that was owned and played by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. This guitar is widely regarded to have the very best tone ever derived from a Stratocaster and was extensively played by Gilmour during many years of live performances.
This guitar was extensively modified by Gilmour himself, only adding more value to it, and has become one of the most iconic guitars in musical history.
This guitar sold for $3,975,000 and the proceeds of the sale contributed toward solving international issues such as climate change.
4. Reach Out to Asia Fender Stratocaster – $2,700,000
This Fender Stratocaster was sold at auction to support those affected by a devastating tsunami that struck large parts of Asia in 2004. The guitar was not owned or used by any famous guitarists, but it was signed by several of the greatest names in music before the auction, which gave it its incredible value.
The guitar was signed by musicians such as Brian May, Jimmy Page, David Gilmour, Jeff Beck, Angus Young, Paul McCartney, Tony Iommi, and many others. These names, combined with the good cause behind the guitar, are why this instrument was sold for $2,700,000.
5. John Lennon’s 1962 Gibson J-160E – $2,400,000
This Gibson J-160E was used extensively in the recording studio by John Lennon of the Beatles, including recordings such as P.S. I Love You and Love Me Do. The guitar was used by Lennon on several live tours as well.
The guitar was sold at auction in 2015 for $2,400,000 after it had been lost during a tour in 1963. The guitar remained lost until its true identity was uncovered, and the high price of the instrument was determined.
This is among the greatest pieces of Beatles memorabilia in existence and remains one of the most iconic acoustic guitars in musical history.
6. Jimi Hendrix’s 1968 “Woodstock Strat” Fender Stratocaster – $2,000,000
The price of this guitar should come as no surprise to anyone aware of Jimi Hendrix. This 1968 Strat was used by Hendrix during his legendary performance at the very first Woodstock festival and was forever etched into musical history on that powerful day.
Hendrix gave the guitar the nickname Izabella, and it was sold to Paul Allen at an auction in 1998. The $2,000,000 price tag seems somewhat worthy for this instrument, as there are no guitars on this list more jaw-dropping than this.
7. Peter Green & Gary Moore’s 1959 Gibson Les Paul – $2,000,000
The 1959 Gibson Les Paul is a legendary guitar on its own. Also referred to as the “Holy Grail,” this guitar model is considered by many to be among the greatest-sounding and playing guitars ever made. Of course, these guitars carry a huge price tag on their own, regardless of ownership.
However, to accrue $2,000,000 worth of value, it was owned and played by Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac, who then handed it down to Gary Moore, who proceeded to use it for 25 years of live performances and recordings.
Green sold the guitar to Moore for a very low price, simply to help him out as a friend, and it went on the become the main guitar used by Moore for many years. There is music in this guitar, and it is truly appreciated by its owner – Kirk Hammett of Metallica.
8. Jerry Garcia’s “Wolf” By Doug Irwin – $1,900,000
The Wolf was constructed by Doug Irwin for Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead and remains one of the most heavily customized guitars ever used on stage. This instrument is a one-off guitar, hand-made and custom built and used by one of the biggest bands ever, which is why it has such a high price tag.
The guitar was sold to raise money for charity, contributing $1,900,000 to the Sothern Poverty Law Center.
9. David Gilmour’s 1954 Stratocaster – $1,815,000
Another guitar on the list that was used by David Gilmour is his 1954 Stratocaster. It’s a famous Fender model, having some of the greatest tones and playability of any guitar that the company has ever produced.
This guitar is one of the very first production Stratocasters ever made, with the serial number #0001, and was owned and used by Gilmour for many years during both live and studio performances, including the rhythm recordings for Another Brick in The Wall.
This Strat was sold at auction when Gilmour sold part of his guitar collection for the sake of raising funds for charity.
10. Duane Allman’s 1957 Gibson Les Paul – $1,250,000
This is the most expensive Gibson Les Paul ever sold. This ’57 Goldtop was owned and played by Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers and was known to be used by players such as Kirk Hammett, Billy Gibbons, and Derek Trucks.
It was used on the first two Allman Brothers albums, as well as the first Derek & The Dominos album, and was sold for $1,250,000 even though it was not in original condition.
11. 1958 Gibson Korina Explorer – $1,100,000
This guitar is unlike any others on the list. It wasn’t sold at an auction for this amount, it wasn’t played by a particularly famous guitarist, and it wasn’t signed by a group of musical greats. Gibson Korina Explorer is a production model guitar.
The high price of the Korina Explorer models comes from the fact that there were ever only 19 Korina models made, and they are all of exceptional quality and craftsmanship, making them some of the most high-quality and rarest guitars ever produced by fender.
If you want to buy one of these instruments, you’ll need to give up about $1,100,000 for it.
12. Keith Richards’ 1959 Gibson Les Paul – $1,000,000
Keith Richards is part of the band that was once the biggest rock n’ band in the world – The Rolling Stones. Richards has an iconic guitar-playing style and sound, and this was his Les Paul for several years while playing for the band.
The Richards and Rolling Stones names are what give this ’59 Les Paul its value, even though it was not a guitar frequently used for performances. The guitar is in excellent condition, and its value is contributed to by the fact that it is a Les Paul from 1959, one of the most iconic guitars available anywhere today.
13. Bob Dylan’s “Newport Strat” Fender Stratocaster – $965,000
When this guitar was sold at an auction in 2013, it was the most valuable guitar internationally as no other was ever sold for more. The instrument remains a valuable piece of folk music history and will retain its value forever.
The so-called Newport Strat was used by Bob Dylan in the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, which is recorded as the first performance when Dylan went electric rather than performing with acoustic guitars and changed the way his music was perceived forever.
14. Eric Clapton’s “Blackie” Fender Stratocaster – $959,500
The Fender Stratocaster, known as Blackie and played by Eric Clapton, was the most valuable guitar ever sold before the Newport Strat was sold in 2013.
This guitar was assembled by Clapton from three separate Stratocasters with the desire to make the best-sounding and feeling guitar possible. This Strat went on to be the most used guitar by Clapton for more than a decade and is the guitar most associated with him.
It was sold in the Crossroads Guitar Auction along with many other iconic guitars belonging to Clapton.
15. Jerry Garcia’s “Tiger” By Doug Irwin – $957,500
Another on the list from Jerry Garcia is the Tiger guitar built by Doug Irwin. The guitar was sold in 2022 for $957,000 and remained among the most memorable guitars in the musical world.
There is simply no other instrument like it, as it was built by hand, and only one of them was ever made. The Tiger was a custom commission by Garcia and has an iconic tone that no other guitar has been known to replicate. Fans of the Grateful Dead should be highly familiar with this legendary guitar.
16. Eric Clapton’s 1964 Gibson ES-335 – $847,500
This ES-335 is another on the list sold by Clapton at the Crossroads Guitar Auction and collected $847,500 for charity. This instrument was used by Clapton in his time in the Yardbirds, Blind Faith, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, as well as during his solo period.
This guitar has a special tone and was used on many unforgettable records. There are no guitars that sound the same as an original ES-335 like this one, and the name behind it adds even more value.
17. Eric Clapton’s 1939 CF Martin & Co. 000-42 – $791,500
Yet another installment from the Crossroads Guitar Auction from Eric Clapton is the 1939 Martin acoustic guitar that belonged to the famous guitarist.
The funds from this sale contributed towards a rehabilitation center founded by Clapton. There is no surprise that this guitar sold for as much as it did, as Martin acoustic guitars from this era are some of the very best stringed instruments ever built.
Add that pedigree along with the name Eric Clapton, sell it at a charity auction, and you have a guitar worth almost $800,000.
18. Stevie Ray Vaughan’s 1965 “Lenny” Fender Stratocaster – $623,500
The last instrument on our list is the famous Lenny Strat used by Stevie Ray Vaughan. There are few guitars more well-known, legendary, and iconic than this one.
The guitar was sold after Vaughan’s death and raised $623,500. The guitar bears the SRV initial customization on the pickguard and bears all the road wear that proves it was used by one of the greatest bluesmen of all time.
At the end of the day, these guitars are far more expensive than any regular guitar would. The name, history, iconic ad fame of these instruments is why they are worth so much, but few guitars are worth more than $150,000 when bought first-hand off the shelf.
Many of these guitars were sold to raise funds for charities, and others were bought by hardcore musical collectors with the budget to do so. These guitars now reside in private collections and museums in various locations throughout the world.