Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

From Kurt Cobain's Martin to Eddie Van Halen's Kramer four guitars that smashed auction records

Former Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler's guitar would need to fetch a lot more at Christie's auction to match some other famous guitars that have sold for millions of dollars. Here are the four most expensive ever sold at auction

Published: Jan 31, 2024 03:10:07 PM IST
Updated: Jan 31, 2024 03:23:00 PM IST

From Kurt Cobain's Martin to Eddie Van Halen's Kramer four guitars that smashed auction recordsAn Eko Music Group Ranatai Italy Circa 1968 guitar is displayed during the pre-sale exhibition of guitars from the personal collection of British singer and guitarist Mark Knopfler at Christie’s auction house in London, on January 26, 2024. Image: Ben Stansall / AFP©

The guitar used by former Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler to record the famous opening riff to the band's 1985 hit "Money for Nothing" is expected to spark intense interest when it goes up for auction on Wednesday as part of a massive sell-off of his instruments.

The original 1959 Les Paul Standard that Knopfler acquired from Bobby Tench of The Jeff Beck Group comes with a guide price of £500,000 ($625,000) at Christie's auctioneers in London.

It would need to fetch a lot more, though, to match some other famous guitars that have sold for millions of dollars.

Here are the four most expensive ever sold at auction:

$6 million: Kurt Cobain's Martin

The guitar that grunge-rock icon Cobain played during his legendary 1993 "MTV Unplugged" performance was sold in June 2020 in Los Angeles for $6 million, the record for a guitar.

It went to Peter Freedman, founder of RODE Microphones after a bidding war.

The retro acoustic-electric 1959 Martin D-18E took centre stage during Nirvana's "Unplugged" gig, which was turned into one of rock's greatest live albums.

Just five months later Nirvana frontman Cobain committed suicide at the age of 27.

$4.7 million: Cobain's Fender Mustang

Cobain also owned the second-most expensive guitar, a Fender Mustang used in the video of "Smells Lke Teen Spirit" in 1991.

Nirvana's breakout song, which became a mosh pit classic, was an anthem for a generation of disaffected teenagers.

The guitar was snapped up in May 2022 for $4.7 million by the owner of the Indianapolis Colts football team, Jim Irsay, joining a collection that includes guitars by Jimi Hendrix and Prince, among others.

$4 million: David Gilmour's Fender Stratocaster

A Fender Stratocaster dubbed "Black Strat" that was used by Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour on "The Dark Side of the Moon" sold for nearly $4 million in June 2019, a record at the time.

It was sold, also to Irsay, at a charity sale at Christie's that netted $21.5 million for the environmental NGO ClientEarth.

$3.9 million: Eddie Van Halen's Kramer

Eddie Van Halen's custom-made Kramer electric guitar, which featured in the iconic music video for Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher", sold for $3.9 million at Sotheby's in April 2023.