Many of us look at a musical instrument that’s just outside our current price range, and look forward to the day we can afford them. Here are the most expensive musical instruments ever sold that would even make Bill Gates think twice.
One of the most popular instruments in the world, with a host of legendary players, there are many guitars with astonishing values. In the 1970’s, Eric Clapton bought 3 different Fender Stratocasters and pieced them together to form one. This guitar was recently sold at auction for $959,500! You may think that’s a lot, try doubling it.
A Hawk Guitar custom made for Bob Marley, and another Fender Stratocaster owned by Jimi Hendrix were both sold for an estimated $2 million each at auction.
The title of most expensive guitar however, goes to yet another Fender Stratocaster, which was sold at auction for $3.7 million to help the victims of the Indian Ocean Tsunami. This guitar had been signed by guitar legends such as Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Ray Davis, Keith Richards, Brian May, Ronnie Wood, Liam Gallagher, Brian Adams, and many more.
Violins have also been sold for very high amounts in the past. Certainly the most famous violin maker, or luthier, was Antonio Stradivari, who created over 1000 violins before his death in 1737. Just one of these violins, the ‘Lady Tennant Stradivarius’, was purchased at auction for $2.03 million in 2005.
This did hold the official record for the most expensive instrument, until another Stradivarius violin, known as ‘the hammer’ was sold for $3.5 million to an anonymous buyer at Christies, New York. Giuseppe Guarneri was another luthier who lived in the same town as Stradivari at the same time.
The two men were rivals, and Stradivari had long been considered the finest luthier alive before Guarneri had even begun to create violins. This meant Guarneri had to work longer hours, creating more violins to make up for the lower prices he could charge compared to Stradivari. You could say Guarneri’s hard work paid off, with one of his violins recently being purchased for $4 million, and another was put up for sale with an asking price of a staggering $18 million!
One iconic instrument in British music is the Steinway Model Z Piano that was used by John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono in the video for ‘Imagine’. This was John Lennon’s own piano, which he had used to compose and record many hits as a soloist, and for the Beatles. Whilst not a particularly fine model, it’s iconic use by a musical legend meant it was sold to George Michael for $2.08 million, still bearing John Lennon’s cigarette burns. A portion of Keith Moon’s drum kit was also a very expensive musical instrument.
Anybody who has seen The Who perform will know how active they were, and how much they would abuse their instruments. Despite this, in 2004 5 pieces of Keith Moon’s Silver Premier kit were sold for a total of $252,487 making it the most expensive drum kit ever sold. Not bad considering it was only half a kit!
So What is the Most Expensive Instrument?
Actually, nobody can be sure. Officially, the Stradivarius Hammer is considered the most expensive instrument to be sold, despite not being the most expensive instrument to be sold (I know, confusing). This is because many items are sold for undisclosed fees, so nobody except the buyer, seller, and the auction house know the exact details of each sale, and if the exact price isn’t revealed, Guinness world records won’t include it. For example, a Stradivarius Cello was rumored to be sold for over $6 million, and nobody is quite sure whether the Guarneri violin valued at $18 million was sold or not.
The $4 million Guarneri violin and the $3.7 million Stratocaster, both mentioned earlier, didn’t have their sale details officially announced, meaning they’re not included in the Guinness World Records. Whichever instrument you choose to believe is the most expensive, it’s clear that the top 10 is fairly dominated by Stradivari, so perhaps it’s fitting for him to have the official record.
Whatever your viewpoint, most people will accept that all of these are fine instruments, with fantastic histories of being used by the legends of their field.