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Most Expensive Acoustic Guitars Ever Sold

Most Expensive Acoustic Guitars Ever Sold

We all love hobbies and past times. Music is one of the most popular leisure activities, specifically the guitar. This is one of the reasons why guitar players have purchased more guitars over the past few years. While electric guitars are a popular choice among players, you would be surprised at how many people play acoustic guitars. Not only that, but how many people are willing to spend good money on a rare or novelty acoustic guitar. What are some of the most expensive acoustic guitars that have been sold? Here are some of the most expensive ones that we could find.

Bottom line up front: You will see many guitars on this list, such as the D’Angelico Teardrop Guitar and even Paul McCartney’s first guitar! The aspects that increase the quality of an acoustic guitar include quality, age, and any rare materials. However, guitars previously owned by famous players also sell for an impressive amount.

Out of all of the guitars on this list, Kurt Cobain’s Martin Acoustic sold for the most. It sold for $6 million at an auction! Cobain played this guitar during MTV’s Unplugged, which added to its value. Guitars from other notable players, such as David Gilmour and John Lennon, also appear on this list.

1936-1942 Martin D-45

1936-1942 Martin D-45

Martin Guitars are some of the most prominent guitars. Some of the most notable players either actively play Martins or at least own one. But would you think a Martin acoustic sold for $400k? The pre-war Martins are known as some of the most expensive Martin models and can go anywhere between $320k-$400k.

The D-45 is the most expensive model and is worth 20x more than the average Martin acoustic. Even so, Eric Clapton’s D-45 sold at an auction for $625k!

It’s nicknamed “pre-war” because they were first made in 1936. But that’s not what makes them so expensive. They’re made of Brazilian rosewood, which is extremely pricey. Brazilian rosewood is a vulnerable wood species, so anything made of Brazilian rosewood increases in quality.

Rest assured, other than the Brazilian rosewood material, there are minor differences in construction between the D-45 and other Martin acoustics.

1930 Martin OM-45 Deluxe

1930 Martin OM-45

Martin makes another appearance on this list.

This guitar, in particular, is highly sought after and is even considered a Holy Grail of acoustics. There are a few reasons why this guitar is worth a pretty penny. First, there were only 11 models made, making it one of the rarest guitars in the world.

It’s also said to be one of the finest-made guitars, in general. However, it’s not worth as much as the D-45. In a New York auction, this guitar only sold for $300k.

D’Angelico New Yorker Teardrop

D'Angelico New Yorker Teardrop

Image from Pinterest

The D’Angelico Teardrop is a custom-made guitar for Pete Girardi of the band The Teardrops. This guitar not only gets its name from the band but also the body — it’s in the shape of a teardrop.

Luthier John D’Angelico designed this guitar in 1957. Its age not only gives it value but also the general impressive quality that the guitar holds. In addition, the original and only two replicas were ever made.

Because it’s so sought after, buyers are willing to pay a pretty penny for this guitar. Back in 1993, a collector bought the original for $150k. Today, it’s said to be worth $500k.

Kurt Cobain’s Martin 1959 D-183E

Kurt Cobain's Martin 1959 D-183E

This Martin shows up in this list not because of its age, quality, and rare materials, but because of its previous owner. Back in 1994, the rock band Nirvana played an acoustic performance on MTV’s Unplugged. The band’s singer and guitar player, Kurt Cobain, used this guitar for the performance.

This is not only one of the most acoustic guitars ever sold but one of the most expensive guitars auctioned off, in general. Pete Freedman (owner of Rode Microphones) was the winning bidder when Cobain’s acoustic went on auction in 2020. Freedman paid $6 million for the guitar!

John Lennon’s Gibson J-160E Acoustic-Electric

Okay, so this is also an electric guitar, but John Lennon’s old guitar still sold for a pretty penny. Specifically, $2.4 million in 2015!

The craziest thing about Lennon’s J-160E is he only had it for two years in the 60s. What happened to it? It was stolen! Lennon found the guitar missing after a London gig in 1963.

The guitar re-emerged in 1967 at a San Diego music store. There was no mention of its previous owner and wasn’t traced back to Lennon until it was identified by Beatles expert, Andy Babiuk, in 2008. He traced the serial number back to the original receipt from Lennon’s purchase.

But what makes this guitar special is Lennon used this guitar to write and record some of the most famous Beatles songs, such as “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” He used this guitar to record the album With The Beatles and Please, Please, Please Me. George Harrison also had an identical guitar that he and Lennon bought together.

We should note that half of the proceeds went to Lennon’s and Yoko Ono’s charity, Spirit Foundations, Inc. This charity gives back to international affairs, human services, and women’s causes.

David Gilmour’s 1969 C.F. Martin D-35

In the early 1970s, Pink Floyd guitar player David Gilmour purchases this C.F. Martin from another musician in New York City. He had this guitar for nearly his entire career.

You can hear this guitar on one of Pink Floyd’s most famous songs, “Wish You Were Here.” In addition, Gilmour wrote most Pink Floyd songs on this C.F. Martin.

In 2019, he sold it for over $1 million to the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, Jim Irsay. Gilmour has sold many of his guitars and donated all proceeds to ClientEarth, an environmental charity.

Paul McCartney’s 1950s Rex Acoustic

sir paul mccartney

Image from Pinterest

This guitar is special, not only because it was owned by Sir Paul McCartney but because it was his first guitar. Well, kind of. McCartney’s friend and teacher, Ian James, lent McCartney the guitar and taught him how to play it.

Still, McCartney kept the guitar and played it for many years. He was actually playing it when he and Lennon first met.

In 2015, it sold for £330,000, which is nearly $434K in USD.

Elvis Presley’s 1969 Gibson Dove Acoustic

Between the years 1971 and 1973, we often saw Elvis Presley performing with this acoustic guitar. Most of us saw this guitar during Presley’s concert, Aloha From Hawaii. Many aspects of the guitar were customized.

For example, the guitar has an ebony finish due to Presley’s black belt in karate and also has a Kenpo Karate decal on the guitar’s body. The fingerboard also has an acanthus “Elvis Presley” inlay.

Presley had this guitar until 1975 when he gave it to an audience member, Mike Harris. He was playing a show in Asheville, North Carolina, and gave it to the 21-year-old fan. Harris cherished the guitar so much to where he had the police escort him from the concert to protect the guitar. In 2016, it sold at an auction for $334,000.

Jerry Garcia’s 1943 Martin D-28

Jerry Garcia's 1943 Martin D-28

Jerry Garcia’s 1943 Martin D-28 sold for $175,000 in an estate auction. The lucky buyer is Andy Logan, a guitar collector who has an impressive arsenal of historic guitars.

He also owns Garcia’s “Alligator” Strat that he got for $420k. Plus, Logan is a massive Grateful Dead fan. He has spent lots of time (and money) collecting as many guitars connected to Garcia and Bob Weir as he can.

If he can’t find the exact guitars, he commissions luthiers to build custom replicas. His devotion has even caused him to create his own nonprofit, Grateful Guitars, to give instruments to players.

Bob Marley’s Ovation 1612-4 Custom Balladeer Acoustic

Bob Marley's Ovation 1612-4 Custom Balladeer Acoustic

Back in 2020, an Ovation 1612-4 previously owned by reggae legend Bob Marley sold in Jamaica for J$22 million ($153,600 USD).

It was sold at the Icons & Idols Trilogy: Rock n’ Roll Auction. It was only expected to sell for J$11 million. Marley gave the guitar to his friend Benji Levy in 1979. The two met at a car dealership in Jamaica, where Levy worked. Levy suggested Marley purchase a BMW because the initials stood for Bob Marley and the Wailers!

Marley gave the guitar to Levy after the neck became damaged. Levy had the neck repaired and kept the guitar. He passed it on to his son, Jonathon Olsen. The guitar holds a letter of authorization from Olsen.

Bob Dylan’s 1963 Martin D-28

Bob Dylan's 1963 Martin D-28

Bob Dylan’s Martin D-28 is one of his most recognizable guitars. He played it at Concert for Bangladesh, the spectacle that George Harrison and Ravi Shankar hosted at Madison Square Garden in 1971.

In addition, Dylan used this acoustic during his 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue Tour. Back in 2017, this same guitar was sold at an auction for $396,000. It was sold for nearly $100k more than expected!

More guitars in Dylan’s arsenal have been auctioned off. For example, his Fender Strat with the sunburst finish that he played during the 1965 Newport Folk Festival sold for $965k back in 2013!

FAQs

Question: What Are the Most Expensive Acoustic Guitar Brands?

Answer: From this list, it looks like Martin makes the most expensive acoustic guitars with D’Angelico right behind them. Understand that many qualities increase the value of an acoustic guitar, not just the make. For example, if a famous guitar player previously owned an acoustic, the guitar will increase in value.

Question: What Is the Rarest Acoustic Guitar?

Answer: Here are the current rarest acoustic guitars, in no order:

• Paul McCartney’s first guitar
• Eric Clapton’s 1939 Martin OOO-42
• 1930 Martin OM-45 Deluxe
• Martin/Bigsby Dreadnought D-28

Question: What Are the Most Iconic Acoustic Guitars?

Answer: The most iconic acoustic guitars, in no order, include:

• Elvis Presley’s 1956 Gibson J-200
• Gibson Chet Atkins SST
• Eddie Vedder’s Vintage Martin Acoustic
• Kurt Cobain’s Martin D-18e
• Johnny Cash’s Martin D-35
• Woodie Guthrie’s “The Machine Kills Fascists” Guitar
• Seasick Steve’s Acoustic Parlour
• Robert Johnson’s Gibson L-1

Question: What Are the Most Iconic Electric Guitars?

Answer: Here are the most famous electric guitars, in no order.

• Tom Morello’s “Arm the Homeless” Custom
• Prince’s “Cloud” Guitar
• Zakk Wylde’s “Bullseye” Gibson Les Paul
• Angus Young’s Jaydee SG
• Eddie Van Halen’s “Frankenstrat”
• Jimi Hendrix’s Monterey Fender Stratocaster
• Jimmy Page’s Gibson Les Paul Standard

Question: What Is the Most Expensive Electric Guitar Ever Sold?

Answer: David Gilmour’s Black Stratocaster sold for $3.9 million. Again, Colts’ owner Irsay purchased it at the same auction. This is the most expensive guitar ever sold in history.

Question: What Is the Most Expensive Instrument?

Answer: Here are the most expensive instruments (not guitars) that ever sold:

• The Vieuxtemps Guarneri Violin: $16 million
• The Paganini Stradivarius Cello: $6 million
• The Heintzman Crystal Piano: $3.2 million
• Charlie Parker’s Grafton Alto Saxophone: £93,500/$1,213,186 USD

Question: Are There Les Paul Acoustic Guitars?

Answer: Yes, there are! Back in 2003, Gibson took their legendary Les Paul and revived it into an acoustic. There are many similarities between the acoustic and electric, such as the figured maple top and mahogany body and neck.

Question: What Guitar Does Slash Play?

Answer: Slash plays many different guitars, but he’s often seen playing his arsenal of Gibson Les Pauls. His main guitars are the “Slash AFD Guitars,” which are replicas of the 1959 Les Paul Standard. He used these guitars for the recording of Guns n’ Roses famous album, Appetite for Destruction.

Question: What Guitar Does Taylor Swift Play?

Answer: Taylor Swift plays a variety of guitars, but one of her best-known ones is the Baby Taylor Acoustic Guitar. It’s a 3/4 size guitar, making it the perfect guitar for practicing and writing songs. This guitar is also easy to play, perfect for a beginner.

Question: Who Are the Best Guitarists in the World?

Answer: While this is subjective, here are the highest-rated guitarists ever. Know that this isn’t a complete list:

• Steve Vai
• Yngwie Malmsteen
• Eddie Van Halen
• Slash
• Randy Rhoads
• Tom Morello
• Peter Frampton
• Jimmy Paige
• Greg Howe
• John Petrucci
• Jimi Hendrix

Question: Who Are the Best Acoustic Guitarists in the World?

Answer: Again, this is subjective and it’s far from a complete list. But here are some of the highest-rated acoustic guitar players:

• Robert Johnson
• Michael Hedges
• Adrian Legg
• Tommy Emmanuel
• Bert Jansch
• John Fahey
• Richard Thompson
• Andrés Segovia

Bottom Line

Playing the acoustic guitar is a favorite hobby for many people. But would you imagine that there are some expensive acoustic guitars out there?

From rare Martin guitars to acoustics owned by famous guitar players, many guitars were sold at auctions for a pretty penny.

Would you ever been that much money on an acoustic guitar?