5 Things To Consider When Buying A Rock Star’s Guitar

Tips from the experts at Bonhams.
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Values of guitars owned by celebrities have skyrocketed recently, but it pays to do your research. There are several examples coming up for sale at BonhamsEntertainment Memorabilia auction in London on Dec. 10, including models owned by Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce of Cream, English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, and our favorite lot, bits and pieces of Gibson guitars from the ‘60s and ‘70s smashed by Pete Townshend of The Who.

"There are always going to be some artists who are more popular for collectors than others," notes Bonhams Entertainment Consultant, Stephen Maycock. "Eric Clapton, for example, has been a successful recording artist for 50 years – in that time, you build up quite a following. However, this isn't exclusive to 'legends' of rock and pop, memorabilia connected to modern musicians can also have that appeal.”

And, Haycock adds, “Much like a contemporary artwork versus an historic, old master painting, there is a bidder for each area of taste and style.” And while he points out that "Electric guitars are usually more desirable at auction, they're just a bit sexier, and they've produced the great riffs of rock music,” acoustic instruments with the right pedigree can fetch big bucks as well.

Here are Haycock’s top five things to consider when investing in celebrity-owned guitars:

1.) Artist

"An instrument owned by a one-hit-wonder won't bring bidders to the room. Legends of rock, queens of pop, icons of an era – the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Nirvana, Madonna, Oasis, Abba, Jimi Hendrix – are some of the most popular artists in the auction room."

2.) Ownership

"Ideally the guitar will either be currently owned by, once have been owned by, or played on several occasions by the artist. A signature is desirable, but ownership more so – buyers want to feel the frets their idol once thumbed, and take home the instrument their hero adored."

3.) Condition

"If the instrument is still playable, it adds to the appeal. The new owner can play their hero's songs, on their hero's guitar – not much beats that."

4.) Rarity

"If the instrument itself is limited edition, or perhaps the artist had just one special guitar they used whilst in concert, that will increase the popularity, and subsequently the premium."

5.) Cool Factor

"Was this the guitar used during a particularly momentous occasion in musical history?" If so, expect to pay more, with a equal rise in resale value.