Guitars from SRV, EVH, Django Reinhardt and Others Hit Guernsey Auction Block

On Saturday, Guernsey’s Auction House in New York City auctioned an enormous collection of electric, acoustic, vintage and autographed guitars, and other instruments.

This story has been updated with sale prices as of Sunday morning.

Among the lot were vintage guitars built by world-class luthiers such as D’Angelico, D’Aquisto and Benedetto, and a range of acoustics, archtops and solid-bodies reportedly owned by guitar royalty, including:

  • Tony Mottola
  • Johnny Winter
  • George Benson
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan
  • Eddie Van Halen
  • Django Reinhardt

A handful of instruments, including the Django Reinhardt’s Euphonon and an SRV Strat valued at over $250,000, are shown below.

More than 225 items were offered, with bidders invited to partake in person or online via Liveauctioneers.com or Invaluable.com. The diversity of the collection was notable, too, with a range that includes a Weissenborn Hawaiian ($2,500 – $3,500); a 1981 Les Paul Custom signed by John Paul Jones ($7,500 – $10,000); and a chest containing the tools of luthier Joseph Bohmann, from circa 1850.

When Reverb reached Guernsey’s principal auctioneer, Arlan Ettinger, even he was unsure how many items were in the collection — they were still adding guitars at press time, with the latest being an Erlewine Lazer that belonged to Johnny Winter.

“Auctions are full of surprises,” Ettinger says, explaining that 41 years in the business has taught him there’s no predicting the dollar amount an item will draw when the gavel drops. “More than half of the items are being sold without minimum reserve, which means anything goes. Whatever the top price is, that bid will be successful.”

Bidders are wise to note that auction houses often provide estimated values and minimum reserves, but they’re not in the business of appraising guitars. Ettinger acknowledges that while his house is offering guitars today, tomorrow it could be auctioning Soviet artwork or Mickey Mantle memorabilia.

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Asked what measures Guernsey’s is taking to ensure authenticity and quality in this auction, he says, “All auctions sell ‘as is.’ We try to do a lot better than that by giving expert opinions on the condition, history and unique features. But if you really want to be 100% certain that it’s going to be to your liking, then come and look at it.”

HP Newquist, director of The National Guitar Museum, offered his insights on bidding in the form of a caveat.

“There are two key elements to buying at any auction,” Newquist says. “One is doing your homework: make sure you know that what you’re buying is exactly what you think it is. The second thing is to buy a guitar because you want it — not because you think it’s a great investment. The vintage and autographed guitar markets are littered with the carcasses of people who planned on flipping their auction purchase for a cash score.”

Whether you play, collect, or just drool over guitars, here’s a selection from the items up for auction this Saturday, February 27th.

Reverb has updated this page with sold-for prices.

Images, titles, descriptions and estimated values have been provided by the auctioneer. For more information and a downloadable catalog of listings, see The Guitar Auction.

Guernsey's Selected Guitars at Auction

Johnny Winter's Erlewine Custom White Lazer

See Johnny playing “Rock Me Baby” with the White Lazer.

Johnny Winter's Erlewine Custom White Lazer

Johnny Winter's Erlewine Custom White Lazer

This iconic instrument has been entered directly into this auction by Johnny Winter's family, per Guernsey’s.

Johnny Winter reportedly chose the Lazer because it sounds like a Strat but feels like a Gibson, according to manufacturer Erlewine Guitars' product description. The guitar features a 25.5-inch scale, which is longer than Gibson's 24-3/4-inch scale, and two custom-wound pickups to produce twangy tones more similar to Dick Dale than SRV, the manufacturer explains.

"It's really the closest thing I've found to sounding like a Strat and feeling like a Gibson,” Winter is quoted as saying. “I like the sound of a Strat, but just can't play one. It just doesn't feel right to me. If I pull the strings, I don't get as much out of it as I put into it. I can put the same effort into a Gibson and get back twice as much. With the Lazer I get both.”

  • Lot#: 440A
  • Estimate: $300,000 – $350,000
  • Starting Bid: $90,000
  • Sold For: $180,000

Tony Mottola’s 1952 Gibson Custom Super 400CES 7-String

Tony Mottola’s 1952 Gibson Custom Super 400CES 7-String

Tony Mottola’s 1952 Gibson Custom Super 400CES 7-String

“This one-of-kind instrument was produced by the Gibson Guitar Company of Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1952 for legendary studio musician Tony Mottola,” Guernsey’s said in the auction catalog.

According to Guernsey’s, the guitar is one of only two seven-string Super 400s ever made, and the only one with 24 frets. “The instrument has a top carved from spruce with stunning maple back and sides.” It’s equipped with custom made P90 pickups with seven pole pieces, as described by the auction house. The instrument includes the original hard shell case and a copy of the production ledger for the month of March 1952, which was provided by Ted McCarty, the former president of Gibson, Guernsey’s says.

  • Lot#: 227
  • Condition: VG
  • Estimate: $60,000 – $70,000
  • Starting Bid: $18,000
  • Sold For: No Sale

c.1939 Super-Jumbo Euphonon, formerly owned by Django Reinhardt, from The Chinery Collection.

Django Reinhardt's 1939 Super-Jumbo Euphonon

Django Reinhardt's 1939 Super-Jumbo Euphonon

Per Guernsey’s, this Larson guitar sports pearl inlay around the top and soundhole, abalone and pearl headstock and pearl block fingerboard inlays.

“Add to that the full-neck and body bindings, the rarely-used addition of rhinestones placed on the bridge, headstock and fingerboard and it is easy to note the uniqueness of this Larson brothers’ masterpiece,” the catalog says. A newspaper photo clipping of Django Reinhardt, reportedly the former owner, and his trio also is visible through the soundhole.

“One of the unusual features is the highly visible elevated dual pickguards that are engraved with a fantastic matching floral design,” Guernsey’s says. “The adjustable ebony bridge is an invention in itself in function and design.”

This instrument is featured on the front cover of Bob Hartman’s 1996 book, “The Larsons’ Creations Guitars and Mandolins,” according to the auction house and appears the 2007 edition, entitled “The Larsons’ Creations Guitars and Mandolins, Centennial Edition,” and was featured in noted guitar collector Scott Chinery’s “The Chinery Collection.”

"It's history has it belonging to Django Reinhardt and purchased from his brother, Joe, after Django died," Hartman writes in the Centennial Edition. “It is said this Euphonon and Scott’s Dyer Style 8 Symphony Harp Guitar were two instruments out of his massive collection of over 1,000 that he enjoyed playing quite often. Chinery was a connoisseur who knew quality and reveled in the beautiful sounds emitted from these wonderful instruments.”

This instrument is being sold by the Chinery family, Guernsey’s said, and was one of the very few retained by his family after his passing in 2000.

  • Lot#: 279
  • Condition: VG+; four missing rhinestones on the headstock and one missing rhinestone at the base of the fingerboard, some oxidation on the pickguard mounts
  • Estimate: $60,000 – $70,000
  • Starting Bid: $18,000
  • Sold For: $40,000

2004 Martin Bellezza Bianca Prototype, Built for Eric Clapton

Martin Bellezza Bianca Prototype

Martin Bellezza Bianca Prototype

This guitar was the third of four prototypes built for Eric Clapton, according to Guernsey’s. This specific instrument, according to Martin’s records, was shipped to Clapton in London on July 7, 2004, and was designed in a collaboration between Clapton, Martin’s Dick Boak, director of archives, the museum and special projects, and Hiroshi Fujiwara, the Japanese fashion designer and music producer.

The model was introduced as a limited edition guitar in 2006, according to Guernsey’s, and Clapton appeared with this guitar on NBC’s “The Today Show” on November 18, 2005, where he performed “Back Home” with this guitar or one of the other three Bellezza Bianca prototypes.

  • Lot#: 276
  • Condition: Like New
  • Estimate: $30,000 – $40,000
  • Starting Bid: $9,000
  • Sold For: No Sale

Stevie Ray Vaughan-Owned & Signed c. 1966-67 Fender Stratocaster

Stevie Ray Vaughan-Owned Fender Stratocaster

Stevie Ray Vaughan-Owned Fender Stratocaster

This three-tone sunburst Strat was owned and signed by SRV, according to Guernsey’s. The gold ink signature is broad and dated ‘90. Also present on this guitar are some worn stickers; one group of stickers reads “SRV” and the other, located on the pickguard is rather worn and faded, but the word “Cobras” is visible. Vaughan reportedly played with Paul Ray and the Cobras in Austin, Texas, from 1975 until 1977.

Guernsey’s says the guitar’s silver neck plate is etched in block letters “STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN DALLAS, TX,” and will be sold with paperwork inside the case with more of Vaughan’s handwriting.

  • Lot#: 284
  • Condition: Good playable condition
  • Estimate: $250,000 – $500,000
  • Starting Bid: $75,000
  • Sold For: $80,000

1960s Bjarton 12-String Acoustic Guitar, formerly owned by Ringo Starr

Bjarton 12-String owned by Ringo Starr

Ringo Starr-Owned Bjarton 12-String

According to Guernsey’s, Ringo Starr gave this Bjarton 12-string to German artist Klaus Voormann, a friend of Beatles’ photographer Astrid Kirchherr, sometime in the 1970s. Voormann, whose name still appears on the traveling case for the instrument, later gave it to a Beatles expert and collector who went on to create a museum in Hamburg dedicated to The Beatles.

Guernsey’s describes the Bjarton’s condition as “virtually pristine” and indicates that the acoustic was occasionally played by John Lennon. The auction lot includes a certificate signed and dated in 2015 by Voormann.

The certificate, corrected for spelling, details the history of the guitar as follows:

“In the early ’70s, I often went to visit with Ringo. We were living in Hampstead real close to one another. I often went down the hill to Ringo’s house. We went up into his little home-studio under the roof recording, messing around and sometimes even writing a song or two using that lovely 12-string guitar. I loved the sound of the instrument so much that eventually Ringo gave me this Bjarton 12-string guitar as a present. I remember John tinkling on this 12-string guitar whenever he was coming by for a visit. The guitar remained with me for many years. In the late 1990s I gave the Bjarton to Uwe Blaschke for inclusion in his collection of Beatles items.”

  • Lot#: 237
  • Condition: VG+, hardly played; slight scratching on tailpiece
  • Estimate: $30,000 – $50,000
  • Starting Bid: $9,000
  • Sold For: No Sale

Eddie Van Halen-Owned 1982 Charvel Van Halen Model

Eddie Van Halen-Owned 1982 Charvel

Eddie Van Halen-Owned 1982 Charvel

This guitar comes complete with its original dated bill of sale from Charvel/Jackson to Eddie Van Halen, according to Guernsey’s. The lot also includes the video of an interview that EVH and then-wife Valerie Bertinelli gave for the television show “Entertainment Tonight” in 1982. In the clip, he can be seen playing a guitar with a stripe pattern that appears to match the pattern on this guitar.

According to the catalog, “Each Charvel ‘Van Halen Model’ guitar had a unique striping pattern, so this video proves that Ed owned and played this guitar.”

  • Lot#: 439
  • Condition: Typical crack in finish from truss rod adjustment; some back scratches
  • Estimate: $55,000 – $75,000
  • Starting Bid: $16,000>
  • Sold For: $67,500

1944 D’Angelico New Yorker

1944 D’Angelico New Yorker

1944 D’Angelico New Yorker

Guernsey’s describes John D’Angelico’s New Yorker model as “an elaborately decorated instrument made of the most select woods and built on a large platform measuring approximately 18” in width.”

According to the catalog, the New Yorker came with a multi-ply headstock border with ivoroid binding, three-ply-bordered f-holes, and white-black purfling under the fingerboard. A split-block fingerboard inlay, gold-plated hardware and the famed headstock inlay — which recalls New York City’s famed Chrysler Building in its art-deco styling — give this guitar its trademark look.

“D’Angelico instruments were strictly handmade, and in limited quantities. Although D’Angelico’s guitars were made to regular specifications and standard catalog descriptions, they were often built to suit the specific requirements of the customers who ordered them, and this close relationship between the luthier and the customer was one of the most appealing factors to musicians of the day,” says Guernsey’s.

  • Lot#: 444
  • Condition: Slight playing wear on the neck on low E string between 1st and 4th frets; normal wear and tear, slight finish checking, slight dings on back of the headstock
  • Estimate: $40,000 – $55,000
  • Starting Bid: $12,000
  • Sold For: $16,000

Benedetto Manhattan Custom, Robert Yelin Collection

Benedetto Manhattan Custom

Benedetto Manhattan Custom

According to Guernsey’s, the Manhattan guitar has become the signature model of Robert Benedetto’s archtop line.

“Made under Benedetto's scrupulous supervision, the Manhattan consists of only the finest materials, designs and craftsmanship, including the Benedetto fine-lined binding package, unbound ebony finger rest and Benedetto cello-style tailpiece,” reads the catalog.

Guernsey’s says this particular Manhattan was a custom piece for collector Robert Yelin, and features a carved flame-like pattern on the upper and lower bouts in place of f-holes, a cutaway fretboard and floral inlays of abalone at the 12th fret and on the tailpiece.

  • Lot#: 272
  • Condition: Mint
  • Estimate: $50,000 – $60,000
  • Starting Bid: $15,000
  • Sold For: No Sale

Ibanez GB30 Team J Craft “Kimono” Prototype owned by George Benson

George Benson-Owned Ibanez GB30 Prototype

George Benson-Owned Ibanez GB30 Prototype

One of 17 pieces in the auction from George Benson’s personal collection, the Team J Craft Edition guitar is described by Guernsey’s as a very high-end version of the GB30 model.

The Team J was introduced in 2006 and was in production for one year, according to the catalog, and is believed to have been sponge-painted in golden metallic colors “to make the instrument stand out on stage.”

Features include a spruce top, maple back and sides, medium frets, a bound ebony fingerboard and ebony bridge, and a GB Special neck pickup. The Team J Craft GB30 also has pearl inlays on the fingerboard, bridge and headstock, according to Guernsey’s description.

  • Lot#: 453
  • Condition: VG
  • Estimate: $15,000 – $20,000
  • Starting Bid: $4,500
  • Sold For: $4,750

About the Author:

Rich Maloof is an educator for TrueFire and a curator for the National Guitar Museum, and was formerly Editor In Chief of Guitar Magazine.

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