The Beatles on stage with Ludwig drum kit worth over A$3 million | Source: Block Club Chicago

Music Collectables: The History Behind the Most Valuable Instruments

Combine a few factors; its creator, the quality, the condition, famous provenance, the age and rarity and chances are that vintage instruments in the top shelf of your garage could be a priceless piece of art. Musical instruments pose serious returns and icons such as the legendary Stradivarius Violins, present a unique investment opportunity.

George Gruhn, a guitar dealer based in Nashville, US believes they might even offer more secure long term gains than traditional investments.

Musical instruments have been great investments, such that I now consider them to be far superior to money in the bank, especially at today’s interest rates, or in most stocks or mutual funds

George Gruhn

Here’s a look at the history behind some of the most expensive musical instruments ever sold.

Eric Clapton’s Fender Stratocaster

Few guitarists reach the iconic status of Eric Clapton. Ever fewer of their accompanying guitars make it to the revered fame of his Fender Stratocaster, nicknamed ‘Blackie’. Clapton constructed the custom guitar using various parts from other Stratocasters including a 1956 Stratocaster body, and a 1957 neck. His favourite guitar, Blackie provided the music for many of Clapton’s hits and in 2004 he sold it for over A$1.3 million at a Christie’s auction to raise funds for charity.

Eric Clapton with Blackie in Rotterdam June 23, 1978 | Source: Chris Hakkens

John Lennon’s Steinway Z Piano

If there’s one feature that increases the value of an instrument, it’s the significance of the figure who owned and played it. In the musical world, it doesn’t get much more significant than the Beatles singer John Lennon. This Steinway piano, purchased by Lennon in December 1970 for A$1,869 from Steinway & Sons in London was used by the musician to compose the unforgettable song, Imagine.

When the instrument went to auction in October 2000, notable bidders included Robbie Williams and brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher. Ultimately the rare musical instrument was sold to George Michael for over A$2.7 million becoming the highest price achieved for a piano at the time.


Lady Blunt Stradivarius Violin

The legendary violins built by Antonio Stradivari at the turn of the 18th century remain some of the most valuable and expensive instruments in the world. With only around 650 of the instruments believed to still exist, they are a limited asset that appreciates in value year on year. The ‘Lady Blunt’ Stradivarius violin, crafted in 1721 is one of the best-preserved Stradivari-build violins in existence and therefore commands a hefty price tag. The record-breaking violin was sold at Sotheby’s in 1971 for a then-record amount of A$156,178. Forty years later in 2011, the same violin was sold for A$22.3 million, again setting a new world record.

The Lady Blunt Stradivarius was refurbished almost 40 years ago in Carl Becker and Son’s Chicago studio | Source: Benning Violins

MacDonald Stradivarius Viola

Antonio Stradivari was known for creating other famed string instruments including the smaller viola. Crafted in 1719 around a period regarded as Stradivari’s golden period, the instrument is believed to be one of only 10 Stradivarius violas intact today. In 2014 the prized viola was put up for auction with a minimum bid of over A$62 million but unfortunately failed to secure a buyer.

MacDonald Stradivarius Viola
Source: CNBC

The ‘Reach Out to Asia’ Fender Stratocaster

Calling this Fender Stratocaster guitar rare would be an understatement. This one-of-a-kind piece is signed by legendary music figures like Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Bryan Adams, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Brian May. It was then auctioned in 2005 by the “Reach Out to Asia” charity in Qatar to benefit the victims of the Indian Ocean Tsunami. It fetched over A$3.7 million becoming the most expensive guitar ever sold at the time.

The 'Reach Out to Asia' Fender Stratocaster
Source: Fender Wiki

Ringo Starr’s Ludwig Drum Kit

Anything Beatles-related echos high rarity and strong returns. A Ludwig oyster black pearl three-piece drum kit that drummer Ringo Starr owned sold for over A$3 million at Julien’s Auctions in 2015. The drummer, who was the last to join the famous four lineups, played the kit on both stage and television in over 200 performances between 1963 and 1964. A piece of musical history, he also used the instrument to record several early Beatles hits including Can’t Buy Me, LoveShe Loves You, and I Want to Hold Your Hand.

Ringo Starr drum kit
Ringo Starr with Ludwig drum kit on stage | Source: Sweetwater

Marilyn Monroe’s Baby Grand Piano

While Marilyn Monroe died nearly 60 years ago the iconic status of the American actress, model and singer lives on. Many of her possessions are some of the most collectible items with fans around the world. Originally owned by Marilyn’s mother, her white-lacquered baby grand piano was purchased by celebrity buyer Mariah Carey in an October 1999 auction for over A$915,000.

Source: Getty Images

David Gilmour’s Fender Stratocaster

Nicknamed ‘The Black Strat’ the famous Fender Stratocaster appeared on stage for the first time with Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour in 1970. As well as accompanying the musician on stage, the black Stratocaster also featured on both Pink Floyd and Gilmour’s individual songs including Money and Comfortably Numb. When the legendary 1969 Black Strat went up for auction in 2019 it fetched over A$5,490,000 establishing a new world auction record for a guitar.

David Gilmour 1969 Fender Stratocaster
Source: Guitar World

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