The David Gilmour Guitar Collection, the largest and most comprehensive sale of guitars ever offered at auction, told the story of one of the world’s most influential guitarists. The 126 lots, which included iconic instruments played by Gilmour on Pink Floyd’s greatest tracks as well as his solo albums, totalled $21,490,750 — the most valuable musical instruments sale in auction history — with proceeds being donated to ClientEarth.
In the months leading up to the auction, over 12,000 fans attended the tour stops in London, Los Angeles and New York to get up-close to the guitars played by the Pink Floyd guitarist, singer and songwriter. In excess of 500,000 people viewed the content around the sale on Christies.com, and more than 2,000 bidders from 66 countries registered for the sale, which took place at Christie’s Rockefeller Center HQ.
Fans view David Gilmour’s guitars at Christie’s Rockefeller Center HQ in New York
On the day of the auction, the unprecedented level of interest was evident in the queues that snaked around the block and the fact a second saleroom had to be opened up to accommodate the crowds. The lucky ones who made it inside witnessed some extraordinary results.
The best, however, was saved until last when ‘The Black Strat’, which was integral to the recording of Pink Floyd albums The Dark Side Of The Moon (1973), Wish You Were Here (1975), Animals (1977) and The Wall (1979), sold for $3,975,000 — a new world record for a guitar at auction.
Fender Electric Instrument Company, Stratocaster, Fullerton CA, 1969. A solid-body electric guitar known as The Black Strat. Sold for $3,975,000 on 20 June at Christie’s in New York
The clamour to own a piece of rock history was evident from the very first lot — a 1966 solid-body Fender Stratocaster bought by Gilmour in 1970. Carrying an estimate of $10,000-15,000, it sold for $423,000.
Immortalised for its part in legendary Pink Floyd tracks Wish You Were Here and Shine on You Crazy Diamond, Gilmour’s Martin D-35 was the next instrument to the block. The acoustic had an estimate of $10,000-20,000 but sold for $1,095,000 — a new world auction record for a C.F. Martin guitar.
The opening riff on Wish You Were Here was actually composed on another Martin acoustic, a D12-28 12-string guitar that Gilmour bought from a friend in 1974. The instrument was estimated at $5,000-10,000 but realised $531,000.
C.F. Martin & Company, Nazareth, 1969. An acoustic guitar, D-35. Sold for $1,095,000 on 20 June 2019 at Christie’s in New York
Lot 20, the star’s 1954 White Fender Stratocaster #0001 (estimate: $100,000-150,000), was used on several recordings, including Another Brick in the Wall (Parts 2 and 3). It sold for $1,815,000, which was, for a couple of hours at least, a new world record for a Fender Stratocaster.
Further highlights included a 1955 Gibson Les Paul, famous for Gilmour’s guitar solo on Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2). Estimated at $30,000-50,000, it sold for $447,000, a new auction record for a Gibson Les Paul, surpassing the previous record set for Les Paul’s own 1954 Les Paul Custom.
A little later, an incredibly rare Gretsch White Penguin 6134 purchased by Gilmour in 1980 for his private collection, also realised $447,000 — a new auction record for a Gretsch.
The Fred Gretsch Manufacturing Company, Brooklyn, 1958. A solid-body electric guitar, White Penguin, 6134. Sold for $447,000 on 20 June at Christie’s in New York
On the eve of the sale David Gilmour announced on social media that proceeds would be donated to the charity ClientEarth. ‘The global climate crisis is the greatest challenge that humanity will ever face,’ he wrote, ‘and we are within a few years of the effects being irreversible.
‘As Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, said in a speech earlier this year, “Either we choose to go on as a civilisation, or we don't”. The choice really is that simple and I hope that the sale of these guitars will help ClientEarth in their cause to use the law to bring about real change. We need a civilised world that goes on for all our grandchildren and beyond in which these guitars can be played and songs can be sung.’
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ClientEarth CEO James Thornton said: ‘This is a truly humbling and extraordinary gift, which goes beyond our wildest expectations. It’s difficult to express just how deeply grateful we are to David for choosing ClientEarth as the beneficiary of this historic auction.
‘The law is one of the most powerful tools we have to tackle the world’s increasing environmental problems. This gift is a phenomenal boost to our work... It will allow us to play an even greater role in addressing the climate crisis and securing a healthy planet for future generations.’ For full results, see below.