Bob Dylan’s Historic Newport Stratocaster to Soars to Nearly $1 Million, a Guitar Record

Bob Dylan’s 1964 Fender Stratocaster that he played at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival brought $965,000 at auction, including buyer’s premium.

As comedian Don Adams used to say in his 1960-s TV comedy show Get Smart: “I missed it by this… much,” Christie’s appraisers had estimated that Bob Dylan’s 1964 Fender Stratocaster would bring $300,000 to $500,000 at auction. As I mentioned in an earlier article, my guess was that the guitar would bring closer to $1 million. It brought $965,000, including buyer’s premium.

This is the highest price any guitar has ever achieved at auction, topping the price received for Eric Clapton’s Strat “Blackie,” which sold for $959,500 in 2004. Clapton’s auction was for charity, which was partly responsible for the high price achieved. The proceeds from Dylan’s auction went to private parties.

The guitar, which Dylan used in his infamous “Dylan went electric” performance at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, was re-discovered about a year ago after having been missing for more than 45 years. The tale of how the guitar was lost and then found is an interesting story; if you missed my earlier article then have a look at it.

After much legal wrangling, Dylan’s attorneys and the guitar’s “keeper” reached an agreement regarding who owned the instrument and how the auction earnings would be disbursed. All parties are mum on the details, and all have declined to be interviewed.

The handwritten manuscript of Bruce Springsteen’s 1975 hit “Born to Run.” They brought $197,000 at auction at Sotheby’s.

The guitar sale included the original hard-shell case and strap. Also found in the guitar case were several pages of handwritten lyrics, which were auctioned separately. Presale auction estimate for the pages indicated that they would sell for between $3,000 and $30,000 each. Only one of the pages actually sold: the draft lyrics of “I Want to Be Your Lover” fetched $20,000.

Regarding the price achieved for the lyrics, I couldn’t have been more wrong. My pre-auction guesstimate was that they would not, sold together as one lot, bring more than $6,000. I wasn’t surprised when I read that Dylan’s lyrics had brought $20,000, though. The day before the Dylan auction, handwritten lyrics for Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” sold for $197,000 at Sotheby’s.

Twenty-thousand dollars and $197,000 are prices typically achieved only by important historical documents. I suppose I need to expand my perception of what constitutes a historical document. In the meantime, I’ll continue to play the Christies/Sotheby’s game of The Price is Right.

Wayne Jordan spent more than 40 years in the music business as a performer, teacher, repairman and music store owner. In 25 years of musical instrument retailing he has bought, sold, rented or repaired thousands of pianos, band & orchestra, combo, and folk instruments. Wayne is currently a Virginia-licensed auctioneer and certified personal property appraiser. For more info, visit Wayne Jordan Auctions.

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