Winning Bids

  • Shaun Tolson

$965,000

In December, Christie’s sold Bob Dylan’s 1964 Fender Stratocaster electric guitar for $965,000, which topped the auction house’s high estimate by more than $400,000 and set a record price for any style of guitar sold at auction. The sale also included five lots of typed and handwritten lyrics by Dylan; however, only one of those lots—four pages of an early draft of the song “I Wanna Be Your Lover”—met its reserve price, selling for $20,000.

For guitar enthusiasts, this Stratocaster—with its original sunburst finish, alder wood body, maple neck, and Brazilian rosewood fingerboard—ticks all of the boxes. Then, of course, there’s the Bob Dylan connection. As music historians have noted, the 1965 Newport Folk Festival marked the fateful day in Dylan’s career when the musician “went electric.” This was the guitar that he used in that performance, which polarized the masses. Many fans booed Dylan’s three-song electric set, but the free-spirited musician played on. According to Murray Lerner, an American documentary film director and producer, in the 25 minutes that Dylan performed onstage in Newport in 1965, he “redefined the way he looked, the way people would look at him, and the essence of popular music.”

According to the instrument’s provenance, Dylan left the guitar aboard a private plane following the Newport Folk Festival performance. It was found by the plane’s pilot, who contacted Dylan’s representatives in an effort to return the instrument, but his messages were never returned. The instrument had remained in his family’s possession for the past 48 years.

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