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Jam on This: Jerry Garcia’s Beloved ‘Alligator’ Guitar Is Going Up for Sale

A gift from Graham Nash, the Fender Stratocaster was used by the Grateful Dead co-founder in the early 1970s.

Jerry Garcia in 1990 Sipa/Shutterstock

Believe it or not but there’s something new for Baby Boomers and Millennials to fight over. That’s because a guitar belonging to Grateful Dead co-founder Jerry Garcia is heading to auction next month.

“Alligator,” a Fender Stratocaster owned and played by the late guitarist, will be sold by Bonhams at an event in Los Angeles in December, the auction house announced in a press release. The sale will give the heated generational rivals a chance to prove once and for all who loves the Dead most. (For the record, Generation X couldn’t care less.)

Built in 1955, “Alligator” is believed to have been given to Garcia as a gift by Graham Nash in 1970. The Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young guitarist wanted to show his appreciation to the jam band god for his guitar work he contributed to his solo album Songs For Beginners. Featuring a wood-grain body, white pick guard and a sticker of a dancing cartoon alligator, the guitar was used by Garcia, who died of a heart attack in 1995, for a couple years during the early part of the decade.

“This iconic Fender Stratocaster was Jerry Garcia’s guitar of choice from early 1971 until the fall of 1973,” Bonhams’ Giles Moon said. “It was clearly a favorite, as it was the first of only a handful of Garcia’s guitars that were ever named. Garcia played this guitar in numerous live performances, notably on the Grateful Dead’s 1972 European tour.”

Jerry Garcia's 'Alligator' Fender Stratocaster

Jerry Garcia’s “Alligator” Fender Stratocaster  Germán Herrera/Bonhams

Originally purchased by Nash at a Texas pawnshop, the guitar features numerous external modifications. These modifications implemented by Frank Fuller and Rick Turner of Alembic, an instrument and hi-fi specialty company who were key in helping the Dead achieve their signature ‘70s sound.

The guitar is the highlight of Bonhams Los Angeles’ “Alligator! A San Francisco Rock Star’s Guitars, Art & More” sale on December 10. With interest in the Dead currently as high as its been in decades, “Alligator” is estimated to sell for somewhere between $250,000 and $400,000. Other lots of interest include a watercolor painting of an alligator by Garcia (expected to sell for $4,000 to $6,000), his pair of his prescription sunglasses ($2,000 to $4,000) and his near complete run of EC Comics’ Crime Suspense Stories ($1,000-$2,000).

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