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July 8, 2004
In the fully packed James Christie salesroom at Rockefeller Center, bidders from all over the world competed passionately to acquire guitars from Eric Clapton's collection or instruments donated by his musician friends such as Jimmie Vaughan and Pete Townshend. The sale was 100% sold and totaled $7,438,624, easily eclipsing the $5 million result achieved for the first Eric Clapton sale organized by Christie's in 1999. Proceeds of the sale will benefit Crossroads Centre in Antigua, an addiction treatment center established by Eric Clapton in 1998.
The top lot of the evening was 'Blackie,' the composite Fender Stratocaster, circa 1956/1957, which in Eric Clapton's own words "has become part of me." Clapton has tremendous affection for this guitar, and had an intense working relationship with Blackie throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. Offered with a $100,000-150,000 estimate, 'Blackie' sold for $959,500, breaking a world auction record for any guitar. This famous instrument is now in the hands of Guitar Center, along with two other guitars from the auction. The first copy of the 'Eric Clapton Signature Stratocaster,' modeled after 'Blackie' and extensively used by Clapton from 1990 onwards was bought for $231,500 against an estimate of $8,000-12,000.
A credible rival to 'Blackie' in ranking was Clapton's 1964 cherry-red Gibson ES-335. This famous Gibson is the second electric guitar Eric Clapton ever bought, and the one he is most sentimental about. Clapton used this guitar throughout his remarkable career, from his time with the Yardbirds until today. The Gibson was offered with its case, which has the word 'Cream' and the initials 'EC G ES' stenciled in white paint on the exterior and also carries a label inscribed by Lee Dickson "Auction(Sadly!)." When the hammer finally came down the price had soared to $847,500 against a $60,000- 80,000 estimate. It is a world auction record for any Gibson guitar, which is now also in the hands of Guitar Center.
The instrument that changed the role of the acoustic guitar in rock music forever was the 1939, 000- 42 Martin Clapton played on the 'Unplugged' album. Against a $60,000-80,000 estimate, it sold for $791,500, a world auction record for any Martin guitar.
'Crash 3,' Clapton's newest graffiti Fender Stratocaster has a unique story. Used by Clapton since the start of the 2004 concert tour, the guitar was scheduled to come to Christie's after the Dallas Crossroads Festival in early June. However, Clapton liked it so much that he decided to continue playing it for as long as he could. 'Crash 3' finally arrived at Rockefeller Center this morning, fresh from Clapton's hands and was knocked down tonight for $321,100. Decorated by the famous street-artist Crash, the Graffiti Stratocaster has become Clapton's first choice working guitar. This is the first of Clapton's collection of graffiti guitars to appear on the market.
Other prices were achieved for 'Ivan,' the 12-string guitar Clapton co-designed with Tony Zemaitis in 1969 ($253,900); a custom, gold-leaf decorated Fender Stratocaster, numbered EC-1, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the model ($455,500); and 'The Rainbow Rod,' a Fender Stratocaster, circa 1996, with an iridescent finish, created by Roy Brizio, the famed Californian hot rod builder ($220,300).
From the group of guitars donated by musician friends to support the Crossroads Centre, the 'Lenny,' the Fender Stratocaster Stevie Ray Vaughan played from the 1970s onward until his tragic death in 1990, was an absolute highlight. The guitar was donated by Stevie Ray Vaughan's brother, Jimmie, from the estate of SRV. It is the only personal guitar from SRV to have been released from the Estate into the public domain and it sold for $623,500, the second highest price for a Fender Stratocaster. This was also acquired by Guitar Center.
The fourth guitar bought by Guitar Center was Clapton's 1966 Martin 00-21, a gift he received from George Harrison, for $89,625.
While many of the guitars are now in the hands of private collectors, Guitar Center is putting together plans to take Blackie, the ES-335, Lenny, and the Martin 00-21 on a tour around the country, putting them on free public display.
For more information, visit their web site at www.christies.com