What would you pay for a copy of the lyrics written by Paul McCartney, or the jacket Michael Jackson famously wore on stage the day you happened to be at his concert? For many, it’s the ultimate memorabilia and for others, it’s way out of their price range.
Music fans remember the day Jimi Hendrix sent his guitar up in flames and reminisce about the first time they heard “Imagine” by the Beatles. These iconic moments live on in history and in the item that set the stage for some of the most famous music of all time.
Check out the most expensive musical memorabilia sold to date and in some cases, who owns them now.
9 Bob Dylan’s Fender Stratocaster Guitar
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Bob Dylan’s guitar used at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 was auctioned by Christie’s in 2013. Ironically, the musical legend’s guitar had been left on Dylan’s private plane and a pilot came across the famous piece. After receiving no response from management about what to do with it, the pilot kept it for 50 years before it landed at the auction house. Christie’s estimated the guitar’s worth to be around $400,000 but enthusiasm for the instrument drove the price up to nearly $1 million.
8 Titanic Violin
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Remember the men in the small orchestra that played music throughout the tragic sinking of the famous ship? Wallace Hartley was the musician on the violin and calmed passengers for the hour it took for the ship to sink. Hartley died along with 1,500 other passengers, but the violin survived. At auction, the bidding began at just $65 but during a bidding war for the historic piece, the winner agreed to pay $1.17 million to call the violin his own.
7 John Lennon’s Handwritten Lyrics
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The song “A Day in the Life” was banned from British radio stations due to a phrase some assumed referred to drugs. However, as the years went on and radio stations had less restrictions, the song was covered by famous artists such as the Bee Gees, Neil Young and Sting. According to Biltmore Loan and Jewelry, the Rolling Stones called the song “the greatest song” ever written by the Beatles. Handwritten lyrics by Lennon sold for $1.3 million.
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6 Elvis’ 1942 Martin D-18 Guitar
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Yet another guitar makes the list as musical legends leave behind a piece of history. Elvis reportedly bought the piece in 1954 and it was in his hands for hits like “That’s All Right” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky”. In 2020, the famous instrument made history for a second time, as the most expensive piece of Presley memorabilia ever sold at $1.32 million.
5 Michael Jackson’s Red Leather ‘Thriller’ Jacket
The 1983 hit featured a music video that will go down in history as one of the most unique. Throughout the video and multiple choreographed sequences, the iconic musician is seen wearing a red leather jacket, later sold for a cool $1.8 million at auction in 2011.
4 Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin
The process was unique and packed with legal issues and controversy. The hip-hop group created one single copy of the record, with 31 original songs to be sold to the highest bidder. In 2016, pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli purchased the album for $2 million, however, US authorities seized the piece when Shkreli was investigated for increasing the price of an AIDS treatment drug. Shkreli was later convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison. As to the location of Wu-Tang Clan’s work… that’s left to be seen.
3 John Lennon’s Piano
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Another Beatle piece makes the list of most expensive memorabilia with Lennon’s piano he used while composing the hit song “Imagine”. According to Love Money, another icon, singer George Michael, bought the famous instrument for $2.2 million at auction in 2001. The late, Wham! frontman planned to incorporate the piano in some of his own performances before transferring the instrument to The Beatles Story museum exhibition in England.
2 John Lennon’s Rolls Royce Phantom V 1965
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The Beatles 1967 made-for television film “Magic Mystery Tour”, featured six Beatles tunes and Lennon’s black Rolls Royce, painted with a 70’s vibe of psychedelic swirls and flowers. The film didn’t do so well, but the music and the Rolls Royce did just fine. Canada’s Royal British Columbia purchased the car for nearly $3 million.
1 Kurt Cobain’s 1959 Martin D-18E guitar
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Nirvana’s frontman Kurt Cobain played the guitar at a recording at MTV Unplugged in 1993. According to the Guinness World Records, Cobain played some of his classics as well as several covers. The alternative icon, known for smashing his guitars and kicking over equipment, this time, placed the guitar back on the stand and walked off the stage. The guitar made history at auction, selling for $6.01 million, the highest auctioned guitar ever. This may not come as a surprise to some – Cobain’s unwashed, fuzzy-green cardigan (worn at the same performance), complete with missing button and cigarette burn auctioned for $334,000.
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Sources: Biltmore Loan and Jewelry, Love Money, Guinness World Records
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