It was on this day in 1999 — June 24th — that Eric Clapton auctioned off more than 100 if his guitars at Sotheby’s in New York, raising more than $5-million for his Crossroads rehabilitation center in Antigua. The top seller was his 1956 Fender Stratocaster, nicknamed Brownie, which sold $450,000, the highest price ever paid for a single guitar.
Since then, Clapton has held two more guitar auctions, with included two more iconic guitars — Blackie, which set the record in 2004 when it sold for $959,000, and his Gibson ES 355, which sold for $847,000. But while Clapton parted with many of his cherished six strings, it just drove him to buy more.
Eric Clapton on replacing some of the guitars he auctioned off.
“What I’ve done is replaced them actually. You know for instance, that guitar, the red Gibson, the Cream guitar, the people that bought that was the Guitar Center, and they said, when I was in L.A., they said, ‘Well, you know, you want to see some vintage guitars?’ I found an ES 335 sunburst that was even better. I mean very expensive and I bought it and actually come out of that, in terms of a quality instrument, better off. Not much better, but I’ve replaced it. I’ll always collect and I’ll always clean house.”
Eric Clapton on what he thought when asked to auction off 100 of his guitars in 1999.
“Well I knew that I had more than I needed. Let’s put it like that. I had a problem with the fact that I couldn’t play them all [and] they were just gathering dust in a warehouse. So my initial reaction was, ‘What a great idea’ because the idea of being able to kind of move these and take that guilt off of myself, and also make money and raise awareness for a cause that I really believe in.”
Photo Credit: Landmark / Photorazzi