Jerry Garcia's guitar to go on auction in New York

Jerry Garcia's 'Wolf' guitar, which he used for nearly two decades.
Jerry Garcia's 'Wolf' guitar, which he used for nearly two decades.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • A one-of-a-kind guitar that became a trademark of sorts for Grateful Dead leader Jerry Garcia could fetch more than US$1 million (S$1.39 million) when it goes on the selling block at Guernsey's in New York City later this month.

Dubbed Wolf, the instrument was purchased by the musician in 1973 for US$1,500.

Garcia used it for nearly two decades. It was sold in 2002 - seven years after his death - for more than US$700,000.

That price far surpassed the then-record US$497,500, set in 1999 for rock legend Eric Clapton's Fender Stratocaster called Brownie.

Named for its distinctive inlay of a wolf on the lower body, Garcia's guitar is one of five designed for him by luthier Doug Irwin. The other guitars were dubbed Eagle, Tiger, Wolf Jr and Rosebud.

Garcia sang and played guitar for the rock band from their formation in 1965 until his death from a heart attack at 53.

Mr Arlan Ettinger, president of Guernsey's auction house, said in an interview that he is curious to see how much the instrument will go for when it is put up for auction again on May 31.

"The world record for any guitar ever sold, which had been this and its mate, Tiger (US$957,500), has since been eclipsed over the last 15 years," he noted.

"Now, it's slightly above US$2 million, but we'll see where this goes."

A Fender Stratocaster signed by some of the world's greatest rock stars, including Clapton and Rolling Stones members Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, brought in a record US$2.7 million at an auction in November 2005.

Wolf's current owner, Mr Daniel Pritzker, a longtime Deadhead (fan of The Grateful Dead), was reluctant to part with the instrument, but felt it was the right thing to do since he intends to donate the proceeds to an organisation that works for social justice.

Mr Ettinger said: "Dan called and said that with the divisiveness going on in our country today, he wanted to do something meaningful with Wolf. He gave it back to us with instructions to resell it and give all the money - he didn't want a penny of it - to the Southern Poverty Law Centre, which for nearly 50 years has been fighting racism and poverty."

Founded in 1971, the Alabama- based non-profit group serves to "combat hate, intolerance and discrimination through education and litigation".

The social climate in the United States was what Mr Donald Trump tapped on in his campaign for the White House.

The auction will take place at Brooklyn Bowl in New York on May 31, with a performance by a Grateful Dead tribute band.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2017, with the headline 'Jerry Garcia's guitar to go on auction in New York'. Print Edition | Subscribe