Wednesday afternoon, a selection of amps, guitars and other memorabilia from rock star Eric Clapton's personal collection were auctioned off at Bonhams in Manhattan to a room chock-full of fans of the English rock icon. Guitars and amps, which had starting prices that ranged from $300 to $30,000, sold for more than the auction house expected.
"The estimates were a little bit on the conservative side in much of the lots and they've obviously made several times what the estimates expected," said Stephanie Connell of Bonhams. "Some of the prices have come as a really great surprise."
The most surprising sale early on was a 1979 three-quarter size acoustic guitar made by Danny Ferrington, which went for an astounding $42,700, 100 times more than the expected price tag, according to the London-based firm Wallace & Hodgson who organized the auction with Bonhams.
Auctioneer Jon Baddeley prefaced the sale of the '79 axe with these words from Ferrington: "Eric loved this guitar. He said he liked the look of carrying it around and getting off and on an airplane with it."
Many of the guitars up for auction are only five or six years old, like the 2005 custom-built black Fender Stratocaster that Clapton played during his Cream-reunion concerts. This was the first time Clapton offered up his vintage amplifier collection for sale, which included a mid-1960s Supro S6698 'Sportsman,' the same model used by Jimmy Page on the Led Zeppelin II album. The amp sold for $28,060.
Matt Umanov, who owns Matt Umanov's Guitars, a guitar shop in Greenwich Village, says people pay top dollar for guitars at auction because they want to own a piece of a star like Clapton. "Allegedly and ostensibly, each one has some of his DNA on it," Umanov said. "People are dying to own that."
This is the third time that Clapton has auctioned off part of his musical collection to the public. Proceeds of the sale aimed to support the Crossroads Center, a drug and alcohol center founded by Clapton in Antigua.
Updated 10:45 P.M.