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Christie's of London has announced a huge Mark Knopfler guitar auction, set to take place on January 31, 2024.
The sale will see the Dire Straits star parting ways with some of his most iconic electric guitars, including the Gibson Les Paul used on Money For Nothing and in his band's famed Live Aid performance, a Pensa “Strat” built by John Suhr that features on So Far Away, and the red Schecter Van Nuys T-style that he used on Walk of Life.
The news has been accompanied by a clip in which Knopfler talks through some of the highlights of the sale, including all of the above, plus a host of signature guitars.
“I never wanted to see myself as a collector at all but there comes a point where you realize what a thing you've taken on,” explains the guitarist in the clip.
“A lot of guitars that came into my possession were actually given to me by people, so they come for all kinds of reasons. I never thought that my signature would be on anything – never mind Fenders, Gibsons, and Martins, they're the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost of guitars!”
The prize piece of the sale is likely an original 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard ’Burst, reportedly bought from Bobby Tench of The Jeff Beck Group and valued at approx. $375,000 – $625,000.
In terms of star power, however, that is closely rivaled by the (much more affordable) 1983 Gibson Les Paul Standard.
Billed as Knopfler’s first Les Paul, it was picked up from Rudy Pensa’s shop on New York’s City’s (then-somewhat-notorious) West 48th Street and used in the recording and performance of Money For Nothing – one of the ’80s' most recognizable riffs. It carries an estimate of $12,500 – $18,000.
Then there’s a purple 1984 John Suhr S-style build – commissioned via Pensa.
“I started talking to Rudy about needing a guitar that had all the best things about a Strat and the best things about a Les Paul,” says Knopfler in the video.
“We used to go to a little coffee shop up the street from his store and we drew out what became the first Pensa. I got some great sounds out of the Pensa so it it starred on quite a lot of songs…
“I plugged it in on the Brothers in Arms record and the first hit that we had off that album was So Far Away – I just happened to get lucky.”
As mentioned, Knoplfer also pulls out the 1983 Schecter Van Nuys T-style that he used on Walk of Life as another highlight.
“The red Tele was just asking to be played,” recalls Knopfler. “It’s a very punchy guitar, that – plenty of power, plenty of sound – and so it was great for Walk of Life… with just my fingers the guitar was speaking nice and loud.”
Both the Schecter and Pensa carry estimates of around $5,000 – $7,500.
The full details of the sale lots are yet to be issued, but elsewhere in the auction we know there will be a 1958 dot-neck ES-335, a 2002 prototype of the Fender Mark Knopfler signature Stratocaster, headless Steinberger GL2T, 1979 Ovation acoustic-electric guitar, and a 1988 Suhr/Pensa build.
“It's exciting having those guitars that figured so big on [Brothers in Arms] be up for sale,” concludes Knopfler. “Each one brings back loads of memories. If you would have asked me 20 years ago, I’d have thought, ‘No way [I’m selling them]. But I'm happy now that they're going to different homes.”
The sale is certainly going to be one to watch. The blend of cast-iron vintage bankers like the ’59 Les Paul and ’58 ES-335, with star-power items from Brothers in Arms is going to attract big-money bidders from all corners of the collecting world.
Some of those guide prices are enticingly low, too, and we suspect many will surpass their estimates. Who knows? Perhaps, by February, we’ll have a new entry on our list of the most expensive guitars of all time…
For more information on the sale, head to Christie's.