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Bob Dylan's Newport Guitar Sells for Nearly a Million Bucks

Surpasses Clapton's 'Blackie' as the most expensive guitar ever auctioned

Bob Dylan performs at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.
Alice Ochs/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
December 6, 2013 4:00 PM ET

Epic rock memorabilia brings epic money: Bob Dylan's sunburst Fender Stratocaster, first unsheathed at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, sold at auction for a record-breaking $965,000 on Friday, according to the Associated Press.

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Dropping nearly a cool million on an axe might seem excessive, but this guitar is one of the most iconic instruments in music history. Dylan's three-song Newport performance is the stuff of legend: Many folk diehards booed the set, viewing the switch to amplified rock as a sell-out (and labeling Dylan a traitor to the folk movement).

Despite the historical importance of the instrument, Christie's auction house wasn't expecting such a massive price: pre-auction estimates for the guitar (which also included the original leather strap and hardshell case) were between $300,000 and $500,000. Within the case itself was another hidden gem: early-draft lyrics to three Dylan tunes ("Absolutely Sweet Marie," "I Wanna Be Your Lover" and two others). Those pieces were estimated between $3,000 and $30,000 by the auction house.

Dylan's guitar now holds the record for the most expensive guitar ever auctioned, topping Eric Clapton's "Blackie," which sold for $959,500 back in 2004.

The buyer of Dylan's Stratocaster remains unnamed for now, but the story of its prior ownership is fascinating: Dylan left the guitar on a private plane, and when the pilot notified the songwriter's management, he never received a response. The Strat has remained in the pilot's family for nearly 50 years, and it was authenticated last year when the his daughter, Dawn Peterson, brought it on the PBS program History Detectives.

Speaking of Dylan in 1965: Last month, the legend released an interactive music video for "Like a Rolling Stone," which Rolling Stone named the greatest song of all time.

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