Jerry Garcia's Legendary Wolf Guitar Sells for $1.9 Million at Auction

Famous custom-made instrument helps raise over $3 million for Southern Poverty Law Center

Jerry Garcia's 'Wolf' guitar sold for $1.9 million at auction and helped raise over $3 million for the Southern Poverty Law Center. Credit: Larry Hulst/Getty

Jerry Garcia's famous Wolf guitar sold at auction for over $1.9 million Wednesday, AP reports. "Wolf" was Garcia's go-to instrument for over two decades. The Grateful Dead singer-guitarist first wielded the instrument during a 1973 show for the Hell's Angels in New York City.

Brian Halligan, Chief Executive of software company HubSpot and an avid Deadhead purchased the guitar at a Guernsey's auction benefiting the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) at New York's Brooklyn Bowl. Halligan's bid was also matched with a $1.6 million donation, raising $3.2 million total for the SPLC. The $1.9 million price Halligan paid included a $300,00 buyer's premium.  

In an e-mail to Rolling Stone, Halligan says the auction was a chance to "indulge two passions of mine at the same time: Social justice and the Grateful Dead." The CEO praised the work of the Southern Poverty Law Center and also discussed his unique affinity for the Grateful Dead, who inspired his 2010 book with David Meerman Scott, Marketing Lessons From the Grateful Dead.

"The Grateful Dead's business model was rattling around in my head while we were coming up with the idea for my company, HubSpot," Halligan says. "They were the original inbound marketers, they did social media marketing before there was social media, and they essentially invented the freemium distribution model."

Halligan says he'll keep the guitar in his Boston home, but adds, "I think it is best served by being played, so I plan to do so. I plan to lend it out to the Garcia family whenever they want it."

Wolf's previous owner was Daniel Pritzker, a philanthropist, musician and filmmaker, who originally purchased the guitar anonymously in 2002 for $790,000. At the time, it was the highest bid for a guitar in history. "I've been a fan of the Dead since I was a kid, and playing this iconic guitar over the past 15 years has been a privilege," Pritzker said in a statement before the auction. "But the time is right for Wolf to do some good."

Wolf was the first of several instruments that famed luthier Doug Irwin designed for Garcia. The musician, however, made his own modification to the guitar's unique purple heart and curly maple body, affixing a sticker of a cartoon wolf below the bridge. Wolf prominently featured in the 1977 concert film The Grateful Dead Movie, which Garcia directed. Garcia last played the guitar with the Grateful Dead at the Oakland Coliseum February 23rd, 1993.