Prince‘s distinctive “Yellow Cloud” guitar, used by the late icon throughout the Nineties, sold at auction Saturday for $137,500. The bright-yellow, custom-built guitar – made by Minneapolis’ Knut-Koupee Enterprises and outfitted with gold knobs, tremolo and tuning keys – was purchased by Indianapolis Colts owner and avid music memorabilia collector Jim Irsay at a Heritage Auctions event where a lock of David Bowie’s hair also sold for $18,750.
“This Yellow Cloud guitar was Prince’s main guitar & used in most of his early videos & touring performances & album recordings. From around 1988-1994,” Prince’s former guitar technician Zeke Clark wrote for Heritage Auctions in a letter of authenticity.
“In 1994 he broke the neck of this guitar at a French T.V. show. After returning to U.S.A. I repaired neck & installed the first Floyd Rose set up Prince ever played. And then used in recording more albums, up until the symbol guitar was born. After the symbol guitar he wanted 24 additional cloud guitars made to be sold at his outlet store.” Heritage Auctions noted that the guitar’s neck was “expertly repaired.”
In December, Irsay, a music fanatic who has spent millions of dollars stocking up an entire arsenal of historic instruments, purchased at auction Ringo Starr’s 1963 Ludwig Oyster Black Pearl three-piece drum kit for $2.2 million. That same auction, Irsay was the high bidder on a Rickenbacker guitar John Lennon had gifted to Starr during the recording of The White Album.
“I feel I’m just a curator of history. I’m going to pass this thing on as time goes along,” Irsay told Rolling Stone in December of his collection, which also features Bob Dylan’s 1965 Newport Folk Festival guitar, Lennon’s “Paperback Writer” Gretsch guitar and Les Paul’s “Black Beauty.” “It’s just a privilege and an honor.”
Hundreds of unique items were sold to the highest bidder at Heritage Auctions’ Music Memorabilia Signature Auction Friday and Saturday, including the lock of Bowie’s hair, an unplayed Fender guitar signed by George Harrison and Eric Clapton and even Whitney Houston’s 2006 California driver’s license. However, Houston’s 1986 Emmy Award was pulled last minute from the block after a federal judge blocked it sale.