Mark Knopfler, frontman of British rock band Dire Straits, is parting with what he calls his “treasured six-string companions.” The musician’s collection of more than 120 guitars and amps will be sold by Christie’s in an auction that is expected to fetch around £1 million ($1.3 million).
Knopfler, 74, founded Dire Straits in 1977 alongside his brother David, bassist John Illsley and drummer Pick Withers. Renowned for tracks like Sultans of Swing, Romeo and Juliet and Money for Nothing, the group rose to prominence with its blues-infused sound and Knopfler’s distinct finger-picking style.
The Christie’s sale reflects the wide range of guitars he acquired over his career, from a £300 ($376) mandolin to coveted rare models. “I’ve lived with this love affair for over sixty years. That has meant a passion for all kinds of guitars: the impossible dreams and plenty of the less expensive ones, too,” said Knopfler in a statement. “As a career in music made it possible for me to realize some of those dreams, guitars of all shapes and sizes began to appear.”
This was the case with Knopfler’s 1959 Vintage Gibson Les Paul Standard, which he purchased from Bobby Tench of The Jeff Beck Group in the 1990s. Used for tours in 2001 and 2008, the guitar is expected to sell for between £300,000 ($376,000) and £500,000 ($627,000).
The guitarist recorded and performed with a 1983 Les Paul Standard ’59 Reissue at the pinnacle of Dire Straits’ fame. Used to record hits on the 1985 Brothers in Arms album, the instrument also made an appearance on stage at Live Aid in 1985 and is expected to sell for between £10,000 ($13,000) and £15,000 ($19,000).
Meanwhile, Knopfler’s 1958 Gibson ES-335, one of 50 released by Gibson during its first year of production of semi-hollow body electric guitars, could fetch up to £90,000 ($113,000). Other highlights include the singer-songwriter’s recognizable Red Schecter Telecaster and his 1988 Pensa-Suhr MK-1, the latter of which was completed in record time for Knopfler to play at a Nelson Mandela 70th birthday tribute concert in June of 1988.
Sale proceeds will benefit nonprofit organizations
At least 25 percent of the auction proceeds will be donated to the British Red Cross, Tusk and Brave Hearts of the North East—three nonprofits Knopfler has long supported. As an ambassador for Tusk, which focuses on wildlife conservation, the musician has previously given concert funds to the charity, and he has donated signed Dire Straits’ albums to benefit the children’s health organization Brave Hearts of the North East. This won’t be the first time he sells items from his guitar collection to support philanthropic causes. In 2011, he donated a Fender Signature Stratocaster for a prize draw benefiting Streets of London, a charity that aids the homeless.
Select guitars will tour New York City in December ahead of the January 31 auction, and the entire collection will go on view at Christie’s London in January. “You can be sure I’ll be sad to see them go but we’ve had wonderful times together and I can’t play them all,” said Knopfler. “To all you fellow players, enthusiasts and collectors, I wish you many good times with these old friends of mine.”