Grateful Dead official t-shirt from 1967
The Grateful Dead is hands down one of the most influential bands of all time. Whether it’s the albums or live performances soundtracking the best nights of people’s lives, the t-shirts worn by music fans, or even the Ben & Jerry’s classic flavor Cherry Garcia,”there’s no overstating the impact this classic '60s jam band has had on pop culture and popular music over the past 55 years.
Now, dedicated fans and collectors of music authentica will have a chance to own a piece of the group, as Sotheby’s auctions dozens of Grateful Dead material, including more than 40 guitars played by founding rhythm guitarist Bob Weir, as well as amplifiers and merchandise from the band’s tours.
Jerry Garcia's Stage-Used 12 String Guild Starfire
“Bob Weir’s voice and guitar were integral parts of the Dead’s unique exploratory sound,” Richard Austin, head of Sotheby’s Books and Manuscripts department, states in a press release. “With this collection of guitars coming to auction directly from Weir, Grateful Dead fans now have an opportunity to acquire a number of significant guitars that were used in various stage performances spanning Grateful Dead and RatDog tours from the 1980s to the 2000s.”
Of the guitars on the bidding block, a few take center stage with legendary stories and high price tags. Fans and collectors will be jazzed to find the Washburn Cutaway EA-20 up for auction. Musician speak for an acoustic beauty, this piece was played by Bob Dylan during his 1987 tour alongside The Dead, and it's expected to be sold for somewhere between $5,000 and $7,000.
Modulus Black Knife Model Guitar
Other guitars listed include two Modulus-crafted electric guitars made for Jerry Garcia, the band’s frontman. One Black Knife model, easily distinguished by its notable black neck and triangle head, is expected to earn between $6,000 and $8,000. Another features a maple and cocobolo body and a custom engraving that embodies of the band’s style. It reads: “We shall not cease from exploration / and the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.”
Jerry Garcia's Skull Embroidered Custom Nudie Pants
Beyond the guitars, Sotheby’s will also list plenty of tour memorabilia from across the band’s 30 years of activity. Pieces of the “Wall of Sound”—one of the largest concert sound systems in history, which allowed the band to be heard from almost a quarter mile away—will also be sold for an estimated value of between $3,000 and $7,000.
A nearly 600-square-foot concert backdrop used during the 1977 Englishtown tour is also available, listed between $20,000 and $30,000. Good luck finding a place to hang that one.
Jerry Garcia’s personal briefcase, with handwritten lyrics, drawings, letters and ephemera
For more casual fans, authentic t-shirts from the band’s tours will be available for immediate purchase, including the 1986 “Steal Your Face” shirt now made popular in Targets everywhere, as well as the Eagle Crest, the “Red Rocks” concert, and the Marching Bears. All still earn lofty price tags, with the “Steal Your Face” and “Red Rocks” concert shirts each asking more than $690 apiece.
Ron “Pigpen” McKernan Shirt Worn Onstage at Sound Storm
The Dead won’t be the only band marqueeing at Sotheby’s this month. The house also plans to host a Beatles auction this week, opening Friday, Oct. 8, with album manuscripts, sketches made by band members, and some tour merchandise. While it’s currently unknown how much each auction will take in, no one can deny the marketability of two of the greatest bands of all-time.
Of course, Garcia would remind impatient buyers to “wait until your deal come 'round, don’t you let that deal go down.”
The Sotheby's From the Vault: Property from the Grateful Dead and Friends auction is running now through Oct. 14. See more images of auction items below and visit Sotheby's online for more info.
Owsley 'Bear' Stanley, The Alchemist's tools, The last remnants of Owsley's clandestine LSD lab
"Ram Rod" Shurtliff's Psychedelic Jumpsuit
McIntosh 2300 Power Amp from the Wall of Sound with Original Road Case
Photography by: Courtesy Sotheby's