The Mark Knopfler Guitar Auction

Published on 06 February 2024

 

Whenever a significant artist decides to auction their iconic instruments, it creates a flurry of excited interest. Most of us mere mortals aren’t realistically considering placing any bids at times like these, but it’s fascinating to see what goes up for auction, not to mention how much they end up selling for!

(Photo: Craig Houston)

 

Mere days ago, Dire Straits supremo Mark Knopfler surrendered many of his most famous instruments to auction, in order to raise money for a number of charities close to his heart. As expected, there was a wild amount of interest, particularly since he was giving up many of his most famous guitars - over 120, in fact!

(Photo: Craig Houston)

 

Here’s a quick look at what went down, accompanied by some exclusive pictures from our man Craig, who travelled down to Christies to peruse the preview in person…

Contents

Pensa-Suhr MK-1 (1988)

Custom Schecter T-style

Pensa Custom with Roland GR-700

Fender Mark Knopfler Signature Stratocaster Prototype

 

Mark Knopfler’s Guitars

He’s one of the most revered and beloved players in the world, so the instruments he has used across his career have special significance to fans and collectors alike.

(Photo: Craig Houston)

 

In the end, the live auction raised £8,840,160, a staggering amount. The highlights were most definitely his prized ‘59 Les Paul Standards, including the reissue model he used on Money for Nothing and for Live Aid! Talk about famous?

 

 

The Money For Nothing ‘59 reissue (a 1983 example) fetched £592,00 ($753,231 USD), which is pretty spectacular! On a $19K estimate (around £15,000 in British money), it certainly smashed its target. The other ‘59 Les Paul Standard - a genuine vintage ‘59 that Mark bought in 1999 - went for a staggering £693,000 ($870,425 USD). Wow.

(Photo: Craig Houston)

 

So, what else was on sale? Loads, frankly. Here are a few interesting pieces, starting with perhaps his most famous custom-build…

 

Pensa-Suhr MK-1 (1988)

You know this one, right? It’s the custom Pensa-Suhr, built by John Suhr in 1988 for Mark and featuring white EMG pickups and a gold Floyd Rose. Yes, it’s the guitar that was famously sketched out on a napkin in a coffee shop, and was designed to be a mix between a Les Paul and a Strat. Estimates for this were between £6-8k, and it sold for a whopping £504,000!!

(Photo: Craig Houston)

 

Mark continued to use Pensa-Suhr guitars (eventually just 'Pensa', after John Suhr started his own Suhr guitars business) for many years, and a good few were included in this auction. We'll see an interesting purple one later in the blog, but check out this eye-catching red example! Does Mark have a thing for red Strats?

(Photo: Craig Houston)

 

Custom Schecter T-style

This red Tele-style guitar from the Schecter custom shop is well known to fans, and has appeared in loads of photos and live performances. It’s a 1983 model and was the very guitar used on Walk of Life!

(Photo: Craig Houston)

 

Mark was a very visible champion of Schecter's creations in the early 80s. He specifically went to their custom shop for his touring guitars so that he didn't need to bring out genuine vintage guitars on the road. Not a bad advert for the brand! Here's another one, this time in black:

(Photo: Craig Houston)

 

Pensa Custom with Roland GR-700

Knopfler kept a close relationship with Rudi Pensa, owner of Rudy’s Music Shop in New York. After commissioning the famous MK-1 (see above), Mark ordered more custom guitars over the years, including this wonderful purple example. It is shown here alongside the equipment it was designed to operate: the Roland GR-700, an early example of guitar synthesizer which was also used by the likes of King Crimson and Jennifer Batten.

As you can see on this specially built guitar, there are lots of extra switches onboard to operate the hexaphonic synth pickup, which you can see in between the bridge pickup and the brige itself.

(Photo: Craig Houston)

 

Fender Mark Knopfler Signature Stratocaster Prototype

Mark included two prototypes of his Dakota Red signature Strat in the auction. The one pictured is extra special: Mark decided to fit a set of Danelectro-style lipstick tube pickups to it, and used the instrument during performances with Bob Dylan.

(Photo: Craig Houston)

 

All For A Good Cause

The auction was a huge success, and well over 8 and a half million pounds was raised, at least a quarter of which will be donated to Mark’s three favourite charities: the British Red Cross, Tusk and Brave Hearts of the North East. Now he’ll have loads of space to start buying new guitars…does anyone have his phone number?

Many thanks to ex-staff member and uber Knopfler fan Craig Houston for his photographs.



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About the author

Ray

Features Editor, Warehouse

I'm a musician and artist originally from the South West coast of Scotland. I studied Visual Arts and Film Studies at...

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