Picture this: you have so many millions of dollars in the bank that you can’t even keep count and then you casually shill off some of your old belongings for a small fortune.

Sounds nice, right? Welp, this is a reality for some very famous musicians who have sold jackets, gloves and guitars – amongst other things – for over 2.5 million Australian dollars apiece.

Even a handwritten note sold for a whopping 2.6 million dollars. Albeit, the note in question was lyrics written by Bob Dylan.

Here, we’ve put together a list of ten of the most expensive music memorabilia ever and everything on the list sold for well over 2.5 million Australian dollars.

1. Kurt Cobain’s MTV Unplugged Guitar: $8,013,000.

Kurt Cobain's guitar is the most expensive piece of music memorabilia ever

Topping the list is the late Kurt Cobain’s 1959 Martin D-18E acoustic guitar that he used during his MTV Unplugged performance in 1993, just five months before he died. The show has been considered one of history’s greatest live performances.

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The guitar sold just last year in a Los Angeles auction and bidding started at USD 1 million dollars.  Rode Microphones founder Peter Freedman loosened his purse strings and picked up the music memorabilia for just over eight million Australian dollars.

He described buying the guitar as “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”, and said he planned to take the guitar on a worldwide tour, with proceeds to go to supporting the performing arts.

2. Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony Score: $7,878,000.

Just a fraction behind Cobain’s guitar (but really, a hefty $135,000 that my pocket wouldn’t scoff at) was Gustav Mahler’s Second Symphony score which raked in $7,878,000. The complete manuscript of the composer’s second symphony – known as the Resurrection – sold in November 2016 in an English auction.

The 232 page unaltered manuscript dates back to 1817 and was secured by an unnamed winner. However, it’s been reported that four telephone bidders battled it out to own the Mahler masterpiece.

3. Michael Jackson & Bubbles Statue: $7,466,000

This Michael Jackson statue is one of the most expensive pieces of music memorabilia

Third place is where things get kinda weird, a life size golden statue of Michael Jackson and his beloved pet chimpanzee, Bubbles, sold for a whopping $7,466,000 in 2001.

The art piece was sculpted by the famous artist Jeff Koons and was designed in 1988. It was originally sold that year for USD 250,000 but in 2001 another example of the edition (also by Jeff Koons) sold at auction for nearly $7.5 million

4. David Gilmour’s ‘Black Strat’ Guitar: $5,298,000

God bless Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour who parted ways with his ‘Black Strat’ guitar for a very healthy charity donation. Along with a bunch of other guitars, Gilmour sold his Strat for a cool $5,298,586 during a charity auction he founded in 2019.

The guitar was originally estimated to cost $130,000 to $200,000 and after the sale it formally held the record for the most expensive guitar in the world, until Cobain’s guitar topped it the next year. A total of $28,649,463, was raised at the auction and the proceeds went to the ClientEarth charity which donates to famine relief and homelessness.

5. Reach out to Asia Stratocaster Guitar: $3,740,000

Guitar signed by multiple musicians

Another guitar that raked in a healthy profit for charity was the Strat signed by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Brian May, Jimmy Page, David Gilmour, Jeff Beck, Pete Townsend, Mark Knopfler, Ray Davies, Liam Gallagher, Ronnie Wood, Tony Iommi, Angus and Malcolm Young, Paul McCartney, Sting, Ritchie Blackmore, Def Leppard and Bryan Adams. Whew.

The guitar was sold in an auction in Qatar to raise funds for Reach Out to Asia, a charity formed to help tsunami victims.

6. John Lennon’s ‘Love Me Do’ Guitar: $3,206,000

John Lennon’s guitar continues the theme of expensive instruments, however, his story is a little different. The guitar was originally used on the recordings of ‘Love Me Do’ and ‘PS I Love You’ and was stolen from Lennon in 1963 at a Christmas concert.

The Gibson acoustic guitar was in the possession of normo John McCaw for a few decades, and he said he bought it in the late 1960s without knowing it had been stolen.

McCaw made a healthy chunk from the sale, which went for 3.2 million Australian dollars. He profited 50% and donated 50% to Spirit Foundation, a charitable organization that Lennon and his widow, Yoko Ono, created.

7. Ringo Starr’s Drum Kit: $2,939,000

Finally, an instrument that’s not a guitar graces the list in the form of Ringo Starr’s Ludwig drum kit that Starr used in more than 200 performances. In 2015 an American auction house company sold the kit for $2,939,000. Part of the proceeds were donated to Lotus Foundation, founded by Starr and his wife Barbara Bach, which funds and promotes charitable projects aimed at advancing social welfare.

8. Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin Album: $2,672,000

Wu Tang Clan music memorabilia

In a boss marketing move, American hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan released just one copy of their seventh studio album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin which sold for $2,668,741 in 2015. It was secretly recorded over six years and is the most expensive work of music ever sold.

The album was bought by notorious “pharma bro” Martin Shkreli. In 2018 Shkreli was convicted of multiple counts related to securities fraud and sentenced to seven years in federal prison. A federal court seized his assets, including the Wu-Tang record.

“That album has [taken] on a life of its own now,” says RZA, who is producing a Netflix documentary on the whole Shaolin saga. “The last I heard it’s somewhere in the Department of Justice in a temperature-controlled room.”

9. John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ piano: $2,739,000

When the piano that John Lennon used to write ‘Imagine’ was put up for an auction it drew the attention of a flurry of A-List musicians who all submitted bids. Oasis rockers Robbie Williams and Noel Gallagher threw their hat in the ring with a bid but they were beaten by George Michael who won with a bid of $2,739,000.

10. Bob Dylan’s lyrics for ‘Like a Rolling Stone’: $2,725,000

Talk about making something from nothing. When composing ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, Bob Dylan scribbled down four sheets of lyrics on hotel stationery. The coveted pages later sold for $2,725,000 in 2014 at auction and went to an unidentified bidder.

The pages feature Dylan’s handwritten lyrics in pencil, along with doodles, stray thoughts an unused lyrics ( “dry vermouth/You’ll tell the truth,” “it feels real,” “does it feel real,” “get down and kneel,” “raw deal” and “shut up and deal.”).

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