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Clapton guitars strike chord with local shop

When rock ‘n’ roll god Eric Clapton auctioned 100 of his favorite guitars in New York City last week, the opportunity struck a chord with the owners of a local memorabilia shop.

Mark Friedland and Rick Schultz of Stars in Aspen decided to bid for some of the axes on the assumption they would interest some of their regular customers.

“We went in wanting four or more,” said Schultz. “But we knew all these guitars would go for more than expected.”

How right they were. Billboard’s online Web site reported the 100 guitars fetched a total of nearly $5 million in a fund-raiser for the Crossroads Centre in Antigua, an alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility supported by Clapton.

The 1956 Fender guitar that Clapton used for the “Layla” sessions went for $497,500, a new record for a guitar sold at auction.

Friedland said the lowest bids were $17,000, including commission. He and Schultz figured prices would be inflated and driven higher as the auction progressed and potential buyers got desperate.

“At the end, all the guitars were going for one hundred thousand and up,” said Friedland, who attended the auction at Christie’s while Schultz ran the shop back in Aspen. “I thought that was cheap.”

They jumped into the bidding before the real frenzy started. Although they would like to have purchased more, they ended up with two of the legendary player’s guitars.

One, a Hofner, has already been sold to a regular client of Stars. Schultz called that customer last weekend to inform him they acquired a Who album signed by the late Keith Moon. He mentioned the Clapton guitar and immediately sparked the collector’s interest.

The other guitar Stars bought was a Roland that Clapton used on his 1985 tour. Although they didn’t want to disclose exact prices, the Roland sold for more than $30,000, according to Friedland.

One regular customer was pondering the purchase of that guitar and another was on the waiting list, said Schultz.

“Good things sell,” he said. “If we knew then what we know now, we would have bought a couple more.”

The buyer of the Hofner acquired it for his personal collection of rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia, not for speculation, according to Schultz.

“I bet the person who bought it from us will never sell it,” he said. For some people, ownership of memorabilia from a person like Clapton outweighs the potential to make a killing by “flipping” the item, or selling it quickly for a tidy profit.

“They really want it because it’s a piece of history,” said Schultz.

All guitars in the auction came with photos of Clapton playing them. He wrote a brief note and documented each guitar by serial number, adding an impeccable touch of authenticity.


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